M13 Michael 030

Interview with Michael Aaron Goldman CARU North America

Thu, 04 May 2023 min reading

We believe the container industry is all about people and connectivity. Building a community with colleagues, partners and customers. In a series of interviews we want to introduce you to those people. In this first edition: Michael Aaron Goldman.

Michael has been with CARU Containers since 2016. Starting off as Senior Sales Manager he is currently the General Manager for North America, stationed at our Boston office.

Back in 2016, Michael got in contact with CARU through a recruiter who believed he was the right fit for a new job opening. Not much later he was sitting at a restaurant in Boston with Rob (the CEO) and CARU’s CMO. A few weeks later he hit the ground running, or maybe in full sprint, as his first week was at the Intermodal in Amsterdam. Visiting a country he had never been to before, talking to people he had never seen before in a language he had never spoken before. “I didn't really know much about the company or the industry and I just had a full immersion at Intermodal. So that was an interesting way to start things off!”

With a sales background Michael quickly found his way around. Nowadays his team has grown to seven employees and CARU Containers wouldn’t be the same without him anymore.

"What I learned at CARU is a new way of (people) leadership. How to build a highly effective team with a great culture. The outcome will follow."

What made you choose CARU in the first place?

“At the time, I was working at a wholesale distribution company, selling commodity metals. The company had a hub-and-spoke distribution model, with hubs throughout the US. We would service customers within a certain mileage from those hubs. The products we sold had to be shipped by truck, and the pricing was changing every day. So I saw a lot of similarities to the container business, to what CARU was doing at that day. Having experience working with such a model, with commodity products that shift in pricing, made me confident that I could adapt quickly to a different market.

I noticed immediately that the culture of CARU was different. The hierarchy-thing, which is very common in the American commodity industry, was not the case at CARU.

That was very appealing to me. To learn and grow.”

“What really drew me in were the conversations with the founder and CMO of CARU. I learned a lot about how to build a great organization and business. And that was new. I was always very business focused, KPI focused, day to day sales focused But at CARU they were thinking about the team. How do you build a highly efficient team? What is the culture like? How is the culture affecting the output of the team? What thoughts are going around and how do we elicit good, positive, thoughts? It took me about a year to realize, because it was so new to me, that culture, team building and caring about people could be so at the center of your business.”

We’re now six years down the road. Is this job everything you hoped it would be?

“Yes, absolutely. I mean obviously I'm in a little bit of a higher position than I was in my last job. And in my last job I was just overseeing a sales team and now I'm overseeing the whole business. Actually, that is one of my favorite parts about my job now. It's a very symbiotic thing to be able to be on all sides. Sales, operations and building a team. And to be able to strategize with the whole process in mind and not just one side of the process.

It makes my job very fulfilling at this point. I rarely sit down and look at a situation like, ‘I don't know what to do’. That’s a great feeling, and I feel it is my job as manager to put my team in a position where they feel the same. That they are in a position where they can succeed and be fulfilled.

So yeah, this job and the culture at CARU went so far beyond what I was expecting, or even hoping for. The most challenging and fulfilling part is not the business itself. The business in the US is still fairly straight forward. But to develop myself as a leader, to lead the culture and the team, to make a sustainable business built on relationships and mutual growth. That has been the biggest challenge and biggest reward.conduct myself as a professional. How I take this culture that we all want to have at CARU and conduct myself in the team in a way to make that culture flourish.

To put it into perspective: in university I majored in human communication. That was my major. But I've learned more about human communication at CARU than I did in four years of university.

“You either buy into it or you don't. And I'm fully bought in.”

Do you feel CARU also trusts you in your decisions in running your part of the business?

Yes. The company gives everyone room to control their own destiny. Of course there is a clear strategy but how to get there is up to the specific teams and GM’s. We are a global organization, but act local, suitable to the market dynamics. Furthermore, everyone has a lot of autonomy. That's one of, I think, the best things about the CARU culture. You don't really have a person above you telling you ‘do this!’ Autonomy and responsibility go side by side. So some people might fail in that environment, but for people that like to have that space, it's great. And there are always opportunities for discussion, different points of views and co- creation. It’s a very open and honest culture.

You’ve mentioned you feel fulfilled at your current position. Are there any big aspirations for the future?

“There isn’t anything more in life that I really need to fulfill me. I have my job and my family and that’s more than enough. In terms of business aspirations though, I would love to be able to build two or three companies from the ground up. So CARU with the entrepreneurial spirit is perfect. Maybe expanding our North American market share by opening up a few new offices.

I just want to prove to my team that I’m capable of doing that. I've been a growth specialist my entire career. I’m used to going into severely under-penetrated markets or brand new geographic markets and help grow them, usually from revenues of zero to a hundred million.

What’s your vision for the future of the North American container market?

“Anyone that watches the news can ascertain that we're heading into a weaker global economy. So we're expecting some headwinds for sure, at least for the coming years. There are some new (and digital) players in the container trader field. But since we’re a global, and financially strong player with great operational efficiency, I don’t foresee trouble.

It's going to take a lot more work to move the same amount of containers. But thankfully, we have the support from the board to build a bigger team. And be able to handle that situation. But it's going to be difficult for our team in Boston.

Are there opportunities to work together with CARU Latin America on projects? Being the only two offices in the Americas.

“Actually, there is. We're trying to develop a more synergistic relationship with the South American office and we've already started working together on a really big, complex project. It's going very well. Bringing the best skills of each office together. Here in the US, we are very good at getting supply out of steamship lines and specific places where we need them and Brazil is a very good sales team.

For this project, we're selling thousands and thousands of containers. Brazil is doing the sales part of it and Boston does the supply side of it. No It doesn't help our Boston office ’ P&L, but it's like a brother-sister office relationship. Our mentality is to help other offices as much as possible, whether it's sharing information, sharing our inventory, sharing ideas, market information, anything. We just want to have a good synergy between all the offices. It’s a major goal of the whole organization.

As the team is still mostly the same since the start, does it start to feel like a second family?

“Yes, we are a very tight team. And just like every family you have things that have to be worked out. You've been through a lot together, a lot of history between everyone. You really know each person, what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are. And that can also lead to difficult situations where you have to work it out with each other. It's just like a family.”

“But it’s a great team. And we’re even looking for a bigger office, because we’re trying to expand! Big things are coming this year.”

What are you most proud of?

“I'll give you an answer for what I'm most proud of that we've accomplished as a team in Boston. And then I'll give you an answer for what I'm personally most proud of.

As a team we grew immensely. We started as a bunch of kids frantically trying to break the market open. But we grew up to a more mature level. The result is a double digit growth year after year.

I’m really proud we also did it in a responsible manner, where we didn't undercut the market by 20% and not know what we were doing. We were very careful, we did everything with purpose, we selected our customer mix with purpose, we selected who we were going to support with our depots, and our customers. Everything had a reason behind it.

Personally. I also had a double digit growth. I learned how to manage people, how to manage a good culture. I learned those skills here at CARU. So personally I'm most proud of my ability to learn how to do all those things and just keep learning every day.