Kenneth Tombs

Principal of Business Compass

Kenneth Tombs - Chairperson of the Business Council for Supply Chain


Meet Kenneth Tombs, the Chairperson of the Business Council for Supply Chain within the International Trade Council. With a wealth of expertise in international trade, supply chains, and governance, Kenneth is a key figure in the industry.

As the Principal of Business Compass, Kenneth is dedicated to solving complex problems and shaping innovative solutions. His career trajectory was driven by personal interest, leading him into the world of international trade and supply chains.

Kenneth's diverse educational background in electronics, mechanical engineering, commercial marketing, psychometrics, organization, training, and legal studies has played a pivotal role in shaping his career. With experience serving on boards and leading start-ups, Kenneth has honed his skills in vision and strategy development.

Throughout his career, Kenneth has been involved in significant projects and initiatives. Notably, he was part of the first project to implement a TIR customs documentation system for Sealink Ferries as the UK joined the EU. He also served as a strategic consultant on technology exploitation to various UK government departments between 1991 and 2000.

Among his proudest professional accomplishments, Kenneth highlights his contributions to the monitoring of overseas aid projects by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). He has also played a role in preserving public records in the UK, USA, and other locations. Kenneth's leadership as a founding member of the Legal Images Initiative, a cross-sector group with the UK government and the Society for Computers and Law, aimed to make computer evidence legally valid.

Kenneth's expertise extends to the transformation of the UK Army's pay, personnel, and pensions service, the establishment of a digital legal service for the UK Environment Agency, and the founding of Hanover Education, a technology-based learning business.

Reflecting on the industry's evolution, Kenneth notes the transition from manual processes to computerization. While some advancements have been truly transformational, others have been incremental. Interestingly, some four-decade-old software still outperforms modern equivalents.

Today, the industry grapples with challenges related to trust, fraud, transparency, honesty, and behavior, with technology no longer a primary challenge. Kenneth believes that industry, government, and commerce should lead in technology rather than follow it. The role of internal and external audit is shifting, raising questions about the future direction of these functions.

In the coming 5-10 years, Kenneth envisions a world where zero trust becomes the norm, quantifiable data replaces qualitative, and automation dominates decision-making and support. This transformation presents new risks and opportunities that must be carefully navigated.

Kenneth is particularly excited about the potential of AI and its applications in making sense of complex data sets and supporting executive decisions. However, he believes that AI is still in its early stages and must find practical applications.

For those entering the industry, Kenneth's advice is to work smarter, not harder. Success hinges on not only winning interviews but also excelling in the job alongside colleagues.

In the face of setbacks and challenges, Kenneth advocates understanding, learning, adapting, testing, and revising. He values honesty, openness, and fairness in dealing with obstacles.

Kenneth draws inspiration from mentors such as Dr. Roger Harrison, Prof. Thomas Saaty, and authors like Robert Townshend. He also admires entrepreneurial figures like Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, and Nik Powell for their ethical approach to business.

Beyond his professional life, Kenneth is passionate about the sea, climate change, and beekeeping, reflecting a well-rounded and environmentally conscious individual.