For the first time in his career, Fred Mead is between jobs. He and his former employer, cosmetics giant Avon Products Inc., parted company in February 2009. Mead admits that the timing couldn't have been worse, given the ailing economy.
But his intensely competitive spirit, sown during a couple of seasons playing third base in the minor-league baseball organizations of the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets, and nurtured by supply chain management stints in corporate America, have instilled in him a burning desire to succeed. Mead knows that if he keeps his eye on the ball, sooner or later, he's going to win the job-search game.
What special challenges does the current economic situation present to the
supply chain management (SCM) professional in the job market?
It's obvious that it's no longer business as usual. Increasing competition and decreasing consumer spending mean that companies will remain focused on reducing their expenses. Unemployment, therefore, will continue to rise, and competition between supply chain management professionals looking for jobs will be fierce. This will result in an extremely challenging job market. The current environment requires job seekers to be relentless in their networking— and other efforts—in order to identify prime opportunities.
For those of us in transition, there are three things we must do if we're to be successful: We need to have a plan, we must be persistent, and we have to exercise patience. When an opportunity presents itself, we've got to be on top of our game. We need to be prepared to quickly convey how our skill sets and strengths will drive constructive change while successfully integrating ourselves into a prospective employer's culture.
What are the warning signs that might indicate that an SCM practitioner's job
could be in jeopardy?
You should constantly be aware of the financial health of your company—if not monthly, then at least quarterly, when publicly traded companies report their earnings. It is also important to know how your organization's competitors are doing. Are their performance results consistent with your company's, or are they doing better or worse? You need to understand how these results could impact your organization's current strategies and future changes. Keep in mind that in this challenging environment, top-line growth is difficult, and companies will make whatever changes and adjustments are necessary to restore their profitability. You should also recognize how company procedures and processes such as restructuring, rationalizing, and outsourcing could impact you and your job.
Name: Fred Mead
Title: Senior Supply Chain Executive
Organization: In transition
Are there actions that supply chain professionals can take to circumvent potential
While it's difficult to avoid an impending layoff, it is our responsibility to continually manage our careers. We should actively seek regular feedback from our peers and supervisors to recognize our strengths and identify skills we may need to improve upon. It's important to be flexible, and to lead the way in embracing changes that are necessary to help our companies achieve their goals. We should also determine if our companies have succession planning processes that include a review of their talent to identify the top performers they want to develop and retain, and if we are on those lists.
How can SCM professionals remain ready to confront the changes they may encounter in
today's economic environment?
Professionals who are in transition must be flexible in their approach to job hunting. They should also strive to offer companies unique solutions to their challenges and "out-of-the-box" thinking to help them combat economic volatility. For those who are employed, it is more critical than ever to build professional networks, including working cross-functionally with their internal and external partners. They should operate with a high level of collaboration, transparency, and leadership to accelerate process changes and deliver measurable results.
How did you get started in the supply chain management field?
I began my career working in customer service at Clairol, where I was part of a rotational program. This position allowed me to work in various supply chain functions, including logistics and contract manufacturing. I learned that to be successful I would need to gain expertise in and an understanding of all supply chain disciplines. Throughout my career, I have continued to accumulate additional exposure to cross-functional opportunities. This has helped me understand the positive impact that an integrated "end-to-end" supply chain can have on a company's bottom line.
You most recently worked for Avon Products Inc. in New York City. What were your
responsibilities with that company?
During my seven years at Avon Products, and prior to that, at Colgate-Palmolive, my responsibilities continually increased, allowing me to broaden my overall supply chain experience. My first position at Avon was as executive director of U.S. materials management, charged with reducing inventory while improving service. In my next role, as vice president of North American (NA) customer service, materials management, and logistics, I transformed the order fulfillment, planning, and logistics processes while implementing incremental cost reductions. In my last role at Avon, I was vice president for the NA supply chain that encompassed nearly 800 associates. My group strategically partnered with sales and marketing to work in an integrated business process that would deliver sustainable, profitable growth.
With the perspective you gained at Avon, where there are close ties between marketing, sales, and distribution, what advice would you give to other supply chain executives who need to integrate these functions at their own companies?
It's critical to create a collaborative, cross-functional working environment where sales, marketing, and supply chain are all operating in an aligned structure throughout all phases of the business cycle, from product concept to delivery. When all functions are working as one team, challenges can be identified early in the process and proactive solutions can be created. A platform that has proved to be very successful is sales and operations planning (S&OP). It's critical to extend this process externally to include your suppliers and vendors.
What did you learn from your experience at Avon that you will utilize in your next
What I will carry forward is how important it is to have a vision of the future and to communicate that vision to company leaders. I will continue to work cross-functionally with sales, marketing, and external partners to achieve alignment and integration and to be catalysts for change. I will also carry forward the passion and optimism to drive change through business transformation and recognize how supply chains can positively impact revenue growth as well as cost reductions.
How did your membership in CSCMP affect the supply chain and business decisions
you made while at Avon?
My membership in CSCMP has connected me to other experienced supply chain professionals with whom I can share thoughts and ideas relative to industry best practices. Specific areas where CSCMP has provided valuable insights include informal benchmarking, industry trends, economic challenges, state-of-the-art technologies, and our most valuable commodity, human resources. You can't put a price on having an external professional network to offer alternate perspectives during the decision-making process. CSCMP can be a vital component of your future success.
How have CSCMP educational programs and roundtable events given you an edge
when it comes to preparedness for a new position?
I personally enjoy roundtable events, and I do everything I can to allocate the time to attend. In addition to the learning opportunities, you can also strengthen and build relationships for the future. I truly believe that utilizing every available prospect and networking opportunity is good business practice and career management.
How can the CSCMP Career Center be helpful to SCM job seekers?
The CSCMP Career Center is one of the most valuable resources within the supply chain management field. CSCMP is uniquely positioned to provide the support of an established, outstanding global network with which you can quickly connect to assist you in the process of managing your career.
How important is it for those supply chain
management professionals who are "between jobs" to maintain their CSCMP memberships and attend the annual conference?
CSCMP membership and conference attendance is extremely important for these folks. Belonging to CSCMP and attending its educational events offers unsurpassed opportunities to build your professional network. It's vital to create and maintain relationships within the industry and ensure that you're staying connected and on top of the SCM business. Additionally, it will expose you to opportunities that you probably would never discover otherwise.