Why I Joined Horizon, and Why I Stay

We’ve been experiencing record growth at Horizon this year, welcoming new faces and expanding our diverse pool of talented, hard-working people — all dedicated to keeping your fleets safe, shipshape, and running on time. But we’re also blessed with many veteran team members who have stayed with us over our decades of change.

In the interest of ensuring our values and mission remain on course for our employees and our clients in this time of expansion, we checked in with a few key players to understand what makes Horizon a place they keep coming back to, day after day and year after year. Here’s what they had to say.

Jim GassertJim Gassert

Our Executive Vice President, Jim Gassert, has been with Horizon for 42 years. In the early days of his career with us, he oversaw exportation in our Hellenic aerospace program, formed in partnership with the Greek Air Force and NATO. From there, he evolved into air and ocean exporting, and did fill-in work for our domestic department. Eventually, he moved into the role of Import Manager, where he worked for many years until just recently transitioning to his current role.

“I’ve grown and evolved quite a bit,” Jim confirms. “And one of the big attractions of this business is that it really allows you to do that. You can be in any one of the different universes in which we operate, which keeps things fun and interesting.”

This opportunity to evolve was a big part of what attracted Jim to Horizon in the first place. “When I started I was very young,” he elaborates, “looking for something that was different, challenging. Not just physical labor, but a job that included problem solving, and would encourage me to be a part of a team to help solve issues collaboratively. Even to this day there’s always a flux in a client’s needs, so it’s still a great place for anyone looking for challenge and change.”

That Horizon was small and family-owned at the time was also a draw. “I was looking for a secure job that would have longevity,” Jim asserts. “My dad had been with the Long Island Lighting company most of his life, and I wanted something similar. When Horizon started it was family-owned, and though we’ve moved past those days into being a global provider and leader in what we do, the leadership team still maintains that same touch with the workforce. Direct communication with leadership is not only available but encouraged. To be able to have a voice with leadership on any topic, even if you’re a new addition, is encouraged and a great asset.”

Jim also observes he isn’t the only one who has remained dedicated to Horizon. “We are in a unique niche, and that affords us long-standing relationships with clientele that have stayed with us through the years. Rarely does a client leave us. When they’re onboarded, we do everything we can to make them very comfortable and very satisfied, generating a loyalty that will carry through.”

To illustrate how dedicated we are to our clients, he shares a story: “A Greek ship owner wanted to build a duplicate of a chapel that was in his mother’s home town, so that she could replicate her experience as a young girl in Greece even though she had relocated in upstate New York. So he had the chapel built in Greece, and then wanted to ship it over. This all sounded well and good, until we discovered the completed chapel was extremely tall and heavy, and had to be trucked through small towns upstate. I was responsible for ushering the project from beginning to end, and personally accompanied it as we traveled. Sometimes the electrical wires would have to be propped up with wooden poles to allow the truck to pass through on our pilgrimage. Obviously it was a difficult logistical move with all of the customs, permits, and transports to arrange, but when it was in place — not a single pane of stained glass even cracked —and looking so beautiful, everyone was so gracious and thankful for all the efforts.”

Now Jim is pleased to pass along his knowledge to others. “This is a fun time for me,” he reflects, “because I have a chance to mentor to some degree and to share some of these experiences, hopefully in a way that will be fruitful for the people who listen, and will help them as they start to do their own 20 – 30 years with us. That’s fun, because it’s no longer about me; it’s about us, and particular people who have the skill set and the ability to grow and rise. Our business is not written down in a book. It’s a spider web of information that can be used at any one point, and now I’m helping them navigate that web to make the right choice. It’s satisfying to get the chance to let others stand in the sunshine, hopefully in a way that will help make it just as interesting, fun, and challenging for them as it was for me. It’s very rewarding to share, mentor and give.”

Dicle Deveci HeadShot

Dicle Deveci

Though she’s about to celebrate her one-year anniversary with Horizon, Sales Operations Manager Dicle Deveci was no newcomer to shipping logistics when she started with us. She came with ten years of experience at both small and large firms, and is now enthusiastically sharing that experience and knowledge with us. “I want to take my learnings from corporate life, and tailor it to Horizon to help make them successful in expanding,” she says. “Even though we are a niche company, we would like our customers to feel they are having a corporate-level experience.”

Having the chance to share her expertise is one of the things Dicle appreciates most about Horizon. “The more an organization becomes corporatized,” she explains, “inevitably, you are distanced from the operations side, because your tasks become more specialized. Here, working for a niche company, everyone is open to the exchange of information and solutions. This creates great momentum that’s professionally rewarding because we’ve already started to see the fruits of our work within just a year.”

Because she was moving from a big, well-known company to a smaller firm, Dicle admits she was unsure about the transition at first. She wondered if she would fit in, and how the organization would run. “But from day one,” she says happily, “I felt like I had been working there for more than a year. Everyone was warm, helpful, welcoming. All the question marks went away right away.”

“This warmth and welcome is extended to our clients, too,” Dicle continues. “Horizon forms relationships with our customers as a partnership. It’s not just transactional, but a long-term partnership. We are trying to make their lives easier. We build trust; we want to help them grow their business, so it’s a two-way relationship and not just a balance sheet. We want to grow and learn with them by passing on our market intelligence. We have had customers for over 20 years, and that long-term partnership really makes us stand out.”

Dicle also echoes Jim when she points out another outstanding aspect of working at Horizon: “Our industry is very dynamic. It’s not repetitive. Every day there is a new challenge. If you want to build your skill set or challenge yourself each day, the industry and the company is the way to go. You gain insights into yourself, develop problem-solving skills, and adopt fresh perspectives for every challenge. Creative thinking plays a crucial role in the industry. And you have teammates all over the world.”

Sviatlana Bareka

Sviatlana Bareka

Import Manager Sviatlana Bareka is another relatively new addition to the Horizon team — having celebrated her first anniversary with us in June — but like Dicle and Jim, she too is thrilled by the growth potential and supportive environment she’s found.

“Horizon has a positive company culture,” she says, “and the company provides opportunities to learn from experienced professionals and to contribute to delivering exceptional experiences to customers while ensuring a ‘family like’ environment in the office. With the support of its extremely talented management team, Horizon keeps employees engaged, motivated, and goal-driven. This makes Horizon a great place to grow and achieve long term goals and objectives.”

Though this is her first managerial role, Sviatlana had a great deal of logistics experience when she started with us, including working with clients, shipping agencies, and brokers. When she received her Customs Brokers license in 2022, and this new opportunity arose, “I made the decision and I’ve never regretted it,” she says happily. “They invest a lot in the personnel and the technology. They are really growing and it’s been great to be a part of.”

Like her counterparts, Sviatlana is also pleased to be a part of something unique. “We’re not selling products,” she explains, “we’re selling services. The whole team is working hard to make arrangements to take care of freight, customs clearance, delivery — all delivered to the vessels on time. We are doing something unique in the field, because we are not delivering to regular customers but to the vessels themselves. It involves a lot of arrangements, which forces Horizon to work hard as a team. Horizon is a company with a great reputation, and its positive brand image built over 53 years is what attracts and retains customers.”

And she’s already been put through her paces. “I can remember handling the heaviest piece of equipment in Horizon’s history (around 45MT), shipped by ocean as RORO cargo. We faced multiple challenges, as a lot of coordination was involved. We had to request a special appointment at the port, which required crane arrangements, and extra payment for loading/unloading, because the crane was available only on specific days. Because the cargo was oversized and overweight, a special truck needed to be hired for transportation, with special permits. Plus there was a lot of coordination with the consignee as they needed to make the same arrangements at the facility: getting a crane, as well as an unloading team.”

But to Sviatlana, it was all worth it. “The project was completed successfully, and we got lots of positive feedback from the satisfied customer.”

Situations like this one — paired with our future plans — keep Sviatlana growing, too. “There are many stories in logistics,” she says. “We are facing unique and unpredictable situations on a daily basis. This is my first managerial role, and I am very grateful to the company for their trust, and for providing me with an opportunity to transform my team. Horizon invests in technologies and personnel and is continuously growing. We are currently in the process of implementing a brand new working platform. The company has grown a ton since my arrival last year.”

We are grateful for Sviatlana, Dicle, and Jim for their hard work and dedication — along with that of every team member. We look forward to supporting their ascendence, and also to growing more with you. To learn more about how we can help you get your fleets whatever they need, wherever they need it, delivered door-to-deck, on time and on budget, start a conversation with us today.

New Horizons: Horizon Air Freight Celebrates Young Talent

For over 50 years, Horizon Air Freight has kept the world’s fleets shipshape…

Getting a Gear Assembly from Gujarat to Busan in Seven Days

The call came in over the weekend.

A vessel needed a new gear assembly for its engine. The 2600-kilo part was in a remote area of Gujarat, India. The ship would be in Busan, South Korea in one week.

Rosemarie Susino took the call. Recently promoted to executive vice president, she had long been Horizon’s terminal manager at our headquarters near JFK. She knew that getting the gear assembly out of India in a hurry was going to be a challenge.

“The service from India is very slow,” she says. “There are so many customs regulations and a lot of red tape.” The paperwork could easily delay delivery for days, so she and her team started making calls.

From the Supplier to Abu Dhabi

Susino immediately called the supplier in Gujarat to make arrangements while Horizon’s partner in India got to work on clearing the delivery for export.

By Monday morning, the gear assembly was ready for pickup, and Horizon had a truck waiting to load it at the supplier’s facility.

By Tuesday, we had cleared the export through customs and transported it to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport, in Ahmedabad, where our partner loaded it on a plane to Abu Dhabi. In Abu Dhabi, we coordinated transfer of the gear assembly to a flight to South Korea.

From Seoul to Busan

“The flight service from India to Busan is horrible,” says Susino, “so we flew it to Incheon,” the international airport serving Seoul.

Flying to Incheon instead of Busan got the gear assembly into South Korea much faster, but its journey wasn’t over yet. Seoul is about 200 miles (325 kilometers) from the Port of Busan, in the opposite corner of the country. So after clearing customs at Incheon on Saturday, we loaded the part onto one of our trucks and headed for Busan, arriving early Sunday morning.

A Stop by the Shop, Then Shipshape and Ready to Sail

Given the marine background of the members on the Horizon team, we know that is not always as simple as delivering an urgent spare part that gets installed as is. Technicians and specialists are often needed to inspect and install large critical Main Engine components, adding to the time it takes for the part to be put into service on the vessel. In this instance our customer needed the gear assembly inspected and prepped at a Busan maintenance shop before it could be installed, so we delivered it directly to the shop.

From there, the technicians took over, preparing the gear assembly then delivering it to the vessel. The ship’s crew soon had it installed and ready to go. They set sail the same day, right on schedule.

For Susino, it was just another week on the job. “For all of our customers,” she says, “we do whatever it takes.”

Do you need help getting your critical spares delivered on time from any vendor worldwide? Call us today at 800-221-6028 or contact us anytime. We’ll do whatever it takes to keep your fleet on schedule.

Employee Spotlight: Rosemarie Susino, Terminal Manager

Rosemarie Susino didn’t intend to build a career at Horizon Air Freight. In 1984, she was going to school at night, taking classes in science and medicine, and planning to go into medical laboratory work. During the days, she worked at Horizon as a receptionist to pay her way through school.

That was 36 years ago.

Horizon Goes Global and Susino Grows With It

Horizon was a smaller company then, handling mostly U.S. import/export and domestic marine shipping logistics.

“We didn’t even have computers when I started working here,” says Susino. “Back then everything was manual. We would write shipping labels by hand. Now everything’s computer automated.”

But as the company grew, Susino grew with it. She worked for a while in the ocean export department, and soon she was managing the department. She would also cover for people in the air freight department when they went on vacation. For a while, she worked in the billing department.

“I’ve worked in almost every department,” she says, “and I’ve always worn more than one hat.”

In the late 1980s, Horizon started its foreign routing department and began expanding into global marine logistics. Susino was part of that expansion from the very beginning and a key player in its success, which first established Horizon in the global marine logistics market.

Today, Susino is the terminal manager, part of the upper management team working closely with CEO Steve Leondis, at Horizon’s world headquarters in New York City. The export department, routing department, and ocean and air departments all answer to her. Shipping quotes, customer service, billing, insurance claims… “I’m really involved in almost everything,” she says.

Never the Same Day Twice

Susino enjoys the diverse demands of her position. “That’s what makes the job very interesting,” she says. “This is never the same day twice. You come in and don’t know what to expect. I have such a variety of work, and that’s what I like.”

She might spend one day mostly answering emails, then come in the next day to a request by a client to move 10,000 kilos across the world overnight. “Sometimes it’s just drop everything and figure out a way,” she says, “and sometimes that gets very intense.”

That can mean long days and after-hours follow-ups, but Susino is just fine with that. “I have to be moving all the time,” she says. “I wouldn’t want to sit and do the same thing all day long.”

Still a Family Business at Heart

Susino is glad she decided to stay at Horizon and build her career with the company. “It was always a family business, and even today we all work together closely, like a family. We help each other and have each other’s backs. If somebody makes a mistake, somebody else chimes in to help.”

It all comes down to serving Horizon’s clients well. “We understand the needs of our clients,” she says, “and we know how urgent those needs are. So we all come together and make things happen for them.”

“We always find a way to get it done,” she says, adding that the people in the various departments she oversees handle most of the shipments. “But when it’s a very large shipment or urgent, then I give my insights and ideas, or even start making phone calls to assist.”

It’s always a team effort, but, as Susino says, “One way or another, we always get it done.” Reach out to us to learn more about how we can bring our service and experience to you. 

Horizon Air Freight’s Steve Leondis on Lenz on Business

Horizon CEO Steve Leondis recently sat down for an in-depth interview with “Lenz on Business,” a weekly business radio show that airs on WSB Radio, home to the largest news-talk audience in the country. In a far-ranging conversation, Leondis and host Jon Waterhouse discussed the founding of Horizon Air Freight in 1970, the company’s growth over the past 50 years, and his work with daughter Devon to help vulnerable children in Ghana and Zambia.

On His Family Immigrating to America

Steve’s father, Anthony Leondis, and his mother came to America in 1956 with Steve’s three older siblings. (Steve was not born yet.) Although of Greek and Italian origin, the family immigrated from Sudan.

“They wanted to give their children a better education,” says Leondis.

The Leondis family settled in Brooklyn, where Steve’s father was soon working three jobs while his mother worked at the post office and took care of the children. The days were long, but they knew they were giving their children opportunities to pursue the American dream.

On Starting Horizon with a Typewriter and a Delta 88

Anthony still wanted more for his family. He wanted them to live comfortably while doing good work in the world. So in 1970, he borrowed $600 from a friend, rented out a tiny office near JFK airport, and started Horizon Air Freight,

“He knew a little bit about freight and about the shipping industry,” says Leondis, “so he leveraged some contacts and began to move ship parts.”

In the early days, Anthony worked alone, often driving to customers in his Oldsmobile Delta 88 and filling out orders with a typewriter he kept in the car. The business was challenging, but Anthony started to build a name for Horizon and soon had to hire more staff to handle all the work.

On a Good Education and Lessons from Basketball

Fulfilling his parents’ hopes when they came to America, Leondis was accepted to Yale University and joined the basketball team. In 1980, he was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year and went on to score the third-most career field goals in Yale history.

“This was back when we were wearing leather Converse and there was no three-point line,” says Leondis.

The discipline, dedication, and teamwork he learned playing basketball would stick with him long after Yale.

“It helped me immensely as I navigated into the business career,” he says.

Seeing how basketball had helped his own success in life, in 2006 Leondis founded “Hoops on the Hill,” a non-profit organization that empowers at-risk teenagers and helps them develop their potential.

In 2020, Leondis was named one of the Legends of Ivy League Basketball in recognition of his college basketball achievements, business success, and contributions to his community.

On Joining the Family Business

Leondis wasn’t sure at first if he wanted to join the family business. His two brothers and sister were already working there while he was at Yale, and he considered striking out on his own. However, in his junior year, his father came and asked him to work for Horizon for just one year after college, to give it a chance. If he didn’t like it, he could pursue whatever he wanted instead.

Leondis agreed and started out learning the business from the bottom up. His first job was at a warehouse, loading trucks and receiving cargo. He soon discovered that he liked the business and enjoyed working in its family environment, a culture in which not only his actual relations but everyone who worked there was treated like family.

Over time, he gravitated toward operational and sales roles, and he helped lead the company’s growth. When his father was ready to retire, Leondis took over as CEO in 2014.

On Giving Back With His Daughter

On a family trip back to Africa to see where the Leondis family had come to America from, Steve’s daughter, Devon Leondis, was inspired with a “burning desire to help vulnerable children and orphans in Africa,” says Steve. “She raised money for her sweet 16 to provide fresh drinking water wells in Ghana.”

Wanting to do more, she went on to found Project Nyame Nsa. (The name means “God’s helping hands” in Twi, the dominant dialect of the Akan language in Ghana.) Steve sits on the board of directors.

The organization is dedicated to building villages with holistic support services for vulnerable and orphaned children in remote areas of Africa. They have completed their first project in Ghana and have one now underway in Zambia.

“It’s very dear to my heart,” says Leondis. “People should give back in this world.”

Listen to the Full Interview

If you’d like to hear more of the conversation, listen to the full interview at Lenz on Business.

Lenz on Business is presented by Georgia College’s J. Whitney Bunting College of Business. Listen live on Saturday nights at 6 p.m. on News 95.5, AM 750 WSB, and WSBRadio.com. Reach out to us to learn more about how we can bring our service and experience to you.

Pulling Rabbits Out of Hats to Connect the World

Horizon’s Bridget Aglio Keeps a Major Undersea Cable Operator Shipshape and On-Schedule

At Horizon, we have the privilege and pleasure of working with many customers doing remarkable work around the world. Commercial fleets are the foundation of the global economy, and offshore platforms keep that economy powered and running. Fishing fleets feed us well, and research vessels help us better understand our planet. Military vessels keep our seas safe, protecting us all. Our customers inspire us, and we’re honored to support their important work.

One of our customers develops, deploys, and operates undersea communications cable. They’re one of the largest and most respected companies in this space, and for more than half a century they’ve connected the world with the backbone of the information economy. Whether you’re conducting international business via video conference, making an online purchase from an overseas provider, sharing data from a remote research station, or placing an international call to a friend or family member, there’s a good chance our customer made it possible.

Their cable-laying and cable repair ships are often at sea for 2-3 months at a time, laying or maintaining thousands of miles of cable, then only in port to resupply for a day, sometimes only a few hours. Even minor delays are costly to them, with potential six-figure revenue losses and heavy contract penalties.

That’s way, for all their spares and equipment, they turn to Horizon.

“When I need to get something delivered,” says the customer’s senior procurement manager, “and I can’t have any screw-ups in the whole process of pickup to delivery to the vessel, Horizon is someone who you learn to rely upon. So many times they’ve pulled a rabbit out of a hat.”

Horizon’s Bridget Aglio leads the team that supports this customer, and, as Horizon CEO Steve Leondis says of her, “She pulls rabbits out of hats all day long.”

Ship-Stopper Saved by an Overnight Repack

Netherlands to Taiwan

One night not long ago, Aglio received a call from the customer. An engine failure had a ship dead in the water in Taiwan, in the Port of Kaohsiung. A vendor in Amsterdam had the parts needed to repair it, but the oversized pipes weren’t properly packed for air freight. No air carrier would accept them.

The vendor could outsource repacking of the parts, but it would take days to complete, days that would cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

Aglio contacted Horizon’s Amsterdam office, and, in the middle of the night, they sent a truck to pick up the goods from the vendor. Horizon’s team repacked the pipes overnight and had them on a plane to Taiwan the next morning. Less than 48 hours after the initial call, the ship was repaired and got back to work.

Flying Flares to Seoul During a Global Pandemic

Spain to South Korea

Transporting explosive materials internationally is complicated even in normal times. Such shipments have to be specially packaged. Dangerous goods forms have to be filled out and approved. Importers must be licensed to accept the goods. And only providers with specialized certifications can do any of this.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 80% of planes grounded and many international borders closed, it all might seem impossible.

But our customer needed a delivery of new safety flares to replace expiring flares on one of their ships. The company doesn’t compromise on the safety of its crews. There was a narrow delivery window available when the ship would be in Seoul for one day. If the flares didn’t arrive, the company would have to idle the ship until they did, costing the ship thousands of dollars in additional expenses.

Flares and other explosive materials have to be transported on cargo-only planes, so all passenger flights were out. And closed borders eliminated what would have been the standard routing for the shipment.

Aglio found a way, an alternate routing with available cargo-only flights and customs clearances she could navigate during the pandemic. (Like a good magician, she won’t reveal all the secrets of this routing.) Her team received the flares, verified they were properly packed, issued the relevant dangerous goods forms, and got them on a plane. Aglio also coordinated with Horizon’s South Korean consignee to confirm they would be able to clear the shipment upon arrival.

Hours before the company’s ship arrived in the Port of Incheon, the flares were there, awaiting it.

Beat the Vessels to Port

Aglio does reveal one of her rabbit-pulling secrets. “The key,” she says, “is to get there before the vessel arrives. It gives you more time for customs clearance, and more time in case of a problem. If a truck breaks down, you’ll have time to find another to complete the delivery.”

Add in her passionate commitment to her customers and some marine logistics magic, and you begin to understand how Aglio keeps pulling those rabbits out of those hats. It’s just another day on the job for her as she helps our customer connect the world.