As iPhone sales growth slows, it’s becoming increasingly important for Apple to lower supply costs to maintain its profit margins. That’s where Apple’s Vice President of Procurement Tony Blevins steps in. Tripp Mickle of the Wall Street Journal profiled Blevins and his hardball tactics to get the best deals for Apple (if you can’t get past the Wall Street Journal paywall, AppleInsider has a good summary).
At Qualcomm, which has dealt frequently with Mr. Blevins, executives found him friendly when asking for favors, calculating when pressing for lower prices and punishing when Qualcomm defied his demands.
Blevins has saved Apple hundreds of millions of dollars with tactics like inviting multiple glass suppliers for Apple’s new corporate campus to a Hong Kong hotel, putting them in separate conference rooms, and then bouncing from room to room, often with bluffed numbers. He’s also responsible for enforcing Apple’s strict non-disclosure policies, violations of which can open suppliers up to penalties of $50 million or more.
Before you judge Blevins or Apple harshly for such strong-arm tactics, it’s important to realize that the business world is often brutal, such that every large, successful company has—and needs—high-level executives like Blevins.