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Radical Simplicity

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Radical Simplicity

How Ken Allen turned DHL from a failing company into a global success story

Ebury Press,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

CEO Ken Allen explains how he rose at DHL and built the company’s dominance.

Editorial Rating



  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging
  • Insider's Take


Logistics giant DHL was hemorrhaging hundreds of millions annually before Ken Allen became its global CEO. Allen turned the company around, making it a success and a place where people love to work. Allen explains how he did it, and shares useful thoughts on business. If you ask a DHL courier what flipped the company’s fortunes, he or she would cite sharp training, a shared vocabulary, best practices and Allen’s work as CEO.


DHL has a complex history. 

In 1969, the first human walked on the moon, and Adrian Dalsey, Larry Hillblom and Robert Lynn  founded DHL. Of the two events, DHL may have done more to make the world a smaller place.

DHL’s three founders had no capital and a “disruptive” idea. They air-shipped documents to customs offices for arrival before the pertinent cargo.  This meant customs could clear the cargo more quickly upon its arrival.  They started in the United States, and then expanded to Europe, Asia and Africa as DHL gained IBM and the Bank of America as customers. In 1977, DHL introduced parcel delivery, which challenged the postal monopoly and accelerated the firm’s growth. By 1985, DHL still wasn’t making money, but it grew rapidly.

In the decade ending in 1999, DHL “grew by more than 1,500%.” At the end of the 20th century, DHL operated in 227 territories and countries.

Aviation played a major role in DHL’s history. 

A telling aspect of DHL’s history is how its “aviation network” evolved. In the 1970s, DHL used “onboard couriers.” In ...

About the Author

Ken Allen has held several leadership roles at DHL.

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