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Q&A with Ian Ricketts, Executive Manufacturing and Supply Chain Leader

1) Can you give us an overview of career progression to date?

My career began in England with Unilever after graduating as an engineer. My 28-year Unilever career has provided me with depth and breadth in areas of manufacturing, supply chain, customers and strategy, in a world class company and in multiple geographies (Europe, USA, Latin America)

Ultimately my position was eliminated during restructuring and I made changes to my career path and took some risks. I joined a start-up juice company in New York that ultimately went out of business. I attempted to course correct the company, but the owners could not be influenced to make efficiency changes I knew were essential. There were many lessons from this experience including the need to be clear about strategy, performance and leadership before committing to a business. Since then I have had VP roles at B&G Foods and most recently Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods. My career experiences have enabled me to add robust value to an employer in terms of identifying current or potential performance or efficiency concerns within an operation, and also to have the necessary tools to solve problems or course correct situations. I find that I add tremendous value as a practitioner and an advisor, with strong leadership, a pragmatic perspective and a flexible style.

2) Can you give us a sense for the recent evolution in the way you approach supply chain

My approach to supply chain has been fact and data based, with rigor and attention to detail. In my view the more recent transformation has been the deep integration of other functions into the overall process, such as sales and marketing. A robust S&OP process is now more often recognized as being a normal or standard process to add value. It was not always like this.

3) How highly do you rate a company’s brand with regards to attraction and retention

I believe a company’s brand is important and a significant factor for attraction and retention since the brand is often a key driver of sales. A recognizable brand and its brand message can generate meaningful growth. However, in terms of attraction and retention I believe that brand sits alongside with culture and diversity.

4) How important is diversity hiring an issue for you personally

Hiring diversity seems to have become the norm and I believe that a hiring company should comply with the prevailing guidelines or laws. I believe that the best candidate should be hired regardless of diversity.

5) How does your company’s culture impact your decision to join an organization

Culture is just one of a host of factors that would influence my decision to join a company. However, I consider it to be quite important. Consideration points include personal decisions such as how to work with people, teams and, leaders, Expectations regarding behaviors etc. I feel that culture and cultural fit is essential to evaluate prior to taking a decision to join an organization.

6) What do you consider the biggest challenges for a CSCO these days

Today’s CSCO is awash in complexity.  Navigating this complexity is their number 1 job.  This is closely followed by getting the right team in place.  Only with the right people on your team can you navigate an increasingly global marketplace with logistics needs on a truly international scale. You need this high-end talent to help make sense of the gargantuan amount of data and to help create meaningful change with the ultimate goal of getting things to market in the most efficient and cost-effective way.

7) How do you work with your executive team to get the most out of the supply chain function.

I believe the that transparency and clarity are paramount to success.  Only with transparency and clarity can you get alignment on opportunities and evaluate the value of these opportunities.  Ultimately, the supply chain function must understand and align with the business needs and focus on improving KPIs that the leadership team is prioritizing.  Only with this knowledge can we truly generate unique cost savings and growth.

8) What is your approach to market research, both customer and competitor focused

I am normally cautious about market research, but if the data is robust and reliable then this information should be used in planning, but with the requisite level of caution and second guessing, even if history is supportive

9) If you could start your last role again what would you differently

I would focus primarily on the financial data first, then performance data. I would drive performance improvements and communicate successes more than I did.  I think it is necessary to have absolute clarity about the improvement plan, milestones, ways of working, etc. So, I would definitely make that more of a priority.  Ultimately, work is a social endeavor that requires interpersonal relationships, so given this I think it is imperative to fully engage the executive team and get their support.

About Ian Ricketts – LinkedIn

Ian is an experienced business leader in supply chain management and manufacturing operations leadership. His experience includes world class operations, strategy, manufacturing management, global and local supply chain management and operations leadership with Unilever. His business experience has included successful, proven operations management improvement and optimization. Ian is performance driven and has a legacy of high-performance leadership and operations success.