Early morning keynote speeches at industry conferences can sometimes be dull affairs, and attendees often elect to skip them and sleep in. Anyone who did so at the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) Annual Global Conference, however, was the poorer for it: The speakers offered both wit and wisdom in presentations that clearly resonated with the audience of logistics and supply chain professionals. The conference was held Sept. 30-Oct. 3 in Atlanta.
On Oct. 1, Ann Drake, the recipient of CSCMP's 2012 Distinguished Service Award, set the bar with an acceptance speech that focused on changes in supply chain management and success factors for the future. Drake, the chairman and CEO of DSC Logistics, said the most important changes she has seen in her long career include the recognition by top executives of the importance of logistics and supply chain management; the increasing participation by women in the profession; the growth in importance of global supply chains; and the shift from day-to-day, transactional relationships to long-term strategic relationships with customers. As for the future, she said, success will come to organizations that emphasize intellectual capital, enthusiastically adopt new technologies, and expand relationships up and down the supply chain. In short, she said, "Think big, think new, and think together."
Two prominent business leaders then took the stage: Arthur Blank, co-founder of The Home Depot and owner of the National Football League's Atlanta Falcons, and Shahid Khan, owner of auto parts maker Flex-N-Gate Corp. and the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars. Led by moderator Mike Regan, president of Tranzact Technologies, the two recounted their rags-to-riches stories, how they built their companies from the ground up, and their philosophies of business innovation and leadership.
Blank, for example, explained how close observation of customers' behavior informed The Home Depot's supply chain and merchandising decisions. He also revealed some of his own and the company's mistakes, including a failure to consider the impact of differing corporate cultures on the integration of acquired companies. Blank summed up his management philosophy this way: "Hire the best people, give them the resources they need, give them a vision and help them to take the long-term view, imbue them with the company's culture, and give them reason to have pride in the company."
Khan, who rose from immigrant dishwasher to a CEO with his own "fan club" (some of whom sat up front wearing paper versions of his trademark handlebar moustache), largely focused on people management. In times of economic trouble—and the auto industry has seen more than its share, he said—"the key resource we have is intellectual capital." During the recession, he noted, his company consolidated operations and found ways to reduce costs while continuing to promote product and process innovation. As a result, Khan said, Flex-N-Gate achieved record sales over the past few years. He said a company's success depends in large part on the way it treats employees. "They have to get a monetary paycheck and an emotional paycheck," he said. "Otherwise you won't have a strong company or satisfied employees."
On Oct. 2, investor T. Boone Pickens and Andrew Littlefair, president and CEO of Clean Energy Fuels, conducted a wide-ranging discussion on energy, economics, and public policy. Pickens' dry Texas wit and strong opinions were on display as he opined about the presidential candidates' energy policies ("Romney has got the skeleton of a really good energy plan, but it needs more work. Obama has no plan."); the need for energy independence (Ethanol is "stupid, but if I had to choose one, I'd rather use ethanol than OPEC oil."), and alternative fuels for truck fleets ("15.5 million vehicles in the world use natural gas, and only 130,000 of the are in the United States.") Pickens also asserted that the availability of new, more efficient engines and the growing number of natural gas fueling stations, especially along major highways, would help to bring more fleets into the natural gas fold. (For more on Pickens' views on transportation fuel sources, see "A bold vision for energy independence.")