Developing a winning Supply Chain career in 2012

Whilst we were slaving away, optimising our supply chain widget world, a few Wall Street wizards created yet another recipe for fool’s gold. Consequently, our supply chain world is faced with some harsh realities as the world heads deeper into recession with global leaders struggling to estimate where the bottom is.

But what does this mean for supply chain people? Max Smeiman, Supply ChainCoach CEO, has some advice for supply chain professionals in this month’s SmartProcurement.

The plain truth is that traditional supply chain optimisation methods still apply and should have prepared us for the downturn. However, a recent survey showed that most companies are poor at developing their own supply chain people, often because of the belief that talent will rise by itself, or that skills can be brought in from outside when needed. Within this context you need to build a winning supply chain career.

Fortunately supply chain thinking in the past 15 years has transformed it into a recognised and well respected career path. To succeed in today’s competitive environment Jack Welsh provided five winning traits in hiring the best: successful people must be smart; have energy; the ability to execute; provide an edge and have passion. So how does this translate into a winning career?

At the start of your supply chain career (the first critical five years) invest the time in deep skills development. Supply Chain is easy to talk about, but difficult to do, with many technical aspects to be mastered. Being smart does not come without education, and when in doubt invest more time and effort into sharpening your supply chain tools.

Between five and fifteen years down your career path you need to move from junior into senior management ranks. This is a critical period, because success here will set you up for life. The key is to focus your energy on execution and deliver results. Family support will form a significant part of your success and it will be critically important to follow a well-balanced lifestyle. Stay focused on your career goals, a minor setback is not important, and continue to execute with even more energy. During this time find a good mentor to guide your career and help manage your goals.

When you reach the pinnacle of your supply chain career many people will be dependent on your leadership success. You’ll need to provide the edge, not only for your organisation, but also the people you will lead. However, being at the top can be lonely. Who else can you turn to when surrounded by colleagues that drink from the same water fountain? Consider a supply chain coach that can provide valuable insight and not only create the time and space necessary to gain perspective, but also to soundboard and challenge critical decisions.

And passion…, this is the most important trait of all. The ancient Greeks didn’t write obituaries, they only asked one question after a man died: “Did he have passion?” It is important to have absolute passion for what you do; positive energy is a very powerful antidote to the stresses your supply chain career will provide. Plan your career around your own passion; this will be the key to your success!

For more information contact Max directly at or go to

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