The face of supply management has been changing, along with the rest of the business world. As more Baby Boomers retire, they leave a void that workers from Generations X and Y, and now Generation Z fill. There has been a lot written about Gen-Y (aka, Millennials), including here, here, and here on CPO Rising. While some of this buzz is controversial, it can also be inspirational. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM), in partnership with THOMASNET.com, has been elevating Millennials (along with their brand) with their 30-under-30 “Rising Supply Chain Stars” program since 2014. I recently caught up with a 2016 “Rising Supply Chain Star,” Andrew Boone, a category manager at ARCOP, Inc., Arby’s Supply Chain Cooperative, to learn his story and perspective on succeeding in supply management, on what it means to be a Millennial, and how CPOs and other business leaders can recruit and retain top Millennial talent.
A Rising Supply Chain Star
Andrew earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Mercer University in 2013, focusing on accounting in preparation for a career in finance. But it was a college internship with Merrill Lynch, where he researched commodities that piqued his interest in procurement. After college, Andrew joined Graphic Packaging International (GPI) in Atlanta as a commodity analyst, beginning with sourcing and raw materials analyses – mainly wood, fibers, and chemicals. From there, he “catapulted” into indirect procurement, managing the strategic sourcing and lease structuring of GPI’s powered industrial vehicle fleet, including fork lifts and bulldozers, which ultimately saved GPI millions of dollars. Andrew then became a finance manager in supply chain and after nearly four successful years at GPI, Andrew moved onto ARCOP, where he manages all the packaging procurement for Arby’s 3,400 restaurants.
Persevere and Succeed
Andrew’s “crowning achievement” at GPI, which got him nominated to ISM and THOMASNET.com’s 30-under-30 Rising Supply Chain Stars award program, was his work recapitalizing the company’s forklift leasing operations, which had cost the company millions of dollars in leasing penalties due to assets being utilized well past their useful lives. It was “chaotic” by the time he became involved.
The biggest challenge for Andrew was, as a young, “corporate” person, to connect with plant / warehouse level managers and win their buy in. Management was extremely skeptical when he initially proposed restructuring their equipment leases. Andrew had to keep pushing in order to break organizational inertial; and it’s that perseverance that helped him change minds and ultimately succeed.
Andrew was able to restructure and renegotiate GPI’s capital equipment leasing contracts and bring in newer equipment, which saved the company $6.4 million. He found a new lessor that offered GPI a new and mutually beneficial leasing structure. And because it was a woman-owned lessor, it increased the company’s diversity spend and in turn raised GPI’s profile among big-brand companies, such as Kellogg’s.
What’s in the Secret Sauce?
The secret to Andrew’s success isn’t really a secret: it’s never giving up. You only fail when you give up. In order to succeed, Andrew had to push the envelope with people two and three times his age and change their minds. It wasn’t easy. People were content with the status quo and would question why they needed to change processes and systems that seemed to work. He stumbled at first, but didn’t give up. He kept at it, and eventually broke through.
“It’s a simple formula,” he said. “You don’t need to be the smartest person in the room; you just need to be patient, persistent, and confident in your strategy.” It has served Andrew well. Other traits of a rising supply chain star include being strategically minded: having long-term vision, not being satisfied with short-term gains, and not being content with the status quo.
What Should Supply Management Leaders Look for in Candidates Today?
It should come as no surprise, then, the kind of people that Andrew believes procurement and supply chain leaders ought to seek: Determined, perseverant people; People who aren’t going to give up easily; People who handle adversity well and are resilient. “You can’t teach that, but you can teach pretty much everything else,” he said, such as category management and data analysis.
Andrew also believes that Chief Procurement Officers need to look at the intangibles of a person, because everyone is different. They need to consider whether they are coachable or teachable, “what makes the candidate tick,” and how to invest in them over five, 10, and even 15 years. They need to consider what that person could develop into in the long-term. Maybe they currently lack technical skills, but they have people skills, like building relationships and negotiating, and are willing to stay long enough to show you a return on your investment.
Taking a Chance on Millennials
One of the most common gripes among older generations is that Millennials are chronic job hoppers. And as the logic goes, it’s risky to hire them and especially risky to invest in them. But “it’s almost a two-way street,” said Andrew. It’s hard for hiring managers to invest in people if they believe they’re going to leave in a year. Conversely, not every company offers growth opportunity, or is willing to invest in employees long-term in order to keep them. As a result, Andrew knows quite a few of his peers that frequently job hop to try and chase professional growth, new challenges, a better commute, or better pay. But, he also has peers that have remained with the same company since college. In short, Andrew believes that not all Millennials job-hop; and not all companies shun Millennials; there are diverse experiences.
And what about “those Millennials” that do job hop? “It depends on the conversation and the context,” said Andrew. If the company has high turnover among Millennials, he wonders what’s going on at that company – what are they offering (or not offering) the employees? Is it cultural – is it an “up or out” kind of company? It may also be the geographic location where a particular industry is big, like technology in Atlanta or insurance in Hartford.
Every year, ISM and THOMASNET.com elevate the very best talent in supply management with their 30-under-30 “Rising Supply Chain Stars” program. And they elevate the Millennial brand that young procurement and supply chain workers have been labeled. Andrew Boone is just one of 30 rising supply chain stars, and one of ninety in the program’s history. We look forward to meeting Andrew at ISM 2018 in Nashville this May and the recipients of ISM and THOMASNET.com’s 30-under-30 Rising Supply Chain Star awards for 2018.