About the author: Craig Raucher has spent the last 40 years holding senior-level positions in 4 major domestic/international freight forwarding companies starting with DHL Airways in 1981. He has also started his own transportation consulting company. Prior to and concurrent with his business background, he has been involved in basketball both as a player and as a founder of a long-tenured basketball league in Staten Island, New York: The Staten Island Basketball League (www.sibl.us).
Background: DHL Airways in the late 1970’s was a new start-up company in the international freight forwarding industry. The company pioneered a revolutionary new and fast way to move documents around the world safely and with tracking capability.
Larry Hilblom the “H” in DHL created a system that did not exist at that time to move documents from various large USA cities to major cities around the world.
The other 2 founders of DHL were Dalsey and Lind who made up the DHL name.
At that time, in the late seventies, if you wanted to send a 2 lb. document from New York to London or a 3 lb contract from Los Angeles to Rome, or a 4 lb. manuscript from Chicago to Hong Kong you had only 2 ways to do so and both ways were very poor.
You either used United States Airmail or you added your document to a heavy-weight air freight shipment of hundreds of lbs. Both options were less than ideal.
US Airmail at the time ( it no longer exists) had a reputation for losing documents or taking weeks to deliver.
In addition, you could not track or trace a shipment. Many global documents ended up in a black hole and were never seen again.
Adding your documents to the back of a heavyweight air freight shipment was an equally poor choice as they were continually lost in transit and likewise could not be tracked to the consignee.
Larry Hilbloms revolutionary concept was the model that Federal Express eventually adopted for shipments within the USA.
Now having a unique and potentially global game-changing idea was one thing but getting companies to use this service was a monumental challenge. Add to this that DHL in New York City was forming up as a new company with all types of people working in various divisions.
In 1981 I was hired by Larry Hilblom and several other senior inner circle directors to become the Director of Sales for New York City.
This was a new experience for me and I did not have all of the skill sets at that time that I eventually learned over the years. Add to this pressure was that New York City was the potential crown jewel in the DHL world. All eyes were on us.
The other challenge for DHL in New York City then was that we had, as was common in all transportation companies, different divisions. The operations group consists of blue-collar workers, accounting, customer service and sales (white-collar), and finance.
The 2 key divisions: sales and operations did not work together and at times there was hostility that created continuous dissension within the company. This was a major roadblock to growth and unless these primary groups worked together growth was impossible.
As I began to develop the strategic business plan for developing growth through sales I began to spend time with the other divisions, especially the operations group.
This division had over 100 people. Drivers, mechanics, warehousemen, maintenance people, etc.
My goal was to find some way that we could all work together for a common purpose and that way was through basketball. Many of the ops guys were black and Latino and dozens played ball. I was playing in various leagues at that time and discovered that there was a highly competitive JFK Airport League. Teams from the various airlines and freight forwarding companies played in this league. Alitalia, United, American, Lufthansa, and British Airways had teams as did 10 other airlines. Emery Air Freight, UPS, and FedEx had teams in the league plus 12 other freight forwarding companies. The games were played at Baldwin Park (Baldwin, Long Island) outside under the lights. Photo below.
Baldwin Park had opened up a few years earlier (1980)and was unique in that the surface of the floor was some type of rubber composition which was great to play on and unique for its time.
We started the first DHL Airways basketball team in 1982 comprised of 15 players- drivers, warehouse managers, ramp managers, and 3 senior executives. We played in that league from 1982 through 1990 winning the championship three times and getting to the finals and semi-finals 4 times. I left DHL in 1991 to join another global freight forwarder. The company sent sam to that league for many years after I left.
DHL Airways grew from 1980 to 1991 to become a billion-dollar company and became the biggest courier company in the world at that time-today it ranks amongst the top three.
Although many other factors contributed to the company’s growth the unification of the operations, sales, and other divisions was the springboard that catapulted the company to great heights.
The lessons of basketball that I learned from playing over the years for many different coaches and for many different teams guided me in developing this unique group of players. All from different backgrounds play under one banner for a common purpose.
Baldwin Park-Baldwin, New York 1982
Craig Raucher -Captain -DHL Flyers – 1985