AMS Fulfillment is a B Corporation that embraces the value of a diverse workforce. Studies have shown that a diverse workforce creates a strong foundation and exceptional pool of talent. We see that talent manifested from our warehouse employees to the executive staff. AMS is proud to have such a diverse workforce.
The focus of this first ‘AMS Appreciates’ blog is Marco Pelaez, VP of Operations, West Coast. Marco’s life story is unique and yet, like all of us, he has endured hardships and enjoyed successes along the way.
Marco has been put to the test since early 2020 when the pandemic began. As the VP of Operations, Marco took everyone’s health and safety as his main concern – he took his employees’ safety and well-being to heart. Although the pandemic is far from over, we have come through a great deal, grown closer as employees, and have learned a lot. We asked Marco if he would be willing to share his story and allow us to appreciate him.
Thank you for the interview, Marco. Could you tell us about yourself, where you were born and any challenges you experienced in your early journey?
I was born in Puebla, Mexico. My first challenge started when my parents decided to send me to Marion, Indiana as an exchange student in my senior year of high school. I had to learn English at that point, and I was forced to learn the language in express mode as I was the only Spanish-speaking person in high school. That was my first challenge. After I was done with high school, I went back to Mexico to become a commercial pilot, hoping to work for a major airline company. After working for a private small company flying Cessnas 150s and 172s I decided to move to the USA full time and to work on something different.
Did you make your move to the US alone, or did family members join you? When you returned, what career did you choose?
Being the youngest of a family of six – four brothers and one sister – I was the only one that wanted to do things outside the family circle. I tried to prove to everyone that I was able to do things away from family and on my own.
I moved alone. All my family members live in Mexico as they never had any interest in moving to the USA. Changing my life, away from family, I’ve had to deal with many challenges. I held different jobs starting from the bottom – I remember my hourly wage back then was $3.25/hr. I worked lots of overtime, seven days per week when the opportunity was available for me. Then I said to myself, for me to move up within my job opportunities, I need to start getting an education.
Logistics and Distribution was my next career choice. I received an opportunity to go back to school while working for SFE Technologies. They paid for my education with the only condition – to get grades no lower than “B” – otherwise I would have to pay. They promoted me to a Materials Control Supervisor, and I was able to implement a brand new process system within the company, TQM/JIT.
How excellent that the company paid for your education! You must have been performing exceptionally well… and congratulations on the process system! Did you confront other challenges during that time?
In 1994, I lost everything I owned during the Northridge earthquake. My apartment complex was right at the epicenter of the seismic area, and my second-floor apartment ended on the first floor. I had to start from zero that year, and that was very challenging. Also, at the same time I continued working on my education in business administration.
I worked for B.U.M Equipment as a Logistics/Transportation Manager. The main challenge there was to drop the freight cost to all their retail stores. Back then they had 90 stores across the country. In 1996 I started working for RightSideUp as an operations manager, and within the first couple of years I went from Ops Manager to Director of Operations to Vice President of Operations.
From what we understand, the Fulfillment Industry is where you met AMS’ co-founder and current CEO, Jay Catlin. At what point did Jay come into your life?
Jay Catlin and I worked together in a fulfillment company for six years before AMS was started. The company was RightSideUp. When Jay made the move to leave the company and start working with his father to build AMS Fulfillment, he called me and asked me to join him. That is where everything started. I came into AMS at the invitation of Jay as Vice President of Operations.
We understand you have been involved in community service as a member of the SCV Search and Rescue Team, and this experience played a role during the COVID-19 challenges. Did you work alongside AMS’ long-time CEO, Ken Wiseman?
Yes, I did work alongside Ken. Helping the community was what we talked about, and we continue to this day to talk about different ideas and projects. Becoming a Search and Rescue Team Member was another challenge as I needed to get my EMT license to be part of the team. I got my license and I have been doing it for the last 15 years.
During the early years Ken and I would go on weekend hikes and talk about daily work challenges and come up with different ideas or solutions for AMS. This helped me to grow and helped me to look at things from a different perspective. When I applied those ideas into the operation, it made it more efficient.
During the pandemic, the SCV Sheriff’s Department offered me the training to start vaccinating people. During that time, I vaccinated over 750 people – Sheriff’s deputies, city employees, jail workers and their family members also including some portion of AMS employees.
Dealing with COVID-19, I took this virus personally and wanted to protect our employees and make them feel that they were safe while working at AMS. Since then, we have provided 12 vaccination clinics and 98% of our employees are fully vaccinated including booster shots.
Marco, your life story is so inspiring! Could you share your thoughts on working for a B Corporation? Has it made a difference to you?
When you work for a B Corporation, you learn that employees are more important than profitability and when you apply that concept, the results are very positive. We saw this during the pandemic, where the most important part for us was the employees. The safety results were very positive for the employees and the company.
We’re so glad you’re part of the AMS family, Marco, and we thank you for caring for the AMS employees, and for caring for the community as well. AMS Fulfillment appreciates you!