Jonathan Parks: Planning is Key, to Say the Leased
Jonathan Parks is vice president of global logistics and distribution with Rent-A-Center, which offers name-brand furniture, electronics, appliances, and computers through flexible rental purchase agreements. He started with the company in 2010 and has held this position since 2015.
Responsibilities: The design, management, and continual optimization of distribution and logistics operations.
Experience: Positions in logistics, distribution, and strategic planning with Rent-A-Center; logistics and distribution for both stores and DC at The Container Store; hub operations industrial engineer with UPS.
Education: MBA, University of Dallas, 2009; B.S. in Industrial Engineering, Texas A&M, 2003.
I joined Rent-A-Center as a member of the strategic planning team, thinking I was taking a step away from logistics. The company was expanding into Mexico, developing new business models, and optimizing current operations.
Rent-A-Center’s supply chain had been serving stores through a network of distributors; we didn’t stock inventory in warehouses. That caused fragmentation and lack of control. In addition, many of our suppliers in Mexico were unable to work through distributors. That forced us to move to a company-run logistics and distribution operation.
After running our Mexican operation for a few years, we gained the confidence and experience to change the way our U.S. supply chain serves our stores here.
We spent more than one year developing the strategy and then made an aggressive plan to transform our supply chain in 2015 by opening five distribution centers and the transportation solutions to support them, all in four months.
Planning, planning, and more planning was critical to success. Systems, processes, training, support, accounting, and other areas had to transform, along with our supply chain. Departments met weekly to assess progress and adjust as required to achieve our goals.
We tested in infinite detail to guarantee the operations would run as intended from the moment we placed the first purchase order.For instance, once a product was received in the distribution center, did we see it in inventory? Because of that extreme focus and collaboration, we didn’t miss a single date.
It was a lot of work in a short time, but we are seeing the benefits.Our control of the supply chain, products offered, service levels, visibility, and costs have all noticeably improved. For instance, from the time we place an order until it delivers is now fewer than seven days. Previously, it could have been as high as 15 days, or longer.
From an early age, I knew I wanted to pursue a career related to math and science, and chose industrial engineering as my major at Texas A&M. I saw that as having many pathways.
During a Christmas break, I worked as a holiday helper for UPS and thought it was fascinating. That catapulted me into my career with UPS, where I was immersed in the world of logistics.
When an opening for an industrial engineer arose at The Container Store, I thought, “Man, you hear good things about that company. I’d love to go work for them.” I eventually went into store operations improvement. We had the opportunity to optimize many non-customer-facing activities, taking the artistry out of them and applying science in a fun way.
In every job I’ve been in, I define it as I go. Most of the opportunities have been a new venture or strategy the company is taking on.In an environment where new capabilities are being introduced, there has to be a balance between magnitude of change and adaptation.
You have to be selfless and choose the biggest benefit for the organization, rather than trying to push your own agenda. If you get to the finish line by yourself, you haven’t done a great job.
The Big Questions
Where would you like to travel?
My list holds many of the usual suspects in Europe. I have been fortunate to cover a lot of territory in North America, and I’m looking forward to traveling to Australia, Croatia, China, Japan, and maybe an African safari.
What has been a big influence in your life?
My mother and father instilled a strong work ethic, and my grandmother had a big influence as well. The sentiment ‘behind every successful man is a strong woman’ is true, and I’m grateful for my wife and the influence she has in my life. Beyond people, my Christian values also play an important role in my life.
Texas A&M has a quote: ‘Aggies don’t lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do.’ In everything, I try to apply that mentality of integrity, loyalty, and honesty.