Supply chain evangelist: interview with Michael Regan
Over a four-decade career, Michael Regan has earned recognition as a tireless advocate for the logistics profession and one of its most prominent, innovative—and often provocative—thinkers.
When Michael Regan, founder and chief relationship officer of the consulting company TranzAct Technologies, speaks to a gathering of shippers or carriers, he sometimes likes to test his audience, challenging commonly held assumptions or insisting that managers are missing important opportunities to improve their businesses or relationships. He often takes the same approach when he is in the audience, asking provocative questions of speakers. Unerringly polite and courteous, he relishes a good debate.
Over a four-decade career as a shrewd, inventive, and successful businessman, he has also been a passionate advocate for the logistics profession. Last September, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) recognized his long list of accomplishments by presenting him with its Distinguished Service Award (DSA). CSCMP President and CEO Rick Blasgen said of Regan, "He is a champion of innovation and creativity, cares deeply about the people in our profession, and has the ability to share his knowledge in ways that positively impact our community."
The breadth of Regan's activities is a reflection of his commitment to the profession. In addition to being an active member of CSCMP, he serves on the boards of the American Society of Transportation & Logistics (AST&L), the National Industrial Transportation League (NITL), the National Shippers Strategic Transportation Council (NASSTRAC), and the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA). Along with his leadership role at TranzAct Technologies, he is chairman of the consulting firm Supply Chain Edge and is actively engaged in community and faith-based organizations.
The DSA takes its place on a long list of other awards for Regan, including recognition as a DC Velocity Rainmaker in 2005, Delta Nu Alpha's Transportation Professional of the Year in 2002, NITL's Executive of the Year in 2005, and NASSTRAC's Member of the Year in 2008.
Regan reflected on his career and accomplishments in a recent conversation with Editorial Director Peter Bradley.
Q: What drives you to be as engaged as you are in both the profession and in your private volunteer efforts?
A: I grew up in a house with parents who encouraged a spirit of service. My dad owned an industrial catering company and was deeply involved with the Red Cross. I remember that when there were some disasters in the Chicago area, such as the McCormick Place fire in 1967 and the tornado that struck Oak Lawn that same year, my dad took his food trucks to the sites so that he could feed the disaster-relief personnel. My mom also was a very active volunteer in numerous organizations. Growing up with parents who place a high value on engagement and serving others leaves an indelible impact on your life.
With respect to my engagement in professional and not-for-profit organizations, one cornerstone for me has been my belief that the world is a better place when people [take the initiative and try to make as big a difference as they can].
One of the ministries that my family has been involved with since 1997 is the Youth With a Mission ministry, which builds homes for families in Tijuana and Ensenada, Mexico. The first family we built a house for had nine kids, and they were literally living under a tarp. Two weeks prior to the build, they lost their youngest baby due to exposure. Seeing that family get a house—as well as many of the other families that we have built for since then—gives us a sense of satisfaction and joy. At the end of the day, our family realizes that we may not change the world, but we can make a positive difference in the lives of those individuals who cross our paths.
Q: Do you see participation in industry and professional organizations as an obligation for yourself and for other successful logistics and supply chain professionals?
A: First, while I would like to think that my motivation has been altruistic, practically speaking, I have gotten more than I have given. While I have been very engaged in the leading shipper and third-party logistics organizations, this engagement has helped us build a better business because of our ability to serve our customers. And through my engagement and participation in these organizations, I have been honored and blessed by some (iconic for me) people who took an interest in my career. Whether it was the late Don Bowersox or Bill Augello, or people like Dan Sweeney or Norm Mineta, I have been very fortunate to have met and gotten to know some wonderful people.
Second, I don't know whether participating in these organizations is an obligation, but I really do believe that as successful logistics and supply chain professionals, we have a responsibility to work toward improving the supply chain and logistics world, and leaving our profession in better shape than when we began our careers. Engagement in worthwhile associations facilitates this.
Finally, one of the things that upset me is seeing people who complain but never get engaged to try and ameliorate the things they are complaining about. One of the reasons I am honored to be a DSA winner is because as a group, these individuals understand the need to be engaged and to make a difference personally and professionally.
Q: You serve in leadership roles for many organizations and are a frequent motivational speaker. What message do you try to convey through those efforts?
A: There are a couple of things I work to convey through my talks. First, I want to encourage people to believe they can be "difference makers." Candidly, I meet a lot of hard-working, dedicated logistics and supply chain professionals who are discouraged for several different reasons. Truth be told, they work in environments where their accomplishments and capabilities are taken for granted, they are continually challenged to do more with less, and they live with the reality that their position could be "downsized" at a moment's notice.
Second, in preparing my presentations, I focus on challenging the audience in a positive manner. So my presentations—such as "Invest in You, Inc." or "Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way!"—have common themes that accentuate my belief that individuals have tremendous capabilities and potential; have responsibility for investing in their careers and for cultivating and developing their capabilities even further; and make choices and thus, are responsible for the things that happen in their lives.
Having spoken at over 20 CSCMP annual conferences and having given 15 to 20 talks per year for the last 15 years, I am well aware that a lot of people who attend these events think it is more important to hear about technical, tactical, or strategic stuff in our industry than to hear some motivational message or words of encouragement. They are wrong! I believe a case can be made that more people are fired because of a lack of relationship skills than for a lack of technical skills. That is why I believe everybody needs some words of encouragement and some tools that help them develop their relational skill sets. It's a much better world when we have effective relationships where we can encourage each other.
Q: What role do you see logistics and supply chain management serving in the broader economy?
A: There is no doubt in my mind that the disciplines of transportation, logistics, and supply chain management not only address fundamental business needs but also serve a higher purpose in the economy and contribute to a better standard of living for everyone! That said, it is crucial to understand the importance of what we do and how it makes a contribution to society.
I believe that a plausible argument can be made that a key ingredient in America's success is the fact that the companies in North America have more advanced and competitive supply chain capabilities. Because of these capabilities, we pay lower prices for our goods and have a wider selection of resources to choose from. Thus, we have a better standard of living as well as an enhanced capability to positively impact consumers on a global basis because of the work of intelligent and dedicated logistics and supply chain professionals around the world.
This story first appeared in the Quarter 4/2014 edition of CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly, a journal of thought leadership for the supply chain management profession and a sister publication to AGiLE Business Media's DC Velocity. Readers can obtain a subscription by joining the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (whose membership dues include the Quarterly's subscription fee). Subscriptions are also available to nonmembers for $34.95 (digital) or $89 a year (print). For more information, visit www.SupplyChainQuarterly.com.
About the Author
Peter Bradley is an award-winning career journalist with more than three decades of experience in both newspapers and national business magazines. His credentials include seven years as the transportation and supply chain editor at Purchasing Magazine and six years as the chief editor of Logistics Management.
More articles by Peter Bradley
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