The Heroes of Ecommerce

    I was going to write this piece three weeks ago. It’s good that I didn’t, because I didn’t know then all that I know now. For context, our company is a major third party logistics company focused on direct-to-consumer ecommerce fulfillment. We do the picking, packing and shipping of eCommerce orders for hundreds of brands. As such, we are part of a large and very fast growing industry that sits right in in the middle of an enormous ecosystem that includes everything from manufacturers and brands to software companies of all kinds, transportation behemoths, packaging companies, robotics providers, and, yes, respected competitors all of whom ultimately touch millions of consumers worldwide.


    Sure, I knew we were in unprecedented times and that, as an essential service, despite highly stringent PPE, deep cleaning, and distancing rules that not only conformed to but often exceeded CDC guidelines, as well as generous sick leave and lift in payscale, there was still a lot of suffering within our ranks and within the industry at large. The past month or so, however, gave me a deeper perspective.


    In our company alone, every day, in the middle of this pandemic, over 850 people get up every morning and show up to do what is needed. It. Is. Heroic. Whether it is on our warehouse floors, receiving containers, picking, packing, operating forklifts or managing returns, they show up. Among our management team, some of whom need to be on site and others who can work from home, they show up, and those who work from home travel when needed.


    Even as school and childcare structures fell apart, parents have continued to organize their lives to show up. Even as people’s second-income spouses lost their jobs or their life partners struggled with quarantining as they battled Covid-19, they found ways to keep showing up. Even as people faced the worst – primary relatives passing – after a grieving period, they returned to keep showing up. As they had to find ways to care for afflicted parents and loved ones in a distanced way, they showed up. And in our management team, we have seen executives quarantined going through their own battle with Covid show up to Zoom calls and responding where needed. What’s more, we see this all around us with our partners, vendors, clients and more – in fact, across the whole ecosystem.


    Now, let’s get real: we don’t save lives here at our company. We’re not doctors, nurses. firefighters or paramedics. No one would blame people if they didn’t show up. With illness, death, economic difficulty or other extreme hardships, who could blame anyone for not showing up. And since we’re not saving lives, why does it matter so much whether or not we show up? So people don’t get their stuff – so what? The most tangible and obvious reason is that we (and companies like us) are a link in the chain of entities that employ tens of millions of people worldwide. Every one of those people feeds a family and provides healthcare for those who do become ill. If our current situation creates enough interruptions, we may not be able to put things back together again once we get to the other side. Numerous entities could go under and be unsalvageable, and that would be a tragedy of another sort. Moreover, we have had the privilege to be able to uplift many people who fell on hard times due to their industries being decimated by Covid, such as food service workers who were laid off during closures.


    The other reason is less directly tangible: The fabric of society simply has to be kept together to the highest degree possible as we go through this devastation. Part of that is people knowing they’re part of something and that they are needed by their clients, colleagues and managers. It’s the knowledge that although some things are utterly devastating, not everything has fallen apart. We’re here for ourselves and one another, keeping things moving for our clients, partners, colleagues and getting things into the hands of end consumers so they can keep managing their day to day lives. It matters because we will get through this, and life goes on.


    Happy Holidays everyone, and remember the everyday heroes who make life as we know it happen.


    Article by Esther Kestenbaum, President of Ruby Has.