As a kid growing up in Boston in the 1990s, my top sport was American football. I spent most of my time on the field either catching passes on offense or trying to prevent other people from catching passes on defense. To do that well, you had to be the right combination of big enough and fast enough. To stay fast enough I used to run track in the spring and I used to run on the 4X100 relay team.
Relay races are a fascinating combination of strategy, teamwork, and speed. It takes all three to win and the common strategy is to put your fastest runner in the fourth spot to finish out the race. I never ran the fourth spot. The kinds of people that run the fourth spot at the top levels are also often the best runners in the world: people like Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake that hold world records as the fastest people on the planet and have multiple Olympic medals. These are the people you want running the anchor leg.
People often talk about supply chains as relay races. To execute an international transaction you need global coordination of a “team” of operators to get goods from the starting line to the finish line in a coordinated sequence of steps. Since the start of the pandemic, a lot of that coordination and teamwork has broken down and critical supply chains like healthcare are at risk of coming apart. One thing that has become readily apparent as we work with global partners in efforts to distribute protective equipment, diagnostics kits, and eventually vaccines to eliminate the virus across the globe is that nobody seems to know who’s running in the fourth spot! Who are you relying on to close out the relay and finish the job? Is there even anyone in the lane, or do you quit the race before you cross the finish line? To win, we need to finish the relay. This has to become the focus of the global effort to stop the spread of the virus.
Kountable has spent the last 5 years working with some of the top finishers in East Africa. By working with these local suppliers who deliver goods to the national medical stores of Kenya and Rwanda, the United Nations, the Buffet Foundation, the Gates Foundation, US Embassies, refugee programs and hospitals, we’ve learned what specific tools and technologies these local suppliers need to finish the job. We’ve built a technology platform to coordinate the global team and to turbocharge the anchor leg and ensure they cross the finish line. We’ve developed Kountable Capital Solutions, Kountable Fulfillment Network, our Trade Cloud, Treasury Cloud, and our Business Intelligence Suite so every interested party can verify and demonstrate that the race was run from end-to-end (that we crossed the finish line) and record how long it took us to get there. This level of coordination and precision, combined with a commitment strategy to turbocharge the anchor leg and finish the race every time is what is needed to achieve the level of scale required to mount a successful response.
This approach is also what we need if we want to execute at the level required to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We are at a moment in history where we have to finish the job. The time for half measures and reports without execution are behind us. If we want to build a regenerative economy, finishing the job is the “table stakes.” If we want to do it at scale, we need to find and turbocharge all the talent we can find to run the anchor leg. That talent is the world’s population of local entrepreneurs.
Fitter supply chains will make us and our economies healthier through COVID-19 and beyond. Here's how to get there.