Inbound Logistics | July 2022

LEADERSHIP Conversations with the Captains of Industry

The Music Man

One way or another, Phil Rich was destined for a music career. His military service included nearly seven years as a guitarist and sound engineer in the Navy Band. Back in civilian life, he worked briey as a studio engineer. When that didn’t lead to a steady living, he took a job at a Guitar Center store in downtown Seattle. “That’s where I was around all the things that I loved, the music gear and the people,” says Rich. “That’s where I wanted to be.” Rich still spends his days immersed in that world, now as senior vice president and chief supply chain ofcer at Sweetwater, a leading online retailer of musical instruments and professional audio equipment. Here’s a window into his role. IL: How did an experience early in your career help to shape you as a leader? I’m a competitive guy, and in my early days in music retail, I’d get riled up about things from time to time. The person who hired me for my rst job would smile and say, “Let’s go talk to this customer together.” He would always turn things around. I learned early on that you can have a positive attitude about even the most difcult things, because we’re all just trying to do good things for our company and for other people. IL: What are the biggest day-to-day supply chain challenges you deal with at Sweetwater? Our daily challenge is customer demand for unique products that are brand-specic. People often want an exact model and color from an exact brand. Given the global supply chain challenges over the past few years, we have to work extra hard with the manufacturers to help them understand customer demand and get those products into our inventory. One complicating factor is that there’s so much demand for the newest products in the market. It’s like people lining up for the new car that was announced but nobody has yet. IL: How do you match your inventory to that customer demand? We’ve brought on some additional brands, in case there are opportunities for any substitutions. But the key is having access to a lot of breadth in all the brands, so we have as much of the assortment as possible. We used to keep three weeks’ worth of safety stock, but now we keep 90 days. And when we plan our inventory, we program in longer lead times for our orders.

Phil Rich Senior Vice President & Chief Supply Chain Ofcer Sweetwater

Phil Rich brings strategy, patience, fundamentals, focus, positive feedback, corrective direction, and celebration of achievements to everything he does—from playing guitar to flying planes.

by Merrill Douglas

22 Inbound Logistics • July 2022

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