Driving Disruption: James Chin Moody Of Sendle On The Innovative Approaches They Are Taking To Disrupt Their Industries

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

The “solving” part is actually what we have been doing in the entire journey of Sendle. We found out that there was a problem for small shippers with shipping rates being unaffordable, and deliveries too often unreliable, and so we went to solve it, which then identified more problems that we could solve. How do you make delivery performance better? How do you make customer support stronger? How do you make shipping more affordable for small businesses to compete with the larger ones? How do we change things in this industry, about our collective impact, to make it better and more beneficial for everyone?

In an age where industries evolve at lightning speed, there exists a special breed of C-suite executives who are not just navigating the changes, but driving them. These are the pioneers who think outside the box, championing novel strategies that shatter the status quo and set new industry standards. Their approach fosters innovation, spurs growth, and leads to disruptive change that redefines their sectors. In this interview series, we are talking to disruptive C-suite executives to share their experiences, insights, and the secrets behind the innovative approaches they are taking to disrupt their industries. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing James Chin Moody.

James Chin Moody is the co-founder and CEO of Sendle. James is a recognised expert on innovation, sustainability and circular economy. He is the co-author of “The Sixth Wave: How to Succeed in a Resource-Limited World” and was a regular panelist and judge on the ABC TV program “The New Inventors”. He has been a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Councils for over 10 years including Co-Chair of the Global Future Council on Digital Economy and Society and Vice-Chair of the Global Agenda Council on Intellectual Property.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about disruption, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Where our journey with Sendle started was that we originally had a marketplace for giving things away. I was the primary caretaker of two young boys, and as you might know, if anyone has children you end up with a lot of stuff that you no longer need, pretty quickly. There were a lot of people who were willing to give things away if it was really easy, and there were a lot of folks who would love it, even if things were used. But getting items from one person to another was the biggest pain point.

The question for me then was, “How do I get that to someone who needs it or who wants it? And in a really simple and frictionless way, that also doesn’t come at the cost of the environment?” We ended up having to build something for ourselves, and what we ended up creating was a solution that could actually pick up and ship from people’s homes as affordably as possible by unlocking existing capacity and delivery networks. Now, Sendle is the more affordable, reliable, and sustainable solution for small businesses who deserve shipping that’s simple and helps contribute to their growth, instead of stunting it.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

It’s no secret that logistics as an industry was built originally for big businesses, meaning that small businesses suffer from high expenses, less opportunities, and less room for meaningful, sustainable growth. When we were building Sendle, we realized that we could help small businesses with what we created. Our purpose is to level the playing field for small businesses and shipping by making shipping simple, reliable, and affordable.

We also believe in having a net-positive impact on the planet rather than harming it, the latter of which the traditional logistics industry is notorious for. Purpose-driven businesses and small businesses often struggle with bridging the gap and working with partners that share the same values, and shipping is a large area of improvement that Sendle helps fill. Sendle is better, more affordable shipping that does right by the planet, which in doing so, doesn’t have to cost businesses or customers more.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

It’s hard to choose only three! I very much subscribe to the idea of “humble determination.” At Sendle, we have what we call the “Five H’s,” which are: Humble, Honest, Happy, Hungry, and High-performing, in that order. Sendle’s Five H’s are built around a sort of bridge from humility to performance. It’s possible to have one or more, or all of the 5 H’s, and humble determination means that you continue to improve and strive toward them without a “finish line” of achieving all five at only one given time.

Leadership often entails making difficult decisions or hard choices between two apparently good paths. Can you share a story with us about a hard decision or choice you had to make as a leader? I’m curious to understand how these challenges have shaped your leadership.

A big moment for Sendle was when we decided to say, “We’re not going to be a Marketplace anymore. We’re going to be a delivery company.” That was really hard because we had poured over two years into the marketplace, and we loved it. But it was pretty clear that the delivery business was just going to grow like mad, and if monopolies continue having their way, that small businesses and growing businesses would be negatively impacted.

What gave us the courage to do it is the good old saying, “If you chase two rabbits, you don’t catch either.” We realized we had to just focus on one thing and do it really, really well.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition so that all of us are on the same page. In the context of a business, what exactly is “Disruption”?

During my PhD in Innovation Theory, Clayton Christensen’s writings on disruptive innovation resonated with me. We know that disruption happens when a service or product changes economics in a completely different way in the early days, and then works its way up the market. Sendle disrupts what we know as the standard shipping market as a service that was, at one point, created for a specific group of people wanting to send two or three parcels without having to meet arbitrary requirements, like a parcel minimum. Our service remains even more cost-effective and can now aid and benefit more people to result in more access and opportunity while saving small businesses time and money.

And we’re still just as affordable. For example, our prices for 500 grams for one pound in Australia remains the same price now as it was five years ago. As we scale, we become more affordable, and actually, our performance just gets better. That’s disruption.

How do you perceive the role of ‘disruption’ within your industry, and how have you personally embraced it? Is it a necessity, a strategy, or something else entirely in your view?

There are “entrepreneurs,” and there are “intrapreneurs” when you’re trying to disrupt the organization or market that you’re in. No matter which camp you are in, I think that ultimately, the best way to result in change is to very clearly articulate who your customers are. What are you going to do for them? At the end of the day, it’s about embracing and understanding your customer’s problem and making it your problem to solve.

Then you have to think about how you communicate that. How do you not boil the ocean, and all those sorts of things? You have to be on the side of the customer and think about what’s in their best interest. That’s the best way to create change.

What lessons have you learned from challenging conventional wisdom, and how have those lessons shaped your leadership style?

We’re often told, “Don’t put too many eggs in one basket.” The problem then is, if you do that you end up having too many baskets, right? When you’re a startup, you’re small, but stretching yourself thin to get bigger means you never become really good at having all those baskets.

The real art is then, how do you choose which rabbit to chase? How do you build confidence and become agile? One solution is by sorting and testing — get good at sorting better and testing faster. I think it’s the pathway to become really good at one thing that matters to your business. It’s the sorting and testing that really shaped what we created and continues to drive us and our impact on the logistics industry.

Disruptive ideas often meet resistance. Could you describe a time when you faced significant pushback for a disruptive idea? How did you navigate the opposition, and what advice would you give to others in a similar situation?

We faced opposition from big monopoly carriers who have a lot of control over the logistics industry and thrive off of big businesses, while small businesses struggle with affordability. Navigating opposition means keeping our customer’s best interest as Sendle’s North Star. We keep navigating by sorting and testing, and then sorting better and testing faster. Once you find that thing, then you focus really hard on it. You bring all of your resources to bear on that particular opportunity.

What are your “Five Innovative Approaches We Are Using To Disrupt Our Industry”?

I’m an engineer originally, and I like to approach problems with a mixture of curiosity and problem-solving. It’s exciting to find out about a new thing or new problem that needs solving.

The “solving” part is actually what we have been doing in the entire journey of Sendle. We found out that there was a problem for small shippers with shipping rates being unaffordable, and deliveries too often unreliable, and so we went to solve it, which then identified more problems that we could solve. How do you make delivery performance better? How do you make customer support stronger? How do you make shipping more affordable for small businesses to compete with the larger ones? How do we change things in this industry, about our collective impact, to make it better and more beneficial for everyone?

We approach with curiosity and are solving what troubles our customers and in turn, creating a solution that moves us all forward.

Looking back at your career, in what ways has being disruptive defined or redefined your path? What surprises have you encountered along the way?

When we were thinking of turning the marketplace into Sendle, it was really tough. Many big carriers really weren’t interested in dealing with us because of how small we were at the time. There’s an unbalanced playing field in logistics when you’re really small, and you don’t get great shipping rates or many opportunities. That imbalance is massive when small businesses don’t have a lot of options for affordable shipping. How can a business grow if they don’t get good rates in the first place?

Our disruption lies in matching every Sendle package with simpler, more efficient routes across our growing networks, making shipping rates more affordable for businesses and their customers. Now, Sendle is not only helping small business owners who send one or two things a day, but those who are sending ten, twenty, or one hundred things a day as we build out our network, and helping them save and invest back into their business’s growth.

Beyond professional accomplishments, how has embracing disruption affected you on a personal level?

The idea of disruption, and disruption innovation, as I mentioned learning about during my PhD, has stayed with me in every venture, decision, and problem I have been and continue to be faced with. I approach problems in front of me as a disruption, an exciting challenge that needs to be solved, and as an engineer by trade, I embrace this disruption with curiosity and problem-solving.

In your role as a C-suite leader, driving innovation and embracing disruption, what thoughts or concerns keep you awake at night? How do these reflections guide your decisions and leadership?

I think about the pain points of our customers and how their problems are often intertwined with larger ones caused by the traditional logistics industry. Problem-solving means asking hard questions and being willing to sort and test which solutions will work in the best interest of your customers.

For Sendle, we’re also considering the impact of our business on the environment, the impact left by our customers and their customers, and how to negate all of that. It’s by sorting and testing, constantly and in all aspects of our business, that we continue to do what we do and remain true to our commitment to small businesses. We continue to level the playing field and do the work required to make change and move forward to a brighter future for everyone and everything.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think the two biggest issues humanity is facing are inequality and climate change. And of course, they’re deeply intertwined. We’ve built Sendle to positively impact inequality and climate change. We’re really committed to achieving Net Zero by 2040. We’re already the first carbon neutral delivery provider in America, Australia, and Canada, and we’ve been one hundred percent carbon neutral since 2014. I think that the world needs to understand all the hidden costs of inequality, and that we have become more unequal over time.

Inequality hurts everyone — it hurts those who are left behind. It affects those who have little, institutions, and those who happen to have a lot, too. It’s one of the biggest challenges we have to face and it’s so important that we think about all the government policies, all the businesses, and all the relationships they have with each other.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

To further follow my work, you can connect with me on LinkedIn, and visit Sendle online for all the latest company news.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.