Executive Spotlight: Jason Ramsey
Executive Spotlight: Jason Ramsey Supply Chain Consultant & Operator, Chick-fil-A
Interview conducted by Mitchell Smith, 2nd year MBA Student, TCU Neeley School of Business
March 8th, 2019
Mitchell Smith: Can you tell me a little bit about your background and the other roles you've had that led you to where you are now?
Jason Ramsey: I started with Chick-fil-A in 1987 as a team member at Ohio's first Chick-fil-A restaurant while getting ready to attend school at Miami University in Ohio. I thought I would stay for a couple of months until I found a “real” job. I quickly fell in love with the brand, with the food, and the opportunities. I became an owner-operator of that same location right out of college at age 22. I was an operator for 22 years and had the tremendous opportunity to have multiple locations starting in 2008. This had been a long-term goal and I was extremely blessed with the opportunity to fulfill one of my career dreams. Another one was developing those on my team to reach their goals. Some of them had career goals to become an operator as well. Seeing this come true for several who worked with me was among the most fulfilling moments of my career.
In 2013, I reached out to one of the senior leaders in field operations asking if there were any opportunities to serve and be a part of the corporate support center staff. In our organization it was not a promotion to the corporate ranks but rather a purpose-driven decision of, “Where am I supposed to be for the future?” After 25 years in the restaurants, I was given the chance to support operators as a business consultant and work in our field operations department.
Business consultants are the primary relationship managers and serve a critical role in ensuring operators are in business for themselves but not by themselves. In 2015 I was given the opportunity to lead the same team of business consultants who support most of the state of Georgia and served in this role for two years. This was a great chance to learn from highly talented consultants by traveling with them and learning best practices. It was also an opportunity to help select restaurant operators for future locations. I truly enjoyed supporting operators in this role but Chick-fil-A had other plans.
In 2017 I was asked to lead a new consulting group in supply chain. I was sure they had the wrong person as I had little to no supply chain experience. However, they were looking for someone with an operator’s perspective and a consultant’s skill set. I had a very steep learning curve to put these perspectives and skills into practice within this new team. Learning the details of our entire supply chain has been challenging and yet fascinating. I’m still learning but loving the journey!
MS: That is really quite the journey you took, could you tell me more about what exactly you do as a supply chain consultant?
JR: Our team has established three key objectives:
- Connect operators to supply chain solutions.
- Support field operations with the latest need-to-know information within supply chain.
- Share the voice of the operator within supply chain to ensure our work aligns with operators’ needs.
We do this through a lot of time in the field with operators. We look for ways to help operators with what is within their control such as inventory management practices as well as spend time with those in our department to create solutions that may not currently exist.
MS: You went through some of your responsibilities so how do you foresee your job, especially the industry in the future?
JR: There's some things that will change and some things will never change. For us, making sure the voice of the operator is always represented is something that should never change. What will change, are the solutions. We're in a state of rapid change in the marketplace. E-commerce is draining the driver market. And it's not being replenished with people in their 20’s, or early 30’s creating a sizable gap. A recent Wall Street Journal article referenced a Walmart distribution center who hired a new driver and up into that point, a 41 year old was the youngest driver they had. There's a need for more drivers, and there are not that many available, so something has to change.
How customers want to get food is changing rapidly and that could shift from going through a drive-thru to more home-based delivery. I don’t know exactly what that will be, but things will likely change dramatically in the next 3-5 years in this space. We are exploring a number of exciting options to move with these changing demands.
MS: What role do you see the supply chain playing in making these transitions seamless?
JR: To make a seamless and yet successful transition is the goal. I think it is going to require a couple things. We must be very nimble and not get attached to the way we’ve always done things. We look at who the disruptors are, and they are the ones that are nimble enough to shift quickly and can disrupt the big players. We would much rather disrupt ourselves through creative thinking, than to be disrupted by an unwillingness to adapt and try new things.
MS: Wow, that sounds like a lot to process on a day-to-day basis. What skills do you feel have helped you progress the most in your career? For example what would you tell the student or someone who is looking to follow a similar career path as you?
JR: Be a perpetual learner. Embrace the “always a student” mentality. Graduation is not a finish line. It's the launch point for how you learn more about people and the industry. Hall of Fame Coach John Wooden often said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that really counts”. I believe being a student will keep you fresh because the marketplace is changing and it will continue to change, and so you need a real student mentality. The second piece is, grow your communication skills. A third one is building strong relationship skills. I think those soft skills are no longer soft skills but are table stakes for anyone who is going to be effective. You must communicate effectively and be able to navigate a variety of interpersonal situations as you think about a global marketplace. How you navigate those relationships with different people who have different needs especially if you lead others, is critical for effectiveness.
MS: You kind of touched on this at the beginning of your answer, can you describe what steps you take personally to stay up to date with the industry and make sure you Chick-fil-A isn’t falling behind industry standards?
JR: There's a few things for me personally that I love to learn from others. Today I'm hosting a group of leaders from another restaurant chain that are coming in from Texas to our office. So I would say learning from others is key. When I’m around other thought leaders I ask them to share what they are learning these days and who they are learning from. The books I read are on multiple subjects right now, because I want to keep building a broad skill set. Our CEO Dan Cathy often says, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. I don’t want to miss the opportunity to learn something each day.
MS: Wow, that's awesome. Thank you so much for your perspective and insights you have shared today.