How to Reach the Pinnacle of Success

Last year, at age 29, Daniel Kaskinen, manager, strategic sourcing at Premier Inc., became the megawatt winner of the ISM®/Thomas™ 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Stars Recognition Program. He was recognized for his exceptional success at improving efficiencies and saving millions of dollars at his previous company, even at an early point in his career. His secret? “I have very high expectations for myself,” he says. “There is no coasting.”

Kaskinen is among the elite supply management practitioners who know that to succeed, mediocrity is not an option. These individuals are determined to play a critical role in their companies’ competitive positioning on the worldwide stage. They understand that they must master a range of competencies to maintain peak performance.

Those required competencies continually change, as more companies recognize that the supply management function is not just about driving down costs; it’s critical for top-line growth, too.

The fact that supply management is responsible for 86 percent of corporate spending, across industries, reflects a fundamental truth: To a large extent, companies’ success rests on the shoulders of their suppliers and the people who work with them. The C-suite increasingly prizes the individuals and teams who have the required supply management competencies, strategic vision, and dedication.

This is highlighted in the responsibilities of today’s supply management professionals. Their expertise enables businesses to innovate, increase market share, prevent or mitigate risks, and build strong sustainability/social responsibility programs. Their skill at creating regional supplier networks, and avoiding supply chain interruptions is fundamental to companies’ agility and growth.

The C-Suite’s Eyes and Ears

Corporations also look to supply management professionals as their eyes and ears. With their knowledge of what customers demand and buy, and their access to data, analytics, and new technologies, supply management keeps companies ahead of trends and competitors. Indeed, in some organizations, the chief procurement officer position is a stepping stone to the CEO role.

This should serve as inspiration to those in supply management who want to build rewarding careers. They should be relentless in pursuing continuing education, and finding mentors they can confide in.

In addition, we see a shift toward competencies versus pure tasks. Being able to run a spreadsheet or generate a demand forecast is not enough; today’s professionals need to add value. They must think critically about the tasks to come, and demonstrate a breadth of vision.

Aspiring and current leaders need to understand their company’s direction, and communicate effectively to give C-level leaders confidence. Combine these traits with adaptability and flexibility, and they will thrive in any environment.

How can ambitious supply management professionals build on their strengths and fill gaps? Development opportunities abound. Those that lead to internationally recognized credentials are helpful, as they are respected by employers around the world.

Resolve to take that first step. As Dan Kaskinen says: “Be curious, don’t be afraid to ask questions and never stop learning.”

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