Like many supply chain management professionals, Beth McClurg found herself at a crossroads following the events of Sept. 11, 2001. After 20 years in engineering and executive positions at GE and other large firms, the capitalinvestment project she was leading was discontinued, and she decided it was time to reengineer her career.
Instead of pursuing another executive position, McClurg chose to follow a more entrepreneurial career path, earning her real estate license and entering the commercial real estate industry. Today, as an industrial broker specializing in global supply chain solutions, she applies her extensive knowledge of manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution to help clients acquire facilities that will support their supply chain strategies.
Not only did McClurg reinvent herself professionally, she also rejuvenated CSCMP's Atlanta Roundtable after becoming its president. By listening to the "voice of the customer" and implementing a number of innovative initiatives, her leadership has helped the Atlanta Roundtable become one of CSCMP's most successful roundtable programs.
In a recent interview, McClurg talked about the rebirth of her career and the renaissance of CSCMP's Atlanta Roundtable.
Name: Beth McClurg
Title: Industrial Broker, Global Supply Chain Solutions
Organization: iCushman & Wakefield
How does your engineering background help you in your business today?
Many of my corporate clients have engineering backgrounds themselves, which helps me relate to them and their needs. In addition, the engineering thought process, combined with my MBA (Master of Business Administration) and business experience, helps me distill large amounts of information into strategies that drive complex supply chain initiatives and their real estate implications.
How can a commercial real estate professional help a company maximize the profitability of its supply chain function?
Supply chain profitability and real estate are closely linked. A global manufacturer's or distributor's supply chain effectiveness is directly tied to its network-optimization strategy, which ultimately leads to real estate selection and execution. My mission is to help my clients design a real estate infrastructure that complements their supply chain strategy, enhances their business performance, reduces their risk, and maximizes their ROI (return on investment).
The old adage says that the three most important things in real estate are "location, location, location." In a global business model, with so much business being conducted online, is location as important as it used to be?
Yes, it is. Any time a physical product is manufactured, moved, stored, or used, a physical transaction occurs in the brick-and-mortar universe. For example, when consumer product manufacturing is moved from one country to another, the location and nature of the jobs and facilities change, but the product still must be produced and delivered to the ultimate consumer. The location decision has become more complex, because the whole world, not just the local market, is now fair game.
Many factors influence the selection of the best location: strategic factors like customer, supplier proximity, market growth, and quality of life; operational factors such as workforce availability and quality and access to transportation; and financial factors like general business climate, taxes, and incentives. In the end, a global supply chain's success or failure still hinges on location.
The world economy appears to be slumping. Many experts believe that the root cause of this trend lies in problems within the real estate market. What can real estate brokers do to help?
The subprime mortgage crisis that materialized in mid- 2007 has caused major problems within the residential real estate community. Fortunately, it has not hit the commercial real estate industry as hard. The office and industrial real estate market for corporate users is still healthy because companies continue to need space to house their employees and manufacture and store their products. As real estate brokers, my colleagues and I can contribute to the health of the economy by continuing to find creative and cost-effective solutions to our clients' real estate infrastructure requirements and by building in the utmost flexibility to enable them to adapt to changing market conditions.
Unlike the economy, CSCMP's Atlanta Roundtable is thriving. As its president, what innovations have you implemented to foster this success?
Like many roundtables, we had fallen into a bit of a rut, and attendance was declining. For years, our roundtable always met at one hotel on the north side of Atlanta for a dinner meeting on the first Monday of the month. It was easy and predictable but not very exciting.
Three years ago, when I became Programs VP, we conducted a survey to determine what our membership wanted. We asked them which speakers they would most like to hear from, which facilities they would like to tour, what part of town would be most convenient for them, what time of day and days of the week they would prefer, and so on. In order to generate a good survey-response rate, we gave away an iPod to one respondent who was chosen at random. Once we analyzed the survey's results, we completely revamped our program schedule accordingly. Now, we have lunch and dinner meetings and an occasional breakfast or half-day seminar, not only in hotel ballrooms but also at restaurants throughout the city.
We are also one of the first roundtables to implement an official student-sponsorship program. Not only has this new program enabled more students to attend our events, we also are using it to increase the number and dollar amount of scholarships the Atlanta Roundtable provides each year to students at local universities. Another innovation was our first-ever Atlanta Logistics Awards Luncheon last November, a joint event with the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and three other local professional organizations. At the event, we presented an award for the Atlanta Logistics Professional of the Year and one for the Atlanta Logistics Company of the Year. The luncheon was attended by over 320 people.
What attracts people to the Atlanta Roundtable in record numbers?
First of all, we're fortunate to be located in Atlanta, which is one of the top five distribution hubs in North America. Many large and small firms, supply chain consultants, software developers, educational institutions, and government agencies have played a role in Atlanta's supply chain success as well as our roundtable's success. As president, it has been very fulfilling to see all of our board's efforts come together, to the point where our biggest problem for this year was finding venues large enough for our events! All of them sold out in advance at venues with a capacity of 120 to 320 people, with wait lists and walk-up spots in high demand. Our most recent tour—of a Home Depot import distribution center—sold out just two hours after the e-mail announcement was sent to open registration!
For the past three years, we planned our full-year calendar during the summer, including speaker invitations and venue bookings, so that we could publish the calendar in September. We sent the calendar out via email, distributed it at events, and handed out printed business cards listing all of our events for the coming year to new attendees. We frequently have people travel to Atlanta from out of state specifically to attend our programs if the topic or the speaker is of particular interest; I think the record belongs to a gentleman who flew in from Brazil last year just for a dinner meeting!
Since the CSCMP membership base is so diverse, we plan a variety of programs and tours to appeal to people in many different positions and roles within the broader supply chain function. Last spring, we toured the Port of Savannah, which is a four-hour drive from Atlanta and required an overnight stay, and this spring, we will be touring a Honda Motor assembly plant in Alabama.
What can other roundtables take from the Atlanta Roundtable model to ensure their own success?
My overall advice to other roundtables regardless of their size or financial resources is for them to set their sights high and not be afraid to shake things up a bit. While planning our events, we now determine our "dream team" of speakers, which may involve invitations to individuals in other states or regions. By giving them sufficient advance notice, they can often find other reasons to combine business with their upcoming speaking engagement in Atlanta, and so far, all have been willing to pay their own travel expenses.
Another suggestion to roundtables is for them to consider implementing WAMMS, CSCMP's online membership management database, as their announcement and registration system. We converted to WAMMS several years ago on a trial basis for our tours, and then adopted it two years ago for programs. This has helped our all-volunteer board manage the events and has also proven to be an unexpected financial boon to our roundtable. We still have our share of registered "no shows" due to unforeseeable events, but since all registrants now prepay through WAMMS, our treasurer no longer has to chase down no-show payments, and the extra income generated funds for additional student scholarships.
How can supply chain managers apply your successful roundtable techniques to their own businesses?
First, they should solicit input from their key stakeholders, which include their employees, customers, suppliers, and shareholders. Why guess at what your stakeholders want when you can simply ask them? Secondly, by setting high targets and standards for excellence, planning ahead to meet those targets, and then communicating and marketing your plans effectively to your target audience. Failing to plan is planning to fail.
Explain why it's so critical for CSCMP members to participate in their local roundtables.
I have heard many success stories—and have a few of my own—about people whose CSCMP membership contributed to their business and/or personal success. In each case, these people have done it the old-fashioned way: They begin by attending events, networking, and meeting other CSCMP members, and then following up with them afterwards. When they've seen areas of need or improvement, they have volunteered to help as a committee member or on the local board. Business acquaintances have become business relationships, which have become friendships over time. CSCMP roundtable events in Atlanta have become a place for the members of the local supply chain community to connect and reconnect at many levels, and this can happen for the members of any CSCMP roundtable worldwide.
How has your CSCMP membership been an asset to your career?
My clients count on me to stay knowledgeable about the industry, to share information of value with them, and to help connect them with others who share similar goals and interests. Through CSCMP, I have significantly broadened both my network of influence as well as my knowledge of current developments in the supply chain industry. I've received great satisfaction on many levels through my involvement with CSCMP and recommend it to others for all the same reasons.