Seasoned Leadership in Action™ – An Interview with Bronwen Hann, President at Argentus

Bronwen Hann

At Supply Chain Game Changer we believe in sharing experiences and expertise from people in every industry and from across the globe.  As such we have introduced our “Seasoned Leadership in Action™” Interview series. This interview is with Bronwen Hann, President at Argentus.

I first connected with Bronwen with the launch of Supply Chain Game Changer. I had been familiar with Argentus in the past given that we were both working in Supply Chain circles.

  Bronwen Hann

As I was looking to augment the content of Supply Chain Game Changer I was aware of the great articles that Argentus published on their blog to advance the profession. Bronwen, and Sam White, at Argentus have very graciously allowed us to publish their material on our site.

This has served to advance our promise of sharing expertise and experience from around the world for the betterment of all.

Thank you Bronwen for your friendship, your support of Supply Chain Game Changer, and taking the time to share your experiences and expertise with us.

Here is our interview with a great Supply Chain leader, Bronwen Hann.

Tell our readers a little about your background and experience? 

Big picture: I’ve been a recruiter for 35 years, and recruiting exclusively within Supply Chain Management for 18. I came out of university without much of an idea what I wanted out of my career, and found the world of recruitment. I founded a company called Pinstripe in the world of temporary staffing, and am proud to have grown it into a $40m business before selling in 2000. 

At that point, I found myself at a bit of a crossroads. I consulted with some of the contacts I’d built at the executive level across North America. I asked them which industries will be most important to the 21stcentury, and they kept telling me about Supply Chain – a topic that was as new to me as recruitment had been when I started! 

I decided to dig in and learn everything I could about the field, and that led me to found Argentus – a search firm focused entirely within Supply Chain Management. Since then, we’ve dedicated ourselves to becoming the go-to recruitment firm in this vertical. We’ve built a peerless network in the areas of Procurement, Logistics, Change Management, Strategic Sourcing, Planning, and other functional areas in Supply Chain. 18 years of dedicated study will help with that. 

I have a focused team of recruiters who dedicate themselves to understanding everything about talent issues in Supply Chain, and we work with quite a few Fortune 100 companies.  We also provide thought leadership through the Argentus blog, (and thanks for contributing there as well, Mike!). It’s a great way to help give back to our network by keeping them informed about what’s going on in the industry, and to build our brand at the same time. 

What are some of your greatest achievements in Business? 

Aside from building Pinstripe into a large company, I think my greatest achievement has to be having the foresight to become a forerunner in talent in Supply Chain. When I started Argentus, there were recruitment firms who might have a Supply Chain desk or department, but no one dedicated to it.

The field just wasn’t on the radar. I recognized that there was a need for a true expert in Supply Chain, and built a firm around it before anyone else was doing it. I see that as a significant achievement. 

I think the ability to anticipate change and pivot has been a theme. We were forerunners in using social media and content marketing to build our brand in the recruitment industry, and now it’s our bread and butter. We recognized the emergence of contingent staffing (contract) within Procurement and Supply Chain several years before a few others, and expanded our business to service that area. 

Other than those accomplishments, I’m most proud of how we’ve kept our focus on the candidates. In recruitment, you can have all the job orders in the world, but you’re nothing if you can’t build relationships with job candidates. That’s especially true in a niche like Supply Chain. We’ve been able to grow with people throughout their careers, and that’s tremendously gratifying. 

How has the Business and Supply Chain changed over the course of your career? 

The world of recruitment has changed a lot from the days of paper to the days of social media, and it’s been a wild ride to say the least!

 In the Pinstripe days, I used to have a clipboard and physically go desk to desk to record numbers. How quaint is that? Marketing in our industry used to involve taking a job ad out in the paper. Now we’re using thought leadership to help build a network – posts where we rarely try to “sell” Argentus at all.

In general, the business is faster because of the speed of communication. There are more ways than ever to be creative and figure out how to find the right people, how to expand our network and find more exciting jobs to fill. 

Supply Chain has also changed tremendously. The rise of digital has a big part to play in that, with end-to-end visibility, S&OP, network planning, and AI and Blockchain will change it even more. From a talent perspective, there are more eyes on the field. It used to be seen as a blue-collar function, but now it’s getting a real seat at the boardroom table. People are recognizing that Supply Chain is legit. 

Look at the true giants like Amazon, Wal-Mart, Apple, and you’ll see that Supply Chain Management has been a huge driver of their success. It’s not just “something that needs to be done.” It’s a way to win. And the wider business world is beginning to recognize that. 

What are some of the lessons you learned in your career that you would like to share for others to learn from? 

  • Never ask anyone to do anything that you aren’t prepared to do yourself. 
  • It doesn’t matter how you perceive yourself, it’s how other people perceive you.
  • Tenacity and grit in today’s environment are more important than ever. 
  • Honesty and integrity will never go out of style. 
  • It’s important to remember to have fun. You need to be able to trust your team, and like spending time with them. If you only look at business relationships as “what can someone do for me today,” you won’t only be unsuccessful, you’ll be unsatisfied. 

What challenges facing the world are important to you?

I think the world is confronting tremendous challenges in terms of sustainability. People are waking up to that urgent issue, and they’re demanding more transparency from companies and government because they want to make sure those institutions are acting in a sustainable and ethical way.

I believe that we in the business world have a responsibility to pull together and address these challenges. 

What is the role of Business, Supply Chain and Change Leadership in addressing these challenges? 

I really think Supply Chain has a huge opportunity to be the biggest driver of sustainability and transparency within any given business. Gartner now includes a Corporate Social Responsibility score in its annual ranking of the best Supply Chains. That shows how Supply Chain is becoming a real seat of sustainability and change in businesses.

Big data and ERP are allowing Supply Chain Managers to dig deep and find out where there’s waste in the system, so business leaders can address it. Technologies like Blockchain are giving more visibility into notoriously-opaque Supply Chains like diamonds and seafood. Consumers are rightly demanding to know exactly where their products are coming from, and whether they’re ethically sourced. Supply Chain Management will deliver on that. 

We’re really at an inflection point in the industry as it becomes more strategic and data-driven, and we have a huge opportunity to help make the world a better place while driving better business outcomes. Supply Chain is all about finding efficiency. A greener future is a more efficient future, so Supply Chain is well-positioned to lead on that front. 

What are you working on these days? 

As always, we’re seeking out the best talent to fill roles across industries like Consumer Goods, Manufacturing, Financial Services, Public Sector and more. As per usual, we’re also trying to expand our network and connect with amazing companies to help them solve their talent challenges. 

We’re shifting our focus towards leadership roles, because those are the people who will really change the industry and set its tone for the next decade. We’ll always help companies staff their teams, but some of our most exciting stuff has been working with companies who are growing and undergoing transformations, helping them find the leadership necessary to rethink the future. 

We’re also doing a few more long-term initiatives: we’re getting back into recruiting for Supply Chain leaders within the U.S. We’re putting a renewed focus into growing our network in the 3PL and Logistics industry, and we’re also expanding into the Cannabis space – a nascent industry where good Supply Chain Management is crucial.

What advice would you give people who have a career in, or who are considering joining, Business and/or Supply Chain? 

I’ll speak specifically to Supply Chain. First, I would advise people to go into the field because, as a recruiter, trust me when I say there’s huge demand for candidates. 

There are so many roads to go down in the field, so it’s important to make a roadmap. Do you want to focus on the Procurement side of things, or more on the Logistics and Planning side? Get a good understanding of the various subdisciplines in Supply Chain, and try to figure out where you want to start.

After that, it’s crucial to learn the ropes of your niche, but find ways to learn how your niche fits into the wider Supply Chain. Broaden your scope to understand the financial side of things. How is your organization’s Supply Chain impacting the business? Where is it falling short? Where are there opportunities? 

After you have some work experience, there are some fantastic MBAs or designations that can help you broaden your scope, but that boots on the ground experience – with a wide exposure to different aspects of Supply Chain – is crucial. 

In terms of skills, Supply Chain is considered a STEM field, but with increasing automation the soft skills are more important than ever before. The ability to read and parse data to find efficiencies will always be huge, but it’s even more important to learn how to speak to leadership in plain English. That’s how you really progress. 

When you can gain business acumen, forge relationships, present opportunities for improvement with a high degree of polish, and be a real advocate for the role of Supply Chain within the business, that’s when you can really kick your career into high gear. 

How can people contact Bronwen Hann?

I’m extremely active on LinkedIn (over 8000 connections), so I’m always looking to connect and have conversations with people there. Other than that, you can give Argentus a call at 416 364 9919.

Even if you’re not hiring or looking for a job, I’m always happy to chat and find ways to collaborate about how to push the Supply Chain industry forward! 

Originally published on January 15, 2019.