The Business Builder
Jonathan Williams
Supply Chain Development Manager
Kingfisher Group

What do you think your 18 year old self would think if you told them you work in logistics?
I would have said ‘are you joking?’ It wasn’t something that I considered at all in my late teens and early 20s. I did a degree in American History and Literature with no specific career path in mind but I had assumed I’d go into retail because I liked dealing with people and giving good customer service. Most people move into logistics and supply chain organically and it’s also fair to say that in this sector not having an academic background is no barrier to to being really successful. You’re judged on your performance, not on your qualifications.

What have you enjoyed about your career in supply chain and logistics?
I’ve been able to work across different businesses and in different functions, running supply chain for the health and beauty sector, running merchandising or warehousing as well. Having that kind of balance of development and operational experience stood me in really good stead because now at this point in my career, I’m able to bring the benefits of general management experience, operational experience, and having done lots of different development projects to what I do now, which means that I can interact with people on lots of different levels in the organisation outside of the organisation with a fair degree of confidence.

What do you find is most unexpected about working in supply chain?
Although what we do can look like it’s really data or process heavy, one of the most important skills in making a difference is being able to communicate effectively with other people. So if you’re starting out in your career in, say, retail logistics, and you’re managing a team within a warehouse, you’re going to be able to do that much more effectively if you communicate effectively and you motivate the team of people that you’re working with. If you are trying to make an investment case for a new distribution centre, you need to be able to effectively communicate and sell your ideas to the people who are going to put up the money for those sorts of things.

How do you think supply chain skillsets will need to change over the next 5 years?
We’re already beginning to see changes in how supply chain is viewed. I think the pressures of resource scarcity and capacity constraints globally will push supply chain up the agenda for retailers and other parts of the business world. Fundamentally, the skills that you will need to be successful in supply and logistics will remain the same. Having a good understanding of data, being able to spot trends in data and performance will continue to be really important. Having a real focus on what your customers need will continue to be really important. Skills in communication will continue to be important as well. The only other thing I’d add and for people who are kind of thinking of coming into supply chain and logistics as a career would be that it’s never going to be the sexiest, the most high profile part of any business, but what we do in supply and logistics is fundamental to the success of any retail organisation and is an area where you can absolutely make a difference at whatever level of the business you work.

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