Inside Supply Management Magazine

Becoming an Indispensable Linchpin

March 21, 2018

By Sarah Scudder

Linchpin is defined as “a person or thing regarded as an essential or coordinating element” by “A person or thing that holds something together: the most important part of a complex situation or system,” states

Have you ever worked with a linchpin? I have, and I’ve seen how these indispensable people add tremendous value to a company. This becomes painfully obvious when linchpins leave their jobs: It’s difficult to replace them.

One of the linchpins I’ve known is Michelle. I’ve worked with her for 12 years, and she is everyone’s “go-to” person for everything. She knows accounting, customer services, data analysis, programming, technology, account management, sales and marketing. Most importantly, she’s a problem solver. Michelle doesn’t wait for problems to occur: She’s proactive and detects them before they happen. Then she implements solutions.

When I start my own company, my first job offer will be to Michelle, who has taught me a lot about becoming indispensable to my organization. She has helped me learn that being indispensable means I need to:

●Add value to my company and industry

●Increase revenue in creative ways

●Be instrumental in implementing new technology

●Solve problems and provide solutions

●Become an expert.

Make Yourself Indispensable

In 2016, my company went through a major technology change. We updated the front and back end of our e-commerce software. Initially, we made mistakes, but after we picked ourselves up and found the right partners to work with, we created a print portal system that is better than even we expected.

Throughout the process, Michelle was the go-to person. She took it upon herself to study at night and on weekends. She took training courses, watched videos and practiced what she learned. No one told her to become our new system expert. She did it on her own. In doing so, Michelle added value to the company and helped others learn. Being a linchpin has gained Michelle many rewards — trust, respect, flexible hours, working from home and the ability to make decisions without having to go through several layers of management.

Being indispensable is essential to advancing your career. Supply management is about much more than pushing paper, marking up contracts and getting a lower price. Supply management is about thinking strategically, adding value and coming up with new ideas. It’s important to take on extra projects, establish relationships with colleagues in all departments and be as visible to the management team as possible. Taking on extra projects allows you to learn and expand your skill set. When management hears about the good work you are doing, a promotion or recognition is sure to follow. Managers want to see that you care, that you are ambitious and that you are solving problems.

Use a Strategic Approach

Embark on your own journey to become indispensable using these strategies:

Take on key assignments. Inform your boss that you want to get more experience by taking on additional projects. Volunteer for crucial, difficult assignments. This will increase your visibility company-wide. It also shows initiative, willingness to be a team player and the desire to enhance your skills.

Become the expert. Be the go-to person for something different and challenging. Learn how to do something that no else knows how to do. Use this newly acquired skill set to brand yourself and stand out among your team members. Be known for something.

A team member of mine is a wizard at pivot tables in Microsoft Excel. She is known throughout our organization’s eight offices as the Excel expert. Can you guess who this Excel wizard might be? Yep. Michelle. When our president needs to prepare a report or analysis, he calls Michelle.

Provide a unique viewpoint. Steve Jobs didn’t change the world by doing what others had done. He didn’t always agree with his team. He stood out by disagreeing. Think of new ideas and solutions that will add value to your company. Never disrespect a team member when sharing your different viewpoint — pose it as “something else to consider.” Always illustrate how your boss and the company will benefit. Never make it about a personal benefit.

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” — Steve Jobs.

Network, network and network some more. Forming relationships gets you known and builds trust. Don’t just spend time with your boss. Get to know as many people outside of your department as possible. Set up tea or lunch meet-ups weekly. Ask questions about careers, families and goals. Offer to help and support your colleagues on their journeys. You will be surprised by how many people are touched and will want to help you. defines journey as a “passage or progress from one stage to another.”

Strive to be a linchpin. Let your journey begin.

Sarah Scudder is president of Procureit5 (, a print management services company. She is based in Petaluma, California.