Ezio Garciamendez: Threading culture through the supply chain

By: Tim Rogers, Kontoor Dec 01, 2022 Feature Story Tags: Leadership, Supply chain, Culture

MERIDA, Mexico — One of the first things people in the U.S. usually want to know about Ezio Garciamendez is how to pronounce his name.

“It's an Italian name, right? So if you go to Italy, the way they pronounce it is Etzio, Etzio!,” says Kontoor’s new SVP and Chief Supply Chain Officer, with his characteristic full-smile laugh. “In the United States they say Easy-O, which sounds interesting. But I pronounce my name Essio. As simple as that. Essio.”

His surname, Garciamendez, also needs a bit of explanation; it’s basically two last names combined into one.

“Growing up, my brothers and sister and I always complained that when we said our last name we needed to be specific: It's one word, one capital letter. It was a nightmare,” Garciamendez laughs. “When you have a unique first name and a unique last name, at least it's memorable, right? For good or for bad, at least it’s memorable.”

Born and raised in Mexico City, with an engineering degree from Tecnológico de Monterrey, an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and two decades of experience working in international business, Garciamendez has heard every variable pronunciation of his name over the years. Such experiences have helped him interpret and explain cultural differences — a skill that’s served him in global business.

“Culture is so important,” Garciamendez tells me after our recent visit to Kontoor’s manufacturing complex in Acanceh, Mexico. “No matter how good your business is, if you don't have the right culture, you cannot deliver anything that is important. So culture is one of the things that I have in mind always. If you want to change something, you need to start changing some of the cultural elements in order to achieve different results.”

Culture in business requires leadership, Garciamendez says.

“I think leadership needs to walk the talk when it comes to culture, because people are looking at us and trying to see what we do, how we behave. That's the day-to-day thing that defines culture,” he says.

Garciamendez believes Kontoor has a good cultural mix to navigate into the future without forgetting its origins.

“It's a very interesting combination because we have brands that have been around for 75 and 130 years, yet we're a new company. And that's a very important combination; people feel that and are attracted to that combination,” he says. “We know who we are as a company, yet we want to move the business forward — we know we can do better.”

Strengthening the supply chain

Garciamendez is stepping into one of the hardest jobs at the company, as global supply chains face a barrage of unprecedented and unrelenting challenges.

Strengthening that process in a time of uncertainty requires a similar set of navigation skills.

“That's what I'm trying to bring,” Garciamendez says. “I’m oversimplifying big-time, but I think that supply chain management is about synchronization. It's a simple word, but the devil is in the details. You really need to try to synchronize the demand signal with your supply signal across a lot of different elements and try to make it work. And again, the key element is how do you build more resilient elements of the supply chain in a way that you can overcome all of those different unprecedented changes that I think we will continue to experience.”

Garciamendez says his training as an engineer helps him to understand the supply chain as a complex system with multidimensional variables. And that informs his approach to troubleshooting.

“One of the things that I learned about engineering, which I think is who I am as a person, is that I'm a problem solver and I think engineers are, in essence, educated to solve problems,” he says. “You need to understand tolerances and risks, and capability of the organization, which goes back to the issue of culture.”

Success in the job will ultimately require the strong leadership skills Garciamendez acquired over the past 20 years heading large global supply chain teams at Melaleuca and Procter & Gamble.

“For us engineers, two plus two equals four. But when you're a leader, the magic is that you need to make sure that two plus two equals five, six or seven,” he says. “You need to maximize potential.”