How Hiring Amazon Executives 'Destroyed' Gopuff's Operations – Business Insider - eComEmpireStore + Brought to You By: Robert Villapane Ramos

How Hiring Amazon Executives 'Destroyed' Gopuff's Operations – Business Insider

Gopuff warehouse managers knew times had changed the moment their corporate bosses started needling them about employee bathroom breaks.Gopuff, the $15 billion rapid-delivery service, had hired new overseers from Amazon to run operations. With them came a hyperfocus on warehouse metrics. They wanted managers to track processes like the time it took between a customer […]

Gopuff warehouse managers knew times had changed the moment their corporate bosses started needling them about employee bathroom breaks.
Gopuff, the $15 billion rapid-delivery service, had hired new overseers from Amazon to run operations. With them came a hyperfocus on warehouse metrics. They wanted managers to track processes like the time it took between a customer placing an order and when a warehouse worker started packing it, or the time it took for a delivery driver to pick up a packed bag.
If warehouses slip below the companywide benchmark, the bosses would demand answers.
In one instance, a former Gopuff manager says he told his boss the warehouse missed a benchmark of three minutes to start packing an order because one of the two employees on duty the previous evening used the bathroom for a few minutes.
“Why didn’t we plan for that?” the Gopuff operations executive replied. “How can we anticipate that problem?”
These kinds of questions have become a regular occurrence, according to seven current and former Gopuff employees.
Gopuff, backed by investors including SoftBank and D1 Capital Partners, was following Amazon’s e-commerce and logistics playbook. It sought Amazonians it felt were the best operators in the business. But current and former employees said Amazon’s style hasn’t translated well at Gopuff, as Amazon has plentiful capital and decades of infrastructure, while a smaller startup like Gopuff had more limited resources.
Gopuff adopted other pages from Amazon’s playbook, including far more business meetings, making managers write up six-page reports, and public criticism of employees.
Patient Zero in Gopuff’s Amazonification was Tim Collins, a 20-year Amazon logistics-operations veteran who became Gopuff’s vice president of operations in April 2021. The company then hired at least two dozen people from Amazon in human resources, finance, and especially its warehouses.
Even when Collins stepped down in August after a series of layoffs at the company and a broader retrenchment, two more former Amazonians — Maria Renz and Sanjay Shah — took his place.
Insider talked to a dozen current and former Gopuff employees at both corporate and regional levels. They asked to remain anonymous, citing fear of reprisal from the company. Their identities are known to Insider.
Some say the Amazon playbook helped Gopuff professionalize its warehouses and set higher standards. The company takes pride in many of its redesigned warehouses, which it says are more efficient than those of competitors like Getir and DashMart.
But many argued Amazon’s processes, built over decades, just aren’t a fit for an early-stage company that still often manages warehouses through Google spreadsheets, along with Gopuff’s own homegrown systems. Some also said those processes clash with Gopuff’s culture. A former Gopuff manager, who ran an Amazon fulfillment center before coming to Gopuff, said too much of her former company’s aggressive culture had followed her to her new job.
“That’s the part that was brought to Gopuff,” she said. “It totally destroyed this company’s operations.”
Gopuff, founded in 2013 by two college friends — Rafael Ilishayev and Yakir Gola — was long primed to take the Amazon route. Its leadership had told employees and investors for years that it hoped to become the “Amazon for rapid delivery,” according to people who were present in discussions with the founders about Gopuff’s strategy. Some investors told Insider they encouraged the comparison.
In spring 2021, Collins held his first companywide meeting as Gopuff’s vice president of operations. At that meeting, he said he wanted to level up the talent of the company’s warehouse managers, two former employees said.
Collins’ decree marked the beginning of a shift for Gopuff, which had previously hired people largely from retail and restaurant backgrounds, according to former employees.
While Gopuff still hired from other industries like the gig economy, former store and restaurant managers began getting cycled out in favor of people who ran Amazon fulfillment centers, these people said. Human-resources executives directed hiring managers to target Amazon operations veterans, one former Gopuff manager said.
Another former Gopuff manager said the company’s Amazon hires seemed to take little interest in learning how Gopuff had been doing things previously.
“They never talked to me or other legacy folks about what the challenges are and put together a road map to success,” that former manager said.
In at least one region, the company increased salary offers by 30%, up to about $80,000, to lure people who ran Amazon fulfillment centers, said one person with knowledge of the matter.
That person said the net effect was neutral. Even if these new managers ran warehouses more efficiently, their higher salaries canceled out marginal gains, and the company hasn’t been able to overcome broader operational issues.
Next came a greater focus on metrics. Every day, logistics chiefs ask managers on calls about figures like a warehouse’s “cue time,” or the amount of time it took for an employee to start bagging a customer’s order; and “pack time to bin time,” or the length of time it takes for an order to go from a bag to a bin and ready for a delivery driver to pick up.
The company also had weekly and monthly business reviews in which managers prepared white papers — the infamous six-page Amazon documents where people laid out strategies, problems, and proposed solutions. While the number of meetings have since cut back after some managers were laid off earlier this year, the intense pressure to hit metrics remains, according to two current employees.
If a warehouse’s cue time or delivery time missed the metric, managers have to write up a paper and deliver it in a “bridge call,” explaining why they missed it and how they’d fix it. And if managers make an excuse — e.g., an employee wasn’t able to receive an order because they were working elsewhere in the warehouse — they’d even review security-camera footage to prove it.
“We’d have an exec making $250,000 a year asking about an associate who’s making 16 bucks an hour and criticizing them for sitting down,” a former manager said. “I used to go nuts with my supervisor about how unbelievably cold and crass it is.”
Logistics experts say Amazon can implement company metrics goals because it has enough employees to do it. And when it doesn’t, managers can hire more. But at Gopuff, when executives insist that pack times stay below a benchmark, managers would redirect all employees to pack orders. That often means no one is available to receive shipments, which vendors would then leave outside the warehouse. This contributes to Gopuff’s chronic problem of food sitting unattended outside warehouses and needing to be dumped.
“When you’re top-to-bottom metrics focused, there has to be an actual strategy in leadership and management guidance from the top. And that didn’t exist,” one former Gopuff employee said. “It became a, ‘By force, do whatever you needed to do to make it happen.’ It created chaos.”
Employees chafed that while Gopuff tried to follow Amazon’s example, the two companies had fundamentally different warehouse models.
Amazon standardizes its warehouse layouts: A fulfillment center in Alabama, for instance, more or less follows the same blueprint as one in California. Its warehouses are largely located in rural or low-density industrial areas.
But rapid-delivery startups locate warehouses in urban areas so they can deliver to customers in under an hour. That means the company must use whatever space it can get. Gopuff has set up warehouses in strip malls, former dentist offices, fitness centers, and liquor-store basements. That has made it nearly impossible to standardize.
It doesn’t make sense, employees argued, for a warehouse in one region to be forced to hit the same benchmarks of a differently designed warehouse in another region.
Amazonians at Gopuff also have to adjust to no longer being at the 800-pound gorilla of retail. Amazon’s power as the largest US e-commerce outfit has bent the universe of vendors and suppliers to its will.
That’s not the case at startups, which are often a minnow in a large pond of retailers. Gopuff has struggled to ensure it has enough employees to manage deliveries and receivables — especially as it began cutting back on warehouse workers, starting with a 3% cut of its workforce in April and 10% cut in July.
While Amazon has revolutionized the logistics and warehousing industry to fit its growing ambitions, logistics experts say trying to copy its processes can be a mistake.
“What works for Amazon doesn’t work for other companies that don’t have its scale and size,” said Gautham Vadakkepatt, a professor of marketing at the George Mason University School of Business. “If they do copy Amazon, the risk is that it does not match the target market they’re dealing with.” He explicitly has advised early-stage companies not to follow the Amazon model.
Even while some former Amazon employees were driving change meant to make Gopuff more like Amazon, others felt a particular sense of disappointment, according to current and former employees. They’d left Amazon in part because they hoped to work at a company with a different culture — not a smaller-scale copycat.
A former Gopuff manager remembered that the influx of Amazonians who came to lead the company last fall had expressed hope they would build something different.
“Every single one, when they talked about why they left Amazon to come here, they expressed how terrible of a culture Amazon was,” one former warehouse manager said. “That the senior leaders are abusive, they put too much pressure on the team, they’re hammering them about metrics and results.”
At Gopuff, it started to feel familiar.
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