Excerpts reprinted from CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS, May 1, 2007
25 Women to Watch
First lady. Jockey. Egyptologist. Talk show host. And a nun.
This isn’t the beginning of a bad joke. It’s what some of our 25 Women to Watch wanted to be when they grew up.
Instead, they made their mark on industries throughout Chicago, from the trading floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to the check-in lines at O’Hare.
This year’s Women to Watch are bankers, academics, marketing mavens and logistics experts. They are fundraisers, doctors and a chief operating officer who started out making french fries in Dayton, Ohio.
One is responsible for the tallest skyscraper in the United States designed by a woman-owned architecture firm. Another built the city’s first Wal-Mart. And if the Dan Ryan Expressway still feels bumpy at the end of the year, one of these women will be to blame.
We figured you’d read enough, here in Crain’s and elsewhere, about the challenges of the female CEOs who run Chicago’s biggest public companies: Brenda Barnes of Sara Lee Corp., Patricia Woertz of Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Irene Rosenfeld of Kraft Foods Inc. Their hurdles are formidable — and well-documented.
So, we went in search of momentum, looking not only for women at the top of their fields, but also for the lesser-knowns who have particularly pressing goals to meet in the coming year — from landing the 2016 Olympics to saving the Chicago Transit Authority.
And this is what we found: not what these women thought they would be, but who they really became.
CEO • DSC Logistics, Inc.
Twenty years ago, supply chain management was a snooze. Once a company figured out how it was going to get its goods from point A to point B and where it was going to store them, it stuck with the routine for years.
But in the 1990s, CEOs realized they could save money by outsourcing their transporting and warehousing to contractors who could monitor customer-ordering patterns and other trends to adjust the supply chain as needed.
Ann Drake, fresh out of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, saw the changes coming. Then an executive vice-president at the warehousing company her father started in Des Plaines in the 1960s, she transformed the firm into a third-party logistics management business.
“Today, execution is just the ticket for entry,” says Ms. Drake, 59. “It’s all the other things you do around execution that are important.”
Since becoming CEO in 1994, she has redesigned company warehouses to make them more efficient and introduced new services for clients, like packaging and order fulfillment.
With annual revenue that has doubled under her watch to $300 million, DSC has a staff of 2,300 that manages distribution centers across the country for clients like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of Arkansas and J. M. Smucker Co. in Ohio.
“Ann is willing to learn about what drives us and steps in to make the changes that are necessary,” says Rich Wilson, director of corporate distribution at food maker Smucker’s, for whom DSC manages 1.3 million square feet of warehouse space in six locations.
Ms. Drake picked the right time to expand DSC. Two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies now outsource supply chain management to third-party logistics companies, spending $158.1 billion for the service in 2005, according to logistics research firm Armstrong & Associates.
But while DSC is the biggest third-party logistics company in Chicago, it competes for contracts against giants like DHL Americas Logistics in Florida and UPS Supply Chain Solutions in Atlanta. And Chicago is not the dominant transportation hub it once was, as Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta have become major distribution points.
To stay competitive, DSC needs to grow. Ms. Drake plans to do that by pursuing more business from existing customers as they go global; taking on more business from mid-sized firms, which are increasingly outsourcing their logistics divisions, and advertising DSC’s woman-owned business status to pique the interest of companies with supplier diversity programs.
WHY WE SHOULD WATCH HER: She is pushing to build DSC Logistics into a $500-million business, which would help Chicago maintain its foothold as one of the biggest distribution centers in the U.S.
CROSSROAD: After she earned an MBA in 1984, she wrote a reorganization plan that persuaded her father to appoint her DSC’s executive vice-president. Previously, her father never thought to tap her for leadership because “it was a man’s world.”
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