Starting from Scratch: An entrepreneurial approach at a new department in DHL

This is the story of Yuxin Yan, an MIM student in ESCP Business School. Her Bachelor’s was in Golf and Leisure Management. Calista (Guanyao) Du interviewed Yuxin to find out how she jumpstarted the real estate department in DHL, China and wrote this article. Supriyo Panda from the ESCP Blue Factory Berlin team edited the article before it was published.

A new & exciting opportunity in uncharted territory

Back in 2019, Yuxin Yan made a big decision to change her career and applied for a position in DHL in Hong Kong. Yuxin had completed her degree in Golf and Leisure Management from Jinan University in Guangzhou, China and successfully obtained a Golf Referee license. She worked as a tournament referee and organizer, but she had never expected to find herself working in an entrepreneurial workplace. DHL accepted her application and to her surprise, she was informed by the HR that the company was looking to start a new Real Estate Department. Yuxin was asked if she would like to give it a try, and with an open mind, she decided to take the leap to become a real estate analyst, thereby starting a new journey in her life. Even though she did not have a background in that area she decided to learn on the go and take up the challenge.

When she entered the new company, Yuxin was in for a surprise. She says that her workplace was akin to “Two desks in one office.”. On her first day at the job, she was shocked to find out that the new department only consisted of two people – herself and her manager. This presented a set of challenges, as they had to build the department from the ground up. Because DHL was in the process of digital transformation at the time, their first task was to convert all the previous real estate documents into functional data.

The task was tedious, but Yuxin stuck by it and proved her competence by completing this task in a very comprehensive manner. Later, her primary responsibilities were performing real estate research, identifying possible clients, and developing relationships with key stakeholders. She also took on the job of managing DHL’s existing properties and communicating with local warehouse managers. Slowly but steadily, the department grew. Under Yuxin’s tenure and with the great work they managed to do, the real estate department underwent a total transformation. It had started out by being managed with just two individuals for the entire China area but now the office consists of multiple employees who specialize in a specific geographical zone of China and coordinate amongst each other to take the department to the next level.

The dynamic entrepreneurial workplace at DHL

The picture that Yuxin paints of her workplace at DHL is that of a dynamic and changing workplace with multiple tasks to be managed. In her own words, “I had to cover a wide range of responsibilities and it can get a little messy. But I did learn a lot from the work”

An essential component for the entrepreneurial workplace in DHL, according to Yuxin, was a lot of patience. It was essential because not only was the entrepreneur’s work itself complex in terms of scope and variability, but the ambiguous internal business process was also quite challenging. Compared to the other departments at DHL, which had established and standardized procedures, it was common to feel a sense of uncertainty, especially when the outcome of work took time to be realized but was not quickly observed. The strategy was developed on the fly and operational agility was extremely important.

In addition, Yuxin emphasized the need for communication in an entrepreneurial workplace. Communication was very important for her in understanding task objectives as well as the needs and interests of different stakeholders. Apart from communicating externally with clients and warehouse managers, internal communication was also crucial to Yuxin as she assisted in interacting interdepartmentally, recruiting new employees for her department, and getting everyone up to the speed. In the end, she summed up her entrepreneurial workplace as a complex, dynamic and highly autonomous environment but also said that it was a very rewarding environment to work in.

There are no wasted steps in this Journey of Life

After working full-time for two years, Yuxin embarked on a new journey of Master in Management program at ESCP Business School. Before applying to ESCP, she had already developed an idea of starting her own business someday. And the idea became more and more concrete while she studied in ESCP. She finds the program beneficial not only because of its rigorous training, which can equip students with the necessary entrepreneurial skills, but also because it gives plenty of support to students to develop their own business ideas or help them when they are starting their own ventures. And what matters to her the most is the opportunity to establish a solid network for her future career which is one of the biggest opportunities provided by ESCP with its vast European network. Starting a new entrepreneurial venture is made very simple by ESCP with its strong offerings. ESCP’s Blue Factory incubator covers the START, SEED and SCALE stages and helps the students at every stage. By immersing herself in this environment and engaging with like-minded individuals who share her passion and drive, she is confident that she will be able to open doors towards new opportunities and possibilities.

Yuxin says “I wish to build my own business in the sport training and sports equipment in the new tech field and my past experience taught me how important it is to have a strong belief when it comes to building a business.”.
From Yuxin’s experience of working in the sport industry, she was able to closely observe the weak ecosystem of golfing in China and the low number of women in this field. There were many biases and institutional barriers pertaining to golfing. Through this entrepreneurial work experience, she believes to someday address those problems and make a real difference through her business endeavors. In a way, her story shows how each step we take in our life, no matter how seemingly small, can contribute to the future and lead us to where we need to be.

Yuxin offered one piece of advice for students who want to become entrepreneurs in the future: Be brave and step forward. According to her, working in an entrepreneurial environment often requires the willingness to act without having all the answers at hand. This can involve taking risks and being proactive in addressing challenges as they arise. In such a fast-paced environment, it is crucial to adopt a mindset of continuous learning and improvement, and to understand that experimentation and failure are often integral to the process of growth. It is not necessary to master all the skills and knowledge to successfully navigate entrepreneurial work. But it is necessary to take initiative, to ask questions and to keep an open mind.

DHL is a leading logistics services provider, offering a wide range of solutions, such as courier, express, and parcel delivery services, as well as warehousing solutions. The company was founded in San Francisco, California in 1969, and its name is an acronym of the surnames of its founder. DHL has since expanded to become a multinational corporation with a presence in over 220 countries and territories. It is currently part of the larger Deutsche Post DHL Group, with the headquarter in Bonn, Germany. 

This article was written by Calista (Guanyao) Du based on her interview with Yuxin Yan. Supriyo Panda from the Blue Factory Berlin team edited the article before it was published.