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Podcast: The Journey of Creating a Supply Chain Consulting Business, with the founders of Profit Point Inc.

By Published On: September 22, 2023

Hosts: Rodney Apple and Chris Gaffney

In This Episode:

We speak with Alan Kosansky and Jim Piermarini, co-founders of Profit Point Inc, a consulting company focusing on supply chain network design, supply chain technologies, and developing targeted solutions for their clients. Alan and Jim provide their own career stories along with what it takes to start a business. They give us their thoughts about the kind of people they look for to perform consulting and the range of skills they need to bring to the table. They talk about the evolution of employer-employee relationships and provide career advice to those getting into and wishing to advance in the industry. And they talk about the importance of establishing a community and an ecosystem to draw on during a career in supply chain. Alan and Jim provide their thoughts about how to work with clients and the proper balance of people, process, and technology.

Who are Jim Piermarini and Alan Kosansky?

Jim Piermarini is a Chemical Engineering alum from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He has a deep-rooted history in the chemical sector. With a decade of direct engineering and over twenty years improving operations for giants like Dow Chemical and ExxonMobil, Jim’s expertise is undeniable. As Profit Point Inc’s CEO for 28 years, he’s integrated cutting-edge software to refine supply chain processes. He’s particularly adept in supply chain management, eBusiness, and system design, prior to starting Profit Point he made significant strides in global supply chain reengineering at Rohm and Haas. Jim also graduated from the Management Program at The Wharton School.

Alan Kosansky is a supply chain expert specializing in assessment, process redesign, and technology implementation. As the President of Profit Point, Inc. for over 28 years, he’s provided comprehensive supply chain solutions. Alan has collaborated with notable firms like the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and Dow Chemical on software and optimization projects. With his team at Profit Point, Alan focuses on identifying supply chain risks and enhancing operational efficiencies. Alan also holds a Ph.D. in Mathematical Sciences from The Johns Hopkins University.

[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 scmtalentgroupatscmtalent. com to search for or to post supply chain jobs. Visit the Supply Chain Job Board at supplychaincareers. com. Are you tired of struggling to optimize your supply chain? Look no further than ProfitPoint. The experts in supply chain network design and technology integration solutions.

Visit ProfitPoint. com to learn more. That’s ProfitPT. com. In this episode of the Supply Chain Careers Podcast, we speak with Alan Kossansky and Jim Piermarini, co founders of ProfitPoint, a consulting company focused on supply chain network design, supply chain technologies, and developing targeted solutions for their clients.

Allen and Jim provide their own career stories, along with what it takes to start a business. They give us their thoughts about the kind of people they look for to perform consulting and the range of skills they need to bring to the table. They talk about the evolution of the employer employee relationship and provide career advice about those getting into and wishing to advance in the industry.

And they talk about the importance of establishing a community and an ecosystem to draw on. During a career in supply chain, Alan and Jim provide their thoughts about how to work with clients and the proper balance of people, process, and technology.

[00:01:47] Rodney Apple: I’m your podcast co host, Rodney Apple. 

[00:01:49] Chris Gaffney: And I’m your podcast co host, Chris Gaffney

[00:01:54] Chris Gaffney: Welcome to another episode in our Supply Chain Careers podcast series focusing on leaders and their careers. And Rodney. And I are excited for this episode. This is a unique one, unique in a couple of reasons. Number one, we seldom have multiple guests on at the same time. And so we’re privileged to have Jim Pierbirni with me.

As well as Alan Kosansky, the co founders of Profit Point. And I am fortunate to have known and worked with the Profit Point team now for approaching 20 years, but have done some really exceptional work with the team over the last couple of years. And we really thought it would be great to hear the story of Jim and Alan in starting this business, what the business does today, many of our.

Audience are interested in careers, both in supply chain analytics, supply chain optimization, and potentially doing that as a consultancy. So, uh, with that, welcome, Alan and

[00:02:53] Alan Kosansky: Jim. Thanks,

[00:02:55] Jim Piermarini: Chris. Yeah, thanks, Chris.

[00:02:57] Chris Gaffney: So, as I said, we’re going to get into our traditional flow of questions. But we’d love to start with just a little bit about ProfitPoint as it is today, role and need and fit that ProfitPoint fills for its clients out in the market would be wonderful.

[00:03:14] Alan Kosansky: Sure. So we focus on supply chain solutions. primarily in three areas. The first is supply chain network design, looking out both strategically and tactically as to what company needs in terms of supply chain infrastructure, where they should make stuff, how they should distribute it, possibly how they should source their raw materials, and best way, best route to get product to their customers.

So that’s our first area. Our second area is implementing supply chain technology. Uh, typically from the larger third party vendors of supply chain software. So we implement, uh, supply planning, demand planning, uh, production scheduling, transportation and distribution optimization, typically larger packages that are larger implementations that require a level of supply chain expertise to get them running effectively for our customers.

And then the third area, which may be the most interesting is we develop targeted solutions for our customers, often optimization based where the large supply chain vendors don’t have anything where there’s a little gap in the marketplace. Customers see an opportunity for competitive advantage if they do something a little bit different than what their competitors are doing.

And if you

[00:04:32] Chris Gaffney: could also talk a bit about the team. The skills and experiences of the team, how people came to the team and a bit, maybe a bit about the organizational culture and kind of philosophy. Of y’all as owners of the business. 

[00:04:47] Jim Piermarini: Sure. The, the interesting thing about profit point is that we’re a small boutique company that we have folks on our staff who have many years of experience working for large companies who know how things work, who have often done a planning or scheduling job and their backgrounds are typically.

Either in operations, meaning operations, research or supply chain or engineering. And that’s important because we need to speak to those types of folks in our roles at companies. But we also need to speak to the C level folks that we can relate the benefit of changing your supply chain into balance sheet and bottom line.

Benefits for companies. And as I say, everyone has 20, 25 years of experience in working in the industry. So they know what matters and they know more importantly, what doesn’t. So we can focus on the right things to bring the benefits.

[00:05:53] Alan Kosansky: It’s our primary role is to be the bridge between technology and business decision making.

So we look for people that have experienced both with technology. And with business decision making per the Jim’s comments about their roles in the past so that they can effectively act as that bridge.

[00:06:12] Chris Gaffney: So 1 more question for me that I think is really relevant for our audience before we dive into your careers.

Profit point has been in business, if I’m not mistaken, since 1995. So that’s a long time in the space of supply chain analytics. Could you speak a little bit about how you’ve seen the field? Evolve and how you and the team work to stay current as things have, as evolved, because I think that’s a big passion point we advocate for there are folks who are interested in the analytics and frankly, all areas of supply chain that you’ve got to be a lifelong learner.

You’ve got to stay relevant. How have you all approach that over the life of profit point? 

[00:06:55] Alan Kosansky: When we started, Jim and I had a commitment to always use the best technology available in the marketplace. So we started with a strong partnership with a particular software vendor, who we’ve worked with for many years, but we’ve also over time evolved to new software vendors.

So as new technology hits the marketplace, we try to be early learners of it and early adopters if we think. It’s better or a better fit for our customer than what’s already in the marketplace. You use the term lifelong learner when we hire folks. That’s primarily what we’re looking for are folks that are excited about being the first to understand and use new technologies.

And I lied,

[00:07:42] Chris Gaffney: I have one more question. When I talk about the work I do with the team, I describe a number of things about the culture, but I think it’s unique to have this deep supply chain optimization business be essentially a family owned business, two families in this case. But what do you want to say about the culture and the philosophy of the ownership that would be relevant for potential employees or clients?

[00:08:06] Jim Piermarini: Well, as Alan mentioned, we look for people that want to be early adopters and learn the technology, but they can also speak to the businesses. It’s a culture of not just lifelong learners, but self starters, and We want, and we attract people who like doing this stuff for whom supply chain is exciting and interesting.

And so they’re always exploring new aspects of it, whether that means better ways to do inventory management or optimization or other kinds of technologies or business processes that matter. Uh, to our customers, we’re always exploring new elements. Like just this morning, I was talking to some of our team members about exchange swaps and tolls and the important business value that you can get from that and, and the folks on the call on internally got really excited about that and they were like, yeah, that sounds really good.

There seems like there’s huge amount of money involved in that. And that’s just the kind of people. That, that our culture fosters, right? That, that we look for folks who, and we have folks for whom that stuff is actually interesting. Many people don’t find it interesting, but we do.

[00:09:34] Alan Kosansky: Yeah, I’d also say, Chris, that we really believe that people should enjoy their work.

So we’re looking both for people who enjoy their work and looking for ways to help them enjoy their work. We’re a very flat organization, and in some ways, I see my primary. Um, job to be to help people do the kind of work they enjoy to do. They enjoy doing obviously working for people that enjoy doing supply chain work, but really helping people have fun because we really believe that carries over to really good work for the customer.


[00:10:09] Rodney Apple: I echo that. I just spoke at ISM conference 1 of the core messages I delivered. There were a lot of students out of the audience and I said they were. Asking questions around like, where do I start? There’s so many career paths. And I said, well, you got to figure out what you’re good at. Uh, you got to figure out what you enjoy doing.

You got to find somewhere that you have fun and cause life’s too short otherwise to do anything less. Uh, having a good boss is important. A great culture that aligns with your values. And so kudos to you guys for creating that culture and looking for the folks that align and have fun doing the type of work that you specialize in.

I’d like to go back to kind of more of the history where you guys started, maybe what kind of prepared you to be in a position to found Profit Point?

[00:10:54] Jim Piermarini: Yeah, sure. I’m happy, Rodney, to tell you this story. It actually started in about 1990. I was working at a chemical plant and my boss called me into his office and he said, Hey, Jim, I need you to build me a materials management system.

And I said to him, what’s that? He said, I don’t know. I said, okay, I’ll do it for you then. And that spawned a project to build a materials management system for the company I was working for. What that meant was forecasting and doing DRP and doing MRP and doing planning and scheduling. The supply chain name didn’t exist yet.

So for us at the time. It was materials management and then that morphed into a larger corporate wide project. To do a re what we called it a re engineering project that looked at all aspects of the business from cash buying raw materials to cash that we receive when we ship the material to the finished goods to the customers and everything in between and that’s actually where I Met Alan on this project to look at this comprehensive look across all elements of the business all Uh, all elements of the business, including manufacturing and warehousing and network design.

I had my responsibility in this team. There were nine people on this team. My responsibility was production planning and production scheduling in this team. And Alan’s was strategic network design, and I’ll let him talk about that. And. The upshot was that we say we had a mission to add a significant amount to the bottom line of the company, um, 100 million to the bottom line of the company, and we demonstrated 150 million added to the bottom line of the company, which was a very nice exceeding of our goal.

That project went on for several years. And I couldn’t face going back into a junior role again, we had access to all of the VPs and all of the higher level management and the plant managers all around the world. And when you start asking the questions, why are you doing it this way? It doesn’t make sense.

There’s a better way and here’s the better way. You just can’t go back, right? And so when the project was winding down, Alan looked at me and he said, you know, we could do this for other people. And I was a little nervous, leaving the company was a big deal for me, but together we figured out how to do that.

And I haven’t looked back. It’s been absolutely terrific.

[00:13:42] Rodney Apple: Thank you for that. It’s a fascinating… To hear the kind of the initial founding and it sounds like you were doing supply chain before supply chain was even around as a corporate function back to the material management days. And so it sounds like Alan, you were on the strategic network design would love to hear a little bit about your background, how you got started and what led you to move into that particular field.

[00:14:05] Alan Kosansky: Sure. I was studying applied mathematics, a lot of optimization stuff, fairly theoretical, but I knew pretty quickly that I wanted to do more applied stuff. So my last year, I happened to be in Philadelphia writing my dissertation, and it just so happened that the National Operations Research Conference was in Philadelphia that year.

So I went down and I opened up the agenda and I looked for all the professional large companies that had operations research folks talking at that conference. I went to every single talk of that type and I sat down to next to some people from the company where I met Jim. Um, and, um, introduced myself and ended up, they had a small operations research group of six people.

Uh, so I joined that group. We did a wide range of applied optimization. A lot of it in the, what is now the supply chain space. We did, uh, I did production scheduling. I did material distribution for certain business that was optimization based. And some of the folks that I worked with in that operations research group were actually a bit antagonistic to the, the more corporate material management folks that Jim was aligned with because they had different ideas, um, About how best to solve these problems and I started out as a bridge made partly because of my personality between those folks and the material management folks and ended up on the larger corporate team that Jim was on.

And then we moved into different areas. I led the network design team, which we went about. Designing a new process for the company because nobody was doing network design. Then we went about a process to select technology to support that process. We had a lot of fun, Jim and I going around the world, demonstrating three different solutions, getting feedback from a wide range of.

Folks across many businesses and we selected technology and started implementing it, the new process, more importantly, and we did about a half a dozen projects. And then I said to Jim, lots of people need this. Let’s do this for a lot more people than just the folks who are working for now. So off we went.

[00:16:27] Mike Ogle: During this short break, we recognize that this podcast is made possible by SCM Talent Group, the industry leading supply chain executive search firm. Visit SCM Talent Group. At SCM talent. com to search for or to post supply chain jobs, visit the supply chain job board at supply chain careers. com. Are you tired of struggling to optimize your supply chain?

Look no further than profit point to be experts in supply chain network design and technology integration solutions. Visit profit point. com to learn more. That’s profit pt. com.

[00:17:06] Chris Gaffney: So, all of us on this call have worked for large corporations, and in one form or another, we’re now all entrepreneurs. I’m the late stage entrepreneur, Rodney, you’re mid and Jim and Alan, you were earlier in your career.

Talk to us about your advice for folks. It’s not for everyone or whatever. You had a belief that you offered something different, but think back to those days and advice to folks who aspire to this and kind of what your early learnings were as you all jumped into this business.

[00:17:41] Jim Piermarini: Yeah, I’ll start with this and maybe Alan can finish it.

We do that a lot, where we finish each other’s thoughts. In 1995, when we started, we talked about this at some length in our re engineering project, because it also touched on the corporate culture. In 1995, in the early 90s, there was a transition happening where the loyalty between employer and employee was eroding and many folks who were a little older than us still held firmly to the belief that an employer took care of, paternalistically took care of, The employee, our generation saw that, that social contract eroding away, and we could see that, um, what it’s going to be like for us when we are 50 is going to be very different than what it’s like for the folks who were 50 in 1990, that contract is gone, and you need to take care of yourself, and it’s a gradual transition, but from 1990 to now, it’s In those 30 years, I think it’s pretty well, um, eroded away completely.

And so now to the new generation of folks coming out of school, I think it wouldn’t be any big revelation, um, to say, you need to market yourself. You need to take care of yourself because no employer is going to do that for you. Having said that, one of the reasons Alan and I started the company was.

Because we believed a bit in that social contract. And… That we felt somewhat strongly that it didn’t need to be, it didn’t need to erode away completely or as fast as it is. And so we said, Hey, we can run a company slightly differently that doesn’t place such a large emphasis on just the bottom line, but rather put some emphasis on the, way we treat our people and the way we want to work.

So we wanted to build an environment for ourselves that we wanted, and we find that other people find that attractive too. So, the advice I would give to a young person is Early in their career is some people fit that corporate mold and they fit it great and they’ll be able to work through it and move to their level that they’ll find interesting and rewarding for themselves and other people don’t and recognize it early and get out, strike out on your own, do the hard thing, find customers, Bring them some value and live the way you want to live.

[00:20:45] Rodney Apple: Life is too short. I certainly echoed that. Yeah, myself. And I would love to hear your, your side of that.

[00:20:49] Alan Kosansky: Yes, certainly the social contract that Jim spoke to in the culture of the kind of community we wanted inside the company is a big part of what we did. There’s another part that I also want to talk to, which is just doing interesting work.

So. I never wanted to be in school, so I got out of undergraduate super early, as fast as I could, and I took a job as a computer programmer at AT& T because I could make some money when I was 21. And after about six months, the work I was doing was dreadfully boring, but I had the really fortunate opportunity to have contact with two really interesting people.

One was one of the initial developers of the Unix system was one of, which was one of the early operating systems. And the second was a guy at Bell labs who is a PhD optimization guy. And I was helping him schedule the first video teleconferencing that existed in the world. And I realized watching these two guys.

that I didn’t really know anything. And that was, for me, the impetus to go back to, uh, grad school, which didn’t really help me learn that much, because the biggest thing you learn at grad school is how much you don’t know. But all those experiences gave me a sense that there’s just so much out there to learn and to do, and to work hard to find it, right?

Don’t follow in somebody else’s footsteps. Find what’s really interesting out there, and be creative.

[00:22:13] Rodney Apple: I know Chris, he’s gotten out a little bit later and has striked out on his own and one thing we find in common denominator with folks that kind of work on the supply chain operations side of the business, one of their anxieties is getting out and kind of putting on the commercial hat, like, okay, I’m going to go out and work as a consultant.

I’ve got a project in mind, but then they, the fear of what’s after that. I’m gonna roll off this project. How am I gonna find the next one? Could you talk a little bit about that? Because I think a lot of people stay in their zone in their lane and they don’t ever strike out because they’re worried about like, I know I could do a good job for clients and add value, but How am I gonna find that next client and the next client?

Can you talk about maybe?

[00:22:59] Jim Piermarini: Yeah, I’m gonna start that story and we’ll let Alan finish it because it’s kind of funny I was in exactly that spot when Alan approached me and said hey Jim, let’s get out. Let’s do this for other companies I said, hey, look, I have 10 years at this company. I’m on track to be whatever mid level management or maybe higher, I’d be throwing that away.

It’s scary stuff. We can probably get the first customer, but how do we get the next customer? And so we had a long conversation about this and we had a software partner that really helped us. We went on a visit to that software partner. And I said to Alan, look, I have three criteria. here. I’m not going to do this unless Tom at the software company, the owner says he’s going to do three things for us.

That one, he’s going to give us unfettered access to his software so that we can use it because we were using that software to make solutions. The second one is that he would help us find a next customer. And the third one was that he wanted us to do this, that he wasn’t in any way going to stand in our way.

So, we went up to visit him, we had a brief conversation with Tom, and Tom not only wanted us to do it, but was going to give us commission on work that we did using his software. He was going to get, he ticked all the boxes. The ride home from that conversation with Alan was terrifying. Go ahead Alan, I’ll let you finish the story.

[00:24:29] Alan Kosansky: Well, we went ahead and we did it. Obviously, because Jim had no way to back out at that point. That’s the point. But I think the message is, I mean, I’ll tell you a little bit about else. What happened at those times is, you know, we lined up at our, at our first company, we lined up four or five. gigs right out of the gate.

And what happened was none of them came through, but other ones did. So, and then I think it went on for, I’d say it was at least five or six years before I, and I think Jim too, was comfortable cause we could only see six months out, right? And after six months, we had no idea what we’d be doing. And it was at least five or six years before I finally would be.

Maybe calm enough to say, you know what, we’re going to figure it out. Something’s going to come after six months from now. We don’t know what, but something’s going to come. So, I think what’s hidden in the little story that Jim and I told is to really put a lot of irons in the fire. Because you really don’t know which ones are going to catch.

No, I’ll, I’ll out Jim a little in our second or third year. He came in, he came back once from some big meetings. It was, we’ve got a million dollar contract. It was going to be our first million dollar contract. And he was like, I was like, yeah, you think so? He’s like, oh yeah, definitely. Right. And so we, anyway, that one dragged on and then it never came through.

So you just don’t know, even things that look really. promising. You don’t know what they’re going to be, but you address that by having lots of irons in the fire, by pursuing lots of different things, things you don’t expect will come through will and things you do expect will come through won’t. But, and it’s also, I say that the other thing that’s really important is to be part of a larger community, right?

So we’re somewhat small. Company, but we are actively engaged in a larger community of both small folks like us and larger folks and we use our network to both give work and to get work and what I find over the years is that the folks that we get work from is not the folks are not the folks that we give work to, but we happily give work.

To folks and we happily accept work from folks because we’re part of a community and we believe in the ecosystem.

[00:26:55] Jim Piermarini: Yeah, so learning about the ecosystem is super important. I mean, that was completely unknown to me before we started the company. The whole process of sales and selling our value to customers was completely unknown to me in an external way.

We had to do that. Internally within the company. So we had a smidgen of experience with that, but nothing compared to what we have, what we had to learn. And the point about being a self starter and a lifelong learner is we had to learn the whole sales process. We had to learn the whole marketing process.

We had to learn how to be in business. We had to learn how to just the mundane things getting insurance, having an attorney on retainer. We had to learn all of the fundamentals for how to run a business, but that’s in our nature. That’s what we do. We learn stuff and we learn it quickly and it’s not hard.

You just have to do it.

[00:27:57] Chris Gaffney: So I’ll make one comment because I am the newest and was probably the most risk averse of all this crew. What Jim just said is so important. You do have to bet on yourself and believe in yourself, but all the things that Jim talked about, so many people will help you with. The things that you have anxiety about, people in general, in particular in this community, are happy to say, Oh super, here’s how you do this, and in many cases say, here’s somebody I really trust who could help you.

So, for those who are thinking about this now or at some point in time, my advice, having waited. So the, I’ll say Q4 of my career, don’t wait. There’s a time that it’s right for you to do this if you believe in yourself. So I want to switch gears because I also think there’s an interesting perspective. We said consulting, but I really think of ProfitPoint as a services business.

[00:28:45] Alan Kosansky: Chris, wait, before you move on, I just want to say one more thing because I think there’s also a middle ground, right? The people that work for us, I would say, are semi entrepreneurial in that they don’t want to take the full step. They don’t want to run their own company, but they’re very entrepreneurial in how they approach their work.

So we’re one small group. There are other small groups like us. There are places where if you’re semi entrepreneurial and you want to take the step into consulting or leading projects where you have a lot more control, there are places like us that are there for you. Wonderful.

[00:29:22] Chris Gaffney: So I, I also want to get a bit of perspective.

Over the time span of profit point, how serving customers serving clients has evolved both in, in, in your philosophy and what you’ve seen in terms of the market needs and what you’ve seen as to being the most effective way, um, To really drive value with your clients.

[00:29:49] Jim Piermarini: Well, ever since we started, we recognized that we needed to focus on people, process and technology.

One of our first projects, the balance of which people processing technology, wasn’t always clear to us. Maybe when we first started, we thought technology was, I don’t know, 80 percent of a project. And the balance was people in process maybe constituted 20%. Uh, but that changed, uh, over time. Maybe not our first customer, but our second or third customers, we worked for a company for whom that balance was closer to one third, one third, one third people process and technology.

And that was a real eye opener for us. That balance has shifted over. The course of our, my career and our time, such that we have now a different take on people, process and technology and what the appropriate balance should be for each of those. It’s really a strong function of the customer that we’re working for, because you want to come up to some sort of a balanced approach and some people may be lacking on process or some companies may be lacking on their people.

Their capabilities. So you want to bring them up, but you need to focus on all of those things. And it’s really not 80 percent technology and 20 percent other. It’s much more closely re balanced across the three.

[00:31:12] Alan Kosansky: I often say, Chris, that people hire us for our technology skills because we bring a lot.

We’re that bridge between technology and business decision making, but they rehire us because they see that we focus on the people, how people make decisions and the processes. I would say over the 28 years we’ve been in business, we’ve more focus on. Doing it with them. So providing the people to do the work initially just as a kickstart kind of thing, do it with them, do it for them.

And then the processes certainly where there are bumps in the processes because we live it. And then once that’s all sort of ironed out, then figure out how to train them in the technologies. And let them continue on their own.

[00:32:04] Rodney Apple: And we know that the change is always often the hardest in terms of the people’s side.

How do you go about doing that? Getting people involved with the new way of thinking. And I think sustaining that too is often difficult, but any tips you would like to share there?

[00:32:21] Jim Piermarini: Well, I think it starts with listening and feeling their pain. We make sure that we meet with the folks who are actually executing the process, and we hear what it is that they have to go through.

And since we all have experience in doing that job, we can easily commiserate and say, Hey, you know, I think there may be a better way. What if we changed this or that? And we can then really target the change to things that address their pain. And so listening to what the real pain is, critical.

[00:32:59] Alan Kosansky: Well, I think we have a strong sense.

There’s a lot of these big bang supply chain projects that try to go from step 0 to step 10 without going through steps 2 through 9. And we really, our projects are really focused on working with our customers on the journey. And we really believe in small improvements first. We rarely go for the big bang because they rarely succeed small improvements first, and then we build on those successes and we create a path that people can go on because what we find is that different customers can change at different rates based on who the people are, based on the culture of their organization and help folks go change at the rate that their organization is able to.

Good stuff. Thank you.

[00:33:45] Chris Gaffney: One of the things that we ask folks in these is, were there a few key kind of milestones or forks in the road that are really of interest to our audience or instructive? So if you look back over the past 25 plus years, are there one or two things that you would call out? That were critical moments that were pivotal and instructive for our audience.

[00:34:08] Alan Kosansky: So, in the late 90s, I remember distinctly Jim and I had over a number of weeks, a lot of discussion about the following. We saw that there was an opportunity. That supply chain network design was being poorly served. The whole idea of looking at your network out strategically using optimization technology was starting to gain traction, and there really wasn’t anybody significant in the marketplace.

And there was a real opportunity to step in. Build the technology, sell the software and focus our business on that. And we had long discussions about whether we should do that because it seemed pretty clear that financially it would probably be more lucrative than the more broad based approach that we were taking.

And we decided not to do it. We decided not to do it because we didn’t think it would be as much fun. We just thought it would be a little too boring and a little too repetitive to keep, do you just focus on this one thing, build the software. We understood what it would take to become a leader in that marketplace.

And it would be somewhat one dimensional in our opinions. So we decided to stay the course, um, with. Our philosophy about what would be fun to us in the diversity of kind of work we do. So that was a big, that was a big moment for us.

[00:35:33] Rodney Apple: Im kind of going back in my memory here when I first encountered the network design and modeling.

I remember getting that first search. I was What is this? And I was just fascinated. They had to get a special computer at Home Depot at their headquarters to run these sophisticated models. So what would you say in terms of what you’ve seen with advancements in supply chain design, network design, optimization tools, methodologies?

Has it advanced that much from your perspective?

[00:36:03] Alan Kosansky: Say yes and no. So when we were started doing it in the 90s, the timeframe you described, it was very much a specialty kind of project. Not a lot of people were doing it, quite a high level of expertise. The, there were some technologies that were coming out, like you said, it wasn’t widespread.

And over the 25 years, it’s certainly been commoditized. So. There were dozens of vendors came out with software. There’s been some consolidation in the industry. It’s sort of everybody understands what it is when you go into a large manufacturer now. And I would say the majority of people are doing it in one form or another.

So in that regard, there’s been a big evolution. The software has changed a bit. There’s some, there are some improvements, but the, at the core essence of it is. Like I said, has become commoditized and, and is still the same core essence that it was 25 years ago. So there, there’s certainly been some advancement and, but more just that it’s been socialized and it’s become much more part of the business environment.

[00:37:11] Rodney Apple: And would you comment to, when you think about like the required soft skills, obviously the hard skills are important on the quantitative side and the analytics, any comments there on. For folks that are looking to maybe move into a career within your space, what are those most critical soft and hard skills?

[00:37:31] Alan Kosansky: Well, the soft skills are being able to get along and bring people together because the most sex. I’ll talk just about the network design stuff. Still, the most successful network design projects are are helping teams make decisions. Cross functional teams make decisions, right? It’s representatives from manufacturing from finance from the commercial side.

You have to help. You have to not just do the analysis for them. You have to help them digest the analysis as a team. And that requires skills and helping people work together and understand information together to make decisions together.

[00:38:14] Chris Gaffney: So obviously we’re trying to impart some thoughts to the audience, and a perspective question, so probably a couple different questions on advice. But the first one is, if you had to give yourself, your younger self, advice with the perspective you have now. What would you tell yourself rolling the clock back, whether it’s 25, 30

[00:38:36] Alan Kosansky: years? I was at a, I gave a talk at a conference a year ago and a young professional asked me this question when I was part of a panel, and I would say to be quiet more and to listen more.

There’s, there’s a lot to learn from many, many people in the room, and I think I would have tried to do a better job to learn from all the people in the room.

[00:39:00] Jim Piermarini: And my advice would be to embrace the hard thing. Don’t be shy about doing the work that no one else wants to do because they find it too hard.

Dive in. Do it. It may be not perfect, but you’ll learn a ton. It’ll be super fun, and you’ll be able to demonstrate. Uh, your value to other folks that you can get it done when others have let it slip by. So, don’t be afraid to just jump in and do it.

[00:39:29] Rodney Apple: As Chris says, run towards the fire, right?

[00:39:32] Chris Gaffney: That’s right. We always look for people who are, are interested in firefighting and hopefully fire prevention as well.

That’s right. But on that same vein, is there exceptional advice that you’ve received from others? And I’ll close with these two, either really exceptional advice you’ve received from someone else. And then the kind of the advice that you always make sure you share either with your team or others who are interested in this space or coming up in this space.

[00:39:58] Jim Piermarini: Well, I can share with you the advice that I give our employees. I ask them, do you think this will be fun? What about this will be fun for you? What would make you proud about doing this project or this task? And if they can answer, yeah, this would be fun, I say go for it. And if they say, it’s kind of just drudgery, I don’t really want to do it, then I say, let’s figure out another way then.

[00:40:28] Rodney Apple: I was curious, two things for our audience. How did you coin the name Profit Point number one? And could you share with our audience where they can find out more information about your company?

[00:40:40] Alan Kosansky: We went out to lunch where we would often go out to lunch when we were working at a company in Philadelphia.

And we just, in 20 minutes, we brainstormed a name that was different from Profit Point. I’m not going to share it. Fortunately, it was not as good. And fortunately somehow somebody miraculously had taken that horrible name. In Pennsylvania, which where we were incorporating, so we had to go back when we found that out, we had to go back the next week and have lunch at the same place and just brainstormed.

I don’t know that it came from anywhere in particular other than us thinking about what the kind of work is we wanted to do, what might capture the at a high level what it was. We’re certainly not marketing folks. I would say we stumbled onto it. Good deal.

[00:41:24] Rodney Apple: And what’s the website where we can? Folks can find out more information about all the wonderful services that you provide.

[00:41:32] Alan Kosansky: Sure. It’s www. profitpt. com. P R O F I T P T dot com. Awesome.

[00:41:43] Rodney Apple: Thank you very much. Was there any questions that you think we should have asked? Well,

[00:41:48] Jim Piermarini: I don’t know what the question is, but I can tell you what the answer is. We really value our partnerships. We know that we don’t know everything. And we encourage partnerships with folks who know more than we do.

That takes its shape both in the technology side, the software companies that we have partnerships with, and also other consulting groups that we know complement our skills in ways that make us better in the totality. So, partnering is a really great idea.

[00:42:24] Rodney Apple: Amen. And I know we have kind of started those conversations, uh, just between ProfitPoint and our firm, SEM Talent Group, and we sell into the same types of audiences and customers and industries and just different products and services, but obviously we have a fond appreciation for the people side and the talent side.

And so I’m looking forward to partnering and seeing if we can create that mutually beneficial relationship going forward. So with that said, we thank you both for being on the program, Alan and Jim, and we look forward to getting this episode published in the near future.

[00:42:57] Jim Piermarini: Thanks very much for having us.

[00:42:58] Chris Gaffney: Thank you. Great stuff guys,

[00:43:05] Mike Ogle: 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 SCM to search for or to post supply chain jobs, visit the supply chain job [email protected]. Are you tired of struggling to optimize your supply chain? Look no further than Profit Point the experts in supply chain, network design and technology integration solutions.

Visit profit to learn more. That’s profit

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