Podcast: Understanding the Total Picture of Supply Chain – with Office Depot Supply Chain Executive, Tray Anderson
Hosts: Mike Ogle and Rodney Apple
In This Episode:
We were able to speak with Tray Anderson. He shares his passion for understanding the total picture of a supply chain and how his wide variety of companies and assignments have enabled that perspective. He also talks about how he values team members that bring a combination of expertise, curiosity, and the ability to learn and grow. He cautions against groupthink and encourages a focus on asking the tough questions regarding how to improve customer experience based on a deeper understanding of customer needs. His career advice includes the growing importance of nimbleness, plus stretching yourself to grow, and not letting perfection be the enemy of good.
Who is Tray Anderson?
Rodney Apple: [00:01:38] Tray, we’re happy to have you with us today. Welcome to the supply chain careers podcast.
Tray Anderson: [00:01:43] Thank you very much. I really appreciate you inviting me and having me on today.
Rodney Apple: [00:01:48] We always like to start out with your career journey. How did you get started, we’d love to hear how you got into it and what were some of the greatest influences in those early stages of your career.
Tray Anderson: [00:02:00] So I think what’s key to hit on is when I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my career. Something that really stuck with me is I didn’t want to be a carburetor in a fuel injection world. I didn’t want to do something that would be obsolete within the time that I was planning for my career. I was at Georgia Tech and I actually started out in chemical engineering. And that was more of a case of you’re choosing a major in something that you’re good at, that you had an affinity for and you had good grades in. And I quickly figured out that I wasn’t in love with chemical engineering, the thought of making ethylene glycol at 33% yield just wasn’t something that really excited me. What I really got excited about was focusing on the total picture of the business. And so, supply chain tended to be a very natural place to do that. Meaning that I could focus on cost. I could focus on the human side. I could focus on geography. I could focus on growth. I could focus on functional failures and improving them. I think that’s really what drove me to change my major to industrial engineering. But more importantly, to focus on supply chain.
That’s a nice way to say I got lucky. I figured it out early. I figured out something that I loved doing, had a real passion for, and have been able to do it my entire career. For me, it really starts with that total picture that supply chain allows. So it can be very technical. It can be very math driven. If I have an expertise in anything, I would say it’s discrete event optimization, linear programming, and while that’s very important, fundamental, and we could spend this entire podcast and then some talking about building models and what makes a great model, that’s really just a very small part of what I do and what I’ve done, because it’s how all these pictures piece together. And if we talk more about leadership and experience, you’ll see that theme. That was really important to how I chose it.
I was very lucky being at Georgia Tech, had some terrific professors, a very technical, education, but at the same time, I thought the school for industrial engineering was very grounded in the business side. And that’s really where I think I excelled was taking the technical, but having real solutions. It was very lucky to have a lot of professors that really stressed that. Everything from relational databases to simulation, to network analysis, in terms of, don’t let like perfect solution get in the way of a good solution and what was implementable.
Mike Ogle: [00:04:27] Tell us about some of the key transitions that you had made throughout your career, including why you chose to make the moves and some of the lessons that you learned along the way.
Tray Anderson: [00:04:37] I love this question because it really hits to some of the philosophy of your career and how do you want to manage it, not always thinking about everything in terms of here’s each step in the progression, but
really rounding out your skillset. I really focused heavily on being broad, on not siloing myself. I really wanted to be hands-on, work within the business. Learn those lessons. So I was very purposeful in terms of going to work for industry. I went to work for Menlo Logistics right out of college. Third party logistics provider who’s now part of XPO and great hands-on experience working inside an operation. It was dynamic going through a lot of contracts changes in terms of what the core company was producing and really allowed you to to focus on some of that core industrial engineering experience. What I mean by that is, what are we trying to accomplish versus what are we talking about accomplish? And that was a big theme that I spent a lot of time focusing on. At Home Depot, I would say the absolute blessing of that time was being able to be on the engineering side and then designing solutions. My last two years at Home Depot, I was in Chicago in operations. And you’re on the receiving end of those solutions that were being worked on. The beauty of that is you really developed a strong opinion on what worked and what didn’t work and why. And sometimes the theoretical may be correct. And on paper it should work, but is it really implementable to where people are going to be able to actually execute it. And really making sure you’re really putting on the human factors within the actual plan that you developed. And so that became an underlying constraint and focus of my career was that no matter how good the solution was in theory, and analytics, how was it going to be implemented by the humans? Does it have the right system? Did you have the right training? Time and time again, I saw some simple solutions executed very well that were very successful and some extremely good theoretical solutions that failed simply because of the implementation or maybe they didn’t take into account the timing or the training that was put into place.
At the time I was at Home Depot, I had an opportunity to move out of engineering into operations and took that role that required a move from Atlanta to Chicago. I’ll never forget moving over Thanksgiving weekend with a four week old infant. Not sure I would do that today, but at the time you just pack up and you do it. That really allowed me to get that operational hands-on experience. The example that I always like to give is it taught me that you’re going to get that phone call on Saturday, between good Friday and Easter, and you need to move 50 truckloads of product and you figure out way to do it. You get it done. And then you get a phone call on Tuesday, complaining that it costs too much. And I really helped me understand that you’re going to have these areas that you’re simply not going to make everybody happy or give them a solution. I’m not going to move freight for 90 cents a mile on that Saturday. It’s not going to happen. So how do you actually communicate, how do you execute and how do you make people understand the implications of those decisions? And so that people are not surprised.
I was at Home Depot. We got a phone call for a role at Chep pallets. So what really attracted me to that role was the end-to-end control of the transportation. Everything from carrier contracts, actually writing the contract, writing the base contract that we were going to operate under, and this was primarily truckload freight, through the execution and awarding of lanes, committed capacity. All the
way through the execution of that freight on a daily basis, all the way through the freight payment and audit process. And when you have that type of end to end control, once again, you really learn that a decision you make at the contracting or the committed capacity or the execution can give you an impact across that entire chain. And so it really helps you drive to make these holistic decisions really around how do you want to operate, getting away from some of the theoretical numbers, so often we’ll chase a theoretical savings that it looks great on paper, but are you really going to achieve savings?
It was also a great place to really learn about incremental improvements. Every week, I get better from week one to week two, week three, and then by week 12, week 16, you’ve really made substantial impact. But you never had that leapfrog improvement. It was just that steady, consistent improvement. It was also a great place to learn that nobody wants to be in last place. So if you publish the results and if you here’s the metrics we’re going to chase and you can’t do a hundred metrics, get it down to 20, 25 metrics, no one wants to be last in a category. You’re not trying to strive to have everybody to be at 99%. Just get people out of that 40 to 60, 70% performance range on any individual metric. You’re going to see seismic improvements.
At that point, I had a chance to go into consulting and that was really one of those transformative moves where I was able to go from being on the client side to being on the service provider side. And I had an opportunity to go to work for Operations Associates, really doing consulting work. What was interesting is even though I’d never had done consulting work, all this work I’ve talked about, at Menlo and Home Depot and Chep, was really doing consulting work. I was helping improve organizations. So it was a very easy transition. I was very lucky because of that role. I really was able to become an expert at linear programming. So taking operational work I had done, you’re able to create very strong linear programs that have very strong operational fundamentals because you’re not doing a theoretical and you’re not building it based off pricing that comes out budget wise, but, you actually operate that way in terms of how you have the loads built? Having that operational integrity. Implementable integrity, was a very strong way to focus. So that move was an easy move to make for me. All three of those moves, none of them were done for money. It was all about the experience and rounding out my career and that path, that growth path.
From there, I was able to move into real estate and spent eight years at Newmark, a company that was headquartered in Atlanta, but the home office was actually in New York. So I spent quite a bit of time in New York getting ingrained in the culture of Manhattan. Working with a broad range of companies and there was able to gain a lot of international experience, working South America, Europe, getting exposed to a lot of different cultures, for instance, little things like knowing when you’re walking into a meeting in Brazil, you spend the first 10 minutes, chit-chatting, they want to get to know you. They want to have that type of culture. Don’t immediately walk in and start talking about business. If I walk into a meeting in Manhattan, you probably need to start talking about business in the first 30 seconds, because that’s what the culture wants. And so learning those pieces, but getting that experience around supply chain consulting.
Some time within commercial real estate, looking at total accounts and how that real estate really operates, being able to focus on helping clients, helping you understand, what do they have tied up in their assets? How are they using their assets? And it really helped me really start formulating this concept of the total picture, the total costs within an organization and how few companies actually focus on their total costs. They tend to focus on the cost that’s associated with how they’re organized. From there, the Fortna opportunity was once again a phone call and it was an opportunity to run a supply chain organization. Newmark was very broad, was able to do several opportunities over those eight years. Fortna was extremely focused. You have a clear practice and their business model, you have the supply chain strategy up front, moving all the way through standing up buildings, the inside of the buildings, material handling solutions. Once again, these theories that we’ve talked about, that I’ve hit on in terms of the conceptual, but at the end of the day, when you turn on a machine in a building, it’s gears and oil and it either works or it doesn’t, you’re achieving the cost savings you’re planning on, or you’re not, you’re getting the throughput that you were looking at, or you’re not. And helping companies through that journey, extremely satisfying role and definitely one of the most fun times of my career in terms of working with the team, building a team, hiring, guiding, taking something within an organization and making it broader, more successful, leveraging it within that organization was a very exciting time.
My last role was I was leading the logistics and industrial practice at Cushman and Wakefield. Once again, that was a phone call. You have a lot of conversations, a lot of dialogue. And in terms of leading a very large organization, this was a thousand people, roughly half a billion dollars a year in revenue and moving that forward, from a transaction-based real estate model to developing more holistic solutions, helping clients through that journey and getting further upstream in the decision making process. In Fortna, was able to spend quite a bit of time in boardrooms and talking to C-suites, helping Cushman move further up stream on those decisions versus being more on the tail end of those decisions
Rodney Apple: [00:13:55] That’s a very broad career perspective. You mentioned that shipper side, where you’re the brand or either OEM or reselling products. You’ve migrated over to working with service providers and management consulting and real estate, strategic supply chain type services. We’d love to hear your perspectives on the differences. Maybe even speak to the pros and cons of working on that shipper side or the brand side, as opposed to that service provider side.
Tray Anderson: [00:14:22] Great question. I really love this question because they’re actually highly similar, but there are differences. When you’re working on the shipper side, you’re working for a single company. Within that company, you have that set of objectives, if you’re at Home Depot, wanting to be the best retailer within the market and continue to grow. And then being part of trying different things like home delivery was very new. E-commerce was just coming on board at the time. Really working with different product groups as well. It’s very focused. You have the operational side and you also have the growth side. My career was doing an analysis and seeing based off the logistics costs
because of the stores were of a certain scale. And it was absolutely a hockey stick. So you’re ahead of the curve. You’re identifying those challenges, that type of analysis is going to the board of directors. Now that people understand the need to fundamentally start having distribution infrastructure that supports more than just lumber and some import goods. It’s that type of focus where you doing that type of analysis, helping to drive the company and the direction of the company. It tends to move slower. It’s a much broader focus, but it tends to move slower. On both sides, you’re still dealing with the sub-optimization of silos, which is just extremely common, where people are working within their business unit, their P and L and they’re behaving how they’re incented. You’ll see that on both the shipper side and the service provider side.
The fundamental advantage of being on the service provider is when you’re talking to a client, there’s been a process that there needs to be a conversation. You’re trying to improve something. You’re trying to grow something. You’re trying to fix functional failures on the operations, or you’ve got a throughput issue or cost issue, but there’s a reason that you’re having a conversation with that client. So from a change manager standpoint, you’re at least in that conference room and somebody has decided why you should be in that conference room.
On the shipper side, you have that comradery of team, what’s our goal. How are we trying to solve this? What are we trying to solve for? On the service provider side, it’s an engagement, there’s a defined letter. Here’s what we’re here to do. Are you really part of the team or they’re executing a document. Understanding how you sit on different sides and how that interaction, could be a 12 week engagement. It could be a three-year engagement, but it’s still an engagement at some point you’re moving on. The shipper side, you’ll get frustrated because you may not have the same team or the same resources allocated to you continuously. On the service provider side, you’ll have turnover with the shipper talent, and that will certainly create challenges in and of itself.
I think how you solve the problems are very similar. Maybe I’m saying this just because my background has had me on both sides, for quite a bit of my career equally. But how you go about solving it, it’s similar. On the shipper side, you’re there to be that guide, that expert, you’re there to have hard conversations. You’re not getting invited to the Christmas party. So you’re getting paid to have those hard conversations and then to leave, which you can more effectively do than if you’re at the shipper and working there, you know, culturally, that can definitely be much more of a challenge, even though it shouldn’t be. Your role is to say, let’s do the analysis. Let’s do the heavy lifting. On the shipper side, you tend not to be able to have that resident expertise of people who do this work continuously, whether it’s WMS or whether it’s material handling design or whether it’s distribution, design or transportation. They’re not always doing a transportation bid or they’re not always implementing a new WMS. On the service side, you are doing those things. You have people who are absolute experts in those pieces. But once again, you have to protect not to be siloed because they’re always implementing a WMS, that’s their skill set.
Those pieces work hand in hand together, but, there’s definitely relative advantages to each side. And I think it’s really critical, no matter which side of
that equation, you’re working on to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of the other.
Rodney Apple: [00:18:20] That’s a good perspective. Thank you for sharing that. It really comes down to the individual and sometimes you really don’t know until you give it a try and I’ve seen plenty of people like you that have straddled both sides. It makes you a more well rounded a supply chain professional. I think it also helps you to better form relationships and gel when you’ve been on the other side, whether it’s corporate operations or whether it’s shipper to service provider. Well-rounded is what you get when you do those things and make those strategic types of career moves.
Tray Anderson: [00:18:48] Completely agree. And I think that’s why I’ve always focused on the experience versus a specific linear career path.
Mike Ogle: [00:18:56] When you were hiring team members, what did you look for? And it could have been hard skills, soft skills. And then what did you look, what did you do to bring out the best in the individuals and teams?
Tray Anderson: [00:19:10] I love that question simply because I think it’s so key. So first I never went out and had a list of 20 attributes that I wanted to hire and expected to find 20 attributes with this person and to find the perfect match. I really wanted to go out and hire the person that, one, can they be part of the team too? Are they passionate? Does this excite them? Are they going to speak up and say, when they disagree with something and help the team improve and teach others and bring that perspective?
Do they want the overall team to improve and rise and understand that as the group does better, that’s going to be good for them. I was always focusing on people that were experts and brought that expertise. Whether it was a position that only had two or three years of experience, or a position that had 20 years of experience, I always want to focus on, you’re coming in and you have an expertise that you’re bringing in, that expertise could be, Hey, you’re two years out of college, you know more about what’s cutting edge in terms of best practices from that perspective and you could really help teach the team. Or you’ve been doing this for 20 years and you really understand the people human behavior side and how people are going to conduct and act. I always wanted to make sure, bring them into a role where they can grow for them personally. It’s 50% of what you know, and 50% of what you’re going to learn. And so you’re growing. There was never an expectation that you were in an expert from day one in that job, because I found when you did hire people like that, they’re going to get really bored really fast. There’s always a few exceptions what I just said, but for the types of roles that I’ve always led, you wanted people that were going to grow and were hungry to grow and wanted to learn. And were intellectually curious. When they were looking at some non-billable practice building time, were really excited to get out there and learn and develop new tools. I think that was critical. I think that’s the key. I always wanted to try to hire people that you could trust to work with and then trust them. Let them do their jobs, let them work with the clients and make sure you hired people different from you. There’s teams with a lot of group think, I think are very dangerous because there’s a lot of head nodding and people aren’t pushing back. And I wanted a lot of pushback. I
want people challenging everything from the technical side of how the problem was being solved to really debating how should you manage your client and work with that client to understand how to help them navigate this process, but also at the same time, if they had a predetermined solution that they want you to rubber stamp, that was not what we were there for. We couldn’t do that.
Rodney Apple: [00:21:39] The latter portion of your career, you’ve been truly focused in that client facing advisory capacity. What types of traits does it take to be a strong advisor? And how do you go about building that trust with your clients?
Tray Anderson: [00:21:56] I think it starts with you’re there to be an advisor and there’s a reason you’re in that room. Meaning that they know they need some change. They know they need to update their network or they need to improve their systems or they need to look at their internal talent and make some different hires, or to help bring in some outside talent to help integrate it in to the organization.
I think it really starts with understanding what’s the client goals. And the client goals for the same exact business is going to vary depending on the ownership situation. Like if it’s private equity owned, there’s going to be an exit strategy. What is that extra strategy? What’s the timing of that exit strategy? Or are you trying to improve your customer experience? Are you trying to improve your metrics, like ship time, are you focusing on costs? Are you trying to improve your quality? I think it’s starts fundamentally there and making sure you understand what they’re trying to accomplish, not ,well, here’s what best looks like and best is the same answer for everybody. So this is what you should strive for. You don’t come in with a bunch of benchmarks and say, okay, where are you? You’re missing here, here, and here. And here’s what you need to do to improve.
They could be very happy with their service level time they might have from the time a customer clicks until you ship it, it could be three business days and they have no plans on changing that, they’re very happy with it. At another company that would be disastrous. So it’s not your place to tell them, Hey, you’re terrible because you’re at three days. They understand their customer and they know what space they want to plan.
Same way in terms of the investment ownership side of the business. If they’re in aggressive growth mode, you’re going to be much less concerned about costs, are gonna be more concerned about revenue capture. How do you enable that? So you want to make sure you understand what their goals are. So from day one, you’re there supporting them and their journey. You’re not there trying to be the smartest person in the room. You need to balance that though, by having very hard conversations early on and make sure you’re being very direct in terms of what do they want to accomplish? What does good look like? What does best in class look like? And if there’s a gap between where they are and what best in class looks like, or from a cost standpoint, you want to have those conversations very early.
It’s not going to make you very popular. You’re in a room with people that don’t want to necessarily hear what you’re saying. In some cases you’re in a room with people that don’t want you in that room. You’ve been invited into that room for
the work, but there are people in the room who weren’t a part of the decision to invite you in, or don’t want your help. They’re very happy. That could be an outsource insource decision where you’re evaluating do y’all want to insource, currently outsourced scenario or vice versa. And they’re very happy with the current state. You may be pushing against that from day one. In terms of having those conversations with boards of directors, you’re talking about a group of people who have disparate experiences and understanding of their views.
I promise you if you’re ever talking to a board of directors that has someone who works for an airline on that board, they look at risk in a very different way than we typically look at risk across other industries, and you want to be aware of that. In some cases, risk is going to be extremely important. And some cases, you have a boardroom where, Hey, I’ll deal with it when the building burns down. I’ve seen both extremes and you really need to understand those extremes.
When I say hard conversations, what I really mean is, doing the analytics, do the math, do the work, do all the heavy lifting and then have conversations around this is where you’re wanting to go. This is the work required to get there. And this is what the time looks like. And sometimes that timing is as longer than people think it is. They think they can get something done in nine months and you’re telling them best in class, it’s going to be 18. It’s more going to be realistically 24 months to get there.
We’ll help create a plan in terms of a bridge to help you get there. Unfortunately you also sometimes are dealing with the willingness to have those conversations and there’s definitely pushback. You definitely want to have conversations where you’re not surprising anybody, but you want to make sure that you’re definitely talking to them, making sure they understand what good looks like and how to get there, what’s achievable. Not like, okay, Hey, I think we can knock this out in six months when you think in a very best case, we can knock it out in six months. That’s how you build that trust, but also understand that if your goal is to be well-liked, that’s not a role that’s gonna lend you a lot of happiness on the backend when you have great solutions that have been implemented and they see the improvements, but understand it’s a long journey. I would say that’s something that I excell at and the more years I’ve done this, the more I’m grateful that I figured out that approach early on.
Mike Ogle: [00:26:35] What are some of the biggest influences that you’re seeing have an influence on supply chain careers going forward?
Tray Anderson: [00:26:43] The number one thing that I would really stress on supply chain careers, it’s going to be nimbleness. And what I mean is, we’re at a time right now, that is so dynamic that if you take 2019 and what a good solution was in 2019 and what the expectation was for a solution in 2019 and compare it to what it’s going to be in 2022, where we’re seeing a seismic shift. What I mean by nimble is understanding, okay, what worked three years ago, isn’t going to work today. Could be the customer expectations are different. It could be your cost expectations are different. We heard a lot of talk going into the pandemic about inventory.
And then what we fundamentally saw companies do is they very quickly start rationalizing their inventory and cutting out entire SKUs, entire product lines. So
instead of this color, size, style proliferation, we saw the opposite. That’s what I mean by nimbleness is like, here’s what we’re executing, we’re now changing what our definitions are, what good is and how do we want to accomplish it. So I would really stress the ability to understand those views and be able to react to them, ask the right questions within a supply chain career. What’s going to be important because if you go back and look at a whole list of who’s who’s within the supply chain world with companies, you’re going to see all of them have had to make some fairly seismic shifts recently and are going to continue to make those shifts. That’s critical, matching those solutions to the operational and aspirational needs. It’s going to be critical to the supply chain careers.
One of the things I always like to talk about is the Mandela effect and supply chain. And what I mean by that is memories are incorrect. They’re fallible. People will have a solution that they used at one company. It could be a material handling solution. It can be a system software system and they just assume it’s going to work in the next solution. Very often it doesn’t because even if I have a similar product type, you might have a different order profile, different customer demand, a different service expectation. You really have to make sure you’re taking each situation as an individual situation and then matching it to the solution to what you actually need. That also balanced with, what do I think 3, 5, 10 years looks like, because I don’t want to get locked into a solution that works today, but I’m setting myself up for failure. And what I mean by that is I might have a wholesale model currently, but what if I want to go to a more consumer direct model? We’ve seen numerous companies do that over the last two years where they’ve actually stopped serving some of their wholesale customers, they’ve gone to more consumer direct model, and for instance, the distribution solution for that is going to be extremely different solution. The warehouse that supports shipping cases and pallets is not set up to support shipping eaches. Those types of solutions are really important.
The other side is, really continue to stretch, I think in supply chain, if you’re not really starting to think heavily about data analytics, machine learning, you’re going to get left behind. That’s another area that’s going to continue to grow. You certainly don’t have to be a data scientist, but understanding the impact of the decisions, how to tie into it, how to leverage it, the questions to ask, what you were looking for, is going to be critical because with supply chain, where we’ve seen this fundamental shift, where people have taken supply chain and a lot of organizations where it’s something like, Hey, if it’s working and whatever my service level is, if my service level is everything ships within two days of the order, as long as it’s working, I’m happy. As long as the cost reflects what’s on my P&L. No surprises, I’m happy. And people are shifting away from that and wanting to supply chain to become more of a competitive advantage, whether it’s for growing market share or for client satisfaction or for cost. And so what used to be acceptable at 3.9% of the P&L if you actually benchmark it, maybe you should be at 2.5. Why do you go capture that extra savings? People are much more focused there and in terms of, driving on the supply chain side. So helping companies turn this into a competitive advantage, I think is critical. And that’s why that broad skill set really plays so well within the supply chain space.
Rodney Apple: [00:30:57] Could you share a key leadership challenge that you’ve faced in your career. And I’m sure you face many, from managing small teams to very large teams, how you’ve dealt with that challenge and then how that helps you grow as an overall leader.
Tray Anderson: [00:31:13] Since we’ve talked a little bit about the shipper and the service provider perspective, I’ll give you two examples that I think speak to it. On the service provider side, I’ve had projects where you over the course of a year, you’ve had four leadership changes, literally every three to four months, a new person’s on the project and there’s frustration on the project. There’s one example that I’m thinking of the company actually had hired its entire C-suite change. And so there was no legacy knowledge in the organization. Everybody had come in from the outside. As we talked about earlier, lots of decisions had been made. None of those decisions were wrong, but they’re all focused at driving certain goals that with a new C-suite, now had a different opinion and different objectives. So within this 12 month period, you had four different leadership teams came in and they really had a different focus, different objectives. And the only way you navigate through that type of environment is to really focus on the business case or the what’s the data telling you where the analytics telling you and sticking to that, because you’re going to deal with people that are frustrated. People have different objectives. People are being given different directives. The way you navigate that type of engagement and ensure that the clients being served and client has the right support. And it’s getting the right information to make good decisions, and then you can stay engaged. Being right and no longer being engaged is a failure. Staying engaged with telling people what you want to hear is a failure. So really navigating that is being in that in-between space of being liked, respected, but being that solid guide for the client where you’re really helping them make good decisions and having conversations with them that they necessarily don’t want to hear. But most importantly need to hear. And doing it in a way that as people come in and maybe you have different objectives than what’s best for the business, you’re still going to be able to navigate that. And that’s a lesson that I continue to learn through my career. And as an executive leader has really been reinforced that there is no alternative.
On the shipper side, I’ve dealt with what everybody’s had to deal with, budget cuts and layoffs and leading a team through that. That’s a painful process with a significant human impact. Fundamentally it’s the same exact underlying tenant of having very direct, honest conversations with people, walking through here’s what the business demands are. Here’s why we’re having to make these cuts. Here’s why you’re here. How are we going to work through this? How are we going to continue to deliver great quality work. Once again, having that straightforward, difficult conversation, not telling people that they want to hear. Telling people what the situation is, and then telling people what are we doing next? And how are we going to move forward I think is really critical. And also giving time for people to hurt, those processes are painful. And as a leader, recognizing that this is a difficult time. There is no positive answer that everybody is going to be happy out of this, but her
ere’s how we’re going to build from this.
Having those hard conversations early, making sure you’re telling people what they don’t want to hear, but doing it in a way that’s very empathetic to help them understand how is this part of a larger goal and how we’re moving forward and always making sure that you have the hard work analysis that you’ve done and that’s what’s guiding you and then sticking to that plan, even on the days that you’re getting a lot of pressure, not to.
Mike Ogle: [00:34:41] Would like to hear some examples of some of the best career advice that you’ve received along the way. And if you have a couple of your own that you’d like to share whether they’re mid-career or if they’re getting started in their supply chain career.
Tray Anderson: [00:34:56] Whether you’re getting started or whether you’re mid-career, supply chain is a great place to focus on your career. The reason why is I’ve been lucky enough to be doing this for over 25 years, but it really allows you to perform multiple roles within the organization under the umbrella of supply chain. You have a financial accounting focus audit, you’re really involved in those pieces of your organization. You have the operational focus in terms of what are my goals. We talked a lot about cost and service and expectations, and we haven’t talked a lot about manufacturing, but looking into the manufacturing operation and optimizing a manufacturing operation to minimize costs, but also understanding the downstream impact of those decisions. And maybe making some decisions in manufacturing or having incremental costs, but actually have a net lower cost for the entire operation, availability, impact that type of broad decision-making is one of the great things about supply chain.
The ability to have that broad view and to help individuals and organizations that have that siloed business unit view where I’m optimizing my P&L that I’m incented off of to help really understand those total decisions across the organization, whether it be qualitative or quantitative to make better decisions for the whole organization something that supply chain people really can focus on and impact. And that’s something that C-suites and board of directors get very excited about.
In terms of some of my own advice some things that were true early in my career or just as true today is you don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. So many people get caught up and the word optimal. What we want is incremental improvement. Optimal is a goal. Incremental is something that we can do today. 80% isn’t ideal, but a whole lot better than 60%. And we want to get the 95%, but if we can get from 60 to 80, that’s really going to give us the roadmap to improve a metric to 95%. Focus on that incremental improvement, those incremental improvements add up to the big improvements. So often we’re looking for that one change that’s gonna get us there. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a lot of small incremental improvements that get us there. Human capital is the most important capital, whether you’re software, hardware, whatever business you’re in, it’s about your people. The companies that understand that and live that value daily are the successful organizations.
The one that gets away from that aren’t long for the world in terms of how they operate, because their people just aren’t going to continue to support them and
they’re going to lose those people.
One that I could really stress always is that the grim Reaper is going to get paid. Meaning you can skip out on work, say like you’re doing some testing on a new WMS, or you’re doing testing on a new material handling system, or you’re doing testing on a new manufacturing line and you’re like, Hey, let’s just get this up and running. We’re under a lot of pressure. Let’s get this running. The number of times I’ve seen companies that have to stop, shut down after they’ve gone live because they didn’t do the hard work upfront. It’s a long list. So do that work upfront because you’re going to do that work either on the front end or the backend. It’s a whole lot easier and more effective on the front end than the backend when you’ve already gone live and you’ve got disappointed customers and you’ve set expectations that you can’t deliver on. Do the work in the correct order because you’re never going to skip those steps. You’re going to have to do them. You’re just going to do them out of sequence with a lot more pain.
And then finally, your integrity really has no short-term price. As difficult as it is sometimes you’re getting a lot of pressure. When you have somebody that wants you to make a different decision or has a predetermined outcome, don’t give into that. As hard as it is to stick to your guns, always stick to your guns. I’ve never regretted it and always in the longterm, the number of clients that maybe were unhappy or struggling with something short-term, long-term once they saw how great the project turned out or the improvements that they realize how joyful they are that we did it and the benefit they got from it is enormous. So always have that long-term view and you will always have the right decisions guiding you.
Rodney Apple: [00:38:57] Trey, thank you so much for the time you spent with us today. We very much enjoyed this conversation and we appreciate you sharing your insights on supply chain careers.
Tray Anderson: [00:39:06] I really appreciate you inviting me to be on. This was a great conversation and appreciate the opportunity to share some insights.