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Feeling Nostalgic

Senior Managing Editor, APICS Magazine

Wednesday April 25, 2018


I was having dinner with a good friend recently, and I mentioned to her that Netflix Cofounder Marc Randolph was speaking at our annual conference and I had interviewed him for APICS magazine earlier that day. After chatting with her about Randolph, she asked me what other interesting people I had interviewed during my time at APICS. I was compelled to sit down and assemble the following list, along with a key takeaway from each of the interviews. I was truly inspired along the way, and I hope you will be too.

Tom Rath, author of StrengthsFinder 2.0: This was one of my favorite interviews, as I am a true StrengthsFinder believer. (I’m a proud maximizer, if you’re wondering.) Rath and I discussed strengths, weaknesses, organizational leadership, professional well-being and much more. He noted that no one can be perfectly well-rounded — nor should you try. There just isn’t enough time to become truly great at everything. Likewise, if you’re investing hours in areas where you lack natural talent, there’s a very good chance your time could be better spent. If you haven’t taken the assessment, I highly encourage you to check it out!

Maureen Evans, senior vice president at Ipsos Marketing US: Evans taught me many interesting things about millennials. To engage and delight this powerful segment, businesses must leverage proven technological tools and innovative platforms. “The authentic insights you will gain in this way are really impossible to uncover via traditional methods,” she explained to me, adding that millennials expect to be included in all aspects of the product development process because they want their voices heard. Acknowledging this truth at the earliest stages of development is critical.

John Van Vliet, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Business Management at Shorter College: By my calculation, this was my first “APICS Interview” ever. Van Vliet and I spoke in 2008 about what remains a burning issue for supply chain management professionals 10 years later: inventory carrying costs versus risking a stockout. He offered this advice: “Identify the show-stoppers. These are the A-plus items — the ones where the stockout would really be horrible. Then, try to figure out if you have to take Herculean efforts to make sure you won’t stock out.”

William Walker, CFPIM, CIRM, CSCP, director of supply chain management at StarTrak Systems: Walker and I discussed the importance of building strong relationships with international partners as supply chains become increasingly global. He made this great point: “Something that drives me a little bit crazy is when I travel with people internationally, and their mentally is, ’Set up the business trip, go there, meet for an hour, come back.’ You’ve spent three days traveling there and traveling home, and it’s just senseless to not spend an extra day entrenching yourself a little bit in that culture, learning a little bit about that country and developing that relationship.”

Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric: The only time Welch had available to speak with me happened to be smack-dab in the middle of my summer vacation. I remember gloomily leaving my kids on Folly Beach and crossing those Charleston, South Carolina, bridges to get back to the hotel in time for our call. Of course, interviewing a business legend turned out to be worth it. Welch’s most interesting tidbit: “You get truth when you build trust. Every meeting must strive for the right answers through truth and have everybody speaking their mind. Every meeting that has truth in it speeds up the process, makes the company more competitive and makes it ready to act.”

Pamela R. Huck, safety specialist and instructor: Huck shared stories of some truly horrible distribution center failures — forklift accidents, lifting injuries, fires caused by cigarettes not being put out properly and more. The one that stuck with me was a problem that she referred to as a “sleeping giant.” Apparently, when trucks go in and out of racks constantly, little by little, the bolts in the racks get weaker and weaker. “I don’t know how many times I’ve gone into a warehouse, and I look at them and go, ‘Wow. The only things holding the racks in place are the products on them,’” she said. “It’s kind of like Jenga. You grab the wrong one, and they all collapse.” Clearly, regular inspections and maintenance are needed.

Jeanenne LaMarsh, chief executive officer of LaMarsh and Associates: She and I talked about how to make the most of opportunities associated with emerging supply chain issues, as well as sustainable change management. I asked for her top suggestion for anyone trying to encourage employees to adapt to the unforeseen. She told me the most important thing is the ability and willingness of leaders to be effective sponsors of those changes. “Sponsors are the people in the management cascade to whom the people affected by the change report,” she explained. “Remember, though, that the person whom the workers look to for sponsorship may himself or herself may be affected by the change, be a target of the change, and have his or her own issues that are triggering resistance. No one can be an effective sponsor of change when those issues are not resolved.”

George F. Brown Jr. and Atlee Valentine Pope of Blue Canyon Partners, a company that helps businesses create and maintain effective strategic relationships with their channel partners: During this interview, we explored the makings of strong collaborations and how to maintain them. I learned that the most important element of relationship management lies in determining how the manufacturer-channel partner team is going to create value for their target end customers. “Remember, the end customers drive the business; they are the ones that both manufacturer and channel partner have to woo and win,” Pope told me. “Without them, there is no reason for the relationship.”

Gil Perez, senior vice president of digital assets and internet of things at SAP: Perez was quite adamant about the fact that not every asset should be 3D printed. From a technical perspective, not all 3D materials are printable; plus, larger parts or items that require detailed craftsmanship can’t be printed for logistical reasons. “Mass production will always be there,” he added, “but we’re going to start seeing … more companies finding synergy.” He offered some smart tactics that manufacturers can use to determine if additive manufacturing is right for their business ad products.

Kendis Paris, executive director of Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT): TAT exists to educate, equip, empower and mobilize members of the trucking industry to combat human trafficking as part of their everyday jobs. The takeaway I want to share from this sobering interview is simply to get involved — whether that’s by training your carriers in TAT methods or simply sharing what to look for with others. When I asked her about the signs of trafficking, Paris said: “Any time you see a minor selling commercial sex … or you witness any kind of pimp control, call the hotline.” By “control,” she meant talk about making a quota, tattoos with signs of ownership, a car dropping off multiple people to work the row, talk of a commercial company over the CB radio, drug addiction, bruising, lack of identification, or someone being unfamiliar with his or her surroundings. Immediately call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

And last, but certainly not least, Netflix’s Marc Randolph: Do you remember the first time a movie arrived in your mailbox, which you could watch at your leisure and then send back in a prepaid envelope? I sure do. And I also recall thinking what an amazing idea it was. Interestingly, Randolph told me that ideas really aren’t that important — it’s the people who have the ideas. “I’m almost never looking at the idea because I know it’s going to change,” he said, explaining that what he looks for instead is whether the entrepreneur has the right skillset. “Success requires you take all the resources you have and focus them on a very narrow set of things,” he explained. “The most skilled entrepreneurs can drown out the 100 things that are on fire and focus on the two or three that are really important. And they are intuitively able to sense what those two or three important things are.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed this stroll down memory lane as much as I have. I also hope you’ll read my entire interview with Randolph in the April-June issue of APICS magazine and register today for APICS 2018. See you there!

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  1. John Capron April 26, 2018, 09:49 AM
    Good read!

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