CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
December 12, 2018

The power of relationships

This year's Emerging Leader Award winners demonstrate that to succeed in supply chain management you need both technical expertise and "soft skills."

There's a common stereotype about the new generation of supply chain professionals. One that paints them, for better or worse, as tech-savvy millennials who are wedded more to their smartphones, process optimization software, and data analytics than to old-school business practices like face-to-face meetings and relationship building.

But if this year's winners of the Emerging Leader Award are any indication, these stereotypes miss the mark. Both Nathan Chaney, branch manager for the logistics company Mainfreight, and David Perez, director with the commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, are acutely aware that supply chain management requires not just technical expertise but also keen interpersonal and relationship skills.

The CSCMP Emerging Leader Award was created to recognize outstanding supply chain management professionals, age 30 and under, for their contributions to and future influence on the profession. Supply Chain Quarterly Senior Editor Susan Lacefield asked this year's winners about their careers so far as well as their future aspirations. Her interviews appear below.

Nathan Chaney

As a branch manager for Auckland, New Zealand-based Mainfreight, Chaney manages sales, recruiting, human resources, finance, and operations for the company's Dallas/Fort Worth (Texas)-area distribution center, which he helped design and construct. Chaney is also heavily involved in CSCMP's Dallas/Fort Worth Roundtable, where he has served as the Hospitality Committee chair and Young Professional chair, and is currently vice president of programs. As the Young Professional chair in 2016-17, he organized events for more than 200 students and young professionals at a local high school, community college, and three universities as well as at the roundtable. Chaney earned a degree in logistics and supply chain management from the University of North Texas in 2009.

What attracted you to supply chain management as a profession?
I was going to a junior college and getting a degree in business administration. But toward the end of the two years, I went to the business school dean and said, "I don't think what I am doing is specific enough to help me find a job. I think I am being too general. Can you help me narrow down my focus?" And he said, "You should check out the logistics degree at the University of North Texas." So I Googled "logistics" and drove out to Denton, Texas, and it just seemed to fit. I won't lie; my love for toy trucks, trains, and cars when I was growing up was also a deciding factor!

What surprised you about the field of supply chain management when you entered the workforce?
Coming out of school, I didn't expect that I would use every bit of my business degree. But in my current role as a branch manager, I am doing a little bit of everything: accounting, organizational behavior, human resources, sales and marketing, and even psychology. Because when you work in logistics, you don't just do logistics, you also hire people and you help take care of their families, you look at the books, and you sell your services.

I do a lot of mentoring with students, and I find that a lot of students who study logistics think that in logistics you are just going to do route optimization or data analysis all day. But I tell them that if they are really good at moving product from A to B, if they are really good at the technical side of the business, then they are going to be promoted so that they will be responsible for other people doing the route optimization and data analysis. And if they are good at that, they are going to move up again.

You need to be able to use all of your general business tools. The higher you rise, the less what you do will have to do with your actual discipline. You are going to get to a point where 20 percent of your job will have to do with the actual discipline, and 80 percent will have to do with accounting and finance, dealing with shareholders and sales, and running an operation.

Is there a particular project you learned a lot from or especially enjoyed? What was it, and what did you learn?
When I was 25, I was given an opportunity to design, build, and get off the ground a 150,000-square-foot distribution center. As part of that, I had hundreds of truckloads of product moving into the new facility from the existing site, and [the putaway process] turned into a huge disaster. ... At the end of the third day, all of the product was in stock in the warehouse and the dock was clear, but when you looked in the warehouse management system, it said that half of the stock was still on the dock. We had to work double shifts for weeks to get it corrected. It was the hardest and biggest challenge of my professional life. At the time, I thought we were never going to get it right. But we persevered, and it's now grown into a million-square-foot facility and one of [our company's] most profitable operations in the U.S. Now when I am going through a difficult experience, I can think back on that challenge and remember how back then I felt like I wanted to crawl under a rock. And I know now that I will get through whatever new challenge I face.

I also use this experience as a manager. Now as a manager I intentionally give the people I manage challenges, and if I see them failing or struggling, I give them space to work through it. Because if you throw them a life raft and you save them, then you don't allow them to achieve the experience and the wisdom that can come from failure.

What advice would you give to companies that are looking to recruit and retain good young talent?
What I have found about my cohort is that we have been told that if you want to advance and go places, you need to change companies every three years. So what I would tell employers is, if you want to retain young professionals, make sure you have the next role or steps ready for them, so they don't go looking for something outside of your walls. Make sure you have a system in place so that when young professionals get antsy, you can move them to a new challenge and retain the knowledge and culture that has been invested in them.

David Perez

Perez is a director within Cushman & Wakefield's Industrial Brokerage Platform, and is based in Orlando, Florida. Since joining the firm in 2012, he has been involved in industrial property transactions totaling over US$400 million, and his team is routinely recognized as one of the top three teams in the Orlando market. Perez earned a bachelor's degree in finance from the University of Central Florida (UCF) in 2010. In addition to being a CSCMP member, he is a member of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP) as well as the Warehousing Education and Research Council (WERC), and works closely with Cushman & Wakefield's Build-to-Suit Specialty Practice Group.

What attracted you to supply chain management as a profession?
It was really somewhat serendipitous. I was studying finance, and I initially anticipated that I would be in financial management of some kind, maybe investment banking or financial planning. But I ended up falling into the real estate business, and I saw that there were tailwinds that were aiding the industrial market that were also serving as headwinds for retail product. So I thought rather than fight the current, I might as well join it. Once I jumped in, I did so with both feet and have never looked back.

What is your favorite part of the job?
Frankly, it all revolves around people. I do really enjoy the function and creating value. But what I enjoy the most is communicating with the client, and the part of the discussion that leads to creating new solutions to problems and new decisions.

I like helping the people we work with on a day-to-day basis and supporting the ongoing pursuit of optimal operations, which generally benefits society as a whole. The ongoing supply chain challenges faced by companies have always been complex, but now it is particularly complicated as the lines between asset types continue to blur, particularly between retail and industrial. At the end of the day, I feel that individuals within the supply chain industry make the world run, and in that regard, by being involved in these critical operations you are creating value not only for companies, but for consumers as well.

What surprised you about the field of supply chain management when you entered the workforce?
In a concise answer, the complexity of tasks that we take for granted. Consider something such as where to place a distribution center. Many people would think that it is a fairly simple proposition: you find a piece of land or a building that seems reasonably priced in the size range that seems to be needed, sign a lease, and magically you're operational. Though some companies do operate in this manner, this approach does not take into account elements that may have a meaningful impact on their ongoing operating costs, which can include the labor climate, tax climate, incentives, building design for optimal flow, various layers of complexity within a build-to-suit scenario, environmental considerations, general best practices, detailed transportation analysis, and so forth. Though many users are aware of all of these individual elements, a holistic view is what is needed to be competitive in today's environment.

Is there a particular project that you learned a lot from or especially enjoyed?
There have been a lot of projects that I have learned from, but one in particular that jumps out at me happened when I had just started at Cushman & Wakefield. My team and I were working with a Fortune 20 retailer on a complicated deal. Though the deal was large and very complex, it did bring to light the principle that ... as long as we listen to our clients and work to find solutions to their needs, we will continue to be successful in being a strong partner and creating value.

What advice would you give to other young people just entering the field?
I would advise them to get involved as soon as they can, whether that be through industry organizations such as CSCMP or at the university level, because relationships are extremely valuable in every business but particularly in this one. And relationships, in a lot of ways, are a game of "time in," so that the earlier you are able to start building them, the better off you will be.

My approach for building relationships has been to find ways to provide value to others rather than to scan for what others can do for me. [But] there are many relationships that have been helpful to me over the course of my career, and many people that I have learned from. I think it is critical to recognize all of the people who helped to create your good luck, and let them know that they are appreciated along the way. This can include clients, fellow advisers, managers, friends, and acquaintances.

In my view, it is essential to realize that our lives are shaped more by external forces than by internal forces. Understanding this keeps us humble and allows us to constantly be scanning for the relationships and opportunities that lie ahead.

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