July 14, 2022 at 12:00pm
Jeremy Coulter, Class of 2000

UPS President Matthew Guffey uses his Millikin foundation to build excellence worldwide

“As I think about my role today at UPS, at a company with over 500,000 employees, I go back to the concepts that were instilled in me at Millikin. How Millikin developed me as a person and the character of who I am — how I am able to bring that same framework for success to my work today.”

Matthew Guffey, Class of 2000, has spent the past two decades climbing the ranks of one of the premier companies in the world. UPS is both a global shipping leader and a universally trusted brand. Since the advent of COVID-19, the company and its employees have shown just how essential their services are to the customers they serve.

Currently President of UPS Global Strategy, Guffey has excelled at every level of the company — from starting as a marketing specialist for UPS’s South Illinois District, to his current role, which required “agile thinking” to meet the staggering uptick in customer demand caused by the global pandemic.

Guffey’s continued success comes from his dedication to servant leadership and an unflagging desire to invest in the people around him — to bolster their ability to meet, and exceed, their own potential for greatness. These professional and personal tenets were the same ones he found in practice, day in and day out, while studying at Millikin.

“My professors at Millikin weren’t just investing in you from an academic perspective, they were investing in you personally, in ways that were really setting the stage for you and what you were going to do throughout your career. Professors like Rick Bibb pushed me to really think about, ‘Okay, how do you push the limits of the assignment and really think about your work creatively?’ That innovative thinking really set the stage as I started at UPS early in my career.”

Guffey started out at UPS making use of his degree in marketing, but quickly realized that there was more to being a great marketer than a winning concept. As he learned at Millikin, he also needed to understand how the application of his concept affected its real-world success.

“You think it’s a great idea on paper — but this is where that experience in application at Millikin comes in. I realized, look, I can be a great marketer, but I also have to be able to put this in front of a customer. Understand the sales side of it. Be in front of the customer with a customer-first mindset.”

He applied that mindset to his global work for UPS as well, when he traveled to the UK to head up marketing for the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Nordics.

“The UK, the Nordics and Ireland — although close in proximity, they’re very different cultures. I went over there with the mindset of listening with the intent to understand, not the intent to respond. There’s a big difference.”

Guffey spent the first several months in his role doing just that, listening to the members of his team to understand their cultural differences, their diverse strengths and the ways their unique perspectives could be used to build better business strategies. This approach brought real-world results, as his UK, Ireland and Nordic teams were some of the best-performing he’s ever managed.

“It’s because you pull the best of those cultures out and are able to really recognize and celebrate the perspective that everyone came from. Which leads to the other piece that is super important to me, this whole concept of servant leadership. It’s about asking, ‘How do you out-serve your people? How do you support your people in their growth, in their decision-making, while also challenging them?’”

Guffey’s servant leadership has taken many forms, including a hands-on experience that brought him shoulder-to-shoulder with frontline UPS employees.

“Three years ago, even as a president in our business, I went down and loaded packages for 22 days at one of our operations during peak season. Because they needed support. I took 170 people with me. From two in the morning until three in the afternoon, we loaded and unloaded packages so we could get them out to customers during Christmas season.”

For Guffey, the best part of his job is being able to promote his colleagues because of their hard work and success. He is a big believer in both an ironclad work ethic and the daily determination “to be great at what you do.” It’s this belief that keeps Guffey, as a leader, so invested in people.

“If I can identify the greatness in people, and allow them to see the greatness in themselves, they will do things — whether it’s getting a business result, creating a new process — they never thought they could do.”

As Guffey continues to steer UPS’s strategies into the future — building on the company’s focus on a customer-first business, a top-notch workforce and decisions driven by innovation — his perspective on the foundation that Millikin gave him remains at his core.

“When I think about my time at Millikin, I always reflect back to say, ‘If I could do it all over again, would I choose Millikin?’ The answer is yes.”