How Did You Get Into Supply Chain?

Used to work in a warehouse.jpgIf someone had told me at age 20 that by the time I was 50 I would've walked away from a perfectly good paycheck in the logistics field and started my own business, my reaction would have been, "you're nuts." When I was 20 I was actively pursuing a journalism career.

At age 25, with a degree in industrial management, I found myself interviewing for a warehouse supervision job. I went back to college to get that industrial management degree to get into manufacturing. I found myself doing this interview as a courtesy to the store manager I had worked for in my last 18 months of college. The guy was adamant that I should stay in the company, and one day he told me to call a number on a post-it note on his desk. The guy on the other end of the line was the VP of Distribution. Two days later, I interviewed with this VP for 15 minutes. He had arranged for me to spend two hours with HR. When I got back to his office, the VP had a hand-drawn organization chart in front of him while he spoke on the phone. When he noticed me he handed me the the phone and said, "Talk to Dave Raney."

"I heard a lot of great stuff about you from your manager, your district manager, and the RVP," said Mr. Raney. "We can start you off on a forklift at $12 an hour."

At that point I took the phone away from my ear and said to the VP, Jim Bryan, "I'm sorry. There has to be a misunderstanding. I did not go back to college full time for two and a half years to get a degree so that I could go to Texas and drive a forklift for $12 and hour," and handed the phone back to Jim.

Jim looked at me, grunted, and said into the phone,"Dave, this is Jim. Are you listening to me? Good!"

With that he took the handset of the phone and bounced it off the top of his desk three times.

Putting the handset back to his ear, Jim said, "Warehouse Supervisor. Not Forklift Driver. Do you understand? Good." Then he hung up the phone. Jim looked up at me with a grin and said, "Have a good day."

End of interview. I thought it was all nuts.

The following Wednesday I was on a plane to Phoenix to interview with the DC Manager. I got offered the job before I left.

When they offered me the position, I decided that it would be a smart move, and that I could always switch over to manufacturing after a few years. Twenty-two years and three companies later, I walked away from that perfectly good paycheck, still working in distribution and logistics.

I believe I have a better grasp of what it takes to be successful in business, and what it takes to create a successful business, than I would ever have had if I'd followed that manufacturing path.

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Hello! My name is Dave Schneider, I'm founder of WATP.
I got started in Supply Chain in 1985 at the Payless Cashways warehouse in Springfield, MO.
I'd love to hear how YOU got started.
Give me a call anytime at 877-674-7495.

Trade is the lubricant of world commerce. It is a universal tool. My skills and knowledge in supply chain management and logistics are transferable to any industry. I was blessed with an early exposure to how supply chain and logistics operations can be a competitive weapon in the marketplace. That exposure led me to study how failures in supply chain and logistics have killed countless good ideas.

Part of the image problem for supply chain and logistics is that the gatekeepers of academia, from high school onwards, have no clue how vitally important supply chain is to our society. They don't know. To demonstrate that, I offer you a challenge. Go ask 10 secondary level educators to answer this question: "What does supply chain mean?" Then follow up with this question: "What percent of GDP is spent on managing the supply chain?"

Five of those 10 people will be able to give you a rough definition of supply chain. None of them will be able to tell you the percent of GDP. Knowing what it is is only one step. To find what it means, you have to know how big it is.

There is one heck of a comment thread going on over on the A Truckload, Trucking, Logistics, Supply Chain, 3PL group on LinkedIn. The subject of the thread is, So what exactly is keeping younger people from entering the logistics-trans field? The industry has been around forever and has seen some changes. Is it pay scale, image, or something else? That thread tells some great tales of how people got into this industry. If you are interested in the field, or work in it, you should read it.

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