Andrew Lattof has cleared hiking trails in Alaska, and built homes for Habitat for Humanity. Today, he slashes costs for Xcel Energy, racking up more than $500,000 in savings by the time of his 30 Under 30 nomination. "Andrew had the highest savings contributions of any buyer in 2013," writes nominator Karen Cook. And he's poised to climb even further. "He is a high-potential leadership candidate," she adds.
It's impressive enough when a purchasing team hoists itself from the bottom of the performance ladder to the top. When Lattof joined the group that supports Xcel's transmission and distribution business, he led that transformation while also shouldering a double workload.
His key strategy? Communication. "We worked with the engineering teams to give them more accurate lead time information, so they could better plan their products and order materials," Lattof says. Enhanced planning netted a 100-percent improvement in on-time, in-full deliveries, with fewer costly expedited shipments.
In 2014, Xcel chose Lattof for a special assignment: negotiating master service agreements with contractors who make repairs at the company's power plants. Because these agreements set up the terms and rates for services in advance, Xcel can call a maintenance contractor on short notice and get a quick response.
Learning the intricacies of all the equipment and services involved, so he can negotiate effectively, presents a big challenge. "I can use training modules to educate myself," Lattof says. "But what's even more helpful is to talk to the engineers."
One secret behind Lattof's success is that he loves to ask questions. It's how he learns which processes could do with an efficiency boost, and it's also how he powers his negotiations with vendors. "You never know what you're not getting unless you ask for it," he says. Sometimes all a buyer needs to do is inquire whether there's any way to lower a price. "It's surprising how often you can find additional value for your company and for the relationship with the contractor," he notes.
When he first came to Xcel, Lattof's penchant for questions also led him into conversations with colleagues about their jobs—what they did and how they did it. Soon, new hires started seeking him out, and those informal chats morphed into training sessions. "While initially in a junior role, he contributed to the training of all subsequent new hires in our purchasing team, as well as in our material coordination and supply chain hotline teams," Cook says.
Lattof volunteers for the Colorado Outward Bound School, and has run an aid station for the Leadville 100, a long-distance, high-altitude trail race. He revels in Colorado's outdoor opportunities. "I enjoy skiing and ice hockey in the winter," he says. "In the summer, I go fly fishing, hiking, and camping."
HOMETOWN: Arlington Heights, Illinois
ALMA MATER: The University of Denver, undergraduate; The School for Field Studies, MBA
CURRENT POSITION: Buyer, Xcel Energy, Denver, Colorado
NOMINATED BY: Karen Cook, Purchasing Manager, Xcel Energy
Yes. When I find ways to save the company money, it opens up new opportunities for us to reinvest.
I would recommend it, because it allows you to see the big picture view of your company.