Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Special Forces of the Consumer Products (CPG) Industry

Attention Suppliers! Literally!

Special ForcesFor those of you outside of Northwest Arkansas, there are literally thousands of supplier teams located here just to serve Wal-Mart.  But, regardless of whether you are a supplier team, you can use these principles and apply the same disciplines to help you and your team be the Special Forces in your industry.

Sometimes it is easy to forget that your teams, whose primary focus is servicing the needs of the world’s largest retailers, grocers, or home improvement stores, are literally the Special Forces of the Consumer Products Industry.

Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart U.S., told suppliers at the retailer’s Year Beginning Meetings in February, 2015 that they needed to have their “best and brightest” talent calling on Wal-Mart. He said the retailer is looking to suppliers for shared innovations and insight and that will require the most talented professionals be seated at the table.

This has nothing to do with ego or arrogance. It has everything to do with training, preparation, discipline and execution. And like the Special Forces of the military, that can, or at least, should be incredibly humbling.

Consider what it takes to become a member of an army Special Forces unit:

  • 9 Weeks of Boot Camp
  • 9 Weeks of Basic Combat Training
  • 4 Weeks of Advanced Individual Training
  • 3 Weeks of Army Airborne School
  • 4 Weeks of Special Operations Preparation Course (SOPC)
    • Physical training and land navigation
  • 3 Weeks of Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS) – survival training

Only 10% of candidates make the cut at this point

  • 34-76 Weeks of Special Forces Qualification Course (SFQC) – depending upon the specialty
    • Language and Cultural training
    • Military Operations Specialty (MOS) training
    • Unconventional Warfare – Collective Training

Of the 10% who made the cut to get here, 50% wash out.

  • Then there’s the 14-18 months of Live Environment Training (LET) – Immersion Training in foreign countries – depending on specialty

Because we know what’s at stake, we go to great lengths to ensure the team we bring together is well trained, disciplined, and prepared for the task at hand. We don’t send in the rookies to handle high stakes engagements. We walk along side them as they take on ever increasing challenging assignments to ensure their preparedness.

Like the military Special Forces, you have every reason to be proud to serve on a team where the stakes can literally make or break your company. A lot is expected of you. You expect a lot of yourself. You expect a lot of your colleagues, of your support system and of your team members.

Yes, you paid the price to get here. Yes, you did the work. While you should have confidence in your training and preparation, there is no room for arrogance or elitism. It is time for your team to execute the mission. It is also your turn to teach, train and mentor others who aspire to this type of career challenge. Who better to teach them than someone who knows how tough the preparation can be?

Questions you need to answer:

  • Does my team view themselves as the Special Forces for our company?
  • Have I, or we become arrogant, “entitled” or humbled by this privilege? How would you know? Have you asked others in their organization how you are being perceived?
  • Am I personally doing the work and practicing the disciplines required of a Special Force team member?
  • Have we instilled the disciplines in our team to ensure our success at this level?
  • Do we know how to take this group of high performing individuals and turn them into a high performing team?
  • Are we achieving the results expected at this level?
  • Has my team developed talent management strategies required to find and prepare the right people for this work?
  • Do I/we have the heart of teachers/mentors who can help aspiring high potentials to achieve their dream of being a member of our high performance team?