Podcast: Customs Brokerage is an Information Business with Christopher Wall

In this episode, Christopher Wall, Co-Founder and CEO of Zeus Logics, joins Host Brian Glick, CEO of Chain.io, to discuss customs brokerage, logistics challenges, and supply chain tech solutions.

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Podcast: Customs Brokerage is an Information Business with Christopher Wall

Customs Brokerage is an Information Business

In this episode, Christopher Wall, Co-Founder and CEO of Zeus Logics, joins Host Brian Glick, CEO of Chain.io, to discuss:

  • Why accurate, real-time data is essential for the customs process
  • The importance of understanding current legislation during the customs process
  • Developing customs clearance technology to help importers take control of their customs clearance
  • The future of customs data and compliance
  • Chris’ background in investment management and his transition to the supply chain industry

Christopher is an entrepreneur and investor in enterprise software systems serving the global trade management, logistics, and FINTECH industries. He specializes in global trade compliance systems and is the Cofounder of Zues Logics, a software company focusing on creating more efficient customs processes.

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Episode Transcript

Chris Wall  00:03

I spent an inordinate amount of time bugging every single exec at a major logistics company I could asking them, you know what need was there. And they all told me some variation of the following story. They said, people want visibility into where things are, then they want agility. Once they know where things are, if something goes wrong, they want to be able to fix it. Then the other thing that they wanted was resilience. They wanted their supply chains to absorb shock. The way I see it, the resilience thing is essentially the capital expense, spend more money, have more inventory and reserve you'll have more resilience.

Brian Glick  00:36

Welcome to supply chain connections. I'm Brian Glick, founder and CEO at Chain.io. On this episode, we're going to talk with Chris wall. Chris is currently the co founder and CEO at Zeus logics. Soos logics is a supply chain management, technology and service provider focusing not just on the customs brokerage space, but on the general compliance area. And you'll learn a lot more about that in the show and the expansion of the supply chain up and downstream from what we've traditionally thought into things like traceability and green technology. Really interesting conversation, and I hope you enjoy it. Chris, welcome to the show,

Chris Wall  01:23

Brian, thanks for having me on.

Brian Glick  01:24

So why don't we start with the basics. Tell me a little bit about your background and how you ended up in the industry? It's a bit of a convoluted story. Find out that's a fun one for you.

Chris Wall  01:35

Yes, hi, I used to be in the investment management business. And the fund I worked for had made an investment into what they call the trucking company, but which in fact, ended up being a three PL. And we made that investment when the times are still good in the 2000s. And when things got to be a little bit harder, oh 809, they had to have somebody go in and take another look at it, really drill down, understand the business and figure out how to help turn that company around. And I got that job as the company had some software that was part of their offering and part of their competitive advantage. And I was the principal technology investor. And so sitting there over a period, you may remember in 2009, even really strong players in like the in the trucking industry were parking rigs by the side of the road, does he even the strong people with really great clients are having a lot of difficulty actually delivering loads profitably. So I got to go and just learn how things work at the worst of times for the trucking industry, and see how the business worked behind the scenes. What kind of ratios made sense for operating metrics? How did the business work? How did inflammation work? Coming out of that a few years later, we ended up selling that company, about five, six years after I started to working with it. And we went in and I was thinking about all the places that you could do really interesting things with technology. Were there were there places that you could build new systems, where was there a great need for new IT systems as my background is really in technology development. And thinking about and discussing with people, logistics and supply chain came in as one of the key areas where there was so much work to be done so much economic power to essentially unlock. And that's how I ended up getting into the business logistics essentially looking at it through a technology development lens.

Brian Glick  03:19

So I want to ask you a question about that. First, stepping into that three PL, I was on the other side of, you know, working as sort of a more junior employee in a three PL around that same downturn when we had you know, the money guys from New York, as we called them, would come in and tell us we were doing you know, we were doing everything wrong. For everyone who can't see Chris right che covering his eyes and shape. So what was the culture there Was it hard to walk in and talk about things like operating margins, because a lot of people in our industry, I just want to do my job and leave me alone when it comes to the money stuff. So

Chris Wall  04:00

it was it was not hard. This particular three PL had a bunch of essentially agents who owned a line of business and they own customers. And they had those customer relationships and then the rest of the organization executes on what they've sold into their customer base. So when it came to understanding operational metrics, the people who were selling the business already tended to be pretty sophisticated. They understood their costs. The CEO in charge of the operation, who is a lawyer by training and Sigma, Black Belt kind of guy used to be over at several rather much larger logistics organization had thoroughly well drilled them in understanding what the operating metrics were. They didn't have a lot of contracts that were upside down. Where this organization got into trouble is they raised money from bankers who were enthusiastic, shall we say? And they raise money at the top of the market when people were sort of giving money away and they wanted to move from being an asset light organization, to getting more business from their super premium customers, without saying names a beverage company in Georgia, several large manufacturers of paper goods based in the southeast, for a very large organization that has a lot of hotels, and theme parks in Florida, and those companies will typically only deal with three pls or trucking operations that have their own rolling stock. And this meant you had to then take on a lease. So if you raise a ton of money and call it 2007, and you deploy that in 2008, and you start trying to sell your new, least rolling stock, and then 2008 2009 happens, everybody sort of understood what had happened. The organization, it basically became a go in, spin off the asset based operation, retain the asset light operation and focus on rebuilding that, but people were understand that they understood what's gone wrong. Yeah.

Brian Glick  05:59

So it's interesting to be talking about this in 2024. Because we are in the 2009, to some effect of the downturn that's going on, or that has gone on or is going on, depending on who you talk to. And it's hit both kind of tech companies and, you know, logistics service providers, up and down right from international domestic, Trump ocean doesn't matter. Kind of what advice do you have for people who now are sitting there looking at an investor who may be invested in late 2022 with them, and is now has some buyer's remorse. Maybe nobody

Chris Wall  06:38

likes surprises, communicate with the people you're dealing with, if they're this particular company is in a situation where they're facing tough times, open and honest communication with the investor, well at least maintain the trust and the personal rapport you have with the people you're working with. I think a lot of people understand how hard it is to deal with fundraising right now. A lot of people understand how hard the market is. And the other thing to always remind people is that the some of the world's most successful businesses were started and or grew during tough economic times, it hones your ability to survive and be profitable, and focus on what your customers want. That's what I'm telling my investors.

Brian Glick  07:16

You know, your technologist first right and logistics person second, or at least at some point, is that still how you see yourself and you know, why stay in this business for you personally.

Chris Wall  07:28

So the business that we operate in the logistics sphere is a customs brokerage and customs brokerage is very, very similar. Information technology is basically the absorption, distribution, parsing and distribution of information from one source to another, right, I take in, I have a web form, the webform collects the contact information in the email of the person I want, that gets sent over to a salesperson who looks at it looks up the contact information on the internet determines what they need to know. And then does some kind of action with it. So customs brokerage is it's an information business. Technology is an information business, so they sort of relate back to each other a little bit more closely than people who also have to deal with the physical movement of goods. physical movement of goods scares me

Brian Glick  08:15

Yeah. And assets scare me. I grew up on the customs brokerage site. So you're in a safe space here. What about this massive, complicated data problem of customs, which I agree with you customs brokerage is just the data movement and organization problem. At the end of the day, though, I think I've had some past guests who would probably punch me for being that reductionist. But, you know, why do we need another company? What did you guys see that isn't being solved?

Chris Wall  08:45

As you mentioned, some people in the customers business will tell you it's a lot more than just understanding information and properly cataloging it and collecting it. And it's true, there is understand the HTS codes, understanding the current trends of legislation, being able to help your client understand that they may, in fact, do better off sourcing a more expensive product from somewhere in the Caribbean than sourcing it from China because of just the variability in duties, things like that go beyond merely parsing and collecting information. Yet, at its core, I would say that 10% of the work done is the kind of work that really requires a lot of human skill, a lot of human ingenuity, it requires that ability to synthesize it requires the ability to look at the news and say, oops, it looks like things are not going so well right now in XYZ country, and that there may be a bit of a trade war based on the political landscape in 2025. In the US, maybe I should really remind my client that they should be looking for alternative sourcing. Those are the kinds of things that machines just don't do very well right now. But that's sort of a consulting and advisory aspect of customs. The day to day work is efficiently extracting information from documents efficiently putting that information into a format that customers wants it, submitting it. And then dealing essentially with the exception management, right because it's certain customs is a properly prepared customs declaration doesn't get any further attention from customs 97 plus percent of the time. And then you know Customs has random inspections that are data requests. Depending on the commodity you're doing, there can be commodity or geography related additional enhancements to information. And that kind of task tends to break down when people either have the wrong documents or information is input incorrectly, or information is superseded by newer information. This is a really, really typical one. You filed an ISF, your container gets rolled, you decide that you're going to airfreight something over or you decide you're going to change carrier moving on to another ship, you now have to file another ISS because the information has been superseded the number of times I've seen people not deal with simple filings because information was superseded, is pretty surprising. And yet, if you keep track of the shipment, if you integrate knowledge about the physical movement of goods, did we see a gate in full occur over at the terminal? Did we then see the container loaded? Did the vessel in fact sail? If that vessel did sail and your container was not loaded? For example, you know, you've got a problem. You don't have to wait until somebody over the force says, Oh yeah, by the way, we just have to tell you, we're gonna have to move this on to another carrier, it's gonna be three days late. So aggregating that information is where we really see the value and the benefit. And this is why initially, you know, I was really interested in what you're doing, what you're doing really is about aggregating information and data feeds, making it transparent, making it flow easily from point A to point B. And that's the opportunity, I think.

Brian Glick  11:39

And interestingly, the genesis of chain IO really was I had another software company that did HTS code management. And one of the things that we saw with our largest customer who was also our first customer, when we centralize their management of their HTS codes, the number of consumers of that data was so much higher than we expected, and the integration and the use of that data across the organization, right. And it kind of the same thing you're saying about like transportation data being valuable in the customs process, right, like granular transportation data, not just with the bill of lading. And, you know, we were looking at having to get that tariff number into their SAP system for costing purposes into planning systems into product lifecycle management, all the global customs brokers, you know, on and on and on and on. And that really was what illuminated this problem for me of moving the data around was the customs trade data, right? So yes, very much. So.

Chris Wall  12:41

That makes me think that when the thing that really was attractive about customs is a certain time before 20 2019, I spent an inordinate amount of time bugging every single exec at a major logistics company I could asking them, you know, what need was there because I wanted to go and so if you worked at Shankar could inaugural and DHL chances are I bothered you and pestered you on LinkedIn, email, and by phone and through your friends until somebody would speak to me. And they all told me people wanted something similar, they all gave me some variation of the following story. They said, people want visibility into where things are, then they want agility, they want to be able to, once they know where things are, if something goes wrong, they want to be able to fix it. Now, Port of LA Long Beach is backed up, can you offload the container and Oakland and set all these little kinds of changes, then the other thing that they wanted was resilience. They wanted their supply chains to absorb shock, the way I see it, the resilience thing is essentially the capital expense, spend more money have more inventory in reserve, you'll have more resilience. The other two, the visibility and the agility are information problems. And so the name of the game, the way I saw it was, how can we get the best source of information in a standardized way, so that somebody's going in can take a look and understand what the true landscape of the world is. And I get the impression that that is not necessarily the norm in a lot of the freight forwarding and transportation business, in part because every single organization does things slightly differently. They collect information slightly differently. If you're dealing with a European border, they're going to be using metric and maybe 24 o'clock, if you're dealing with somebody in California, they're going to be using US standard. All these little differences add up and just draw confusion. There's one place where there's only one set of rules, everybody follows. And that's customs, right? It's a tax function, we're going to enforce it. And there's 65,000 people whose job is to make sure that you do things right. And it's all they do. And they have a system and the rules are clear, right? You can't randomly put things into a customs form, they will catch it. And if they don't catch you today, they'll catch you tomorrow. And they'll make sure that it is worth your while to do the diligence upfront that standardization and just the depth of information that was there was awesome to

Brian Glick  14:53

us. Yeah, one of the things that I've had to explain to people outside the industry about why would we do it cheap Lean is hard. I've had a number of people who want to come into the space from other verticals, right? From FinTech, from healthcare from, you know, mortgage processing. And, you know, I always tell them the story that my first couple of months at customs broker, you know, the kid, I'm there to, like, make sure the PCs work. And they dragged me up to out to the suburbs here in Philly to go visit copier companies, because the copiers all could be scanners now. And so let's figure out if we can automate do the scanning on the copier instead of on the sheetfed scanners that we had, because we were just starting to burn CD ROMs. For anybody who doesn't know what a CD ROM is, can look it up, but we're burning CD ROMs to their customers documents so that we didn't have to store the paper anymore. And when we went to these copier companies, they said to us, we also have these document automation software packages that can attach to the copier. And they let you ingest all the data from the forums, and we went great, that would revolutionize our business. This is 2000, maybe my

Chris Wall  16:05

accuracy, they didn't even

Brian Glick  16:07

matter. We never even got to the accuracy question because the first thing they said to us when we went to get the demo was show us your form, and show us the exact location on the form or each piece of data is if we just started laughing. And we had like a 350 page example of like a parallel import from China. And like, literally, the bill of lading was on paper so thin, you can see through it. You know, it was like a consolidation with commercial invoices from 30 different vendors in 30 different formats in two different languages. And they just like they're like, No, you're supposed to have like, the standard mortgage form, or the standard us pay per check, right? Where we can say the name is in the center, the date is in the top right, you know, and they just gave up. And I think the advantage, and the thing that people who don't live in this business don't understand is there's no rules until you get the customs right to bring it back to your point. Until you get to customs. There are no rules, right? Like, everything's chaos everywhere, and everyone does things differently. And I totally, I think I've just vehemently agreed with you here, but like, you know, agreements, it's been my whole life. So I have a little bit of passion for its suitcase.

Chris Wall  17:25

Even though there are the sort of the data assembly collection extraction function, it's a cost of doing business, the way it's done right now. And it doesn't add value to the customer, the customer isn't saying, oh, whoopee. I'm glad that you have to charge me for doing this data extraction and putting it into a form. And I'm glad that you've got really awesome staff. So they make minimal errors. To them, it doesn't really add anything to their experience. And so this notion that you've got all these people who are dedicated to know the business, there are so many things that would add value to the customer that they could actually do. It seems like if we get rid of this cost, get rid of this friction that will have better outcomes, and much better jobs for the people that do them.

Brian Glick  18:09

So you guys are a technology company, but you also provide this service, right of customs brokers. So walk me through a little bit about the decision to be technology enabled service provider versus, you know, 100% tech companies just selling licenses and kind of have that value proposition, you're talking about changes or why go that route.

Chris Wall  18:32

So first and foremost, if you're a technology company, your investors will not like if you get into the services business, it's a hard thing to do. But the thing about all of these businesses, if you're going to sell something to a consumer, you're going to sell them, I don't know, a photo sharing and filtering app. If you mess something up, if the photo filter doesn't work, if it doesn't give you not the blurred effect look you're looking for, okay, it doesn't work. If you start handling people's compliance and tax functions, and you don't know what you're doing, you could potentially put them out of business. And in the process, put yourself out of business too. Not to mention there can be criminal liabilities. In the US, if you're the president of a company, you are personally liable for all those customs declarations that are signed. And if things aren't handled, right, the government may come and yell at the customs broker, they may even yank your license. But if things have repeatedly gone wrong, they're going to show up and the president of the company is going to be on the hook for what was done. So I think if you're going to build technology to help people do things better, you need to understand the underlying business, you have to understand where the touch points are serious. You have to understand where you need to pay attention and what the rules are. So I suppose we could have gone and interviewed a few customs brokers and said, Tell us what's important. Tell us what you think about but you wouldn't develop the knowledge and the understanding of what is it that makes the customs authorities tick? How does the legislation work that drives all the duties to collect this information? How did the customers respond and what are the challenges that they face when dealing with things? So it was a really about learning the business from the bottoms up so that we could try and improve it from the top down.

Brian Glick  20:05

So do you sell to importers, to other brokers to both kind of what's your model,

Chris Wall  20:11

we primarily sell to importers, it was our take that there were two places that you could sell software, you could either go and sell software and services, call it to the trade to other logistics companies to brokers, in which case, you would understand you have to represent their perspective, right? They're your customer, and you really have to meet their needs. Or you can go and sell towards the importers. And then you really represent their perspective, we chose to focus more on the importers perspective, which we believe ultimately is what logistics service providers want to do, as well. But we started from that angle, and realize that a lot of the tools and efficiencies that we brought in allowed importers to do more of the work themselves and retain control over the process. People use our platform, they come in, they got all their documents in one place, they can see all their filings in one place, they can see, you know, when documents were filed, and they're very, very own view of their feed into US Customs AST system. And so for us, it's very, very much importer focus business. So

Brian Glick  21:13

I'm going to try an analogy here, again, tell me if this is either wrong or offensive. But when I go to file my personal taxes, and this is an analogy, I use these to explain about customs brokers were like at the dinner table, you're gonna say, okay, you can file your own taxes, you can just download the forms, you can go to an accountant who's going to charge you quite a bit of money. Or if you don't think you need the full services of a full service accounting firm, you can use TurboTax, you can use something like that. And certainly, there's enterprise equivalents of those things. But the nice thing that with TurboTax learned over the years is to have that person behind it, right? Like I actually, in the TurboTax, I can hit the button, and I can ask someone like a human being a question, is that a similar model where you're encouraging your customers to self serve, but you are supporting them? Or are they seeing you as No, I just want to give you the data, and you're my full service customs broker.

Chris Wall  22:11

So using that analogy, we want to offer the service of the $500 an hour accountant who helps you with tax structuring and knowledge. But we want to charge a price closer to TurboTax. And the way to do that is to automate your $500 accountant or even your bookkeeper doesn't need to be entering in and taking in all the information for the different schedules that you have to provide to them anyway. Right. You can give them access to your banks and stuff like that, it gets to be really expensive. But ultimately, you want to have some sense of what's being put on what schedule did all my 1090 nines get recorded, or whatever your tax situation might warrant. Insofar as you can automate all that information collection aid makes sure that you've got a sense of what's going on. So you're in control of it. And be it allows you to then take the money that you spend, go towards the problems that really need human help. So call it it's like the technical dream, right of concierge level service at you know, bargain basement prices, which you only get by humans do what they're good at, have machines do what they're good at. So

Brian Glick  23:18

I did a presentation just a couple of weeks ago at customs for the green trade team and was just talking about the evolution of technology in the industry. And, you know, as we bring in co2 compliance, kind of what the tech was, I had one slide and it was essentially a timeline to customs entry started in 1789. In the United States, right, this is the first thing we did was to some effect, the reason we became our own right was tariffs. Yeah, that's like, straight up fact, from 1789 to 2004, when AMS happened, sure, there was the creation of electronic filing, but the job, the timeframe was just this moment at the port, and then suddenly was okay, we want some data about what's coming in than ISF happens. And we want the data going further up. And then, you know, we are forced labor protection, which for those of you who don't know, is essentially putting the onus on companies to know how their product has made. We've just accelerated over the last 18 years, the amount of data and the size and scope of the problem. My question to you is, what do you guys do it from a tech standpoint, to address the future? Like what is the future of this compliance data is very, very different than 7089 where I just walked in and said, it's a barrel of sugar. And I will pay you X for valor oil of sugar. But

Chris Wall  24:40

it's interesting, just sort of little parenthese My understanding is that those of waiting and custom statements or some of the oldest human documents still exist, because they were putting to uniform clay tablets. One day when we get back to having like a nice office, I want one of those cuneiform clay tablets in the lobby

Brian Glick  24:58

might have to charge more than fit To be able to afford one of those. But yes, yeah,

Chris Wall  25:05

I think you brought up a really interesting question. The pace of mandated transparency across regions is grown everywhere. So you mentioned we were forced labor or affectionately known as you flip up in the US excuse

Brian Glick  25:20

to say that by the way,

Chris Wall  25:24

guys in Philly saying you flip, I could sort of see that

Brian Glick  25:26

it's gonna be a little dangerous.

Chris Wall  25:30

Today is the 31st of January. Today is the first day that people have to file the European CBA am harbor border adjustment mechanism filings that are due today, starting at the end of this year, people have to start filing the EU's deforestation regulation. That means that if you're importing wood, leather, any number of agricultural products, anything that can be farmed, you have to prove that it was not weird, or grown on land that was deforested after January 2020. In the US, California Air Resources Board is putting in place a whole bunch of new requirements for traceability. And we sort of get back to this idea of when we're saying earlier that the clients wanted to know, they want to visibility into their supply chains, and they wanted agility. This is just an extension, that visibility process. But now the government's are demanding it and they're saying, We've visibility, if you're looking at, I don't know, vinyl floor tiles, and you're importing vinyl floor tiles from pretty much anywhere. Now, the government's going to ask you to prove Where did the PVC come from the one to this layer of the floor tile, and they're gonna say, Oh, we bought the PVC from this guy. And they're gonna say, Okay, now you need to tell us where the guy who made the PVC, you know, where did they get the chlorine? And where did they get the hydrocarbon, the ethylene or the coal to produce that. And you have to trace that all the way all the way upstream, and be able to show what's going on. These requirements are somewhat unrest right now. But they're increasing, and the only way to fulfill them is with movement of data electronically, otherwise, you're sitting down, chasing documents back and forth, and it's relatively ineffective. And it ends up that the customs authorities don't really like looking at pictures taken of like a bill of lading with a coffee stain on it, they want something a little bit more traceable, and verifiable part of our work building software, we've gotten heavily into the whole world of compliance, we are forced labor CBA, for essentially, for tracking GHG emissions, we're working on EU deforestation tool, which is again, very, very similar to what you have to do for Uighur forced labor, I think that that's where we're gonna see the introduction, you're gonna have like a flushing of all the mud that's going to reveal all the intricacies and supply chains globally. There's a lot of people working on this, our friends over at Vision announced that they have essentially a global trade network visualization tool that they're putting out. People over Altana are working on projects like this, there's a lot of people trying to get this to work. But previously, because there was no impetus on the path, on the part of trading partners to collect this information, data just simply wasn't there. Within five or 10 years, the notion that you won't be able to find out who made every single bit that went to this little ballpoint pen will probably be about as ridiculous as today is the notion that I can't figure out where like my package from Amazon is because who can track things through the mail. The

Brian Glick  28:20

story I was used for that. One is, when I started in this business, a senior executive said to me, if you can tell us six days after departure, what shipped from origin, that will be the gold standard in the industry. If you took a kid coming out of school today and said, no global supply chain has any awareness for from the 100 days before when they were to the order until six days after it left, your 100% blind, no information and then it already sailed. And six days later you find out what vessel it went on. You couldn't explain that world to someone coming out of school today. And yet that was normal less than 25 years ago. I think what you're describing is the same thing is that when this all flushes through when traceability becomes a normal thing, businesses will forget that they were able to function without it. The upside to this is so huge. And we have a tendency to focus on the downside sometimes of it's hard to do right now. But when your business suddenly can see, oh my god, there's a shortage in sugar production that might tear three supplier sourcing from Region X. Region X has drought conditions. And I'm seeing in my ever stream system that there's a drought condition in a region that's a tier three supplier to me for something that I'm not going to buy for seven months. Like I'm not even gonna issue my purchase order for seven months. And I can deal with that now. And then I can see in my autonomous system that you know, oh, and by the way, their tier three supplier also may not be the best actor in the world. Right and I can make these adjustments. This We'll just be normal to people coming out of school, three years from now, five years from now, right. But it's gonna be very hard for us to be in a room where software comes in,

Chris Wall  30:09

you're totally right. The people right now, like you said, are really resistant to change, because it costs money. If you've got like an employee who's sitting somewhere, and you're like, listen, usually you'd spend 40 hours a week doing these activities that you know, move goods through the system, not only to spend 30 hours a week, moving goods through the system, and 10 hours a week learning how to collect documents to document, you know, the origin of like, you know, salt brine or something like that, they're gonna be like, Oh, I just lost 30% of my employee 10% of my lead time. But eventually the system will be built out. And there's going to be so many benefits, like you said, in sourcing, understanding, mobility, understanding how things are impacted by pricing, when I speak with people who are buying for fairly large organizations, and I get the sense that the procurement department doesn't speak with the logistics department, who don't speak with the compliance department who they manage the customs process. And people in procurement are going to buy things with very, very little knowledge of the regulatory landscape that's shifting. And the people in the logistics department, they haven't spoken to any of them, you're like, how do you guys efficiently coordinate things. So that I guess they don't,

Brian Glick  31:16

I was on the phone yesterday with a pretty large import department at a multibillion dollar company, who is still getting free spreadsheets from their brokers and their forwarders and whatever, and trying to manually audit things and they haven't gotten the IT resources that other departments have gotten to even get a workflow for their audit process, right? Like it's, you know, far behind where, you know, the innovation that we're bringing to them is just like the art of the possible of oh, you could actually get, like, make a tracking sheet of all of your audit that you need to do and show your boss how much you're getting done this week, and how much you have left to do, which too many departments can say that to an accounts receivable department, they'd like laughed out of the room, because they've had arriba, for decades, how much of what you have to do when you guys go into these companies? How much is tech and how much is the change management process, and teaching these companies how to like, essentially become many customs brokers or like be efficient and effective? Well,

Chris Wall  32:17

outside of the compliance department, few people realize that you have an affirmative duty to audit your customs broker. So you go in and you tell people you do understand you have to do this, like map, or wait, maybe Oh, sure. But I don't deal with that. Who does, they don't know, they look around the room, who's in charge of like our self audit, this education and telling people, there is a cost that you need to incur, that you're not currently incurring, it never goes down super well, there's. So I find that the change management is the single hardest piece of things. And you're not only managing for change with the typically the managerial tear that you're doing the deal with, you then have to convince the people who actually have to implement things at the line level workers, but it's in their interest, and that they're gonna do better from it. It's the single most challenging thing out there, managing the humans in the information technology process.

Brian Glick  33:09

So Rick McDonald speaking yesterday, who is the head of supply chain for Clorox? And he said that everything's a change management project that may have some technology component to it. But they're all change management projects, that that's where the action is, that hit me when he said that, you know,

Chris Wall  33:29

that's like the truism, right? And even when I look at myself, when I see a new tool that's available, and I understand that it might enhance my productivity, it's pretty hard to get me to change six, I've got to not only change it myself, I got to change everybody, I work and I'm just like, Oh, I just explained to this person in this department, how to run this report. And now I've got to go tell them how to do it all over again, because there's like a new tool. Oh, yeah.

Brian Glick  33:53

The amount of shitty software that even we have where, you know, people come to me every year, you know, usually in the fall, and, you know, we should look at, and I go no, just I know, it's shitty, but I don't want to deal with the change management is like the number one thing I say first, it's like, we have to clear that bar before any other bar, right? It's got to be worth the effort.

Chris Wall  34:13

It's not just people at the client level. If you go into an engineering team, go into your engineering team and ask them how many of you are using chat GPT, or Microsoft's co pilot in your day to day coding activities, as to see how they're using it, you will find a surprising number of people who were in theory devoted to building the technology themselves have gotten so used to using their tools like well, we don't use that because we use this we have this existing library so we don't need to have Python written and Mike sort of says it all right there.

Brian Glick  34:44

We're running up on time here, but I did want to just kind of more specifically ask what's your next big release? What's the next exciting thing coming out?

Chris Wall  34:51

We're building essentially a chain of custody audit tool, which people use for UF LPA people use for You deforestation. And we've been building out a tool that essentially uses a bill of materials, and then has a nested bill of materials and aligned to all the documentation with that, and then traces the validity of the transport legs insofar as they're available to coordinate them all. And then you were mentioning that one of the big challenges is getting people to run the reports and use new tools and walks people through the process of becoming compliant in a relatively painless way. That's our big release for the spring. We're

Brian Glick  35:30

getting into computers to manage the people, right? That's the fun part. Cool, awesome. We'll get the links to the company and your LinkedIn and everything in the show notes for everybody. It's been awesome chatting, people who listen all the episodes know how much I love nerding out with customs people. So I promise for all of you will get a non customs person on eventually. But again, thanks so much for being on the show. Right?

Chris Wall  35:52

It was awesome seeing you again. Let's do another one of these. Absolutely

Brian Glick  35:59

Well, huge thanks to Chris for such an awesome conversation. He and I were able to chat even for a few minutes after we turned off the mics. And just a fascinating journey coming through that investor space and deciding to really stick it out in what is a hard part of the industry. We'll have all the links, as I mentioned in the show notes. And if you're headed out to TPM, I think this will be posted just before then make sure to come visit us we have a conference space there at the show. And otherwise, check out our blog and we'll talk to you next time on supply chain connections.

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written on February 7, 2024
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