Industry News
How to Become a CPO Before 40: Be Like Frank Ho

Increasingly in procurement, certain types of people are moving through the ranks and becoming chief procurement officers (CPOs) faster than others. One case in point is Frank Ho, who was just promoted to vice president of indirect procurement at Rite Aid and is only 35 years old. I had the chance to meet Frank at a CombineNet conference a couple of years ago and remember his stories around the sophistication of Rite Aid’s sourcing operations, especially its use of advanced sourcing and scenario analysis.

In a previous press release on the topic, CombineNet said its retail clients were using the tools in a variety of ways:

  • “Aggregating spends across store locations for greater efficiencies and economies of scale, and without losing location-based preferences.”
  • “Managing the costs, complexities, seasonality and store network changes affecting transportation services procurement.”
  • “Fulfilling the logistics and distribution needs of growing e-business operations.”
  • “Supporting retailers' focus on sustainability and environmental responsibility, through comprehensive supplier qualification and analysis, as well as reduced-waste initiatives.”

If you take on face value that Frank and his team have been effective in part through embracing new sourcing approaches that CombineNet outlined a few years back, then you can then turn to his background. Frank, like many fast rising procurement executives today, can “check the box” in having had at least a couple of years of management consulting experience earlier in his career.

Further, he has undergraduate degrees not in procurement or supply chain, but computer science and math – also great requisites for taking advantage of new technologies and approaches to procurement, as are economics, operations research and the hard sciences. And, as is common, he also has an MBA from a top university, Columbia.

For those looking to becoming a CPO before 40, follow Frank’s steps. But perhaps most important, remember: unlike in my generation and my peers at Spend Matters, there is no longer a need to stay in management consulting to make a stellar income in procurement and operations. You can now do similarly well in-house at larger organizations and private equity firms with an in-house operations practice for their portfolio companies.

And plus, anecdotally speaking, you’re that much less likely to get divorced because of all the travel if you go in-house versus staying on the road.

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