The financial responsibilities of a 3PL is in the background of an invisible industry. Logistics and supply chain (when we do get airplay) emphasizes front-line operational execution, innovation, and productivity. But, like any well run organization, back office execution needs to be stellar, as well.
Finance is one of those key back office functions. In order to shed light on this key discipline, as well as promote the different careers one can have in this industry, this week I interviewed KANE’s Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer, Lou Houck.
Lou manages the financial, purchasing, risk management, strategy, and acquisition activities of the company.
Are there unique challenges when dealing with the finances of a supply chain company?
I have experience in the manufacturing, distribution, financial services and 3PL industries and can say that most of the challenges we face in 3PL are similar to those faced in other industries. They include capital allocation, internal controls, efficient financial reporting, effective financial analysis and, most importantly, finding, hiring and retaining the right people.
Have you noticed any changes in the industry? What future changes do you envision?
Supply chain has received much more attention in recent years, driven in part by advances in technology and customer buying habits – especially ecommerce. Increasingly, companies are recognizing that the supply chain is the critical function that will not only determine success, but deliver bottom-line savings to the organization. Universities are either adding or building their offering in supply chain management programs. Changes are happening and its anyone’s guess what the path of products will be to the customer in the future. One things is certain: it will look different than it does today.
Do you believe a 3PL can grow organically or are acquisitions essential to growth?
Organic growth and growth through acquisition should be included in any growth strategy. Growth in the 3PL market has and will likely continue to outpace the growth of the overall economy as more companies choose to outsource their logistics needs. Increased outsourcing is expected to drive the global 3PL market to $925 billion by 2020. Many 3PLs will still have an opportunity to grow in that landscape.
What is your leadership style and why do you think it works well for your team?
I try to focus on a few key things that create an environment where an associate feels valued by me, their peers, and the overall organization. I establish clear expectations and provide frequent honest feedback – if you did something right I make sure to tell you, and if there is room for improvement you’ll know that, too. I take time to teach associates how and why we do things and expect other leaders in my department to do the same. I encourage teamwork; I believe that one of the most gratifying experiences in a work environment is being on a successful team. Finally, I make it clear that the growth and development of the associate is a priority.
In your opinion, what drives productivity?
It’s all about the associates. Hire good people, treat them fairly and motivate them appropriately. Follow that plan and you’ll foster a dedicated work force that delights your customers.
Which tenet of the KANE Code do you identify with the most?
Keep Safety First. Maintaining a safe work place is the foundation on which everything is built. It's a subtle or subconscious requirement of all good associates. Without it we won't have the best associates and those we do have will not be nearly as productive as they could be. All the other imperatives in the Code come after Safety, both on the list itself as well as in practice - once you have a safe work place you can do the other things.
Mikhail Taskaya is the Marketing Analyst for Kane Is Able, a nationwide supply chain company, based in Scranton, PA. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications and Bachelor of Science in Philosophy from King’s College, and most recently, earned his Master of Business Administration from Wilkes University.