Brian Dean throws himself into challenges with joy, embracing every new experience as a way to build his strength. If he doesn't know the answer to a question, he'll pull out all the stops to find it. If a project turns tough, he'll work late into the night to get the job done right and on time. No wonder one of General Dynamics' (GD) strategic suppliers singled him out for praise after an annual contract negotiation. "We have never seen a buyer work as hard on anything as Brian did on those agreements," the vendor said.
As a purchasing agent for GD's G4 Systems, Dean buys radio frequency and microwave components used in radios, encryption devices, and other products for military communications. His special challenge is balancing day-to-day purchasing with his strategic procurement mission: finding ways to drive out costs. The key to success, he says, is to stay in touch with engineers and material planners, and keep a sharp eye on the future. "If we know about a project ahead of time, then we can see what relationships we have with potential suppliers, or forge new ones," Dean notes.
At GD's Scottsdale facility, Dean is the sole person responsible for buying products through the "gray market"—the network of brokers who are not official sources of a manufacturer's components. Often, these are replacement parts no longer made by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), but available as excess or re-sold inventory.
GD goes to the gray market only as a last resort, and buyers must work with special care so that they never buy counterfeits. "I was part of the team that wrote our company's stringent guidelines for using the gray market," Dean says. In fact, he's the Scottsdale facility's resident expert on the subject. Colleagues at other GD businesses often seek his advice on how to work successfully with reputable gray market suppliers.
Dean scored one of his major successes on a team that integrated purchasing for GD Canada and other businesses into the Scottsdale operation. He shouldered the workload of multiple buyers, and took charge of streamlining existing businesses processes. The work paid off handsomely. For instance, the team cut GD Canada's supplier base from about 50 to just three. "And because we were buying in bigger volumes, we got better pricing," Dean adds. Also, for high-volume components, the team found new opportunities to buy directly from OEMs, rather than from distributors.
"Find a boss who is as committed to your growth as you are, someone who gives young people opportunities to take charge of things that other companies might not," Dean says. "And once you're in a job, don't be afraid to put yourself out there and offer creative solutions. Younger people often have a different mindset, compared with the way things have been done in the past. That's a huge asset."
HOMETOWN: Chandler, Arizona
ALMA MATER: Arizona State University
CURRENT POSITION: Purchasing Agent, General Dynamics C4 Systems, Scottsdale, Arizona
NOMINATED BY: Self-nominated
Adapting between meeting the day-to-day requirements of the job, while still working toward big-picture opportunities that could benefit the company in the long run.
Yes, but I would double-major in finance. You should understand not only how goods move throughout an organization and the world, but how money moves as well.