If someone had told me when I was 24 that one day I would be a business professor, I would have died laughing. Nobody in my family had completed any advanced studies, and I had majored in anthropology and Spanish in college. Ever since I was young societies had fascinated me. How could so many people bring together so many resources for the common well-being using only individual wants? This is why the Latin Portal exists, to connect individuals with an interest in business directly to each other. Connections create innovation between people with brilliant ideas.
I had started my career in supply chain management without realizing it. My first job after graduation was in a liquor distributer. Soon after I signed up for the Air Force, and my first assignment was transportation and logistics. As time went on, the world of logistics, distribution, and supply chains intrigued me more. I was successful enough that the Air Force paid for my masters in logistics. I successfully applied the masters during the invasion of Iraq, enough for the Air Force to also pay for a doctorate in marketing and logistics. After 22 years, I’m still working in supply chain management. You never know where life will take you! When I graduated from college I was “against business.” I thought that I could never have anything to do with a big, impersonal company. I thought they usually lacked morality, and behaved inhumanly. One day I recognized that all exchanges—whether favors, resources, or money—makes up an act of commerce. These acts are usually simple: I help you change the oil, you buy me some beer. A company is when a group of people get together to achieve a common goal.
All business—big ones as well as small—depend on a supply chain. Today in the news a group of Harry Potter fans convinced Disney, one of the biggest companies, that it is unjust to buy chocolate that relies on child slavery. We live in a time when the means matter as much as the ends, or even more—people will pay a little more to avoid depending on child labor, or to help the environment. A restaurant has to think about the safety of its food, almost all business have to find a reliable internet provider that protects its dta, and we all demand punctual deliveries from UPS and FedEx. Managing a supply chain is the same as managing relationships with suppliers of goods and services; only those companies that maintain good relationships will prosper.
Human beings are unique on Earth because we are the only lifeform that adopts the perspective of another human being in order to calculate how the other person can benefit as much as (or more) from an exchange. We are made to be “businesspeople.” As with any human activity, this one can be good or bad, and we seldom know how things will turn out.
Michael J. Gravier, PhD, CTL
Associate Professor, Marketing and Global Supply Chain Management, Bryant University