January 22, 2009

The up side of down

By DC Velocity Staff

Look on the bright side, says Jim Tompkins. The president and CEO of the supply chain consulting firm Tompkins International argues that the recession is "a tremendous time of opportunity" for businesses willing and able to make investments now. He cites the Tour de France bicycle race as an example. "The lead always changes on the steep slopes," he says. "Lots of companies cut, cut, cut. That's an action not a strategy. You have to have a strategy first."

He acknowledges that cost cutting is essential but argues that it must be done with care. He suggests managers have to know their operating and capital costs, their "talent" costs, and their strategic costs. "Cut the first to maintain two and three," he suggests. "You need to conserve capital to do the big things." Spending now should focus on investments that yield large cost reductions or major strategic investments.

Tompkins himself has pursued an aggressive strategy with his firm's push into China through its acquisition of Technomic Asia, a Shanghai-based supply chain consultancy. Steven Ganster, senior vice president of Asia for Tompkins and head of Technomic Asia, says the Chinese government remains committed to pushing economic growth despite the current recession. "The government has the will and the means for 8-percent growth," he says. And it is welcoming foreign investment in most business sectors.