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The Rise of Fractional Supply Chain Executives – with Dan Marous, Interim/Fractional CSCO & COO

By Published On: March 28, 2024

In This Episode:

In an engaging conversation on the “Supply Chain Careers Podcast,” Dan Marous, a seasoned supply chain advisor and interim executive, delves into the burgeoning trend of fractional and interim executive roles within the supply chain sector. This evolution reflects the industry’s dynamic needs and highlights the importance of fractional supply chain executives in offering their expertise on a part-time or project basis. Let’s explore how the rise of fractional supply chain executives is reshaping the future of supply chain management.

The Journey of a Supply Chain Veteran

Dan Marous’s career, from his early days at Procter & Gamble to significant roles at Staples, Finish Line, and Tegra, illustrates a profound understanding of the supply chain’s changing landscape. His transition to becoming a supply chain advisor and an advocate for the role of fractional supply chain executives underscores the industry’s shift towards flexible, experienced leadership.

Fractional Supply Chain Executives vs. Interim Executives: Catering to Different Needs

The podcast conversation highlighted the critical distinction between fractional supply chain executives and interim executives. Fractional roles, typically part-time, are ideal for startups and small enterprises aiming for growth without the overhead of full-time leadership positions. Meanwhile, interim executives are essential for larger organizations that require dedicated expertise for transitions or major projects. This segmentation allows businesses at various stages of growth to tap into the precise level of expertise and leadership needed, with fractional supply chain executives playing a pivotal role.

The Post-COVID Work Paradigm and Supply Chain Management

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed work paradigms, making remote work and technological advancements the new norm. This shift has enabled fractional supply chain executives to contribute effectively without being physically present, offering a balance of life for these executives and opening up a talent pool for organizations that was previously constrained by geographical or budgetary limitations.

Bridging the Knowledge Gap: Succession Planning and Mentorship

A crucial issue discussed in the podcast is the need for succession planning and knowledge transfer within organizations. As seasoned leaders retire, they leave behind a knowledge gap that needs filling. Fractional supply chain executives, with their wealth of experience, act as invaluable mentors and advisors, ensuring continuity and fostering the development of the next generation of supply chain leaders.

Conclusion: A Strategic Approach to Sustainable Growth

The insightful dialogue with Dan Marous on the “Supply Chain Careers Podcast” illuminates a significant shift in the supply chain domain. The rise of fractional supply chain executives represents a strategic response to the industry’s evolving challenges and opportunities. As businesses navigate the complexities of modern supply chains, leveraging the expertise of fractional supply chain executives emerges as a key strategy for sustainable growth and maintaining a competitive edge. This trend not only ensures that organizations can adapt to changing market dynamics but also underscores the value of experience and mentorship in shaping the future of supply chain management.

Who is Dan Marous?

Dan Marous leads CXO Partners Supply Chain Services practice.  He also supports clients as an interim Chief Supply Chain Officer or COO.  He is currently providing fractional supply chain advisory services to 3 early stage startups.

During his distinguished career, he has held the following positions:

COO, Tegra Global – Tegra Global, an Apollo portfolio company, was founded to support Nike, Fanatics, UA and Adidas with a responsive near shore apparel solution. Dan led, integrated and scaled supply chain capabilities in the US and Central America to grow the Licensed (NFL, NBA and MLB) and non-licensed categories

Chief Supply Chain Officer, The Finish Line – Led the end-to-end omni-channel supply chain and IT teams. Enhanced DTC fulfilment operations and systems. Integrated 100+ “store within a store” expansions at Macys and implemented S&OP with Nike and Adidas.

Multiple VP Positions, Staples – Supported hyper growth across Retail, DTC and B2B supply chains with extensive experience leading Operating functions, Process Improvement, Integration, Network strategy/expansion, Planning, Merchandising and Inventory Management.

Dan began his career at Procter & Gamble in their Finance rotation program and as an Assistant Brand Manager on Downy

[00:00:00] Mike Ogle: Welcome to the supply chain careers podcast. The only podcast for job seekers, professionals, and students who are focused on career enhancing conversations and insights across all aspects of the supply chain discipline. This podcast is made possible by SCM Talent Group, the industry leading supply chain executive search firm.

Visit SCM talent group at scmtalent. com. In this episode of the supply chain careers podcast, we speak with Dan Maris of CXO partners, where he is a supply chain advisor and interim fractional CSCO and COO. Dan tells us why and how companies use fractional executives or interim executives to help with their transformations rather than pursuing full time positions or by hiring consulting companies.

He leans on his experience at companies such as P& G, Staples, Integra. Dan explains how fractional or interim positions work well in specific kinds of situations and sizes of companies in particular stages of their growth or product life cycles. Dan also emphasizes engaging with people who’ve been in a similar situation as you made the mistakes and the wins Understand the risks and opportunities and can share their paths to solutions The podcast closes with a discussion about the need for people doing this kind of work to be great at multitasking Compartmentalizing and communicating.

I’m your podcast co host Rodney Apple and

[00:01:37] Chris Gaffney: I’m your

[00:01:37] Mike Ogle: podcast

[00:01:37] Rodney Apple: co host Chris Gaffney We would like to welcome Dan Morris To the supply chain careers podcast, Dan, welcome to the show.

[00:01:48] Dan Marous: Thanks for having me.

[00:01:50] Rodney Apple: I’m very excited about this topic. As we look at emerging workforce trends within supply chain management.

I’ve been watching this carefully myself as I follow trends here on the recruitment and talent side of supply chain. And. If this has been unfolding for a number of years to where we’re starting to see a greater need for what we can classify as the gig economy and supply chain, where you see the term fractional consulting, interim executives, et cetera.

So I know we’re going to dive into this here into detail, but we always like to start out, Dan, with learning more about your, about your background. You and I have known each other for quite some time. But we’d love to hear some of the earlier influences as you started your career in supply chain, take us through some of those key roles and companies that you’ve worked with leading up to what you’re doing now, which is aligned with more of that gig economy and supply chain.

[00:02:43] Dan Marous: Absolutely. So I’m an Ohio boy. I grew up there and I went to Miami of Ohio and coming out of Miami. I started with Procter Gamble and it was in their finance program. Um, And got some of those core skills. But what was interesting, even back then, they were starting to assign finance resources out into the field to work with our large retail partners.

And my partner in crime was actually somebody who came out of manufacturing and supply chain. And that’s when I first got introduced to this business and it really had a big influence on me. So following about five years at P& G, I attended business school at HBS. And I really wanted to dig in and learn more about this piece and made that a big focus of my education, including my second year of business school.

I did some work with Crate and Barrel as a student with some professors, helping them evaluate their supply chain when they were introducing their furniture business versus housewares. So all that led to coming out of school. I accepted my role with, with Staples. So I stayed up in the Massachusetts area.

Yeah. And I ended up spending 15 years at Staples. It was quite the run there, and it was really interesting because I think it mirrors the evolution of supply chain. So Staples was big on rotating folks around, so I got to do the various functions from network planning, opening up buildings, planning, Inventory management, as well as key operating roles in transportation, furniture installation, and ultimately, I ran a portion of the country for the Staples team, both on the retail and delivery side, but Staples supply chain truly exploded and evolved.

As the supply chain world was changing, as com was being introduced, and as more and more businesses were looking for next day solutions around their B2B piece. So I had just a terrific experience at Staples and really got to see them just significantly grow as a company. And then ultimately that led to four years with the finish line, where I was the chief supply chain officer there in the Indianapolis area.

Great experience there in terms of helping them evolve their direct consumer capabilities, as well as the supply chain solutions around finish line, installing stores within a store, um, with Macy’s and helping with that Macy’s, um, partnership. And then for the last six years, I have been working with a company called Tegra.

Tegra is a play on word for integrate and integrity. Um, but Tegra is a private equity portfolio company owned by Apollo. Um, global management, but has been focused on the near shore supply chain solutions for some of the largest brands, um, and the sportswear. So Nike was our largest partner doing work with fanatics and Under Armor as well as Adidas, but essentially focusing on apparel specifically in the licensed area.

So the cool factor with the NBA, NFL making jerseys, that type of stuff. But more really focused on quick lead time solutions for those folks. A lot of that stuff’s made in Asia. We became the Western hemisphere solution for those products where they really needed tighter timelines. And so spent six years with Tegra.

And then it leads me to where we are today. Uh, for the past few months, I’ve really been embarking upon kind of a new world in the space of advising and doing fractional work, um, which I can certainly speak to and today’s podcast. We’ll get into more details there. But when I look back, so many of those experiences just gave me the Different components of the supply chain.

And now I’m at a stage of my career where I’m getting the opportunity to go work with other companies and smaller companies and getting a chance to put some of those experiences to work for them.

[00:06:28] Rodney Apple: Fantastic.

[00:06:30] Chris Gaffney: So Dan, you and I have in the same ballpark in terms of being in the field. And my general recollection is early on, most larger companies, and I worked at big companies like Frito Lay and Coca Cola, it was a very much of a mindset from a supply chain standpoint to say, we’re going to do this ourself.

We’ll have big operational supply chain teams, but in many cases, big staff. Teams and over the years, those staff resources, which might have been said these internal consultants, people who drove big projects and that type of thing. Those are the flex resources. Those have many cases been whittled down.

And that’s changed the complexion of companies. And for some, they’ve really gotten lean and tried to do that with their operational frontline folks. Others have said, we’re going to work to get, to get outside partners to work with us. But it feels like that’s one of the underlying drivers of why this idea of different ways to tap into supply chain talent, maybe more senior talent is out there, but are there other trends that you’ve seen?

That you’ve seen that maybe as you’ve moved into this space recently have really drove this to be a more popular topic or, and, and, and a resource and an option. Yeah.

[00:07:53] Dan Marous: Um, the short answer is yes, but I think about the first part of your question and, uh, I chuckle myself because. When I was with Staples, to your point, we were a large scale supply chain.

We had a very broad team, lots of subject matter experts. But as we were looking to evolve, especially as we were transitioning from retail to delivery and doing a lot more on the com space, we knew we needed to get some help. And so back then, one of my early experience was working with some of the very large branded consulting companies where they would bring in these experts, and it really gave me an opportunity to see, hey, you really can bring some new thinking in.

So even a company the size of Staples, we did a lot of work with Accenture as an example. But then when I evolved and moved on to the lead role of Finish Line, which was a much smaller company than Staples, I then came to the realization that there were spot areas where I needed some help, but we were not at a size where we can, at the time, afford some of the larger consulting firms.

And so ironically, one of my primary customers or people that I worked with had retired and I actually called him out of retirement. I’m like, Hey, I’m in this new role. Can you help me? And he ended up coming out of retirement and basically independently started doing a lot of consulting and we brought him in and we brought him in on a fractional basis.

But to be honest with you guys, the words fractional didn’t even exist at that point in time. It was just a real subject matter expert and a friend helping me work through some complicated problems. Where I needed a burst of resources. And to then to the second half of your question, I think that thinking has continued on and become a real industry.

phenomenon, if you will. Maybe that’s too big of a word, but an industry trend where there are teams that basically need what I think is a couple situations where they need a burst of expertise and or they need some temporary help and thinking about things. And so I think those trends have emerged. And I think really the whole COVID situation made it even more expansive because I think so many companies came to the realization that I don’t necessarily have to have these people on site every day.

I can leverage the technologies are out there. They can come in periodically to see my operation. They need to be there if it’s an operating piece, but once they have that overview and you’re starting to do some analytics or some different evaluations, it doesn’t have to be. On site all the time, and I think that’s become it’s making it more cost effective, and it’s also bringing people that maybe historically wouldn’t want to do this work because they didn’t want to be on a plane all the time that now folks with these talents are willing to say, Hey, I can do this kind of work.

And so you’re seeing the emergence of independent LLCs. And then companies like the one I work for, where you’re getting an amalgamation of partners and people who are talented and really making a go at this and bringing some great services to those smaller and mid market companies.

[00:10:56] Chris Gaffney: I think that’s probably a bigger factor in this than we realized in my early days, you at a big company working with big consultants, they’d roll in at Monday at, you know, 1030, whenever the first flight into Atlanta was there, and they’d be there until Thursday night. And those people just live there and in many cases, those were younger, you know, maybe at a different place in their life.

And I would say, even before coven, my daughter had consulting friends who were in that same thing. They actually didn’t mind the travel. But it absolutely has changed. And I think it’s a much bigger factor now, as you and I know, peers who are coming out of a big, long career in informal supply chains, either as a, with a brand or with a provider, they have a lot of knowledge and, but they’ve got rules of the game.

I know people who are like, Hey, my, my deal is I’m willing and able to work. A couple days a week that wouldn’t work back then. But now, all of a sudden it is relevant. And I think more and more people are becoming aware of that, both on the demand side and the supply side of this.

[00:12:01] Dan Marous: I agree. And in many ways, I would say I was planful about this, but I also think I was opportunistic about this.

And we’ll talk about this throughout the discussion, the power of networks. But one of my board members, former board members who worked with Apollo, he left and ended up starting his own firm that was into both the V more than the VC space with the smaller companies. But we’d worked together. We made a connection and one of his investment portfolio companies needed some help.

And he actually proactively reached out to me and said, Hey, I know you’re thinking about doing this. Can you help out some of these companies? And that’s when my eyes became open to this fractional world. Because what I began to see is that these companies have real supply chain problems. They’re much smaller in terms of scale.

They don’t necessarily have the budgets to be able to afford folks on a full time basis. And so they’re being creative about bringing in people in to do this type of fractional work. So in my personal situation, they brought me in for a day a week, quote unquote, a day a week. I ended up spreading that over with a few half days.

So I can really get the pulse of the business, if you will. And then they ended up getting series B financing and came to me and said, Hey, can we increase you? And now I’m doing two and a half days with this particular company. But it’s interesting. I think a lot of people are sticking their foot in the water.

By bringing somebody in for that finite period of time, and then as the engagement evolves, your work could end up being strictly advising, it could be project related, or you could actually be filling that operating role and truly playing almost an interim role, which I’m sure we’ll talk about that a little bit today.

[00:13:42] Rodney Apple: Yeah, we should, we should probably get into that for our audience. That may be listening. It’s what the heck you’re talking about fractional and interim and all this. And maybe we could just define that the way I look at it. Like you said, you just described it, Dan. It’s fractional is where you’re spreading yourself out on a part time basis, potentially beyond more than 1 client.

Whereas your interim roles or interim executives is where you’re dedicated exclusively. to one client on a full time basis. Is that accurate?

[00:14:13] Dan Marous: Yeah. And maybe I could jump in. Cause as you guys know, I’m a member of CXO partners, but also interesting enough, CXO partners came out of their original calling, which was tech CXO.

They grew their business in kind of that less than 50 million space doing fractional, really CFOs was the main part of the business. And then they got into the it side of things. And so now they were starting to see some emerging needs with on the supply chain space and I’ve joined them. And so the way they’ve defined it, and again, this kind of gets gray, but those I’ll call it less than 40, 50 million companies where you’re going in there on a part time basis.

We target our business unit tech CXO with that. And we bring a fractional solution in there and fractionals decide just how you define it one day a week, two days a week, or sometimes it may be, I want you 40 hours a month. And I find that work is either there to advise the current leader, or it’s to do a specific project for the current leader where they need a burst of resource.

Within our firm, then, in that kind of 50 to 200 million space, that’s when we launch CXO Partners. And what we’re seeing the differentiation being is we use the word interim instead of fractional. Because once you start getting a company with that size and scale, it’s hard to do that job one day a week or two days a week.

These are roles that really need that full focus. And so we’re finding in these interim roles, People, for the most part, are dedicated full time to these clients, or four, four out of five days a week, because the job demands that. And that’s where we’ve made the differentiation of segments, if you will.

Chris, what’s your experience been? Similar?

[00:15:58] Chris Gaffney: Yeah, I think it’s actually really similar to that. And as you said, there are some parts of this where this idea of fractional and interim has existed for a lot longer. And I think it’s in finance or probably the most, and what you find is people who are familiar with that, they are the ones who were calling and said, could we do this on the marketing side?

Could we do this on the supply chain side? So I think your definitions are very consistent with what I’ve seen. I have seen in my experience in the last few years, there may not be an official definition, but I think the, the characterizations you have are pretty common.

[00:16:37] Dan Marous: And so just to bring this to life for our listeners, I’m working currently with three small companies, but one small company, they are a product based company manufacturing a product that could be made here in the States.

And so I think about that role, there was already a leader of manufacturing, but She was specifically looking for some help where she needed to take care of day to day operations, but they needed to source some new partners. And so what my role was to come in to help them to identify some contract manufacturing partners that could help them scale.

And then again, they were in early stages with research where once they crack the code that they could scale this company. They then needed to launch on their dot com site and needed to have the ability to fulfill the orders. And so my second project with them was helping them to identify a contract packer that would just basically take this product, put it into a packaging.

And ultimately we had to come up with a fulfillment solution for them. So it was very much, I felt like almost as an operator, I felt like I was on their team. And it was like we were all working together. Um, The second company I’ve worked with, there’s an established leader of supply chain, but they’re in the process of putting in a new NetSuite implementation.

But there’s all kinds of work around how do they think about their inventory management processes, safety stock, how do they take their SKUs and break it down into categories and classes. And they really just wanted to get somebody who’s been through one of these ERP implementations to Provide them some frameworks to think about things, but also to learn from, hey, what kind of mistakes have you seen in your life in terms of ERP implementations?

And I’ve been through a bunch of them at Staples, Finish Line and other companies where you can learn as much from the things that went well, but you can also learn from the mistakes or the challenges that you saw in your career. And I found in this particular instance, they’re like a sponge. They want to hear about all the issues we’ve had, And I think this is where we, as further along in our career, things you may take for granted, things that you’ve seen for somebody who’s never been through it before, it, this can be little nuggets of gold for them to go look at this, to think about this, to help keep them from maybe stepping in some of the potholes that we all stood up, stepped in earlier in our careers.

[00:18:57] Chris Gaffney: Yeah, I think that’s a big distinction is essentially somebody in, in listening to our podcast, who says, I haven’t considered that. Their options were. Hire somebody full time, maybe a summer intern, that’s a university person or a consultant big or small and they’re like, Oh, now this option is out there.

How do I think about how this can fit for me? I think 1 of the most important things you brought out is a big differentiator of these resources is they are typically Mid career and beyond people who have a real affinity for the field. As I say, supply chain geeks, if you will, and they’re watching a field that’s evolving before their eyes.

And they’d like to still be in the midst of it and have a point of view. That’s a big distinction between these resources and consultants who may be brilliant. Young, super energetic with lots of structured tools and that type of thing, but they may not have the domain depth. So I think the been there, done that.

Done well in position. Well, is it differentiator for this type of offering? What, what are your thoughts on that, Dan?

[00:20:06] Dan Marous: I just couldn’t agree more. And especially what I found, um, both the companies I’ve worked with are, are been at less than 5 million revenue space and starting to grow. But what I found and I, I, is that they very much, I think they had the option to maybe going and getting what I would call more pure consultants.

But I think they very much, and I think they first got exposed to this fractional work through a fractional CFO from a tech CXO, and he’s been doing a great job with the client. He was on site and they all, they were just talking about, Hey, we have these supply chain challenges. And I think that I ended up getting this role being referred through one of my peers.

But their criteria was somebody who’s been through this before, somebody who’s been to it and can speak with some experience behind them versus theoretical, because in this case, they’re obviously getting support from the software provider and they’re getting a lot of that analytical support. They wanted a little bit more practical.

You’ve done this before. How do you think about this? And I think it’s one of those things that it’s something that I can say I personally bring to the table. But I don’t know if four months ago, I would have appreciated that I can bring that to the table. And that’s something I would just say to all the listeners out there is that we have great experiences that maybe we just take for granted because it’s just our day to day activities.

But for somebody who’s never been through this, if you really take a step back and think about what have I done? You really do bring a lot of value at my advice to folks is to be focused and to try to think about things where you really have had that experience. And if you haven’t had that experience, go try to find somebody within your network who has, because if you’ve had that experience.

This work can be both rewarding and you’ll add a lot of value. If you haven’t had the experience, then maybe that’s not the right engagement for you, but chances are you probably have one of your friends out there who has had that experience. And if you bring them in, they’re going to do a great job. And then they may bring you in on the next client.

And so that’s one of the constructs I’ve used in my mind is that I’m going to really try to focus on engagements and opportunities where I have that level of expertise, but leverage my peer group for those areas. I don’t. And I know, Chris, that was a big part of how you’ve evolved your company as well, right?

Bringing in people with complementary experiences, if you will.

[00:22:32] Chris Gaffney: Yeah, absolutely. I would make a couple of connections on that for discussion. You know, one of the things that I observed is that retired from traditional industry was you mentioned the network matters. And I was fortunate to have a good network.

I was a networking person and I had roles that had Enable that I knew other people who were really capable and interested, but they didn’t know how to plug in whether it’s a CXO partners or whether it’s other entities. One of the things for people are interested in is they get you have to get plugged in if you don’t have your own network.

So I think that’s. Something for people to reflect on is I’m interested in playing in that in this space. But the other thing that I think you mentioned that I think is another selling point. So these are 2 different points is this type of resource can jump in and go to work and impact very rapidly.

Right? There’s not a learning curve. Because they’re not a full time employee, they’re not all hung up with what’s my comp going to be and all that kind of stuff. And in most cases, cause they’re late in career, they don’t need to solve world hunger. They just want to come in and make it, make an impact. I know those are two different things, but give me your, your thoughts on that, Dan.

[00:23:45] Dan Marous: Yeah. So I’m going to start with the second one. I agree in terms of kind of the ability to make that impact. And I also think what’s very interesting is because you’re there for a burst of time. Typically, the partner you’re working with at the client, they don’t see you as a threat. They see you as almost like a sensei, somebody who’s been there, done that, and can help them think through things.

And I think that’s really powerful. And because you’re there for kind of that finite period of time, I have found myself several times saying, Okay, you really need to drill into this particular area because I saw this happen before. And one of the examples I gave with one of my clients was, it’s a simple example, but if you’re going through and doing a systems upgrade and you train people, and then for all the right reasons, you end up delaying the implementation for some technical reason or something like that.

One of the things I learned in my career is that you can’t think about training as a checkbox because if you delay that implementation, they’re going to forget what they got trained. And so I’ve impressed upon him that, You may have to do a retraining because you can’t expect them to remember all these intricacies of this system two months from now, you got to train them and then implement, and if your implementation gets delayed, sorry, but you’re going to have to go do a little refresher or day one, you’re going to have a lot of folks who like, I don’t remember how to do this.

And to me, that was like mom and apple pie, basic stuff. But I think for my client, it was something that he had not thought about. And we ended up kind of making some revisions, if you will, to his project plan. And, and he thanked me for my candor on that. And I didn’t really think I was being candid. I just was telling him the way it was.

And I think that’s one of the things that folks with those experiences bring the table. Uh, and again, it may be something that you did fabulous in your career, or it may be something where. We all, a lot of times learn from our challenges and our career. And sometimes those lessons are even more valuable when somebody is then going through something similar.

[00:25:47] Chris Gaffney: Yeah. It’s almost like a cheat code in a video game. You’re like, nope, I’ve played this level before and gotten stuck here. So I can help you figure out how to get around this one. And in some cases I know people who are like, Hey, I want to see a, an effort like this done really smoothly. I want to watch one more good one and be part of it.

And to your point, I want to impart some of my knowledge to other people. There are some people who that’s just, it’s really important for them to say, I want to pass this wisdom on. So I think most of the people I know. Are in it for the right reason. So their motives are really good in, from a client standpoint.

[00:26:22] Dan Marous: Yeah. I also think that I, not to get too philosophical here at this stage of your career, a lot of it’s basically, are you having a purpose and are you making a difference? And what I, what was a really pleasant surprise is something I’ve really enjoyed. Is that I feel like for these smaller companies with folks who are super bright, but just haven’t been through this before, being able to impart upon them some of those best practices and then, and then seeing those work out for them.

It’s been super rewarding. Not just for me, obviously, you’re going to get your fee.

[00:26:59] Mike Ogle: During this short, we recognize that this podcast is made possible by SCM Talent Group, the industry leading supply chain executive search firm. Visit SCM Talent Group. I do want to

[00:27:06] Dan Marous: go back to your other point that I think may be something that we do want to chat about, and that’s for folks who are thinking about doing this, and that is you could do this single shingle, you can go through kind of companies, but what I have found and what I’m learning, and by no means do I want to propose I’m an expert because I’m just embarking upon this career, but you do have to really be thinking about your business development, And making connections within your own network and then and sometimes this is not comfortable for folks, but maybe reaching out and starting to build your network and and having your peers introduce you to other people where your product offering may be of value to them.

And one of the things that I’m learning. Is that you really do have to spend a significant portion of your time finding kind of those particular opportunities. And I think that’s really a factor of where we are within our professional supply chain. I have peers and friends who have done this fractional work in the CFO space and in the IT space.

And not across the board, but some of those folks, they’re bringing to the table expertise. And then their firms are having a steady flow of business. And they’re really working on the delivery of projects. Now there’s a cost to that, right? There, those firms are going to have kind of their piece of that pie, but other folks, and I don’t want to say that CFOs and CIOs are a layout, but within supply chain, what I’m finding is that it’s just a newer concept.

And so it’s going to be folks that are on that cutting edge. And it’s just old fashioned. You got to get out there. You got to network, you got to have your narrative in line in terms of where you’re adding value. And it, to me, it’s not selling what it is. Here’s what I’m good at. And here’s what I want my practice to be about.

It’s where that meets opportunity. And you, and I always use the phrase, I’m trying to get on folks radar screen. So they know what I’m up to. And then if they have a business problem that comes across their desk and I’m on their radar screen, that I’m going to be in their consideration set. And again, I’m at the very early stages of this, but I’ve, as I’ve talked to other peers in this fractional space.

That’s the consistent theme I’ve heard is that you’ve got to get yourself on the radar screen and you got to be real clear about what your value add and what your narrative is so people could then match up their needs with your skills. Chris, have you found that to be the case with your practice as well?

[00:29:34] Chris Gaffney: Yeah. And I think what I would say after playing in this world for a few years, it’s very hard to do this on your own. Okay. I very rapidly realized It was hard to be relevant as a single individual because there was a bandwidth question and there was the depth of experience. People were like, Hey, you’re good at this, but I need other things as well.

Do someone in our kind of affiliate network. Evolved that way, and I think it was great because, as I said before, some of those really deep SME types, they just didn’t have the network. So on their own, they were always going to struggle with the BD piece of it. I think one way or another, it’s better to be part of a gang, whether that’s formal or informal.

[00:30:17] Dan Marous: And there’s going to be folks who listen to our podcast who may have a different point of view, but I’m with you on that. I did it by myself for about three or four months. Um, did I get some business? Yes. Um, but I wanted to be a part of a group because I’m one of those people that I like to have somebody I can bounce ideas off of.

And when you’re by yourself, I don’t always do my best thinking by myself. So having a peer group. And then, as I said before, the way tech CXO and CXO partners are structured is. We bring other solutions to our clients and then some of those peers are going to be the folks that, hey, if you have a supply chain problem, you may want to talk to Dan and then if I learned that they’re having a financial or accounting problem, then I can have them go talk to my peers in the I.

T. Space C. F. O. Space or what have you. And I think having that gang was one of the things that attracted me to CXO partners, but I know walking in the door, even though I have the gang, I can’t depend a hundred percent on the gang. I still have to own it myself. I have to get out there and do the networking and do the business development.

And for anybody out there, who’s thinking about going down this path, that’s been a consistent message that I’ve heard from people who are very successful in this space. Is they’ve really gotten after it on a personal basis. They’ve been, uh, that’s the one piece of advice that I’m going to pass along, not from experience, but from what I’ve been told by people who I have tremendous respect for, and that’s how I’m going into this is heads down and get after it.

[00:31:46] Rodney Apple: Yep. Yeah. I think what you’re referring to is we call it in the recruiting world. It’s that hidden job market. You’re not going to find these things posted out on Indeed or Monster, is Monster still around, or LinkedIn. It very much is your people that you’ve worked with, your network, as we’ve talked about, and staying on the radar screen is half the battle.

And I think if you are an independent. You lean on your network and then you lean on firms like the ones that you’ve mentioned that you’re joining Dan here at SEM Talent Group, where we’ve dabbled in the space and have placed folks out on contract. And so you want to align yourself with those, depending on your functional background expertise that have access to these opportunities as well.

Another resource we’ve seen, you mentioned Accenture, these tier 1 consulting firms, they do have, they do augment their projects as well, and they have their own portals where you can go in and build a profile. And sometimes you can get contacted by one of these tier ones to come in and help support one of their projects where they don’t have the full time staff or they don’t have anyone on the bench at the time that’s capable of handling those projects.

I’d love to tap into some other use cases. We’ve talked about coaching and advising. We’ve talked about handling projects. You’ve got transformation. Been pretty constant theme. We’ve been contacted to support folks that have gone out on maternity leave or paternity leave, or there’s a sudden leave of absence and no one is there to steer the ship.

What, what are some other cases that you’ve come across? Chris, you’ve got a good one too. That’s super unique. I don’t know if you can talk about it on this. Maybe we don’t name the company, but you, you help. Launch a company with a complete fractional team, right? Is that something you’d want to be able to highlight?

Cause I think that brings visibility into the employers about what the possibilities are. You don’t always need to go out and build a team to get your company going. You can outsource that through some independent resources.

[00:33:49] Chris Gaffney: Yeah, I w I would say. Generally speaking, the startup world is starting to understand this as an option.

And I think there are a couple of different, um, experiences that I think are relevant, but it’s really people who are in rapid growth and need to move quickly and would like to have the benefit of experience because, you know, there are some particular challenges to startups. Um, and so I think that’s probably a use case that.

As I’ve talked to people recently, it’s moving quickly as a, as an option, I could think of three or four different startups that are very intentionally using this model. And it’s again, because people have seen it somewhere else and have said, this is a way I can get. A great amount of experience and do it in a practical way.

And in particular for those early companies, the fractional people aren’t going to be getting involved in the cap table and all that other kind of stuff. And so that frees up the founder to approach how they get things moving in a different way. So that’s definitely. One that I think is on the move is the trend that’s likely to continue.

[00:35:00] Dan Marous: This is probably a slight variation of that, but it’s in that startup space. Just a quick vignette that I think is something for our listeners to consider when you are brought in, when you have any unique skill. One of the first companies I worked with, I thought the CEO, I thought she was so super smart about this, but she brought me on board.

But in addition to giving me, here’s where we need help. She took one of her very junior people. It so happens this person was very smart masters and, and, and engineering and kind of the chemistry of the product, but didn’t have a lot of supply chain experience. And in addition to asking me to go work in certain areas, They asked me if I would play a really formal mentor role for her with the mindset that once we built the capability, that she would sustain the capability.

And so all of a sudden I found myself doing work, but then I saw myself shifting to teacher Dan that had to basically bring somebody along in the process to make sure that she could sustain it over time. And I gotta tell you, that was just an amazing setup because the, the person I was working with. She knew the product inside and out and we just ended up complimenting each other.

So everything I didn’t know about the product, she, it seems like she knew it. And then I became the teacher of some of these supply chain things. And it’s just been really, it’s been a lot of fun. And I think it’s been a lot of value add to the company. So if you do get in that position. I would encourage any listener if you could to have somebody in there that you’re passing your knowledge onto and sustaining it so you don’t just come in there and be a one hit wonder.

And then you move on to your next engagement and then the company has problems. That’s not going to be good for your longterm brand and it’s not good for that company. So having somebody who could sustain it would be one of the things I’d encourage to think about.

[00:36:54] Rodney Apple: Yeah, that’s a great idea and it’s very important.

We hear a lot about, especially here on the talent side of supply chain recruitment side that baby boomers are retiring in droves. The number it’s every day more and more hitting the retirement age and that’s going to quickly be around the corner where in the next five, six years, the vast majority of that generation has hit retirement age.

And we know that. There’s a big gap below that, because 20 some years ago, there were only a handful of universities that taught supply chain. We were not pumping enough people into the workforce. We are now there’s 125 plus universities teaching it, but there’s still that gap there in the middle management area.

So I think for me, maybe talk about. Risk to businesses, uh, you’ve got an enormous amount of knowledge. That’s about to walk out of the door. And what I’ve always found too, is that supply chain operations, people retirement is not something that’s in their vocabulary. They’re so used to doing something and solving problems and keeping operations going, it’s in their blood.

It’s in their DNA. And I’ve always found that people hit that retirement age. You have a vast majority don’t really retire. They might do the trips and the honey to do’s. And then they’re looking to get back in and work part time. So I think this model, it makes sense. It’s these workforce trends are going to drive this, that we’re talking about now.

But what are you seeing Dan, from that perspective and Chris?

[00:38:18] Dan Marous: So as a Gen Xer, I like when they retire, cause that then creates more opportunities, uh, that’s right. That’s space. Uh, but. I think you said it. Well, I think there are many companies that are trying to think about their succession plans. And I think at first they think about that succession plan from a full time basis and they need to do that.

But I think that’s where and again, our practice is just emerging. But I think that’s one of the areas where we’re going to be able to hopefully fill in some gaps because I can certainly see a scenario where they have somebody that they’re ready to pass the mantle to, but maybe to your point, because they haven’t had as much of this kind of traditional supply chain experiences and stuff like that, bringing in fractionals that can help these more junior leaders as they take on these bigger roles, not unlike what we talked about with these startups, but playing a very similar role.

Um, with somebody who’s maybe taking on a bigger chair at a larger company, boy, if they can get the, uh, the benefit of somebody like Chris, who’s been in that role and have a, uh, a chunk of time with somebody with that kind of background that can really set them up for success. And so I haven’t personally experienced it, but I know that scenario is out there and that’s one of the things as we develop our practice at CXO partners.

That’s one of the areas we have in mind is almost that coaching mentoring as somebody ascends to that next level job, but maybe without as much experience as perhaps what folks did a few years ago.

[00:39:52] Chris Gaffney: Yep. What do you think, Chris? Yeah, I, without being too specific, because I know a lot of folks in this boat, you’ve got senior folks who are getting ready to go out the door.

In the next year or two, and they are missing a rung on the ladder. They’ve got people who are going to be exceptional five to seven years out, but it’s in a baseball, it’s bringing a single a pitcher up and they’ve got a pitch against the Dodgers on Friday night. Someday they’re going to be great. Or it’s an NFL team that, that puts the first round draft pick in the game right away, and they really take hard knocks.

If you could do it and protect those people. Over that, they may not need the whole 5 years, but bringing them in a year or 2 early can be really difficult for the organization. And it can really damage an individual people who think about that in a smart way, um, may tap into this resource pool. Because again, somebody who comes in there and backstops that person.

You know, for a very short time, a year or two could make a huge difference for those organizations.

[00:40:55] Dan Marous: And I feel like it’s safe for that emerging leader, because this person’s not going to try to take their job. So it’s like a safe space. Where they can, quote unquote, ask maybe that question that they feel like is a dumb question that they wouldn’t want to ask in a, one of their direct reports or in a broader room.

You’re going to have this, this veteran that, hey, you can bounce something off of them. And I think that there’s something to be said that for, for those folks out there in the HR space, having a resource for that emerging leader. You may, to Chris’s point, be doing that person a huge favor, even if it’s for a few months, just to help them get on board and to have somebody that they can talk to, bounce ideas off, because chances are the issues they’re seeing, folks like us have seen it before, and we can give them some valuable insight.

[00:41:43] Rodney Apple: I think it bleeds right into transformations. We touched on that earlier, but there’s, of course, there’s project work. There’s always projects. You define scope of work and time and budget, and we’ve got to get this accomplished and boom, go knock it out. But formations can be multi year journeys. And as we know, and we’ve talked about this before on prior podcasts, most transport transformations fail.

And so looking at having a resource pool, especially in the next few years with very senior people, very, Solid SMEs walking out the door. It’s a great pull your product, your transformation gets off track. You’re falling behind. It’s not being sustained at your front line, bringing in some resources like this to help lead through that transformation, drive some of the change and the communication.

Yeah, I think this is going to be a good resource pool. And I know Chris, if I recall, you’ve worked on, I think it’s with one of the bottlers where you’ve come in and helped. They got a little bit behind on the communication. It wasn’t really sticking. And I know that if I recall, that’s something that you’ve done.

[00:42:43] Chris Gaffney: Yeah, I’ll always generalize because we work with lots of people that’s easier to say it that way. I definitely think when somebody’s making a big shift, whether it’s organizationally or it’s in their infrastructure, and they haven’t done it in a long time, it’s like, how do you bring in the soft skills and the business context to say, give us the benefit of someone who’s seen this and done this a lot and help our people be really successful around it.

And I think that’s where the. Augmentation piece of it is really important. It needs to be led by the internal team. And we’ve done some of these where we were in the front early and we realized that’s not the right thing. We need to get out of, we need to be behind the scenes and support the leaders so that they can go out there and be in the front with confidence and have the phone, a friend close by.

Or somebody off stage who may help them with a line here and they’re done. Well, that can be very impactful. And I think we, we feel like we’ve done that for a few people.

[00:43:46] Dan Marous: I think that’s a great example. I like how you said the soft skills because so many of these transformations, a lot of the challenges end up not necessarily being the.

Technical challenges. A lot of it has to do with the change management components. And so one of the capabilities I’ve tried to bring to the table with my clients is thinking about some simple communication frameworks and about how are you going to keep the CEO up to date on what’s going on with this particular project?

What is going to be your regular cadence? What, what kind of tool, what kind of simple tools so you don’t overwhelm them? Are you going to use to keep them up to speed? And again, that’s basic. It’s. Probably mom and apple pie stuff. We take for granted. But if you’re earlier in your career, you’ve never done this transformational work before.

You haven’t really thought through some of those things. And I think that’s one of the things I’ve tried to help my partners with is be thinking about how you’re going to get people on board and making sure you don’t get yourself quote unquote on an island. Because as we all know, these transformations, they’ve got to be you.

Company transformations, not supply chain transformations, because if it’s just the supply chain, inevitably, that’s where you’re going to get a lot of challenge with these transformations.

[00:44:57] Rodney Apple: Exactly. Well, as we wrap this up, we’d love to talk about, and obviously we’re trying to bring some visibility into this because it is becoming a bigger thing, but maybe the pros and cons, because we talked about.

Where’s the next gig coming from? But I think from looking at that, the, from the employee perspective, I think it also brought a lot of people time to self reflect and they’re at home. They’re with their family. They may need to travel all the time. They’re realizing what’s important is right in front of them.

And I think people lose sight of that sometimes when you get on the grindstone and you’re traveling all over the world, but you’re in charge of your destination. Right. And you can get that work life balance. Back into a really good place as much as you want, maybe share some of that. What have you experienced from transitioning from corporate into these more gig based roles?

[00:45:49] Dan Marous: So I can’t say I’m the poster child for having done that appropriately my whole career, but it just so happens that when my previous company was going through some transition, which ultimately led to my transition. It just was at a time where I happen to have a senior in high school and I really felt like it was one of these things where we had a lot of decisions had to be made about potential colleges and stuff like that.

I won’t get into the gory detail, but boy, it was nice. Like with my other two who are older, I didn’t go on as many of those college visits. I could say I went on every single college visit with this kid and he still hasn’t made his decision yet. But I, it’s been very rewarding as, as a father to be a part of that.

And I think what enabled that is I’ve been on these college visits, but I’ll still say, Hey, I got to go take this call. This world of, of, of not having to be there all the time. is really good for parents. I didn’t have that growing up. And a lot of times my wife had to play a lot of those on site roles.

And I’ve really enjoyed the flexibility of this work, allowing me to do a parent. And then the other thing I’ll just say is I’ve had several of my peers that are in this fractional world. But they’ve also been able to do some things like maybe some hobbies or passions that they have, or even things like getting their health back in a better spot.

I think sometimes with the stress of a lot of our roles, we don’t realize that, but then you take that step back and get on a better exercise regimen, or eating, or whatever your situation is. But I’ve had so many people I’ve talked to that said, ever since I’ve made this transition, I’m actually healthier.

Than I was before. And I thought that was just a, I’ve heard that from multiple people. So I’ll just throw that out for folks to chew on a little bit. I thought that was interesting.

[00:47:31] Chris Gaffney: Yeah, I’m going to agree with that and I’ll endorse that. And I won’t go into it because I totally agree with that. I think the watchouts for people working on this, particularly if you deal with multiple clients is you really have to be good at compartmentalizing.

You have to be super disciplined at managing your client. And your calendar, because you’ve got to manage crossovers there. That’s sometimes why it’s better to have a gang. There may have somebody who can back you up if you’ve got a conflict, that’s not manageable. And so your calendar can look like Swiss cheese.

And so if you could, if you could be deft at that, it works well, but it is definitely a watch out. It is someone you have to have tools to be disciplined around. Managing your time and figuring out how you get work done. Otherwise you’re actually booked for 25 hours a week, but you have a created space, um, in your calendar to do those other things.

So you’ve got to be cautious about that.

[00:48:30] Dan Marous: And just to build on what Chris said, I completely agree with that. And the one thing that I found that helps is having that kind of person, your right hand person at the client. So you’re not all the burdens 100 percent going on you. So if you’re doing project work and some analysis has to be done, ensuring you have that person there that’s helped carrying that load will sustain it, but also take some of that burden off your back.

That’s been one of the things that I’ve tried to do to help with that calendar management that Chris referenced.

[00:49:00] Rodney Apple: It’s great advice. And I think maybe wrapping up here on, we haven’t really talked about compensation in the form of the. Consultant versus the cost on the employer side, maybe we could just touch on that real briefly, not asking for what do you guys make per hour or anything, but it’s more and I’ve seen these numbers and from speaking to different people at different levels and, and overwhelmingly, I’ve heard that, wow, I’m actually taking home more money, um, than I was in corporate.

And so you can, to a degree, you can’t just set some super high billing rate, but. The tier ones are going to come in and those, it’s going to be cost prohibitive for a lot of the smaller companies. You can actually afford these resources, these independents are going with a smaller boutique fractional firm, like the one you’re joining, Dan.

So any perspectives to share there, both on the compensation side, like what you could look towards as somebody that may want to eventually move into this space as well as like employers where they might could actually save a lot of money when it comes to billing rates. Compared to your larger consulting companies,

[00:50:06] Dan Marous: Chris, I’ll let you jump in 1st because you’ve been doing this a little longer than me, but I’ll share a thought at the end.

[00:50:12] Chris Gaffney: Yeah, I think for both clients and for people that are in the game, it’s like everything else. You need to get on the market and understand what the market is. We’ll bear in what’s fair, right? It’s not hard to find out what the big folks charge and those can be pretty sporty numbers. All I would say is that there’s a lot of room underneath that makes it rational for people to play in this space.

I think on the other side of it. Everyone I know who was trying to think of what’s an hourly rate, what can I charge? What I do know is in most cases, they’re the people that I know, whatever their mental model was in terms of what they were going to invest from an hour standpoint. They usually spend more time than they’re actually getting credit for.

And, and, and so you just have to be thoughtful about that. And so for the client, they may say, well, that sounds like a lot of money and pick a number. The reality is my people are always putting more time in that the client than the client ever actually gets paid, gets billed for.

[00:51:11] Dan Marous: I’ve had this similar experience as well, just because I think we’re all wired to be on what, once you get in and you get intellectually committed to it, you definitely have to make sure you’re tracking the time and then you got to bill appropriate.

I think the other thing that I learned and that I hadn’t thought through. Is that you do have to get plan full and this is basic stuff of making sure that you’re tracking your time. And then just thinking about how you’re going to do the billing. And then, you know, and then if you’re a 10 99 or a K one or whatever, all of a sudden your whole life, you’ve been getting a paycheck and all the taxes, everything you’re taking out.

Now you got to manage that piece. You just have to be thoughtful about some of those basics that you haven’t had to do in a long time. And so my advice to folks out there is if you’re thinking about doing it, don’t reinvent the wheel. Call a friend who’s doing it and they’ll very quickly say, you need to think about this and this.

And I did simple things like a separate credit card. So all those expenses only go one spot. I opened up a separate bank account. Just simple things just to keep things straight. This is not rocket science, but you do have to keep it straight. Yeah.

[00:52:15] Rodney Apple: Having a CPA, I think is, uh, is exceptional advice. If you’re not savvy with taxes, because the employer in a W 2 is going to pay that Half of that employer is employer related taxes, unemployment tax, et cetera.

When you’re 1099, you’re taking on ask me how I know this, you get this enormous bill from the IRS. You’re like, what the heck? It’s very wise to invest, maybe a bookkeeper if you need it, but definitely seek the counsel of maybe a CPA that can get you straight on the front end. So you’re not getting these surprise bills on the back end.

And then you’re. Questioning. Why did I do this? Anything else to add gentlemen, for folks that may be looking to get into this or employers that may looking to tap into this evolving trend in the workforce.

[00:53:02] Chris Gaffney: My, my last point would be, you have to accept that they’re going to be ebbs and flows to this. And in some of that you can schedule and some of that you can’t, but I think you’ve got to be comfortable with that reality.

And in all honesty, if that’s not something that makes you feel comfortable, then you probably need to look at a different approach.

[00:53:20] Dan Marous: I think the last thing I would say is two things. One is I’ve worked for some very large companies and I was in this private equity portfolio space where you really had to get your hands dirty.

And if you get into this space, just be prepared that at some point you need to build the framework. You need to build a spreadsheet. And so you may have had a lot of your career where you have teams doing this for you. You, you’re going to have to do some of that stuff yourself. So just get your mind ready that you’re, you’re going to have to get in there and actually really create some of the content.

And you can say that’s a positive or negative thing, depending on your personal perspective on that. But the thing I would just leave folks with is I’ve ended up going down this path because I’ve just really enjoyed the work. I found it to be very rewarding and I’ve really enjoyed working with these emerging companies.

And it’s just a neat situation where the advice and the work you do, you see it making a difference for them. It’s a cool feeling. And so that’s not an economic thing, but it does give you some satisfaction. And I think folks out there who dip their foot in this water, that might be something that they really enjoy.

[00:54:22] Rodney Apple: Thank you very much for that, Dan. In closing, if any of our listeners had some interest in checking out the firm that you’re joining, where could they find more information?

[00:54:31] Dan Marous: Yeah, so we’re, you can just CXO partners or text CXO. And and there you could see our partners and the type of services that we provide and certainly anybody has any questions, wants to talk a little bit more, they certainly can reach out to me.

[00:54:47] Rodney Apple: Thank you, Dan. Yeah. And I’ll offer that up to as well. SCM Talent Group, we’re dabbled in the space. We’ve placed some folks on contract and it’s, it’s an area where a lot of people are coming to us asking, how can I transition into this arena? And so I’m happy to talk to people that want to make that transition as well.

So just reach out scmtalent. com. Chris and Dan, thank you so much. Dan, we really appreciate you sharing your time. We wish you well as you embark in this new chapter of your career. And we look forward to staying in touch to see how things are going and types of projects you’re working on. So we appreciate you joining us today.

Thanks for having me. This was fun. Yeah, very much enjoyed it. Good deal.

[00:55:27] Mike Ogle: I learned a lot. Thanks for listening to this episode of the supply chain careers podcast. Be sure to listen to other episodes and sign up to be notified when future episodes are released as we continue to interview industry leading supply chain experts.

This podcast is made possible by SCM Talent Group, the industry leading supply chain executive search firm. Visit SCM Talent Group at

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