Outgoing Canada Post CEO delivered

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Sun Media, Friday, July 30, 2010

When Moya Greene took her new job as head of the Royal Mail in London, she went down to her neighbourhood post office in Ottawa and filled out a change of address.

“The service was very friendly,” says Greene, whose mission as CEO of Canada Post for the last five years, until her departure this month, has been transforming the culture of the post office, the country’s premier Crown corporation, with 71,000 employees, and 14 million homes served across the second largest country in the world.

She understood customer satisfaction was built from the inside first, including friendly service across the counter at the company’s 6,600 retail points.

Canada Post was named one of the 100 best companies to work for in Canada last year, and was cited for its exceptional community involvement as well as skills and development training.

This is not your father’s post office, from the bad old days when Jean-Claude Parrot took the Canadian Union of Postal Workers to the barricades.

“I’ve loved the communications dimension of this job,” Greene, 56, says before her flight to the U.K. “It’s challenging when the number of people you’re trying to reach is 71,000 people. I’ve loved every moment of it.”

By all accounts, she succeeded simply by getting out there and visiting every nook and cranny of the company. “I’ve seen the whole country, from the ground up,” she says.

What she’s seen is a company “living with antiquated equipment, methods and production. The modernization plan, I’ve loved being part of that, making sure everything fell into place. It was a big intellectual and operational challenge.”

Last year Canada Post made a profit of $281 million, up from $90 million the previous year, even though revenues declined from $7.7 billion in 2008 to $7.3 billion in 2009.

So profits weren’t driven by sales, but by efficiencies.

“I would say 2009 was the most challenging year of my career,” she says. “We took $500 million in costs out of our system, without hurting the company or our people.”

That’s a big number, and couldn’t have been achieved without buy-in from employees. And Canada Post, she says, “still has got a ways to go.”

The shrinking revenue base is a continuous challenge for postal services everywhere.

“These businesses are facing challenges,” Greene says. “First of all, it’s a declining business. Other forms of communication are taking over.”

Mostly the Internet. Every time you pay a bill or buy something online, that’s something you’re not putting in the mail. In that sense, the post office is going the way of the Sears catalogue.

But when you buy a book from Amazon or Indigo online, it still has to be delivered, and Canada Post is competitive in that space with two courier services: Xpresspost and Purolator.

Going forward, she says, “what the business needs is the freedom to adapt to change.”

That would be one definition of the role she is taking on in London, where the new Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition is privatizing 49% of Royal Mail, and cutting costs as part of an austerity budget that the deeply entrenched trade unions don’t like.

They may meet their match in Moya. She’s a Newfoundland girl, as smart and as tough as they come.

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