February 2012 | Case Studies | Reader Profile

Don Riley: Building for the Future

Tags: Education & Careers

Don Riley joined Denver-based ProBuild Holdings as executive vice president of supply chain and technology in November 2011. ProBuild is a leading supplier of building materials, with more than 430 locations nationwide.

Responsibilities: Supply chain, manufacturing, information technology, enterprise resource planning (ERP) deployment.

Experience: Developer, Singer-Link Flight Simulation; various positions culminating in account executive, Electronic Data Systems; vice president and chief information officer, Kellwood Company; chief information officer and senior vice president of logistics, Mohawk Industries.

Education: University of Tennessee, Knoxville, BS, mechanical engineering.

 

My journey to a logistics career started at Electronic Data Systems when I worked on a business transformation project for apparel manufacturer Kellwood Company. Our team's mission was to implement a new enterprise resource planning system, redesign the distribution network, create new sourcing strategies, and develop shared services.

We forged a strong partnership among the information technology, business, and consulting organizations. The results were so successful that I was asked to join Kellwood as its chief information officer (CIO).

Six years later, I was named CIO at Mohawk Industries, where again I had the chance to use my process, supply chain, and IT expertise to transform the business. We enhanced the entire supply chain—sourcing, inbound transportation, how product flowed through the distribution centers, and how we delivered to customers.

I currently work for ProBuild, a building materials distribution and services company. We run a wide range of store operations, from lumberyards and component plants, such as truss manufacturing, to millwork operations—which assemble doors, windows, cabinets, and countertops—and retail. Each aspect of ProBuild's operation is straightforward, but in the aggregate, the diverse supply chain can complicate operations.

Currently, one of the trickiest aspects of my work stems from the fact that the building industry has been in a downturn for more than four years. It's crucial that we keep costs in line with sales.

One challenge is keeping employees motivated and focused on what ProBuild is trying to accomplish. We need to ensure employees understand our goals and their role in the company. We have to show them how their performance is measured and aligned with the direction the company is headed, and ensure they know that the organization cares about them personally and professionally.

Another challenge is pursuing our vision for the future while navigating this economic downturn. One key is building the right organizational model and relationships, from sources to customers, to support not just where we are today, but where we need to be tomorrow.

We also have to strike the right balance between managing costs and making investments that will strengthen our competitive position in the industry.

One lesson I've learned in my career is the importance of building strong relationships with peers. Any good executive thinking of promoting an employee solicits opinions from the candidate's colleagues. If they say the individual collaborates, focuses on value, and meets goals, that counts for a lot.

Many IT and supply chain executives are good at delegating down and managing directly up, but not at building peer relationships.

My mentors have emphasized the importance of developing those relationships. The higher you go in an organization, the more important they become.

 

The Big Questions

What do you do to recharge?

I enjoy road cycling in the spring, summer, and fall, and skiing in the winter.

What would be your dream trip?

Touring European castles with my family.

Guilty pleasure?

My mom's Rice Krispy treats.

Do you have a superstition?

If I'm watching one of my favorite sports teams and they're winning, I won't move. If they're losing, I'll change anything in the room until they start winning.

What's on your Bucket List?

Visiting New Zealand and the Egyptian pyramids, parachuting out of a plane, cycling 100 miles, and sailing around the world.