Jon Peattie, newly appointed Commercial Director of Sourcing at Mars Petcare, Nashville, TN, talks to Stuart Richards about his brief spell playing at NFL side Cleveland Browns and how SUBWAY’s $5 Footlong sandwich gave him his big break in supply chain management.
Your entire career has been in supply chain management. But what first got you into commercial procurement?
Looking back 12 years ago I just really needed a job, coming out of college. I was lucky enough to go to the University of Miami on a full athletic scholarship for football. Because I was on campus year-round for football training, I was able to graduate early and also attain a Masters degree. Upon graduation, I had two opportunities – one with SUBWAY® restaurant’s North America supply chain management company, the Independent Purchasing Cooperative (IPC) based in Miami, FL, and the other with Bear Stearns. I didn’t pursue the Bear Stearns offer – thank goodness because they collapsed soon after my decision during the global financial crisis. IPC focuses on helping SUBWAY® franchise owners be more profitable and competitive with its core focus on supply chain management and purchasing of all direct and indirect products and services for the restaurants located in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico. It was amazing; I knew nothing about supply chain management so I was doing basic inventory management and analytical forecasting, trying to capture what our demand was going to be in the next 16 weeks to a year and handing that data over to the sourcing managers to negotiate the contracts and do all the fun stuff. That was my start. I needed a job and it was the right time, right place. I was lucky to get a chance to work with IPC at a time when things were about to get real exciting in the restaurant industry. I quickly realised that I liked supply chain, I like procurement, I liked the strategy involved and…I like food – I think it all goes well with my personality.
Tell me about your career so far – and the key moves from IPC/SUBWAY® to Apple, back to IPC/SUBWAY® and now to Mars Petcare.
In my first year at IPC there was a Florida franchisee that owned multiple restaurants and was doing something interesting. He was selling $5 Footlong sandwiches on the weekends when sales were typically low and his sales began to blast off. So I was asked to analyse his restaurants sales data and create a US forecast based off those numbers for all 30,000 restaurants. The sourcing managers then had to see if they could find enough supply/capacity to sustain those forecasts, which were incredibly high – 40, 50, 60 per cent above normal demand. It was amazing to be a part of this feasibility analysis in the early stage and to be a part of one of the most amazing, revolutionary restaurant marketing campaigns, the $5 Footlong. Who would have known when I was just doing basic spreadsheet work that it was going to support one of the greatest product launches ever in the food industry? With IPC/SUBWAY® I had started in an analytical role then moved into a sourcing manager role. I was first responsible for all the secondary ingredients – tier two/tier three supplier contracts while also supplying some optional products not carried in every SUBWAY® but had pretty big volumes because there were 30,000 restaurants in North America. A few years later, I moved into my first leadership role where I was managing people. It was a great challenge. Simultaneously, I completed an executive scholar degree at the Kellogg School of Management which really armed me with how to lead high impact teams and how to develop sound sourcing strategies. I then led my first global sourcing team (the Marinara Team) working with global counterparts on reducing the complexity and number of marinara specifications globally in order to increase quality and consistency in the products while also leveraging economies of scale to reduce costs. Organising and aligning a global team on different time zones and with different cultures and languages and then orchestrating a global bid across five major global regions was awesome; it was a great experience to be able to lead that. Then I was recruited by Apple – they reached out to me on LinkedIn and said ‘would you be interested in being a Global Supply Manager for the Liquid Crystal Displays?’ I loved Apple products and it sounded interesting, scary, completely out of my comfort zone having not worked in tech before. But I really believe that if you know category management and you know strategic sourcing it doesn’t matter what you buy. It’s the same processes, the same challenges and the same type of strategy development required. I also believe that if you aren’t challenging yourself and putting more pressure on yourself, then you won’t grow (see the Story of a Lobster on Youtube). So I took a chance, it was a great opportunity to try something new and San Francisco is one of the best cities in the world. I did global sourcing before but I learned what a true global supply chain was, and a well-oiled machine Apple was, and I was now part of this amazingly orchestrated global supply chain company. It was a really great experience to learn from some of the brightest people on the planet. I loved my time there. After two years I was then recruited back by IPC/SUBWAY® to lead up the purchasing department and also started to expand into the supply chain, by taking over responsibility of supply planning – which is a forward looking process that tries to meet supply with demand and is a component of sales and operations planning. The sourcing department was roughly a $4bn spend across food, packaging and beverages and it was my first executive role – I did that for a little over four years and saw myself as a SUBWAY® lifer at that point. But Mars came knocking and they were relentless. Although I loved my time at IPC/SUBWAY®, my wife and I were willing to take a risk and move our young family to Nashville. Professionally, I wanted to keep growing and learn about a new industry – Consumer Packaged Goods. I want to have a deeper understanding of sales and operations planning, manufacturing and marketing, while continuing to refine my supply chain management business acumen and leadership skills. I feel that the CPG industry is further ahead in its supply chain maturity than most other industries so I wanted to play around in that space for a while and learn as much as possible while bringing the learnings, skills and perspectives I have from SUBWAY® and Apple into the Mars space.
Can you tell me about your American Football career? What did you bring from the football field to the boardroom?
I went to the Cleveland Browns in the NFL as a free agent but I was only there for minicamp during the off season so I did not get to officially play in the NFL. However, I did play for the best college football team in the nation, the University of Miami Hurricanes, and I also played professional arena (indoor) football afterwards while starting my business career. My athletics background has definitely helped me succeed in the office. Learning how to deal with adversity is really important. Especially as a field goal kicker where there is a ton of pressure on you. You only play a few minutes of impact during a four hour football game, sometimes only a few seconds of impact. It taught me a lot about preparation, so when you have to perform you must be ready. That is critical, so the whole game you are constantly preparing mentally and physically just to perform for a brief moment and that feeling of pressure that it all depends on you and you are going to help your team win or lose. I think really prepared me for being able to deal with the responsibility and pressure of managing billions of dollars and a ton of risk every day. In football, the off season is when you really put in the hard work and to me that is like the time between the big board meetings and presentations in professional life when you put in the hard work. Once you get to the big game or big meeting, it’s all muscle memory at that point and it’s just time to have fun. Also, when you are a student athlete in college your schedule is booked from about 6am to 11pm every day between class prep, weight lifting, running, class, film study, football practice, film study, study hall and then repeat. You become almost desensitised around putting in long hours and you develop a strong work ethic and get good at planning your day. It really helped me learn how to prioritise my schedule and be able to juggle many things, personal and work.
Who have been your key role models/mentors?
My family. Specifically, my mom and dad, who have been extremely instrumental in my life. My dad has always given me great advice. He managed to straddle a successful professional career with a growing family and did it extremely well. My mom was the stronghold in the family who ran the house and kept all of us in line while spending countless hours with my two siblings and I on homework and activities. In business I’ve been lucky to have many strong, bright influencers around me early in my career that I latched on to. Joe Leahey was my Sr Director of Purchasing when I started my career and he was a good leader who taught me how important it is to have a strong understanding of global commodities/economics and to be able to clearly and concisely explain the connectivity between them and how it will impact food costs in the future. Next was Dennis Clabby, who was my last boss at IPC/SUBWAY®. He is the EVP of Purchasing, who taught me what work ethic really is and how important it is to get your nose in a book to help unlock new ideas in order to prepare and address certain risks that might be on the horizon. His boss was Jan Risi, the CEO of IPC. From Jan I learned how to build strong relationships and the importance of building deep and genuine relationships with key stakeholders and strategic partners. She was great at exploring external industries and bringing back relevant best practices to our business. And she is still the best presenter I have ever seen in my career…my north star.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in business during your career?
Never underestimate the importance of communicating your vision and the path forward. One of the biggest failures of leaders is assuming people understand what you think and understand where the company/team is headed. Consistently and constantly reiterating that message and reassuring this is who we are, this is what we are all about, and this is where we are going. Then it is clear, people understand expectations, what is necessary and what they need to do, and alignment. If that’s not sharp in a company, no matter how big or small, you’re going to have a lot of different people rowing in different directions and that’s not going to go well.
What single achievement are you most proud of?
For me it’s having a family and being able to support them. That’s what it’s all about. Time with my wife and two kids, whether it’s travelling or hiking or just getting outside and having some fun – that’s about as good as it gets.
What is the toughest challenge you have had to tackle in your career?
Managing Limited Time Offers (LTOs) at SUBWAY®, which are those promotions you see on TV for new food items added to the menu for a specific time period, typically lasting 4-6 weeks long. It’s difficult to explain and to understand what it takes for a supply chain to execute an LTO on a fresh food item when it requires putting something unique on a menu in 30,000 restaurants for 30 days. Orchestrating a massive, multi-country supply chain to have the right product, at the right place, at the right time and at the right price is a magnificent effort. And then, after 30 days, when all the TV, radio and digitial advertising for that LTO shuts off, the goal is to not have any obsolete product left over in the supply chain. That’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to manage. To put it in perspective, it’s like launching the iPhone X and then removing it in 30 days and you can’t have any leftover parts or components or finished product left over in the supply chain. And you have 30,000 assembly locations instead of just a few. It’s incredible. But it seems to be permission to play now in the food industry.
What are the key challenges currently facing global FMCG leaders in relation to procurement? What do they need to do now to keep ahead of the game?
This challenge is not industry specific. This stretches out further than just the fast moving consumer goods industry. New emerging companies (aka: insurgents) are nimble and faster to market with what consumers are asking for. Those insurgents are popping up everywhere and they are slowly picking away at the margins of well established companies. If you aggregate all of these insurgents within your industry, they add up to a large competitor. This will impact any company that has well established economies of scale and those that have built their business around that scale and efficiencies. Today’s business environment requires flexibility and large scale operations don’t typically have that. These insurgents don’t have all the red tape – bureaucracy and process. Processes are important and have a purpose, like making sure things are done the right way, sourced the right way and made the right way, safely for consumers. However, all of those things take time and smaller companies may be more willing to take risks and skip steps in order to launch new products faster. Every big company is facing this, how to get more nimble, more agile, how to be able to react to what the consumers want quickly. Older processes must be challenged and tightened to be faster and well-orchestrated throughout the organisation. This is why alignment across the organisation is so important. A second key challenge is managing risk. Challenges like Brexit, US/China tariffs, US/Canadian tariffs, logistics challenges and how they impact costs across multiple industries. These are not region-specific or industry specific problems any more. They impact everyone because our world is more connected than ever. The vision for my Sourcing team here at Mars, is to create a strong and nimble supply chain that is prepared for any type of challenge thrown our way. I remind my team that this environment is normal now, especially in supply chain. We live in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world so we must be ready. Our supply chain must be strong and mature enough to deal with whatever happens so it’s essential to have the right strategies in place for the categories that we manage.
Given your background in negotiating with suppliers are you a really tough customer away from work? How do you choose groceries, goods and services when you are making personal purchases?
I absolutely am. My wife Crystal teases me when she hears me on the phone with utilities companies late into the evening because I will negotiate for hours with them. I definitely take it really seriously when I’m negotiating for anything in life. I’m always trying to find value, convenience and quality.
Outside work what else do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I love playing soccer, watching soccer (I’m a huge fan of Arsenal – my grandmother was from Surrey, England), hiking with the family. I love the beach, the outdoors, the ocean. My ultimate favourite is travelling the world and learning about new cultures, music, food, religion, politics. I’ve done every continent but Antarctica – I’ll have to knock that one off the bucket list some time.
What targets have you set yourself for 2019?
2019 is about building a strong commercial sourcing team so I’ll be focused on engagement by building team trust and support. I’ll be getting the team focused and aligned with the business in where it’s going, so connecting the group to the company objectives and making sure every individual knows how their work will impact those goals. 2019 is also about building brilliant category strategies and understanding the current processes, systems and technologies utilised and needed for the future. Fostering strong relationships with our strategic suppliers through our supplier relationship management process and personally I want to build deep working relationships with my cross-functional peers within the Mars Petcare organisation. In 2020, my focus will shift to deploying those sourcing strategies and implementing those technologies (sourcing systems) needed to support the business. 2020 is about building depth within the team by executing our talent development and succession plans for each position. Then my focus will broaden to building relationships with the other Mars organisations like Mars Wrigley Confectionery and Food. I want to understand their businesses, identify synergies and learn some of the great things they’re doing to see if we can partner up on key sourcing initiatives.
Stuart Richards is a Senior Consultant in the Global Consumer Practice at HW Global Talent Partner, which has supported Mars Inc. with its executive recruitment for more than a decade. Contact him at email@example.com or +44 (0) 161 249 5170 or +44 (0) 7787 254 600.