Supply Chain is Boring Episode 12
“So many people in supply chain need to recognize is that it all starts with the consumer. There is no need for a supply chain without the consumer, we grow our own vegetables and we eat them. We only need a supply chain when the neighbor next door says, Hey, can I have one of your tomatoes? If you think back to caveman days, that’s how the supply chain started. Somebody wanted something that someone had an excess, or that was exceptionally good that they wanted to get from them until that point we were self-sustaining.”
-Greg White, Principal & Host, Supply Chain Now
You know him as the witty and thought-provoking host of Supply Chain Now and TECHquila Sunrise. But did you know Mr. White is a proven executive-level leader? Listen to Part 1 of this interview to learn how he became an industry driver.
Chris Barnes (00:06):
Hey, it’s Chris. The supply chain doctor and host of supply chain is boring. Bringing insight into the history of supply chain management and exposing you to some of the industry’s thought leaders and driving forces. Several weeks ago, I interviewed Greg Cronin about his illustrious career that was followed by an interview with Greg Owens Owens was a key factor in the creation of the Anderson consulting. Now Accenture supply chain practice and former CEO of Manugistics. In this episode, we sat down with industry veteran, Greg white, to learn about his career successes, his current activities in supply chain management and complete the supply chain, Greg trifecta. It all sounds pretty boring. So let’s see if Greg can prove me wrong, Greg. Thanks again for investing time with me to hear about your career and learn about your perspective on supply chain management.
Greg White (00:56):
Well, Hey, it’s great to be here. Of course, I’m a huge fan of supply chain is boring and I disagree. I think everyone has disproven that the notion that supply chain is boring if only it were right, Chris. Yeah.
Chris Barnes (01:11):
I’m on the losing side of this debate. I think most of the people tend to do a good job, but yeah, Greg, I’ve enjoyed getting to know you as a colleague and listening to your tequila sunrise podcast, as well as your general interviews on supply chain. Now I understand from those lessons that you have an extensive career in supply chain management leadership, and I really want to step back and better understand your history and perspective on the future of supply chain management. So I know your father was in retail. I think you’ve got a strong background in retail, so we can either start at Wichita state or somewhere earlier. Where would you prefer?
Greg White (01:45):
Well, maybe we should start a little bit earlier. So, um, my father was a college professor until he was about 29, I think. And then he went to work for Kmart as an MIT manager in training and quickly moved up the ranks. So what was he teaching at university speech and debate? So he was a debate coach. Um, he was a debater in college at Kansas state teacher’s college now in Poria state. And then, uh, he, he taught high school in college. He taught at what is now Missouri state in Springfield, Missouri, then Southwest, Missouri state. And they had a very good team, you know, as a kid, we didn’t have a whole lot of money, so we only had one car, so my mom would get off her job and we’d go to the campus and pick up, uh, my dad. So I got to go into class his classes a number of times and sit there and just wait until he wrapped up class and got to know some of the students in his class was kind of an interesting, they kind of, uh, adopted me as a mascot in a, uh, but, but in Springfield, if you think about Springfield now, it’s kind of interesting.
Greg White (03:05):
Uh, now bass pro shops, which is one of the biggest retailers in America, maybe the world, they started out as a round rack of fishing rods in the Brown chain of Brown Derby liquor stores, because Johnny, the fellow who started bass pro shops, his dad owned this chain of liquor stores and it started out as a around rack and then a wall and then multiple counters. And then finally his dad said, Hey, I got to have room for booze. You’re going to have to open an actual store, but how brilliant, right? First of all, to sell fishing equipment in a liquor store and then to turn it into what it was. So my mother worked at Zenith televisions, which most people probably don’t even know she was in charge of personnel at Zenith, the Xen at the plant there, which is now the home of the bass pro shops corporate office about a, I don’t know, about a 500,000 square foot, former manufacturing facility that they’ve put their largest store and corporate office in interesting transition there.
Greg White (04:06):
And then my father went on to, uh, go to work for Kmart. And he quickly went through assistant manager manager to district manager, to regional manager, and then into corporate management at Kmart. Now you have to think about it this time. Uh, he was 29. So I would have been about seven, six, seven years old Kmart mattered back then. I mean, they were, this was pre Walmart to give you an idea. I mean, this was before Walmart really was of any size whatsoever. And I don’t even know where target was. They were probably still a regional chain. So Kmart really mattered. They were one of the biggest, maybe the biggest discount retailer in the country at the time my parents got divorced. So I would spend summers with my dad and, and of course he was traveling all over the place to his stores. So I spent a lot of time tagging along with him to stores.
Greg White (05:01):
And I had so many of those kind of pivotal moments where I didn’t recognize it at the time. You don’t recognize it when you’re eight, nine, 10 years old, but you see what it takes to manage. In fact, probably one of the most prominent memories I have was we were in a store in McPherson, Kansas. At the time my father was vice president of store operations. He was over all of the regional managers for Kmart and we walked into a store and he just couldn’t help himself. And by the way, I still can’t help myself. When I walk in any retail store, we walk through the store and the, or the organization was kind of divided up. They had bought a company that did sporting goods and automotive, and those had been leased departments in the store, which was a thing at the time that happened often with shoes and appliances and other products, specialty products.
Greg White (05:55):
So we were in the sporting goods department and, you know, he’s checking the racks to make sure they’ve got everything and facing the counters, walking down, just imagine a corporate vice president walking down the aisles facing. And we’re in the closing clothing racks. And he’s watching this fellow, who’s running the department all by himself and assistant manager and MIT, like he had been talking to his buddy and we just stood there tending to be shoppers for 45 minutes. And finally, my father said, he just couldn’t take it anymore. He just walked up to the young man and said, um, you, but, uh, you’re gonna have to excuse us. I need to talk to this guy. And he didn’t say, do you know who I am? My dad’s first of all, he was six foot five at the time. He’s a giant of a man and he’s got a very distinctive look.
Greg White (06:44):
So it was as if this young man, Tom hadn’t seen him the whole time we were there. But as soon as he looked him in the eyes, he knew exactly who he was. And my father just completely dressed him down on the spot. And he said, you know, if I ever see you performing in one of my stores like this, I will personally fire you. Here’s the interesting upshot to that story. I was a terrible employee. So I got my job in retail, the old fashioned way. My dad got it for me. I had worked at a couple of Kmart stores and I started my career in supply chain, shuttling oil from the freestanding automotive repair portion of the store out in the parking lot, across the parking lot in Wichita, Kansas to the inside part of the store on a four wheel cart and 107 degrees on a Kansas day.
Greg White (07:37):
And I just did that every day. That was the first task that I did when I got to work. But I’m at this store doing that. And we get a new MIT management trainee trainee. And it’s this Tom kid from the experience and MacPherson. And I remember him. I can’t recall if he remembered me, but I remember saying to him, I remember you. And he went, Oh my gosh, you’re the little kid that was with mr. White. I said, yeah, that’s my father. And he said, I want you to know your father changed my life. That was a moment that I needed. And I have to tell you, I worked with a lot of management trainees as, and I was an underling to them. I worked with a lot of management training. He was the best one that young man was the best one that I ever worked with.
Greg White (08:30):
You know, he learned, I was not as impressed with my father’s impact on that as I was with his acceptance of that, and that he actually took positive steps because of that. Cause he could have gone a lot of directions there. Um, and he turned out to be a great management trainee and then sporting goods, department manager, you know, I went on to school, so I don’t know where he went from that and we kind of lost touch, but I know whatever he did, he was successful at it. He was just completely transformed. So anyway, that was one of my experiences that was impactful.
Chris Barnes (09:04):
One of my first jobs in high school was in a retail store. Now I realized that was my supply chain training as well. I was basically, I was stocking shelves, but when there was nothing to stock, you had to go and unload trucks. And so we took the inventory off the trucks just to get it into the warehouse and then you know, the back room and then put it out on the shelf.
Greg White (09:21):
Yeah, if you can call it. When I got promoted, uh, at the store, my job was replenishing the fishing aisle, which is the absolute torture in a retail store. You know, everything is an inch by an inch, big it’s jigs and bugs and whatever else hooks and that sort of thing, absolute torture. And I walked around with, uh, you know, a paper sheet and counted the stuff and then decided personally decided how much was going to be bought. I even bought an item one time because it was in our, it was in our inventory book. It was a, a Coleman cooler. That was a, I think it was 188 courts. And the caption, the title of it said shark proof. And I said, okay, I just got to see this. So I ordered it and nobody questioned it. I just ordered it into our store.
Greg White (10:15):
And I learned the story from one of my father’s merchandise managers that the reason it was called shark proof was at guy’s boat sunk. And he climbed in the cooler and a shark bit it and didn’t bite through it. So jokingly the Coleman company also based in Wichita, Kansas, by the way, at the time they called it shark proof and it was 188 quart cooler back then, that was enormous. You know, you didn’t have these big fishing coolers back then. It had handles on the ends, not only two handles on the ends, but it had two handles on each side as well. And it full of ice and adult beverages. It took easily four people to carry it because we wound up buying that when I went to college, cause it was still there. I was doing, I was, I bought it when I was in high school.
Greg White (11:04):
It was still there, but it didn’t sell it. Didn’t say it did not say it was, it was expensive, but we wound up Mark. They may end up marking it down. And finally the store manager calls me and says, you got to come buy this thing, which was easy because we were going to Padre Island for spring break and we just pooled our money. When we plopped that thing down on the beach, we opened it up and the guys next to us were low, like the mother load. So I mean, there are a lot of lessons you can learn from retail. There really are. And you know, one is that presentation is as important as availability as a wise man, probably my father. It’s hard to tell why there were some so much knowledge imparted from him and his colleagues that one of them said, look, if you look like you’re out of business in retail, you are out of business.
Greg White (11:55):
This whole notion of presentation stock, or as, as a good, a good friend and colleague at a tech company, I worked with Frank van black. He called it inventory for viewing pleasure only. That’s a big part of retail. You have to look like you have the goods, right? You never want to have empty space on the shelf. And I think we’ve really, what’s interesting is right now we have experienced the strain that, that puts on both retailers and consumers. When the shelf is empty, people do wonder if you’re going out of business, right? Or if that product is no longer available,
Chris Barnes (12:31):
One of the things that my manager would always say at that retail job was at the end of the night, they had nothing to do face to face the shelves. And he said, he said, he said, we’re not selling shelf space. That’s right. He said, even if he got one item, you bring it, you bring it to the front. That was this
Greg White (12:46):
So interesting. It was, it drives my wife crazy when I go into a retail store, because if there is product on the shelf and it’s not faced, I will face it. Also like last night I was looking for a particular product in a Kroger store and they had it cross faced, which cross faced is a technical term for, they took product for space a and put it in space, the product space B. And what I realized was they had to make the shelf look full. They had moved it to the other space. Well, in retail, especially in grocery. So often the counting or the ordering, especially in retail is often manual, which is a big part by the way of the problems they’re having from COVID. But so they, they like to make the shelf look full, but if they do that, if they move, you know, the tide, the tide pods from the tide pod space to the regular liquid tides space, then the liquid tide space or the liquid tide doesn’t get ordered because nobody realizes that it’s out of stock. So I’m even watching for that. When I go in and read, I can’t help myself.
Chris Barnes (13:52):
You’re a store manager’s dream,
Greg White (13:54):
Man. Um, I have had store managers walk up to me and go, why are you doing that? So
Chris Barnes (14:00):
It’s interesting on that presentation stock, you know, that was a business model and it may still be relevant. You remember when e-commerce was taking off and best buy, I think they were transforming their stores into showcases, right. Where you could go in and
Greg White (14:14):
We’re transforming them into showcase.
Chris Barnes (14:16):
Yeah, they were, they were catching on and that where you could actually go in and touch and view and see the product and then actually go order it online. I think that was, that’s probably still relevant today in a different form. Now it’s probably just common everyday commerce.
Greg White (14:30):
I think presentation stock is a bit of a blessing for e-commerce frankly, because it’s stock that is literally planned to never sell. It’s not always the same stuff, just sitting there collecting dust, but the entire purpose of it is for it to make the shelves look full, even when you’re out of stock. If you think about it, let’s say you’ve got two, you’ve got two facings, you’ve got two spaces for a particular product. You want to sitting there at all times. Some people would call that safety stock, but in truth, it’s even greater than that. It’s meant to be there even if a spike occurs. So you buy, let’s say you can order it a week, every single week, you order a week’s worth. And you put it behind these two that are there just for viewing pleasure to quote the great Frank van black.
Greg White (15:20):
And those two should always be there. And now it’s funny because I was having this discussion with demos, Dennis pedis, from Panama. And he was talking about the concerns that retailers have about being able to fulfill e-commerce and in store demand. And, uh, and I won’t go into the detailed reason why they should be able to do that, suffice it to say, there, there is a way to do it. But the pres, what we came to in that discussion was the presentation stock should act as a buffer that allows them to support even exceptional demand. If there, even if it’s unplanned demand from e-commerce, the bigger issue is there shouldn’t be unplanned demand from e-commerce. Right. But, um, but if there is that presentation, stock helps in a large way.
Chris Barnes (16:15):
I skipped over the, a Wichita state stuff. So let’s, let’s go back a little bit. Yeah. I can hear in your voice, right. You’re a retail expert. Um, and it’s, I think it started with your father.
Greg White (16:26):
It undoubtedly you talk, we talked about it at the dinner table. I mean, yeah.
Chris Barnes (16:29):
So I’m a fun person to travel with when, you know, when I’m on the airplane, I’m always asking, I’m always telling people, what do you do then? What do you do? And I’m well, I’m in supply chain. What supply chain we’ll have? Have you ever bought anything? That’s my question. And their answer is yes. Then I say, you are the reason for the supply chain. It’s consumerism, it’s consumer driven. So I think retail both you and I having that retail background.
Greg White (16:50):
Well, you know, more people should recognize that Chris, that is an incredible insight. First of all, that’s maybe the best way I’ve ever heard somebody describe supply chain to a layman, right? But also that is a critical understanding that so many people in supply chain need to recognize is that it all starts with the consumer. There is no need for a supply chain without the consumer, we grow our own vegetables and we eat them. We only need a supply chain when the neighbor next door says, Hey, can I have one of your tomatoes? If you think back to caveman days, that’s how the supply chain started. Somebody wanted something that someone had an excess, or that was exceptionally good that they wanted to get from them until that point we were self-sustaining.
Chris Barnes (17:35):
I think retail is, it’s obviously a key part of most supply chains. Most all the retailers have a supply chain and they’re always trying to tweak it. Um, but let’s talk about university. I am a huge fan of Wichita state. I can hear it in your, all your interviews, any show that you’re on any live stream. So you, you attended which it’s all state shockers, and what’s a shocker by the way,
Greg White (17:56):
Wheat, before you used a combine to cut it down, people actually hand cut it with a side, um, which you may have seen is just a big sweeping hook with a blade on it that you cut it. And then they bound it into stacks so that it could be stacked onto trailers or strong trailers. And that is called a shock of wheat. So we shock our mascot is the world’s toughest shock of wheat. So the people who did that were called shockers, they shocked the wheat into these big shocks.
Chris Barnes (18:29):
So a little research on my end, I, I think in the early 19 hundreds, a lot of the football players were actual shockers and the tit manager said, Hey, that’s where the idea came from. I don’t know if it’s missing or not. Yeah.
Greg White (18:44):
I think that’s pretty accurate. And in fact, Wichita state was one of the first schools to have a mascot, to have a mascot. And they were the very first two
Chris Barnes (18:55):
Register a trademark,
Greg White (18:58):
At least that’s the story I was told, which Wichita strangely is a very entrepreneurial city. You know, I mean, there were a ton of companies started their pizza hut, white castle, which is still the best tiny burger you will ever. In my opinion, rent a center, residents ends Coleman company, Koch industries, of course, lots of oil and gas because there’s a ton of oil and gas in Oklahoma and South can’t Southern Kansas. So there’s just an incredible entrepreneurial spirit there. But I have to tell you, I didn’t go to Wichita state by choice. I went kind of, because I was a scared little kid. So my parents had divorced. My dad lived in Michigan, of course, working for Kmart. This was kind of on his way up. He was in at the time he had so many positions in the corporate office and some of them were to prepare him for things that I guess obviously they saw a ton of potential in him and he had it for sure.
Greg White (19:57):
I think he might’ve been corporate HR manager. Um, so I was looking at going to school at the university of Michigan or Michigan state, which I learned while I was up there is completely frowned upon. You gotta pick one or the other. Um, and while we were there, I also looked at Eastern Michigan and we, we just stopped by on the way back. Cause Ypsilanti is on the way back from Anarbor to where we lived in Canton township on the kind of South West side of Detroit. Um, we stopped by there and they offered me a scholarship on the spot. So I knew I was going to school in Michigan. I just didn’t know where. And then my father got transferred to California to become the Western regional manager. And they were grooming him to become the corporate vice president of store operations. So once everybody I knew was gone from Michigan, I was just, I just kind of fell back to Wichita state and, and, you know, I didn’t want to, honestly I didn’t and I, and I was kind of a fan because we had some great, great basketball teams.
Greg White (21:03):
Uh, but I’m glad that I did it. It was, it’s a great school for learning entrepreneurship. The community is really, really involved. I mean, they’re way more involved than they were then. And the truth is I was a terrible college student, absolutely atrocious college student. I was a much better fraternity member partier. Uh, I learned a lot about leadership and, and by the way, public service in, in our fraternity, it was very heavily focused on community service, but not without a substantial amount of partying like you would expect it. It was not at all what I expected by the way in the fraternity experience. But I really love Wichita state. I enjoyed going there. I learned a lot about entrepreneurship because a lot of those entrepreneurs, the Carney brothers, the original pizza hut hut, the original building is on Wichita state campus. We had access to all kinds of, of companies there and, and just the spirit of entrepreneurship, there was really strong plus it’s an engineering school.
Greg White (22:05):
So that was an interesting, that was an interesting experience for me because I don’t, I’m not that good at math and meeting people who were, was really encouraging for me. What was the fraternity? Phi Delta theta Phi Delta theta, a member of the Miami triad founded December 26th, 1848, Miami of Ohio. They were all founded around this time called the snowball rebellion. It was substantially snowed in the campus was and Sigma Chi, beta theta PI, and five Delta feta were all founded at the same time. They’re called the Miami triad. And interestingly, our fraternity was founded by six pastors. It was all about fellowship and brotherhood and uplifting and increasing education at the same time. The probably not as alcohol-induced as a lot of fraternities became, they were rowdies. I mean, the snowball rebellion was a protest. I can’t recall exactly against what at the school at the time, but it was essentially a protest.
Greg White (23:05):
So the history of challenging, the challenging, the administration runs deep in these fraternities hours worked really, really well with the campus. They were very tolerant and very supportive. And we particularly my pledge class, we were completely Hawks against hazing. This was an impactful story for me. So in our fraternity, one of the most hated, our most hated rival on campus was beta theta PI. They were the rich kids. They all were born on third and thought they hit a triple. And so there was a lot of animosity because we were kind of the poor white trash on, and we had two primary doors and a side door to the house. And the side door to the house was called the pledge door. So pledges, a little brothers of fraternity waiting to become members could only go in and out the side door. I don’t know why, but my pledge class always felt that was a significant front, but whenever you’re in any organization, and this is a life lesson, when you’re ever you’re in any organization, you often hear that’s the way we’ve always done it.
Greg White (24:14):
Or I had to go through it and everybody else will have to go through it. And we just refuse to accept that. I think Kelly Rich, who was the president of our pledge class. I think it was him who sort of enlightened us to all that, but we all went. Yeah, that makes sense. So when our, when our pledge class got initiated, one of the first things we did was proposed to eliminate the pledge door and there was a huge argument and the argument was exactly what you’d expect. That’s the way we’ve always done it. I had to go through it so they should have to go through it. But unanimously in our pledge class, we all said, we went through it too. And we don’t think anyone else should have to. And the argument that I think won the day was effing. Betas can go in and out our front door, but our little brothers can’t motion passed.
Greg White (25:08):
So, but that, you know, to me, that that was one of the leadership lessons that you learn in your soberist moments. As a, as a fraternity, we were really Hawks against hazing and hazing. I, you know, it’s funny because I hear about hazing incidents now. And I, I, I guess I just thought that we weren’t that enlightened. And yet we, I would say completely eliminated it and to see that it, you know, that it still occurs has always baffled me. I don’t know how that could, how that could happen. Well, you studied something at university political science. Yes. I studied political science. So, you know, I just found, finally found something. I had a passion for, again, as I said, I was a terrible student, but, uh, my father gave me great wisdom. Another story that is just way too long. I needed a lot of guidance, apparently because I have lots of stories about guidance, but I did finally land on political science, had an incredible passion for it.
Greg White (26:10):
I, I specialized in Soviet politics. So I studied the Soviet union and other communists and socialists countries and governments. And I understand the backstory at the time, the present, because when I went to college, it was still the cold war. And then what they saw as the future and that, and I graduated in 1989. So the Soviet union was winding down before the ultimate collapse. And I had a graduate assistant ship to go to the university of Washington to get a master’s degree in Soviet politics. And the eminent demise of the Soviet union was so apparent that the university of Washington canceled that program. When I graduated, I had to jump into the real world and, you know, never went on of course, to get the masters because the wall came down in November of that year. But it’s something that’s always stayed with me that education and that time, because there was a lot, there was a lot going on even before the Soviet union began to fall.
Chris Barnes (27:16):
It’s interesting. I I’m recalling back to a couple of interviews that you’ve had with on supply chain. Now, I think it was with the, uh, the ambassador of Mexico. That was a great show where you were T he is Javier. He spent a lot of time. Great, very humble person. Great, great interview. I encourage anybody to check it out that he had spent some time in North Carolina and you knew a lot about North Carolina. I’m going to say politics, but North Carolina culture and the city and the government.
Greg White (27:45):
I forgotten about that. I did a paper because Jesse Helms was the Senator there then. And at the time North Carolina was the most populous state in the union with a city that did not exceed 300,000 people. So it was a very rural, rural state at the time. Yeah. Yeah. That’s right. Font of uselessness,
Chris Barnes (28:09):
You know, I’ve got so many, so many other interviews to have with you now, based on everything you’ve said in the first 40 minutes. So, so you graduated, you went out, you got, as you said, you went into the real world. What, okay,
Greg White (28:20):
What’d you do? So my first job, uh, I worked in a clothing store because I couldn’t afford suits. And so I worked in the finest clothing store in Wichita, the store called Henry’s, which longstanding tradition, in fact, Koch arena, where the shockers play used to be called Henry Levitt arena arena, Henry Levitt started Henry’s because you got anywhere from a 40 to 80% discount on fond suits and you had to wear a suit to work back then. So I worked there for about eight months and built up my wardrobe with Armani and Andrew Fezza and Hart, Schaffner Marx. At the time, some of the best suits you could, who you go boss, some of the best suits you could wear. So here I am, 23 years old driving a Ford escort where in Armani suits to sell cell phones, which was my second job. So in that day, I worked for Southwestern bell, mobile systems.
Greg White (29:15):
You sold cell phones face to face. You walked into somebody’s office. And in my part of the world where people had used a phone of sorts farmer, even farmers had phones in their car, but they were basically a fancy two way radio, or they use two way radio. You went to companies and tried to convince them that this was better than two way radio for which every single minute of service was free, right? And a cell phone at the time costs 25 to 75 cents a minute. And there were no unlimited plans. There was also no data, by the way, it was just phone calls. So I had to sell, I had to sell people on this new technology, and it was fascinating, frustrating, and interesting and motivating. At the time, I found a way to get people excited about this new technology, which probably should have prepared me for the rise of Apple, which was esteem.
Greg White (30:15):
One of my best selling methodologies was to go to this one particular restaurant and bar where all the lawyers in town hung out, went to lunch and dinner. And I would sit at the bar with one of those big, giant brick phones. And, you know, in one of the, of the phones. And of course I had one mounted in my car, which you did back then. And I would sit there at the bar and just wait, you know, every once in a while I would have somebody from the office call me, or I would call somebody in or, or I would do my work there, you know, making appointments and things like that. And some lawyer or doctor, or, you know, a corporate leader would come up and go, what is that thing you’ve got there? I mean, people literally didn’t know. There were people who didn’t know.
Greg White (31:03):
I said, it’s a cellular phone. You didn’t call them mobile devices or mobile phones. Then it’s a cellular phone, so you can call people. Yeah, yeah. Right. And so I’m talking to this one guy and I get a call and I send it to voicemail, which also was unheard of the term voicemail was not really widely known outside of the carrier. You know, if you worked at a carrier and I just hit the end button, which automatically sent it to voicemail and he goes, what’d you do there? And I said, well, I sent it to my voice mail. And he said, you have an answering machine on your cell phone. How busy are you and sitting there and your heart shaped for a March suit. Right. I sold a lot. I mean, yeah, there were, it was, we tried to hide this from the management, but it was, it turned out to be relatively easy.
Greg White (31:53):
And we had to kind of regulate our growth of sales each month so that we exceeded quotas, but we didn’t just absolutely blow it away because they were literally changing the quota every month. It went from 12 to 15 to 25 to 40, but it would have gone to 40 a lot sooner if we had let them know how many phones we could be selling, it sounds like something I would see on an episode of better call Saul. It was not, not quite that huckster, but it was in a way. It really wasn’t a way. We had a guy that we worked with Ken LeBlanc and they called him lion Ken, because he was almost always exaggerating what the phone could do or what it meant for your business. But people loved him so much that they would buy from him. Nonetheless. They knew he was lying to them in certain cases. And they would still buy from him. And he is still one of the greatest sales persons that I’ve ever seen. Not doesn’t lie nearly as much anymore. We’ve all grown up a lot. Right. But I’m still one of the greatest sales persons I’ve ever seen.
Chris Barnes (32:54):
Well, it sounds like sales is in your DNA,
Greg White (32:57):
You would think, right. I really hated it. At first I felt a lot of strain. And uh, in the moment of doing it, it was really a struggle for me. But what I realized when I realized that it’s, you’re not really selling, if you’re actually solving a legitimate problem, that’s when I broke through. And again, another bit of wisdom, you know, I shared with my father to help him out later, he said, well, why don’t you go take this job? And I said, dad, look it. If you’re, if you’re going to be a great salesman, you really have to believe in what you’re selling. And I felt like I had imparted great wisdom on my father and my father, who at that time was vice president of merchandising lived in front of salespeople. He said, son, let me assure you a great salesperson can believe in anything because I’ve had a guy sell me, Porter paints as the best paint in the world for five years, changed jobs. And suddenly tell me that Sherwin Williams, who he used to compete against is now the best paint in the world. And you know what? That was something that I have, I have taken with me ever since is that
Chris Barnes (34:16):
Well, you’ve had a pretty stellar supply chain career as well. I mean, formal companies doing supply chain practices. So how did you transition into that space? So you were selling cell phones, suits and cell phones and how do we make it the transition?
Greg White (34:30):
Yeah. And a number, a number of jobs. I really started my first job when I first business, when I was about 23 and we sold that after 14 months. And it was enough to play golf six days a week for six months and work off the pain of, of how that had ended, even though, I mean, it was good money. It was not, it was, I guess, well, it wasn’t really life changing money.
Chris Barnes (34:54):
You started a company at the age of 23 and sold it.
Greg White (34:56):
Yeah. And then I went in, went back in the retail because I kind of fell back into what was really comfortable. And we were, we were using a forecasting and replenishment technology called the three. I worked for an auto parts chain in Arizona. We had, we had bought it, but we hadn’t really used it. And somebody said, you’re the most passionate member of the team about getting the stores in stock, figuring out how we use this thing. So I brought in the company, [inaudible] brought in some of their folks and they helped us get it going. And it started really making a difference. So our store managers and the employees weren’t how much to put on the shelf. The technology was actually doing that. What we realized was that [inaudible], wasn’t quite complete enough. It was built for distribution. It wasn’t quite complete enough for retail and the folks at [inaudible] recognize that also.
Greg White (35:51):
And they recruited me to help them develop and market and implement the product into retail so that, so they recruited me away from retail, which if you’ve been in retail long enough, isn’t that hard to do. So I moved to Atlanta and worked with them to help get the technology ready for retail, to handle things like presentation, stock, and allocations, and some of the uniquenesses of retail. And we made a really good go of it. Best buy was one of our customers Michaels, the limited Victoria’s secret, not a bad gig. And a lot of there, a lot of the limited companies became customers DFS, which is a, a duty free stores owned by LVMH staples, sports authority, who again, mattered at the time. They were big, the biggest sporting goods chain in the country and a number of other companies, not just retail, but also distribution.
Greg White (36:46):
And we made a good go of it. And then I had been there about five years and I started running the precursor to cloud. It was called ASP application service provider. And it was a cut down version of the full product on servers, in what we now call the cloud. But at the time shared servers that we managed that we did that for a while. And the company was at a stage that the founder was not really interested in growing that, in fact, that was a big issue, was he had reached a stage unbeknownst to many of us that he really needed to sell the company. So I saw that there was a future in that market for smaller companies. And I saw that there was a way to make the product affordable for them and saw at the same time that there was no chance that [inaudible] was going to drive down that path.
Greg White (37:43):
So I left and went to another company, serve logistics, and we thought about diversifying them in. They were in service parts. We thought about diversifying them into distribution retail that didn’t work out. So I basically was left with no choice, but to start my own thing. And I started consulting for [inaudible] customers started my business in April of 2001 with one client in New York city or long Island. And in fact, I just did an episode on tequila sunrise, where I talk a little bit about that story, about the whole nine 11 story. Yeah. That’s something anyone has to, you know, supply chain fan or not whatever you are. If you’re a person, I think that’s something that anybody should check out. Thank you. Yeah, it was, that was a very personal story. I think I may have told you before this, Chris, that I sat down with a plan for an episode to talk about how you get a job in supply chain tech on the day that I was recording it, I was so consumed by the impending nine 11 anniversary that I just couldn’t get it out.
Greg White (38:47):
I couldn’t get that out. So I flipped on the mic and I just spilled that story into the mic. But anyway, that was the start of what became blue Ridge, which is now, you know, supply chain, magic quadrant leader, Gartner magic quadrant leader in supply chain planning and forecasting. We went after small clients, we went after small companies. Our very first customer still love these folks is a company called CRP. That was about 70 years old. They were the original importer of continental tires and belts. And that sort of thing, a German family that had immigrated to the States started a company. I think their, their president and CEO would, would say we’ve we did great things for a company that was, I wouldn’t say flagging, but they were searching for direction as the market changed. And we were able to help them really manage their inventory so much better.
Greg White (39:45):
One of my favorite accomplishments when we help help the company at blue Ridge was being able to see the tangible result. This company left an old, very old warehouse, built a brand new, beautiful warehouse, all new systems inside and that sort of thing, because we were able to help them generate so much cashflow from reducing their inventory over time. It reduced over 50% while increasing their sales at double digit rates. In some cases as much as 19% a year, just by having the right stuff in stock. I feel like CRP was already a really good organization with a lot of self awareness. A lot of we need to improve in their mindset. This was just a leverage point. It was just a, you know, we put the right hammer in their hand and, and it helped them accomplish what they’d hoped to. They accomplished a ton of other things as well.
Greg White (40:40):
So, you know, we’re happy to have played any small part in that. And that, to me, one of the most satisfying things, and that’s why, especially at blue Ridge and especially for certain technologies, I never felt at all, ever that I was selling it. I always felt like I was delivering something that those companies needed. Uh, and we, you know, we bootstrapped that company. As I like to tell people, I had angel investors, my three little angels, I rated their college fund to fund that company and ran up hundreds of thousands of dollars in, in credit card debt. Fortunately, we already had the credit card and, and second mortgages and things like that to get that company going, you know, uh, they got a pretty good return on their investment. I’m happy to have contributed anything. There that’s a company that is still, that is still competing with the big dogs.
Greg White (41:30):
I mean, we, in our first few years we took something like 23 accounts off of JDA, which was one of the biggest retail supply chain providers. You know, we battled and won against Oracle and SAP and other big players in the space. So it was, it was a fun run. We brought in investors. And then as I like to tell people, they brought in the adult supervision. That’s, you know, that’s kind of frankly, the company needed it. I wasn’t mature enough to grow it at its at its level of growth now. Uh, and that’s, you know, that’s something that I, I share with founders today is do what I do, do what I did, but don’t do this that I did right there. I mean, there’s a lot of learning in doing things, right. If you are, if you analyze it. And there’s a lot of learning, there’s a lot more learning in doing things wrong and learning from that.
Greg White (42:27):
That’s one of the things I do today, as you know, is advise founders to avoid missteps, to accelerate their, their success blue Ridge, where the name blue, rich, any significance there. So we, uh, yeah, so we were looking for a name, the name of the company before was really long and clunky because it was intrinsic value chain solutions, value chain was a big term back in the early mid two thousands, right. It was way too long and you know, people didn’t get it. And I had brought some other folks in and wanted to make sure they felt a part of the company. So we really just rebranded. The big thing was colors and wave and marks, you know, uh, directional marks or, uh, geographic marks and that sort of thing. So we had sold our first deal with the whole new group of team in place.
Greg White (43:25):
And we were on the flight back kind of speculating, figuring out what it should be. And we tried outer banks and, you know, we thought of places we’d like to be outer banks and et cetera, et cetera. And of course we’re flying back into Atlanta. So of course there was a delay and of course we had to circle and we had tested so many names that we just thought weren’t quite there. And the pilot came over and said, we’re going to be circling for the next few minutes over the beautiful blue Ridge mountains. And we just both went that’s it. So I thought you were going to tell me you had a cabin at the blue Ridge mountains still don’t, you know, I am terrible at vacationing two things. I’m really terrible at it. I don’t, I’m not, I’m terrible at celebrating and I’m terrible at vacation.
Greg White (44:12):
Well, you have a lot to celebrate. It sounds like, are you still involved with the organization? I am among the board of directors and I still own, um, uh, I’m still not majority, but a major shareholder. So yeah. And company’s doing well. We we’ve installed new management. We’re doing pretty well. And Bob more than pretty well. And I think particularly notable is during this year, um, sales have been pretty significant. We’ve landed a number of companies. If companies of interest have recognized anything in to in 2020, it is that the way you plan and respond and produce resilience in your supply chain is absolutely critical. And it’s impossible to keep up with manual processes and paper and spreadsheets. So more and more companies are coming our direction. And that’s what blue Ridge does is it helps you. It helps you assure that you can make all the sales to satisfy your customer experience without breaking the bank. In terms of excess inventory,
Speaker 3 (45:19):
Can I ask a company needs help with X, they should contact blue Ridge.
Greg White (45:24):
You know, I like to think of it this way. Cause you know, I asked this question often when we’re on supply chain now, what is your company super power, right? If I am walking down the hallway with a weight on my shoulders, head or heart, what is that feeling that makes me know that I should call you and, and for blue Ridge, it is, if you feel like you are not satisfying your customers, if you have, if you’re out of stock on the things you need and you have excess stock on the things that you don’t, if your processes create kind of a pendulum effect, a swing of too much inventory to too little inventory and too many out of stocks at its simplest, that’s what that solution does it make sure you have everything that you need to satisfy your customer’s requirements without a single penny of excess inventory.
Greg White (46:14):
Now there’s a whole lot of math that goes into that, but in the simplest terms, that’s what it does. And it considers all of the constraints that you live in, like in retail. And I don’t, I don’t know that people think about this because the perspective on supply chain is so manufacturing oriented. So often in retail, if you need three bottles of milk, you don’t buy three bottles of milk. You buy a pallet of milk. So the system can actually optimize to say, let’s wait until we need say two thirds of a pallet of milk and have it arrive, not just in time because we also calculate safety stock, but have it arrived so that there is as little excess as possible when that inventory hits.
Speaker 3 (46:59):
This concludes part one of the interview with Greg white part two of the interview is coming soon. Supply chain is boring as part of the supply chain. Now network, we highlight historical events, companies and people in supply chain management and create a picture of where the industry is headed. Interested in learning more about supply chain, technology, startups, mergers, acquisitions, and how companies evolve. Take a listen to tequila, sunrise crafted by Greg white or check out this weekend. Business history with supply chain now is own Scott Luton to learn more about everyday things you may take for granted and pick up short stories you can use as general conversation starters. The logistics with the purpose series puts a spotlight on neat and interesting organizations who are working toward a greater cause. If you’re interested in logistics, freight and transportation, take a listen to the logistics and beyond series with the adapt and thrive mindset, Sherpa Jaman Alvidrez and check out the newest program tech talk hosted by industry veteran and Atlanta’s zone. Korean bursa bursa will discuss all things. Digital supply chain. If interested in sponsoring this show or others on supply chain. Now send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and remember supply chain is boring.
Greg White serves as Principal & Host at Supply Chain Now. Greg is a founder, CEO, board director and advisor in B2B technology with multiple successful exits. He recently joined Trefoil Advisory as a Partner to further their vision of stronger companies by delivering practical solutions to the highest-stakes challenges. Prior to Trefoil, Greg served as CEO at Curo, a field service management solution most notably used by Amazon to direct their fulfillment center deployment workforce. Greg is most known for founding Blue Ridge Solutions and served as President & CEO for the Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader of cloud-native supply chain applications that balance inventory with customer demand. Greg has also held leadership roles with Servigistics, and E3 Corporation, where he pioneered their cloud supply chain offering in 1998. In addition to his work at Supply Chain Now and Trefoil, rapidly-growing companies leverage Greg as an independent board director and advisor for his experience building disruptive B2B technology and supply chain companies widely recognized as industry leaders. He’s an insightful visionary who helps companies rapidly align vision, team, market, messaging, product, and intellectual property to accelerate value creation. Greg guides founders, investors and leadership teams to create breakthroughs that gain market exposure and momentum, and increase company esteem and valuation. Learn more about Trefoil Advisory: www.trefoiladvisory.com
Chris Barnes is a supply chain guru, the APICS Coach, and Supply Chain Now Contributor. He holds a B.S., Industrial Engineering and Economics Minor, from Bradley University, an MBA in Industrial Psychology with Honors from the University of West Florida. He holds CPIM-F, CLTD-F and CSCP-F designations from ASCM/APICS, one of the few in the world. Barnes is a professional education instructor for the Georgia Tech Supply Chain & Logistics Institute’s Supply Chain Management (SCM) and University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Center for Professional Education certificate courses. Barnes is a supply chain advocate, visionary, and frequent podcaster and blogger at www.APICS.Coach.com. Barnes has over 27 years of experience developing and managing multiple client, engineering consulting, strategic planning and operational improvement projects in supply chain management. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn and reach out to him via email at: email@example.com.
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