Ports America Sets Its Course From the Valley
Tom WellmanIt sounds as unlikely as a banana farm in Antarctica, yet right here in the Greater Phoenix marketplace is headquartered the backroom operations for the largest terminal operator and stevedore in the U.S. – nearly 400 miles from a major port.
Welcome to Ports America, a Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce Premier member with more than 85 years of experience through predecessor companies, one that boasts 42 ports and 80 locations, including a 200-employee strong operation in Chandler.
“The Valley is a nice location for the backroom operations of this company,” said Tom Wellman (right), Ports America CAO, who also serves as senior vice president and controller and is responsible for all accounting, billing, payroll, payables, receivables and more. “This location provides us with a central U.S. location, and, with the great Internet access we have here, we are able to fully and efficiently support backroom operations for all 80 Ports America locations.”
Wellman is no fish out of water when it comes to handling the financial responsibilities of a leading national company. A native of Wyoming, Wellman spent more than three decades in Hawaii in executive positions with Deloitte, real estate and ocean transportation company Alexander & Baldwin and Hawaii Gas Company, where he served as CFO and later as CEO. Sporting a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and an accounting and international business master’s from the University of Hawaii, Wellman has brought experience and problem-solving expertise to Ports America in his first year with the company.
Successful in building organizations and finance teams focused on company missions and objectives, Wellman says his approach to meeting business challenges can be applied across nearly any professional landscape, across companies large and small.
“Moving too quickly to change an organization’s culture can overstress an organization that is already overwhelmed,” he advised.
Wellman recommends a single focus: “The challenge,” he said, “is how does a leader determine the direction that will work best for the business?”
“My approach at Ports America has been to understand the expectations of my internal and external customers. Based on this foundation, I am implementing a roadmap that will enable our finance team to support customer expectations. The roadmap includes a change in the fundamental culture of our shared-service organization; updating people skills and improving the organization’s bench strength; ensuring that the right people are in the right jobs; setting the technology course; developing new processes and procedures; moving the organization from crisis management to professional management; and putting a communication plan in place.
“The communication plan is key,” Wellman continued. “Customers are usually quite patient as long as they know what you are doing to improve service and the message is supported by metrics. So far, this process is working well at Ports America. We’re building a team of customer-focused professionals that, using the right tools, will ensure best-of-class service to our industry.”
That’s sound advice that holds water in just about marketplace, just about any workplace.