Passionate about innovationPublished 9:00am Saturday, October 5, 2013
Finding a way to use her accounting credentials without having to be an accountant completely changed the course of one woman’s career.
Tami LaCanne, 40, strategic sourcing manager at Lou-Rich, worked at various local companies before starting in customer service at Lou-Rich and working her way up to where she is now, in a job that she genuinely enjoys.
Abandoning accounting, somewhat
LaCanne’s associate’s degree in accounting from Kaplan University in Mason City, Iowa, helped her find her way to her first professional jobs, one as a financial assistant at Owatonna’s hospital, and another at Hormel’s corporate office. There she worked for seven years, starting in accounting and transitioning to customer service and logistics. Moving from accounting to other areas of business was exactly what she needed.
“I didn’t want to sit in a cubicle all day,” LaCanne said.
Her accounting credentials have continued to help her in each position she has held, but she prefers working with people and avoiding crunching numbers all day. After working at Hormel, a job in customer service opened up at Lou-Rich, and LaCanne started that position in 2002.
From there, she worked in various capacities, including a time in engineering where she got used to how materials worked and how the company purchased everything it needed. She noticed price quotes and buying patterns, which piqued her interest.
“I said, ‘We need to have someone take a look at these prices,’” LaCanne said. “And I sort of reverted back into accounting.”
But not for long.
In 2009, LaCanne became the company’s strategic sourcing manager. The title means she’s in charge of finding and auditing suppliers, working with customers and continuing to find creative ways the company can get its supplies quickly and in the most cost-efficient way. LaCanne also manages six employees.
“I’m in charge of all of the purchasing,
negotiation and pricing of contracts,” LaCanne said. “I do like it.”
And with all those contracts comes a lot of negotiation. LaCanne enjoys the deliberations and has worked hard to make sure it’s something she’s good at.
“I absolutely love the negotiation part,” LaCanne said.
She’s constantly researching commodities like fuel, nitrogen and steel to make sure the company is buying its supplies when they’re not at their most expensive price.
“From plastic to metal to electronics, it’s a lot to keep track of,” LaCanne said. “We have well over 1,000 suppliers.”
Another challenge for LaCanne is that Lou-Rich is such a diverse company, fabricating parts and finished products for anything from the agriculture field to the medical field. One medical product Lou-Rich is making has 500 different parts to it.
LaCanne’s job is to purchase 200 of those and to make sure to buy the supplies for the 300 parts that Lou-Rich makes in house.
“It’s anything from contracting half-cent bolts all the way to securing a contract with multimillion-dollar
companies,” LaCanne said. “This position is so vast; I enjoy the variety.”
And while purchase orders need to be completed for every single item or commodity, LaCanne rarely does those anymore. She manages the employees who work on those, but she’s all about the big picture and finding new ways to make the company innovative.
“There’s a lot of changes to how we’re doing things,” LaCanne said. “The company has grown an amazing amount.”
One innovation in her area is the automation of purchase orders. The company has a system that can detect which products need to be ordered based on new projects that come in from its customers. It also looks at the company’s inventory so it wouldn’t automatically order parts it knows the company has on hand.
“That gives us more time to work on quality prices,” LaCanne said.
While she’s always finding new suppliers for new projects, much of what LaCanne does is work with suppliers to make sure Lou-Rich is getting the best price, which in turn gives its
customers the best price. LaCanne has also made sure Lou-Rich has chosen a primary and secondary supplier, and for some special instances, even a third supplier they could use if necessary.
“And monthly we do a supplier scorecard that looks at on-time delivery, defective parts per million and more,” LaCanne said.
She doesn’t like to call it babysitting, but she has had to go out to factories and make sure suppliers are running efficiently and not telling her they can get something to her in two weeks when it really might only take one.
“It might be a little over the top, but if they feel like they can’t maybe I can help them,” LaCanne said. “I’ve got to have the parts or my customer is going to override me and go ask that supplier what’s wrong.”
Continuing her love of learning
LaCanne has enjoyed finding new ways to be innovative at Lou-Rich. Even though the factory is spacious, space gets limited with large equipment and the sheer number of different projects the company is working on at any given time. So one way to save space is to make blanket orders to have a supplier bring 500 parts each week, instead of all at once bringing the 5,000 Lou-Rich will eventually need.
“We try to find the best way for both of us, because it is a partnership,” LaCanne said.
And even though LaCanne worked her way up to her current position, she still feels like something is missing. That’s why she finally decided to complete a four-year degree. She is now attending Cardinal Stritch University, in Milwaukee, Wis.
“I think it’s really good for my kids to see,” LaCanne said. “I want to be a good role model for them.”
LaCanne married her husband, Chris, in November. Their children include Trevor, 9, Miranda, 9, and Keira, 7. Her role as a mother and wife are fulfilling, and she feels accomplished at the end of the work day. Juggling the two can sometimes be difficult.
“Lou-Rich is a good company, and they’re very understanding about family demands,” LaCanne said. “As a mother I do sometimes feel guilty about going to work.”
That guilt is relieved somewhat by her enjoyment of the tasks she gets to do at work. And though she is so glad she’s not an accountant, she knows that training has helped her get to where she is.
“The balance sheet is totally affected by what I do,” LaCanne said.
That knowledge, plus everything she has taught herself over the years by trying new things or reading new books and all the knowledge she’s getting while pursuing a business management degree, will continue to help this determined woman try whatever she feels like trying.
“Where there’s a will there’s a way,” LaCanne said.
• Age: 40
• Title: strategic sourcing manager at
• Hometown: lives northeast of Albert Lea, grew up by Hayward
• Hobbies: She enjoys travel, playing kickball with her family, snowmobiling and playing bean bags.
• Family: husband, Chris, children, Trevor, 9, Miranda, 9, and Keira, 7