Leading a Supply Chain With Dogged Determination

Leading a Supply Chain With Dogged Determination

Matt Cantatore is chief operating officer of Ollie, a national service that sells healthful, high-quality pet food direct to consumers.

Responsibilities: Oversight of day-to-day operations, including sourcing, supply chain management, fulfillment, logistics, and customer service. Also an executive team member responsible for recruiting, goal-setting, and managing the P&L.

Experience: Director of operations, Blue Apron; analyst, Morgan Stanley.

Education: Bond University, Australia, undergraduate degrees in business and law, 2008; Wharton Business School, MBA, 2014.

When I joined Ollie, I was a team of one and we shipped about 100 boxes every week from 1,000 square feet in the back of our co-packer’s building. Today, we ship thousands of boxes every week and operate distribution centers in Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Oklahoma.

We’ve built a cold supply chain that’s as responsive as the Amazon Prime network, and deliver across the continental United States within two days. The complexity of building a supply chain of that scale in such a short time has been both challenging and exciting.

Ollie sells human-grade pet food that also meets human-grade sanitation and food safety standards and requires refrigeration. Our customer base is centered around 10 metro areas where refrigerated space is costly and tough to come by. Freezer space is even more so.

We compete against companies that don’t have to deal with refrigeration, so our cost structure differs. I’m part of an incredibly strong team that has built a cold supply chain that also allows us to be profitable. Developing a profitable cold supply chain has been a challenge we’re proud to have overcome.

To boost efficiency, we’ve leveraged our business model. As a direct-to-consumer business, we take a data-driven, customer-centric approach. We seek out feedback, listen to our customers, and ultimately deliver products we feel confident they want. For instance, we launched our Ollie snacks line in response to significant customer demand.

As this approach shows, our supply chain and marketing are tightly linked. For our supply chain to be as efficient as possible, we have to target the right customers and retain them.

Ollie works with a national carrier that’s the backbone of our logistics operation. We also use regional carriers in major metro areas where they tend to have high service levels. We continually think about the future of our logistics operations. For instance, we’re considering a more immediate kind of logistics network, such as a courier service, in some major metro areas.

Like many people coming out of business school, I was choosing between a corporate development role and an operations role. I’ve always had a huge interest in hands-on building, so operations felt like an area where I could both have a successful career and do something I was interested in.

At Blue Apron, I worked my way up to overseeing a fulfillment center with responsibility for about 2,500 people. I also helped build the proprietary optimization software and processes that drove a lot of its operational success. It was an incredible experience.

Then I reconnected with one of the co-founders at Ollie just as they were looking for a head of operations. It felt like a great opportunity to take on a new challenge and even broader set of responsibilities.

In operations, I’m at the forefront of all the major decisions in the business. It has been an amazing journey. I’m very excited to keep going on that journey and to see where Ollie is going as well.

Matt Cantatore Answers the Big Questions

1. How would you describe your job to a 5-year-old?

We make delicious food that dogs love to eat and we’re trying to put that food in every dog’s bowl around the country.

2. What book has left a significant impression?

The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountability. It shows how excuses count for little and results drive success.

3. What words do you try to live by?

This quote by George Bernard Shaw: ‘The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.’

4. What kind of kid were you in high school?

I grew up in South Africa then moved to Australia, so I was the kid who was friends with everyone. One day at lunch I’d sit with one group of people, and the next day I’d sit with another group. That experience has permeated my professional career as well. I enjoy interacting with people across the organization.

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