This week, this author attended and spoke at the APICS 2015 conference. APICS is a global professional organization supporting the professional education and certification needs of operations and supply chain management professionals. One of the keynote speakers at this year’s conference was noted executive, business commentator and author Jack Welch.

As many may know, this iconic executive who led General Electric as CEO for many years has a fairly direct style of managing and communicating. He once earned the notation as: “Neutron Jack” in his tendencies to jettison non-performing organizations and individuals. Today’s Jack Welch is one of mentor and educator of future business leaders, albeit in a different but refreshingly direct style. He admitted to this audience that it has taken 40 years for him to understand that every great leader needs to have a generosity gene, namely rewarding people for great performance.

His APICS keynote was an interactive interview session with APICS CEO, Abe Eshkenazi serving as moderator.  In this session, Welch expressed a number of insights on the topic of leadership, and more specifically, supply chain management, and the professionals who manage today’s supply chains.

Supply Chain Matters is sharing these views because by our lens, they pretty much manifest our moniker, namely that supply chains, and the collection of people and teams that manage them, do matter in successful business outcomes. His comments need to be shared among the broader supply chain audience and we are doing our part.

Welch specifically praised supply chain professionals around the globe for doing a great job. He stated that when he schools current and future CEO’s as to most critical hires, he ranks the leader of the firm’s supply chain as the number two hire.  The number one hire was expressed as the leader of IT. He later stated:

Why isn’t the supply chain the most highly paid function?  Why not?

I’m sure that statement alone will resonate with our global based readers.

Responding to the question of the contribution of supply chain to business outcomes:

Supply chain provides a huge competitive advantage and we need more good supply chain leaders

Speaking directly to his audience, Welch exclaimed:

You have to leave this meeting absolutely excited about your profession and the work that you do.”

You are the heart and soul of the place.”

I do not talk to groups with this much upside potential- It’s extraordinary.”

He challenged the audience to further elevate the function:

You are so damned important to the company’s success

There were, of course, many other Jack wisdoms shared on the topics of leadership, mentoring and sharing knowledge. Reflecting on his role as mentor, Welch shared wisdoms for managing individual career growth. He chided the audience to manage their careers and their individual skills and to seek out organizations that reflect a business culture that supports such culture and diversity of skills and people. Seek culture first, the money comes by default

Turning to current chain leaders, Welch challenged these leaders to stop nagging about the loss of people and rather, turn efforts and resources toward establishing an organization that is fun to work within, caring passionately about your people, valuing a diversity of skills and people and removing organizational barriers that get in the way.

By the end of his keynote, Welch had received a standing ovation from the audience of nearly 3000 people.  Later, in the various educational sessions and networking events, this author heard many mentions of the keynote and of the messages that Welch delivered to this audience.

Supply chains, and the people, suppliers and service providers who contribute and support industry supply chains do matter, and Jack Welch is an expressed advocate.

Thank You– Jack.

Bob Ferrari