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Think Big, Think Business, Think People

“I’d rather regret the things I did, than the things I didn’t do.” Insights and wisdom from the career of Hans Melotte, Starbucks EVP Supply Chain and ISM Chair. 

Hans Melotte is less than one year into his “wonderful new adventure” leading Starbucks’ global supply chain. At the same time, he is nearing the end of his tenure as Chair of the ISM Board of Directors. We caught up with Melotte at #ISM2017 to discuss topics close to his heart, including the importance of intellectual curiosity for procurement and supply managers.

Melotte’s Mantra

“There’s a personal mantra I’ve always tried to adhere to,” says Melotte. “Think business, think big, think people.”

Think business: “Let’s not just daydream here – as a supply management professional, you’re not the centre of the world. Your role is all about enabling profitable growth for your company, and the only way to do that is for you to think in terms of business or customer centricity.”

Think big: “Starbucks’ aspiration is very bold, and very ambitious. If we agree our role is to help the company achieve its aspirations, then it’s up to us to be equally bold, or there will be asymmetry between the company agenda and our agenda.”

Melotte makes the point that thinking big should be inherent in any leadership position: “I don’t think any company would say it’s okay to be a mediocre leader.”

Think people:No matter what your agenda may be, everything starts and ends with people.” Melotte is delighted to see so many young professionals filling the halls of the #ISM2017 conference: “I’m so impressed by young professionals – their ambition, their resumes and their enthusiasm. It’s incredibly energising, and humbling as well.”

Moving between industries

Last year, Melotte took a significant cross-industry leap when he moved from Johnson & Johnson to Starbucks. His advice is that professionals – particularly those with high learning agility – should have confidence about moving between industries.

“There’s no right or wrong career. People have a tendency to stack-rank careers and give advice – ‘do this, don’t do that’. I believe you just have to follow your own passion and keep the fire in your belly lit. For me, this was all about starting a new adventure and seizing an opportunity that allowed me to step outside my comfort zone and grow. Life’s too short to not experiment by stepping off the proven path. I’d rather regret the things I did, than the things I didn’t do.”

The ISM Chairmanship

We asked Melotte why he took on the demanding role of ISM Chair, particularly during a time when he was transitioning his own career from J&J to Starbucks. “There was a pyramid of motives”, he replied. “I’d always recommend that people take on an outside-of-industry role. For me, one reason was that I felt grateful, and obligated to give back to the discipline. If the discipline has been good to you, be good to the discipline. Secondly, it has enabled me to access a lens to the world which allows an incredible amount of learning. The board itself is a wonderful network to be part of. Finally, there’s no denying that trying to be a worthy Chairman grows you as a person.”

What contribution is Melotte most proud of in his tenure as ISM Chair? “ISM is a well-known brand and institution, so it doesn’t need extra polish on the logo. What it does need is constant change and evolution – I took it as a great compliment from CEO Tom Derry when he told me over the phone that I’ve helped ISM think more strategically, and think more about the future.”

Intellectual curiosity

“You really owe it to yourself to constantly invest in yourself through continuous learning and continuous education,” says Melotte. “Learn from others, grow and develop. One of the pitfalls that companies step into is when they make statements like ‘we’re different, we’re unique, this doesn’t apply to us’. No matter how good you are as a company, you can always learn from other industries.”

“Intellectual curiosity means being on a learning journey that never ends. It should have no pause button.”

Image: Starbucks.com