The Secret to Handling Uncertainty is to Focus on Progress

As a businessman, a father, and a member of the world community, I’m very concerned, as most of us are. I’ve been closely monitoring news of the progression of coronavirus around the globe – and its impact on the markets and the logistics industry, in particular.

Yet all I can be sure of these days is that there are very few things we can be sure of.

In fact, as I share these words, news just popped up that the global death toll has now passed 3,000, with South Korea and China leading the way in confirmed infections.

Apparently they are calling this thing a “novel” coronavirus, because it’s an all-new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. They know for sure it causes a highly infectious respiratory disease called COVID-19. But beyond that, they are unsure how and when it will be brought under control. Meanwhile, we wash our hands, cover our coughs, and limit exposure to crowded areas.

And we stay tuned. That’s what I have been doing, gathering all the information I can from trusted sources of information, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization. I encourage you to so the same.

Impact on Logistics
With regard to the health of the logistics industry, we should likewise keep a close eye on what is happening as the world’s second largest economy, in China, continues to spook global markets and dent growth in all sectors of the worldwide economy.

To say the potential impact of coronavirus on the logistics industry is a fluid situation is an understatement, because, as we all know, we are more interconnected today than ever. Asian markets are closely tied to European markets and to North America and South America.

For those who remember SARS in 2003, this situation is far more complex because back then, the economy worldwide was much more siloed. Today it is all interdependent.

Thus far, however, the impact of this epidemic on Prime Group operations has been minimal – but it’s not clear how much worse this outbreak will yet become and how long it will last. Some experts are now saying perhaps through the summer.

Global Impact
I just read a late February study by the American Chamber of Commerce stating that three-quarters of international businesses around the world expect the COVID-19 outbreak to impact 2020 revenue.

The study further states that the outbreak has affected operations “to a great extent” for 43 percent of logistics companies they surveyed in the Asia-Pacific region, with 57 percent of logistics companies saying operations were “somewhat” impacted. In terms of revenues, the report also indicated that the 86 percent of logistics companies are expecting revenue to be down between 1 and 10 percent.

What’s even more disconcerting is that the fear of what could happen is driving the markets. Yes, few things these days are for sure. But there is certainly always hope.

Let’s Focus on Progress
I think it was author and life coach Tony Robbins who once said, “The secret to handling uncertainty is to focus on progress.”

So as I get back to work this morning, I do know one thing: We are in this together. We will get past this together. If we all stay focused on progress, soon it will be business-as-usual again, I’m sure.

Prime Group’s Long Affair With Valentine’s Day

If you’re involved in any sector of the fresh-cut flower business and you’re reading this right now – get back to work!

Although we’re just moving out of the peak Valentine’s Day period, January 25 through February 7, there’s still a lot of work to be done. With International Women’s Day around the corner, the clock is ticking and there’s little time to rest.

But all kidding aside, I’m glad you’re here, because it gives me an opportunity to say thanks to all of our freight forwarders with whom we get to work so closely this time of year, and to our shippers and air carriers who so depend on us.

I’m also grateful for the passion for perfection exhibited by our team of dedicated hard-working employees who continue to do what they do best – especially over the past few weeks.

The monstrously high volumes we are presently handling is nearly unimaginable for the typical consumer. But we’re used to it. We’ve been working with perishables for so long, it’s become second nature to expect nothing less – and to provide nothing short of perfection.

So hats off to the dedicated folks in our two divisions that play such an integral role in preparing, shipping, and delivering such delicate and highly time-sensitive product as fresh-cut flowers – PrimeAir and Prime Fresh Handling. Our customers depend on you and you deliver every day.

This is also the time of year that my business partner Omar Zambrano and I pay homage to the company’s core business of providing top-line logistics support for the flower industry. Since day one, shipping roses and other fresh-cut flowers from South America to the U.S., and now Europe and beyond, has been our main focus.

In fact, flowers are the very reason Prime Group exists today – and continues to succeed. They are the seed that started it all, and that are allowing the company to thrive and strategically expand into other profitable business and product lines.

It’s a busy time. It’s an exciting time. And there’s always time to say thank you.

So thanks! And Happy Valentine’s Day!

Helping to Make Life’s Little Moments the Biggest

It goes without saying that Valentine’s Day is the most romantic day of the year – a time to show that special someone just how much they mean to you. Most often, it comes down to a beautiful little moment on this one special day, perfectly accentuated with a breathtaking bouquet of long-stem roses.

And then it is done. Mission accomplished – for the thousands of people behind the scenes, as well, who have toiled for weeks to ensure this exact moment goes without a hitch. People like the team of professional employees at Prime Fresh Handling and PrimeAir.

For them, however, the biggest moment all year is a 17-day stretch of time, from Jan. 20 to Feb. 7. It’s that small window during which they tap into their years of expertise to expertly manage the myriad logistical complexities in transporting millions of pounds of Valentine’s Day flowers – from source country to the florist, just in time for Feb. 14.

Growing Demand
Valentine’s Day is big business. There’s no question about it. And the role these dedicated workers play is crucial to supporting the every-growing demand for fresh flowers. Valentine’s Day sales for 2020 is expected to reach $27.4 billion in the U.S. alone – an increase of $6.7 billion dollars in sales from 2019.

So how are the numbers stacking up for PrimeAir and Prime Fresh Handling? Business is on a continuous upward swing. In fact, according to Regional Sales Director Jose Luis Suarez, one of the primary indicators is the volume of shipments coming out Bogota – the rose capital of the world and primary supplier of the U.S. Valentine’s Day market. In terms of tonnage, he says the Prime team fully expects to see an increase of 15 percent into Miami.

“On any given week, we operate about six cargo flights per week, but in order to meet the heightened demand, we’ve significantly boosted capacity leading up to Valentine’s Day. Over this peak 17-day period, we’ve been carrying literally triple the volume we normally handle, with about 48 total flights,” he added.

That amounts to three B747s flights per day carrying 100,000 kilos of crated flowers per flight – the equivalent of more than 100 tons!

“And that’s just what we’re handling. Considering that multiple other handlers and carriers are also putting in extra capacity to handle the demand over this same time period,” Suarez added, “that’s a lot of rose petals!

Projections out of Quito are equally impressive. According to the Expoflores, the National Association of Producers and Exporters of Flowers of Ecuador, air shipment of flowers during this same period, Jan. 20 – Feb. 8, were also projected to be up year-over-year, by 6 percent to the U.S.; 9 percent to Europe and Russia; and 20 percent to “other” locations.

On the Horizon
Flowers from Ecuador primarily go to supply Europe demand, with PrimeAir operating two extra flights to Amsterdam for the Valentine’s period and four extra flights in advance of International Women’s Day, coming up in March.

The peak period for Women’s Day is Feb. 16-28. After that, shippers get a break until Mother’s Day, May 12, which means everyone in the industry will be super busy again the last week of April through May 4.

Well in excess of 20 million flowers from Colombia and Ecuador are planned be cut, gathered, and shipped during the 2020 Valentine’s Day/Women’s Day season.

For information about PrimeAir, Prime Fresh Handling, and the entire family of Prime Group companies, visit www.primegroup.aero.

Regional Sales Director Jose Luis Suarez may be reached in Quito via email at joseluis.suarez@primeair.aero, via cellphone at (593-9) 9 555-3195, or at (593-2) 281-8055, ext. 1006.

Out With The Old and In With The New

As we join together to celebrate the New Year and the launch of a new decade, allow me to wish you all the best in 2020, and thank you for helping to make 2019 a banner year for the companies of Prime Group Holdings.

Few holidays are celebrated the world over like New Years Day. It’s that one universal moment of bliss and hope where people all across the globe vow to toss aside the old and welcome the new.

It’s also a time when revelers partake in all sorts of traditions, like bolting down a dozen grapes right before midnight, symbolizing great promise in the 12 months ahead.

But mostly it’s about partying, dancing, drinking, and eating, which is also the case in my hometown of Quito. But there’s one big difference, something that no one else in the world does.

For as long as I remember, an essential part of our New Years holiday included celebrating with “Año Viejos effigies. Translated as “Old Years,” it consists of making and displaying artistic paper-Mache dolls – and then setting them on fire at the stroke of midnight!

These Año Viejo dolls typically represent all kinds of figures associated with the past year. Especially popular are cartoon characters, celebrated sports figures, and ridiculed politicians.

Growing up, everyone I knew did this. And it obviously isn’t just about burning brightly colored dolls. It remains a tradition because it signifies the human desire to continually improve, shed past behaviors and actions, and make way for new possibilities. It is essentially our way of joining the world in saying, “Out with the old and in with the new.”

And not to say old is bad. Because looking back and remembering is an important exercise that gives us space to reflect on all the good things that have brought us to this point. And from this point we get to grow, improve, and advance.

That’s precisely what we’re doing at Prime Group. As a company, we are at a point where smart growth and planning is bringing us great success. But I believe we can do even better – and that’s exactly what we plan to do in the year ahead.

Our overarching goal last year was to clear the way for what’s to come, by focusing on re-assessment and planning. Because as you start growing, it is imperative that you get better organized.

How we went about that was by initiating innovative business processes and technologies throughout 2019 to make way for greater efficiencies and new growth in 2020.

One example of this is the anticipated integration of a new system of software across our entire international network, provided through Microsoft Dynamics 365.

It had become nearly impossible – and totally inefficient – to manage with four different accounting systems. We were using one set of business-tracking and accounting software in Ecuador, a totally different set in New York, and another in Miami and in Amsterdam.

So for 2020, we are engaging in a companywide migration to Microsoft Dynamics 365, an all-in-one business management solution that will help us to connect financials, sales, service, and operations to streamline business processes, improve customer interactions, and make better decisions across all Prime Group divisions.

It’s powerful tool that will allow us to better manage our financials, accelerate financial close and reporting, and improve forecast accuracy.

And in the case of our product-focused divisions, it also promises to automate and secure our supply chain by optimizing inventory levels, reducing lost sales and shortages, and maximizing profitability.

Another goal – one that we actually roll out every year – is to continue growing the commercial side of our operation. We will focus on expanding our client base in all divisions: For PrimeAir, add more airlines and new territories; for Prime Logistics (formerly Prime Air & Ocean Cargo ), more importers and new suppliers; for Prime Fresh Products, more supermarket chains and new distributors; and for Prime Fresh Handling, more fish, more produce, and pursue all new lines.

Simply stated, our New Year’s resolution is “new, new, and more new” through constant innovation and adaptation. We will continue building upon our successes, and creating new possibilities and customers in all-new service areas – while maintaining our highest levels of service.

So again, from our Prime Group family to yours, we wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.