Building Your Brand: A Roadmap for a Senior Executive’s First 90 Days at a New Company

Dan Key has a 26-year track record in leading operations, supply chain, distribution, procurement, product management, and general management of global businesses. Dan is currently the Senior Vice-President of Operations and Supply Chain at Axalta Coating Systems, a $4B paint and coating company serving the transportation and industrial component markets.  He manages 37 global sites with over 7,000 employees in 19 countries. Before joining Axalta, Dan was Vice President and Chief Supply Chain Officer at Sigma-Aldrich, where he led the charge in building a world-class global operation and supply chain function across 53 global locations supporting over 300,000 products to over 1 million customers.  Prior to Sigma-Aldrich, Dan was Vice President of Integrated Supply Chain at UOP, a Honeywell Company serving the oil and natural gas industry with 14 global locations.

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You will be hosting a roundtable lunch discussion entitled, Building Your Brand: A Roadmap for a Senior Executive’s First 90 Days at a New Company” at the North American Supply Chain Executive Summit in Chicago this September. Why did you choose that topic?

One reason, fortunately or unfortunately, is I have a lot of recent experience with this topic. I’ve changed jobs quite a bit and have learned over the years what works and what doesn’t work. Secondly, when we were reviewing what I might want to discuss at the roundtable, this topic was the leadership module for a project I was working on with a supply chain group I belong to called Supply Chain 50. Twice a year Supply Chain 50 has a three-and-a-half-day classroom for what they call the Next 50. The Next 50 are people aspiring to be supply chain leaders.

‘Building Your Brand’ was the topic I was asked to deliver at that group because of my experience. My audience was 25 of the next generation of chief supply chain officers. I spent half a day with them discussing their Day One at a new job as a scenario-driven training course. They were given a brand new job as their course material, and we then walked through their first 90 days in that role. They did several exercises, and then we spent some time answering questions and discussing those first 90 days. Specifically, we discussed how they can build their brand. We discussed the pros and cons of what to do and what not to do in their new role.  The training session went extremely well.

To what extent is that first 90 days about launching impactful new initiatives, and to what extent is it about coming to understand the organization and have that organization understand you? Are those first 90 days about action or perception?

It’s both. When I talk about 90 days, I don’t recommend you should just go in and shake things up. I believe you need to understand the culture first. Action and perception are intertwined. Part of the culture aspect to your new role is people need to understand you, your brand, what’s important to you, what’s not important to you. They need to know where are your boundaries? That’s your brand that people need to understand.

Anyone who sits at the table will hopefully take away one small nugget of information, that will be a good day.

My personal preference is to interview people and customers (internal and external), ask lots of questions, and then at the end of 90 days come up with an action plan based on those conversations. That has been successful for me for the last three or four roles that I’ve had.

Your topic is not exclusively about how a new executive should come into a new organization to be personally successful. A lot of this would also apply to bringing on a new member to your own team and how to onboard them effectively. Is that correct?

While I am thinking of the topic more as a personal experience, you are absolutely correct. When I have a new employee come on board, one of the first couple of things I talk to them about is, A) their personal brand and how they can get that out there to their team, and B) what they should be doing in the first 90 days. This particular lunch topic is slanted more to the individual at the roundtable and their personal career, but it absolutely can be applied to helping someone be successful in onboarding a person into a new role, especially a senior leader type role. It doesn’t have to be only a global supply chain thing. It could be a plant leadership role, engineering manager, logistics manager. It applies to any type of position at any level where you are managing a large group of people.

Who are you hoping will sign up for this luncheon discussion topic as opposed to some of the other options at the North American Supply Chain Executive Summit?

I hope people will choose it either because they have just started a new role, or they are thinking about starting a new role, or they are curious about the personal branding aspect. Who specifically attends, honestly, I’m pretty open. One of the things I have a passion for is mentoring people, especially in their careers, so anyone who sits at the table will hopefully take away one small nugget of information, that will be a good day.