Q1 - 2020
INSIGHTS FOR TODAY’S PROCUREMENT LEADERS
An Eclectic Peek into Procurement Foundry Addressing Procurement’s Data Crisis In Praise of Many Hats: The Need to ‘Accessorize’ at a Procurement Startup
Developing Your Personal Brand Without Promoting Yourself Sustainability in Procurement: Getting Products for a Song, Without Sending a Proverbial ‘Wrecking Ball’ to the World
Eclectic Peek into 2 An Procurement Foundry
Addressing Procurementâ€™s Data Crisis
8 Sustainability in Procurement 12 In Praise of Many Hats Your Personal Brand 16 Developing Without Promoting Yourself
Q1 - 2020
INSIGHTS FOR TODAY’S PROCUREMENT LEADERS LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Editor-In-Chief Andy Beth Miller
Design Naomi Catalina
Writers Ronald Hedley Andy Beth Miller
Outside Contributor Stephany Lapierre, tealbook
Advertising Branden George: 940-230-5830
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procurising.com No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher Real Sourcing Network (RSN). This publication is intended to provide accurate, authoritative, and detailed information in regard to the subject matter covered. All written materials are disseminated with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal advice or other professional services. Under no circumstance should the information contained herein be relied upon as legal advice, as it is designed to be a source of information only. ProcureRising strongly encourages the use of qualified attorneys or other qualified experts with regard to the subject matter covered. As the publication does not guarantee the accuracy of the information, it is therefore not liable.
Although Steve Jobs was a world renowned tech genius, a celebrated visionary, and a wildly successful entrepreneur, he still had the awareness that it takes a village to truly achieve anything extraordinary. In fact, Jobs once admitted, “Great things in business are never done by one person; they’re done by a team of people.” And we tend to agree, which is why we have focused on the critical component of collaboration as the cornerstone of our current issue. From learning to work together in order to collectively chase down the proverbial unicorn of sustainability to helping one another effectively identify and promote our personal brands, and even drawing on the experiences of others within a thriving community of forward-focused peers, some of the procurement world’s most knowledgeable experts chime in and offer excellent advice. And, no surprise, their sentiments each echo Jobs’ assertion about teamwork, of some nature, being an absolute must. Join us as we speak with Miriam Brafman, founder and CEO of Packlane, as she tackles the topic of sustainability in procurement, specifically identifying the current obstacles that are making progress precarious. Ronald Hedley then procures wisdom from Michael Cadieux, founder of Procurement Foundry, who explains how he uses his organization to harness the power of a real-time collaboration community. Jason Huang, VP of Manufacturing and Supply Chain/Business Development at Occipital, a science lab and special computing startup that develops state-of-the-art 3D hardware and software solutions, then reveals how his ability to accessorize (meaning his wearing a lot of hats via myriad roles) helps him and his business stay fashionably in step with the ever-evolving world of procurement. Following those insights, expert Dana Small discusses how you can develop your own personal brand, without falling into the “shameless promotion of self” trap. And finally, Stephany Lapierre, CEO and Founder of tealbook, talks us through the twists and turns of the data crisis facing procurement today. With so much fascinating news and information at our fingertips, as the Gen-Xers are saying these days, “We’re here for it!” But mostly, in supporting the spirit of this issue’s theme, we’re here for YOU. Walk with us a while, onward, Andy Beth Miller
An Eclectic Peek into Procurement Foundry By Ronald Hedley It is really very simple. In order to be successful in virtually any endeavor, supply chain or otherwise, one must collaborate. The better the collaboration, the more success will be had. In his Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management article entitled “The Science Behind the Growing Importance of Collaboration,” author Benjamin F. Jones explained why collaboration matters more today than ever. “Our individualized knowledge is becoming more and more specialized. There is more and more to know in the world, and you can only have so much in your head, so the share of stuff you know as an individual is declining in any field.” What is the effect? Jones continued, “This increasing specialization of skills means that you need bigger and bigger groups, with more and more specialists, in order to be successful. Over time, this is an ongoing, neverending phenomenon of increased specialization, which is ever increasing the demand for collaboration.”
“There is nothing like Procurement Foundry out there in the market today that focuses strictly on practitioners. We are a real-time collaboration.” Cadieux is proud of his new community, of which he said, “There is nothing like Procurement Foundry out there in the market today that focuses strictly on practitioners. We are a real-time collaboration community. We are a fully vetted community, where not everybody can get in. For me, foundry means building something from scratch. The name is a good fit for my vision.” The following question and answer session should give the reader a deeper understanding of Procurement Foundry, Cadieux’s realized dream for a “safe haven” where procurement people can gather, learn, share and grow:
Jones offered this advice: “Make space for people to meet potential collaborators they may not otherwise run into.”
Hedley: Who is your typical Procurement Foundry member?
Enter Procurement Foundry: the brainchild of Michael Cadieux.
Cadieux: People who are sincere about their careers and who are not promoting something else. They are practitioners who are looking to find like-minded practitioners to collaborate, communicate, and network with.
Cadieux launched Procurement Foundry in June 2019. He explained why he chose the name. “A foundry is where metal is forged. I thought it would be cool to have that connotation. This is where collaborations are made. This is where networking is forged. This is the new beginning.”
Hedley: Why are members vetted? Cadieux: I have a lot of consultants and sales side folks who want to gain access to the community. I don’t let them in because I know that once they are in, they are going to try to sell consultancy services to the
practitioners. The practitioners get enough of that on all the other digital access points. They are getting crushed with sale-side stuff. Hedley: How did you know to establish a vetting process? Cadieux: From experience. My background is procurement in advertising and marketing firms, I am very familiar with link dumping ads, placement ads, email marketing strategies and social media strategies. My goal was to find a place, to create a place where I could have a conversation with people that was outside of all that and assure members are who they say they are. Hedley: What is expected of Foundry members? Cadieux: The only expectation I have is that they join the conversation. Someone may have a question about a problem that they are facing right now. Someone may be new to leadership and need a 90-day plan to build out a procurement team. The conversation can simply be collaborating with others. Not only do members have the ability to engage in topic-based communication channels, they also have the ability to direct message each other and to have private conversations. Hedley: What can members expect from Procurement Foundry?
Hedley: What else can a procurement professional gain by joining Procurement Foundry? Cadieux: You can find a community of like-minded people. I think you can find answers to questions that are difficult to find, without paying any money for it. There are a lot of consulting firms charging for answers they got from talking to your peers. Now our members can do that without the fees.
Vignette de Cadieux #1
A member recently pulled me aside at a meet-up event and told me, “Listen, I don’t know if you’re going to monetize this thing or not, but I just want to let you know, I saved a million dollars on a contract negotiation last week in less than 24 hours, based on some connections and answers I got inside of Procurement Foundry. I saved a million dollars in less than 24 hours and my consulting company representative hasn’t even called me back yet.” Our member had requested that an analyst from his consulting firm call him to talk about his needs. While waiting for a response, he got into Procurement Foundry, and posted a message stating, ‘Hey, I’ve got a problem with this negotiation, who can help?’ He got six answers in the specific channel. He then received a call from one of our members. They talked about a negotiations strategy, which resulted in a million-dollar savings on a ten-million-dollar deal. All that was done before his consulting firm called him back.”
“Not only do members have the ability to engage in topic-based communication channels, they also have the ability to direct message each other and to have private conversations.”
Cadieux: Members are using Procurement Foundry as a real-time indicator for what they should be focusing on in the market. Examples include how important is sustainable sourcing? Or, is deploying ‘bots to reconcile invoices an important topic? Some people are coming in strictly for industry knowledge. Some are coming in for networking. Some are not ready to engage and are just lurking. The more people who are engaged in Procurement Foundry, the more sets of eyes are out there to potentially answer members’ questions when you have a difficult question to ask.
Hedley: Are Foundry members finding employment? Cadieux: I’m sure they are. Recently someone said they are posting all new openings in Procurement Foundry due to the caliber of the members.
Vignette de Cadieux #3 Hedley: Are college students part of your community? Cadieux: Yes. We’re reaching out to four-year accredited universities to create educational alliances. We believe we can help universities promote their programs and, at the same time, help their undergraduates get internships and mentors in the industry. I was on the phone this morning with a couple of MBA students from Rutgers University, who are Procurement Foundry members. They are in the supply chain management school, and they’re coming into our industry completely green. They don’t have jobs yet, but in the Procurement Foundry they get a front row seat to the entire industry.
“We’re reaching out to four-year accredited universities to create educational alliances.” Vignette de Cadieux #2
A mentor reached out to me recently. He told me, “Listen, these mentor programs are a two-way street. It’s not just me mentoring a kid, this kid is telling me about some of the more emerging technologies that are available. These kids have the time and desire to mine things like the Procurement Foundry, or a really good repository of data, or new vendors that play in this space, or a new tax strategy.” Practitioners don’t have the time to be out there doing that every day. A lot of mentors are a decade or two into their career, and they must find a way to stay relevant. It really is a two-way street.
We did a compensation and salary survey back in the May time frame. I released the survey out to the members. If you’re a member, you get a 42-page presentation on the salary and compensation survey results. I got feedback from a woman this week, who told me that she was able to negotiate a 30% pay raise by moving to another company. She got stock options that she never had before, and she increased her annual bonus by 50%, all through the compensation and salary survey that we put together. She located, targeted, and landed a job in the company that she wanted through connections in Procurement Foundry. Hedley: There seems to be a lot of moving parts. Is Procurement Foundry running smoothly?
“Procurement Foundry is a way for me to give something back to the industry.” Cadieux: Yes. We have a 3-tiered content strategy. The collaboration between all our members is the first tier, our foundation. The second layer up is what we call the “Original Content Series.” The “original content” is any article, AMA, or Webinar that we create. Soon, we’re going to have guest writers be content contributors. CPOs and industry thought leaders will write articles specifically for Procurement Foundry. That will improve our content base and build the writers’ brands as well. The third tier of the content is what we call “Squad Up Events.”
The power of “Squad Up Events”
Vignette de Cadieux #4
On Monday, we had a Squad Up Event in one of the collaboration channels. We had a virtual dial-in brown bag lunch on Squad Up associated with some cost increases in a major software publisher. One of the members had just gone through the renewal and had seen some significant licensing increases and wanted to educate the rest of the members about it. This person put together 4-5 quick slides, opened a Zoom channel on a Monday at 12 o’clock, and had 30 people log in to listen to him. We recorded the session, and now it’s sitting in that channel for everyone else to listen to. And it’s free.
Vignette de Cadieux #5
I used to go to the conferences and collect business cards. On the plane ride home, I’d say to myself, “I’m going to reach out to these people and talk to them.” When I got home, I would have 300 emails, and I’d completely forgotten about the contacts I was going to make. Hedley: What have you gained personally from founding and running Procurement Foundry? Cadieux: Empathy for what procurement people struggle with, and respect for their willingness to help peers. It’s inspiring. It pushes me to grow Procurement Foundry every day now. I’ve been in this industry for a couple decades, and it has provided me with a wonderful life. It really started off as a way to give something back for all the help I received, and now I’m all about adding value to our members.
Final Thoughts With Procurement Foundry, Cadieux has created a safe space where procurement collaborators can meet, a space where access to information is the foundation for success. Cadieux concluded, “I think the backbone of any good sourcing and procurement exercise is knowledge.”
Addressing Procurementâ€™s Data Crisis By Stephany Lapierre, CEO & Founder, tealbook Businesses of all sizes, maturity levels, and industries are facing a data crisis. While this may sound dramatic, I suggest that data quality is at the root of nearly every problem in procurement today. Companies rely on their procurement organizations to work with suppliers and foster the relationships required to advance the business, while elevating working conditions in the supply chain as a whole. This need has paved the way for a flurry of procurement software implementations, each automating one or more aspects of the procurement process. With equal speed, technology has expanded the ways in which suppliers market themselves and connect with their current and prospective customers. These factors have left procurement with the monumental task of managing a variety of systems, fragmented data, and ever-growing business expectations. The transactional network of relationships between the business and its suppliers ultimately produces an endless stream of resource-rich data. This volume of data is so large, and is growing so quickly, that only technology can properly mine and manage it. Data is the foundation that a business relies on and that procurement acts on. For these reasons, data must be accurate and trustworthy. All sourcing, spend analysis, contract and supplier management activity is dependent upon the quality of enterprise data. And yet, the current state of our data is of an alarmingly poor quality. It is stored in separate systems, and duplication, omissions, and errors are widespread. Data changes at an alarming rate and is often generated in disparate systems. This only compounds the complexity of the crisis.
As a result of these challenges, there is a lack of trust in business data that undermines the value potential of every effort procurement invests in. Budgets are being overrun, and friction and delays are slowing our processes and reducing compliance. Even P2P implementation and digital transformation projects are being jeopardized. Many procurement teams are looking to their software to address the data crisis. Unfortunately, in-place software designed to manage one process or type of data cannot drive change beyond its intended scope. Each instance of a software solution holds a stack of data that does not connect and cannot be reconciled without significant effort, if at all. When I discuss this data crisis with procurement leaders, I often use the example of a mobile phone. Do you remember what it used to be like when you were switching from one phone to another? Everything from contacts to apps to pictures and videos had to be manually transferred. Losing them all was not an option, but the transfer process was so cumbersome and painful that we would sometimes put off getting a new phone just because we couldn’t face it. Today, however, the process of transferring all of this information is seamless. You can buy a new phone with the latest version of the applicable software on it, and all of your data connects over quickly and easily. So, what changed? Was it the technology? Sure, but more importantly, companies realized that phone purchases
were being delayed because they had a data crisis on their hands. Competition and consumer expectations forced them to improve their processes and solutions for managing user data, and they solved the problem at the root of the crisis. Procurement is in a similar position as we face the enterprise data crisis. Our “customers” (buyers, suppliers, budget owners, and the executive team) are all turned off by the friction and chaos of our data. In its current state, data is damaging procurement’s internal brand and costing us marketing share. We need to increase our data management agility and flexibility. Technology is constantly changing, which is a trend that is not likely to slow or end anytime soon. If anything, it is likely to speed up and be exacerbated by the addition of even more enterprise software. The needs of the business come first. Procurement has to find a way to master our data as it stands today, but in a way that allows us to preserve the integrity of that data as we integrate with the latest versions of our eProcurement solutions in the future. Leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence will allow us to make sense of our data and increase its usefulness to whatever systems the enterprise is using. The powerful combination of trusted data and informed systems will ensure procurement has a trusted source of supplier data. With it, true value can be delivered to the organization via highly strategic decisions.
in Procurement Getting Products for a Song, Without Sending a Proverbial ‘Wrecking Ball’ to the World
By Andy Beth Miller
Legendary musician Jack Johnson has a song titled “The 3 R’s,” which is a catchy little kid-focused tune that teaches youth how to be more sustainable in their daily lives. The song’s infectious lyrics, like the repetitive chorus, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” act as a simple road map for children, really driving home the importance of sustainability practices, starting at home. Another verse lilts, “If you’re going to the market to buy some juice, you’ve got to bring your own bags and you learn to reduce. And if your brother or your sister’s got some cool clothes, you could try them on before you buy some more of those.” Sounds simple, right? As I hum the tune, which really gets stuck in your head, I meet Miriam Brafman, Founder and CEO of Packlane, whose professional advice immediately strikes a discordant chord to Johnson’s jolly melody. But, before you go getting upset, Brafman is actually here to help and enlighten, not to bash a nursery rhyme-sounding ditty. Apparently, sustainability, especially in the realm of procurement, is not always as easy as ABC or 123.
Such awareness could be a tough pill to swallow for most, but when this truth bomb comes from the CEO of Packlane, a packaging manufacturing and sourcing company that combines in-house vertically integrated packaging manufacturing with a network of factory partners, thus making itself an infinitely scalable packaging supply chain and one-stop-shop, you listen. I was indeed listening, and what I most wanted to know now was an echo of the paraphrased lyrics of another blast from the past songstress, Avril Lavigne, who fired off the burning question in all of our minds, “Why’s it gotta be so complicated?” While these particular lyrics may be referencing life and love, my question was aimed specifically at sustainability in procurement. And from that moment onward, the conversation that ensued was an informative discussion of just that. Specifically, the reasonings behind the myriad complexities that plague it. But, before that, let’s start at the beginning, and just what brought Brafman into the procurement arena in the first place. “I became interested in the procurement field a few years ago in 2015, when I founded Packlane,” she explained. “I came from a graphic design and software engineering background and didn’t know a single thing about the procurement field, but had to quickly get up to speed and found it fascinating because of the business
strategy behind it. It’s a very appealing combination of resourcefulness, negotiation, and technical expertise that offers an abundance of challenges and opportunities for progress.” After hearing this, I couldn’t help but follow up with the query, “Is achieving sustainability an example of such progress?” To which, Brafman instantly schooled me on the real deal, which involved a case of mistaken identity, as I would soon discover that “perfect sustainability” in procurement is a real unicorn of sorts, or perhaps even as elusive as Moby Dick’s white whale. But, I’ll let Brafman explain this herself: “I think whenever you are manufacturing or sourcing physical products for consumption, you are never truly sustainable, so it (sustainability) tends to be a bit of a misnomer.” She went on to explain that, “Even brands that pioneered this supreme sustainability approach to conducting business/procurement, like Patagonia, have had to resort to brand campaigns that plea for customers to not purchase their products period, because reducing overall consumption is the only path to true sustainability. So, with that said, I think dematerialization and making goods in a ‘less harmful’ way is essentially what feasible sustainability means, which is a slightly awkward place to be quite frankly.” Feeling a bit awkward myself, now that my rosecolored glasses regarding sustainability had been removed… Okay, they were smashed… I tentatively waded into the waters of searching for a proactive way to approach this monolith. “So, now what?” I asked Brafman, the helplessness and frustration telltale in my upraised hands. Luckily, Brafman came prepared, and she immediately pointed to the importance of identifying the current obstacles that are negatively affecting sustainability practices today, a streamlined list of which follows: *Recycling infrastructure is lacking. According to Brafman, “Many cities do not have basic recycling infrastructure, so basic packaging materials (like cardboard boxes) that in theory should be recyclable, cannot be recycled if the end consumer does not have a way to responsibly dispose of the material. Many types of packaging that are frequently used still do not have easy recyclability, so they end up in the landfill.”
*Most packaging buyers are still looking at cost as the number one criteria. “This is especially true in regards to sourcing packaging, said Brafman, “because it’s part of their Cost of Goods. As a result, new materials and low-carbon alternatives to production have a very high barrier to entry, due to how cheap, inexpensive, and easily available the more harmful options (like plastics) are.” *Packaging alternatives that are marketed as eco-friendly, such as compostable mailers, still have roughly the same impact and footprint as conventional packaging options. “For this reason,” said Brafman, “we have yet to truly invent the solutions we need to fight the environmental damage caused by packaging waste.” Speaking of plastics, Brafman did not hold back her disdain, explaining that, “Plastics are the most ubiquitous and one of the most environmentally harmful packaging materials on the planet, and the leakage into the oceans is expected to grow very quickly over the next decades due to how superblyengineered plastic containers are, combined with the lack of recycling infrastructure across the world to contain the leakage.” She then shared that another reason for the plethora of plastics seemingly overrunning the world is that “it is much easier to procure packaging made from plastics due to their cost competitiveness and functional efficacy when compared with alternatives.” Brafman then pointed out yet one more moneymotivated elephant in the room, “With existing infrastructure and availability of options, many companies are unwilling to make the necessary compromises and trade-offs that come with more sustainable packaging. For example, eliminating a clamshell that gives the consumer a transparent window into a product container, or doing away with the plastic enclosure that makes it possible to keep berries fresh as they get transported from one continent to another.” At this point in our interview, I am unsure whether Brafman noticed my slumped shoulders or bowed head first, but she quickly noted the discouragement threatening to overwhelm, so kindly elaborated upon
“There is a reluctance to bring procurement into all conversations (decisions in a business), yet they can be so much more than only a source of savings, providing things like Innovation, risk mitigation, sustainability, support on Merger and Acquisition, new business opportunities and more.”
the following approach to embracing a more feasible idea of sustainability, one with far less unrealistic expectations. “From a procurement standpoint, in the packaging industry specifically, this means having the technical expertise to identify and eliminate harmful chemicals and raw materials from the supply chain. The packaging supply chain is typically composed of inks, raw materials like papers, coatings, and plastics, the large power-hungry machines that are required to manufacture and print a run of packaging, and the shipping transportation required for the packaging to reach the final destination. Each one of these has a different carbon footprint, so the reality is that to create less harmful packaging, you have to reduce each of these contributors in uniquely different and often challenging ways.” Brafman also suggested reducing the overall amount of plastic-encased products that we use, then pointed to bio-materials as being the future. According to her, bio-materials are a good step in
the right direction, as they are designed with many of the same qualities as conventional plastics. At the same time, they can be sustainably sourced at the beginning of their lives and composted at the end of their lives.” When asked about role models that she sees blazing the trail in exhibiting some of these best practices, Brafman does not hesitate to hail a handful, “My role models include: Andrew Gibbs, who is the Founder and Editor in Chief of ‘The Dieline.’ He’s dedicated his career and editorial influence to working with organizations like A Plastic Planet that seek to promote a plastic-free packaging supply chain.” She then pointed to a big player in today’s market. “Patagonia is an obvious leader when it comes to sustainable supply chain practices. They published a fascinating study on how they sought to eliminate plastic bags from their packaging supply chain and the challenges they faced (https://www.patagonia.com/ blog/2014/07/patagonias-plastic-packaging-a-study-onthe-challenges-of-garment-delivery/).” Lastly, she praised Amazon, extolling what the super successful company is doing with regards to their in-house Packaging Lab, which involves “enforcing stricter requirements on merchants to use less wasteful packaging and eliminating excess packaging waste through frustration-free packaging,” all of which, Brafman shared, “can have obviously large and powerful implications due to the sheer scale and influence as a packaging buyer.” After hearing how much of an uphill battle aiming toward sustainability in procurement can be, for those of us left wondering, why bother? Perhaps iconic crooner Louis Armstrong sang it best. It’s a “wonderful world,” and we want to do our best to take care of it.
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is a success.” -Henry Ford
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In Praise of Many Hats By Andy Beth Miller
The Need to ‘Accessorize’ at a Procurement Startup Recently, I sat down with Jason Huang, the successful VP of Manufacturing and Supply Chain/Business Development at Occipital, a science lab and special computing startup that develops state-of-the-art 3D hardware and software solutions. To fulfill his role, Huang wears a lot of hats, and when I say a lot, I mean…A LOT. This ability to expertly “accessorize,” he explained, is nothing new, as he has apparently been working on his now wide-range of skills, building his wardrobe if you will, since before he even dipped his toes in the waters of the procurement pool. It all started back in Taiwan, when Huang was just getting started, building the firm foundation that would form the building blocks of his successful procurement career in a surprising and equally multi-faceted way, brick by meticulous brick. Originally from Taiwan, Huang went to National Taiwan University and got his Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering. He then served in Taiwan’s Air Force for one year as a logistics manager. It was there that he got his baptism by fire for his foray into the procurement arena, while arranging missions, scheduling and maintaining 52 vehicles and their drivers, and much more. Again, it was a lot, but it was a challenge that Huang not only faced head on, but that
actually sparked a curiosity and thirst for more knowledge within him that spurred him onward. He explained of this season in his life, “That really got me interested in the things beyond mechanical engineering, such as operational matters, like how to schedule repair jobs or delivering military supplies. Then, eventually, I started dealing with ordering replacement parts and handling all of the resource constraints from budgets, regarding all repairs, the handling of crews and drivers, etc.” Huang then continued his educational journey at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he received his Master’s Degree in Industrial and Operations Engineering. “We focused a lot on Mathematics, which later turned out to be very helpful in thinking about fulfillment and the best results in shipping, etc,” Huang shared. “These things I found very interesting, and it was during this time that I really stepped from a pure engineering degree into a more operational degree.” Huang then shared how he also took MBA classes at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, which really opened
his eyes to the other side of business operations, an endeavor that would perfectly complement his engineering education later on as he proceeded to grow and expand his role within his professional procurement journey. After hearing Huang’s fascinating backstory, all I could think about was him wearing a ton of hats as I asked, “What keeps you motivated as you make your way in the procurement world?” His instantaneous response to my question met my eager-for-inspiration ears, delivering its desired impactful effect: In a nutshell, Huang attributes his ability to thrive and succeed to his having an abundance of passion for, and pride in, his work. The possession of this pair of stellar qualities is not only a requirement for success in regards to himself, explained Huang, but also extends to his colleagues at Occipital. In fact, according to Huang, the staff at startups have an even higher bar when it comes to all that the employees need to be able to do, and do well, within their (many) respective roles. It is at this point in the interview that we circle right back to the wearing of many hats motif. Explaining of himself and two of his Michigan Alumni colleagues, who helped to co-found Occipital, Huang said, “We built our company in 2008, and at the beginning, it was a pure software company that used a cell phone camera to make software applications.” Then, a few years later, in 2011, the company decided to expand its scope of operations and began making their own 3D scanner prototype. But, they needed someone who was able to bring this device into the market successfully. Enter Huang and his many hats, who explained, “that was really the perfect field for what I had been trained to do thus far in my experiences and education.” As Huang spoke of this fledgling endeavor, and of its ultimate success, which now includes fostering a team of 80 employees and 5 newly-acquired companies, I could hear the pride swelling in his voice, but this swell was a wave of audible satisfaction that was well-earned and much-deserved, and one that surpassed all notions of narcissism to really reach the crux of the matter: Huang’s voice was ringing with a pride that stemmed from a job well-done, or in this case, a product well-delivered to the masses. And,
from that fateful start, Huang and this startup have been going strong ever since. In the face of such success, I couldn’t help but desire to know the secret to emulating this same tour de force in my own endeavors. When asked for advice, Huang symbolically took me by the hand, and as if we were stepping into the magical wardrobe of CS Lewis’ iconic tale about wisdom and finding the light, he led me patiently… right back to the hats. “When I first started with Occipital, we only had 8 people,” Huang explained. It is for this reason, that the people that his company chose for its skeleton staff really had to, just like Huang, be capable of wearing many hats. “Everyone that we hired had to be very knowledgeable and smart, and be able to cover two or three different types of tasks and areas,” he shared. Huang then divulged that he himself is still currently responsible for handling “sourcing, supply chain, negotiations, etc.” Basically, especially for a startup, you have to have a team that collectively has among them a broader range of abilities than most in order to meet the demand of the tasks at hand that lay dauntingly before them on a daily basis. And since we are talking about Huang’s company, the requirement is not only meeting those demands, but meeting them with excellence. In order to achieve this feat, once you have that priceless staff of multi-talented go-getters, Huang pinpointed how vital is the know-how of what to look for when it comes to the things that matter
most, especially when dealing with a startup company. Huang offered the following trio of bullet points that can help you as you attempt to navigate your own startup journey:
ave Clear, H Manageable, and Realistic Expectations treamline and S Simplify Your Supply Chain Network Of this last key point, Huang further explained that when choosing suppliers especially, you should go with who you know and who colleagues and business partners have worked with successfully before. In essence, do not be shy to ask around and find the best and most trust-worthy fit for your company’s needs. Huang had much more golden advice and enlightening information to share, making me believe that an encore article is certainly in our near future, one
“Everyone that we hired had to be very knowledgeable and smart, and be able to cover two or three different types of tasks and areas.” that will further peruse the brilliant mind of this procurement sage. But, alas, as all good things must come to an end, I shall conclude this tome and tip my (one) hat to Mr. Huang. Thank you, good sir, it was indeed a pleasure talking shop with you.
“Any small business owner wears many hats. We are the salesman, bookkeeper, scheduler, cleaner, customer complaint department, etc. If you aren’t organized and willing to do all these things (at least in the beginning) you are better off working for someone.” — Dr. Tony Evans, Author and Speaker
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Developing Your Personal Brand Without Promoting Yourself By Ronald Hedley
In 2001, when Dana Gerenda was a senior at Easter Illinois College, she won the Phi Sigma Honor Society Research Award for her genetic research project entitled “Microsatellite Primers Tested for Variation in A” She recalled her research project experience. “I did a lot of testing of DNA using electrophoresis gels to understand the mating patterns of flies and gnats. I showed how a female could mate with a male and save, per se, multiple male sperm.” In her groundbreaking research, Gerenda discovered that the female gnat (or fly) “selected” the sperm that would fertilize her eggs. Gerenda had no idea that her professor had submitted her research project for the Phi Sigma award, and she was shocked when she was named the winner. Young Gerenda may not have known it at the time, but her work with gnats and flies was the inoculation in the petri dish of life that would be the catalyst for the growth and development of her personal brand. “You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” -Jeff Bezos
Almost 20 years later, Dana Gerenda is now Dana Small. Her name has changed, but her belief in hard work and humility remains. She credits her Midwest upbringing for her values. “To me, a ‘Midwest value’ is honest integrity. You don’t need to brag. You need to put your nose to the grindstone and put in a hard day’s work. This is very Midwest. You don’t need to go around telling everyone how great you are,” she explained.
Small believes that your work is the essence of your personal brand. “You don’t need to say, ‘I’m the master of the universe.’ If you are, people will know that you are the master of the universe. Your work will speak for you,” she stated. Small is currently the Senior Manager in Global Strategic Sourcing, supporting the Commercial Organization. She believes that the sourcing function offers her a great opportunity to help others. She explained, “As a sourcing function, you’re there to help the business. You act as a third-party consultant to say, ‘Hey, here are your menu of options. Choose what you want, but this is what you get with each of them.’ I try to nudge my colleagues in the right direction.” And, according to Small, this helping is not limited to procurement. “We’re a support function, so we have to want to help people. If someone asks me a question that has nothing to do with procurement, I will still try to help them figure it out. To me, helping others is part of my personal brand,” Small explained. Her work does not end at BioMarin. Small also writes a blog entitled Ms Category Management. Her blog’s primary focus is to create and implement category strategy into all of the global commercial organizations. She explained the blog’s essence, “To me, it’s just who I am as a business person, who I am in the scheme of the entire business. This is where my place is. This is how I fit in. This is how my blog can help other people.” Small then explained how her blog reflects her core beliefs, “When you look at how I portray myself, it is about being very truthful and transparent. It’s about having integrity and doing the right thing in business. I think that is just who I am. It has become a part of my brand.” “If you can’t find your own center and love for yourself, nothing else works.” -Chris Brogan
Location, location, location. Not only is this mantra essential in real estate, but it also matters when it comes to your personal brand. For example, if you love where you are working, then your personal brand will flourish. Similarly, if you hate your current job, then the agar will dry and crack in your metaphorical, personal brand petri dish. Small explained how she learned the importance of location the hard way, “I went outside of pharmaceuticals and worked for a brief time at an unnamed retail music company. They were piping in Led Zeppelin in the bathrooms, and the staff meetings were held in an old warehouse.” Because of her “mistake”, Small realized the importance of being in
her own element with caring, scientific people who are all on the same proverbial page. She described her personal epiphany, “Some people live and die by music. It’s central to who they are. That’s not me. I took that dive and found that I never wanted to make the same mistake again. It was a different set of people and a different set of values. When you’re in pharmaceuticals, you’re all about helping other people and being patient-centric.” “Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free.” -Eckart Tolle
Since that time, Small has had more epiphanies. For example, she realized that she likes implementing new technology, and she prefers working with younger sourcing companies. It’s part of her brand. She explained, “The newer companies and the technologies they promote are more willing to put what you need into perspective. You know that your feedback is valued and that they’re happy to have you as a customer.” Small also prefers the adaptability and flexibility of the smaller companies she works with. She explained, “When I was at Gilead and working with early adopters of RightSpend, it was nice to have people say, ‘Okay, I’ve heard your feedback and we’re going to make some changes. That’s what nice about tealbook. I worked with them when they were in the early phases. They were willing to take my feedback, listen to it, and they became better because of it.” Listening to feedback is one of Small’s strengths as well. This skill has impacted the content of her blog. One example is how she has become keenly aware of the workforce issues that women face today. She explained how her blog reflects her concerns and her ever-evolving personal brand, “There are women that I have met who are wonderful about supporting other women and promoting them. I feel I’m not as good at doing this as some, but I try to be. I make sure that I write women supporting women blogs.” She then added this blogging irony, “I put myself out there, assuming no one will ever read my blog. I just do it for me.” Small then offered some prescient advice for women who are trying to create a brand for themselves, “When you’re trying to think, ‘How do I develop my brand?’ just be who you are. Don’t try to be something you’re not. And so, having that genuineness, integrity, and honesty, that’s the way to go.” “Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.” -Albert Einstein
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