When Mark Okerstrom and Dan Lewis first met, there was an immediate recognition of the shared values each CEO displayed.
“I met Dan a while back and was struck by his intellect, drive and humility,” Okerstrom, the former CEO of Expedia Group, told FreightWaves. “In my career I have found that combination of attributes in a leader to be both rare and special. It can make for a high performance, open and learning-oriented culture and that’s the type of environment I want to work in.”
Lewis, Convoy’s co-founder and CEO, was equally impressed, and that led to conversations that have resulted in Okerstrom being named the first president and COO of Convoy.
“I’ve been thinking about this role for a while and I’ve talked to people from freight and other industries. My primary goal was to find the right leader who connects with our mission and loves the team and business we’ve built,” Lewis said. “Shortly after meeting Mark, it was clear that he had this and that he would fit with the culture, which is hugely important to me. Regardless of industry, Mark brings deep expertise scaling large digital marketplaces and transforming traditionally brokered industries.”
Okerstrom spent just more than 13 years at Expedia Group (NASDAQ: EXPE), the last two and a half as CEO. He joined the company in 2006 as senior vice president of corporate development. He served three years as chairman of the board for Trivago, an Expedia Group company, and has a financial and law background with Bain & Company, UBS Investment Bank and the global law firm Freshfield Bruckhaus Deringer in London. He earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and a juris doctor from the University of British Columbia.
“There are definitely parallels between what Convoy started in the trucking industry over five years ago and what Expedia Group brands started in the travel industry 25 years ago. Though they are different in many respects, at their core both Convoy and Expedia are technology-enabled marketplaces.”
Mark Okerstrom, incoming president & COO of Convoy
Lewis said the new president will lead the go-to-market strategy with finance, sales, operations, supply, marketplace growth and marketing all under his purview.
“We’ve come a long way and I’m incredibly proud of the business and team we’ve built so far,” he said. “Our business is complex with a lot to do in the core business and many growth areas. As we grow up and out, we face new challenges, and we can do more, faster, by bringing in a senior leader to partner with me in running the business and applying a fresh set of eyes to the innovation that’s underway. That’s why Mark is here.”
Okerstrom said there are some similarities between Convoy and Expedia.
“There are definitely parallels between what Convoy started in the trucking industry over five years ago and what Expedia Group brands started in the travel industry 25 years ago,” he said. “Though they are different in many respects, at their core both Convoy and Expedia are technology-enabled marketplaces.”
Okerstrom said Expedia learned quickly how technology was able to solve existing problems at scale.
“However, to truly tap into that potential, it was hugely important that the people, processes and technology of the organization were all geared towards being able to innovate at a high velocity through experimentation — through ‘testing and learning’ as we liked to call it,” he said.
Lewis said Okerstrom’s experiences will benefit Convoy’s customers.
“Mark brings extensive experience in building and scaling a global digital marketplace,” Lewis said, “and as we look toward the opportunities that Convoy is facing to transform trucking, that experience, leadership and partnership for the team will be hugely important — especially for me, as a CEO who is also looking to develop in my role.”
The technology advantage is something Okerstrom mentioned, citing the importance of developing products the customer will value, even if he or she doesn’t know what that is. He gave the iPhone as an example.
“It’s sometimes hard to know what your customers or suppliers will value most because often they don’t know until they see it,” he said. “No customer survey ever told Apple to build the iPhone [but] by involving your customers and suppliers in the innovation process through experimentation, you can often discover new sources of joint value together. I see that experimentation and learning orientation at Convoy and in many of their customer and carrier relationships today. It can be a real recipe for success and I am so looking forward to being part of it.”
Just this year alone, Convoy has introduced a number of tech-enabled features and benefits, including more transportation management system integrations that expand access to its real-time pricing and capacity guarantee tools; fuel cards and low-cost factoring; a spot rate benchmarking tool for shippers; a streamlined and automated contract rate process for smaller shippers; personalized shipment insights and supply chain visibility metrics; green appointment windows; and dedicated freight opportunities for small fleets and owner-operators.
These types of innovations have allowed Convoy to continue to gain market share, and Okerstrom’s first impressions are that Lewis has surrounded himself with quality people who have guided Convoy to the position it is in today.
“Dan has also surrounded himself with diverse board members, investors, advisers and executive team members that are truly second to none,” Okerstrom said. “In addition to all of that, this is the opportunity to work on something that is essential to the lives of everyone in the country. This industry directly impacts hundreds of thousands of businesses and millions of truck drivers. What Convoy is doing can make both the industry and the environment better off by reducing inefficiencies. That’s exciting.”
Okerstrom’s first day with Convoy will come on Monday, but he is already ready to get started.
“The Convoy team should know that I am here to work hard right alongside them, to focus on the things that matter and to build on Convoy’s open and inclusive culture,” he said. “I believe wholeheartedly in the Convoy mission and am excited for the road ahead. I am really looking forward to us bringing out the best in one another as we continue the important job of building Convoy into an incredible company and an inclusive and fulfilling place to work.”