Voice of Supply Chain – Jul. 2021
Featuring: Michael Cadieux
We’ve got a bunch of people in here, wow! 30 attendees, I’m super psyched.
Yes, so happy Wednesday to the ISM New Jersey team and all of our friends in procurement and supply chain. This is a show that ISM New Jersey and myself and my team bring to you each month. It’s called the Voice of Supply Chain, and we interview people doing really unique and innovative things in our industry. The goal is to hear their personal journey and story. So, I am super excited to have a very close and dear friend with us today who is rocking his new swag. We got a little show and tell before, and I’m glad to see he’s wearing the new Procurement Foundry hat. But this is Mike from the Procurement Foundry, and we are going to spend about 50 minutes or so having a conversation. And this is going to be a little bit different. I think a lot of us know Mike as the leader and founder of Procurement Foundry, but there’s a lot of really interesting and unique things that start from his childhood and him being an entrepreneur and a chief procurement officer. So, we’re gonna dive into all of these things today.
At the bottom, if you have any questions for Mike, feel free to go ahead and put them in the chat or put them in the Q&A, and I’ll make sure that we have time to get to them today. So, Mike, I want to thank you so much for being here, and I want to kick off our conversation talking a little bit about your childhood and some of the things that shaped the person that you are today. So, I’d like to start off with you sharing a favorite childhood memory. This is feeling a little bit like a therapy session. Should I be paying for this, or…? Drink your coffee and I’m gonna have a [laughs] and relax. I’m from Boston, so if we don’t have a Dunkin’ Donuts within arm’s reach, it’s against the law here. But I’m happy to talk about my childhood and whatever you want to talk about. I’m an open book, as they say.
Okay, so I want to hear a favorite childhood memory.
Favorite childhood memory for me was, uh… jeez… favorite childhood memory for me was Taco Tuesday at my house. My dad raised me as a single parent after the age of five, and, uh… I was allowed to have friends over for Tuesday night for Taco Tuesday, and my dad made Taco Tuesday kind of this big event. And we loved it. We had it right up through high school. We had Taco Tuesday night, and I was a football player and a football captain, and we used to have Taco Tuesday for, like, 15. At the end, it was, like, 15 guys.
So, yeah, Taco Tuesday’s a huge one for me, spending time with my dad. I have a really vivid memory of about seven or eight years old, and my dad was young, so he was, you know, he was single and he was dating, and he took me everywhere. One thing I can say about him, I was involved in his entire life, and I can remember going to an outdoor event, a conference, a concert event at a place called Tanglewood in Western Massachusetts. And I saw James Taylor and Carly Simon when I was, like, eight or nine years old. And I think that was my first conference, but Tanglewood was so relaxed. It’s like a big open grassy area. You put blankets out, you eat, you know. And I can remember running around and playing frisbee at Tanglewood, and just, just to remember the memory of my dad involving me in every aspect of his life. Because he could have gotten a babysitter, but he was, like, you know, he took me everywhere. So, yeah, yeah, it was great.
And yes, to answer your question, Susan Walsh, I was a wee terror when I was young.
Yeah, I was a bit of a misfit. And what’s your favorite type of taco?
A fish taco, I think, is probably my favorite, just from being close to the ocean and… yeah, yeah, fish taco is probably my favorite.
Yeah, so you mentioned you spent a lot of time with your dad, and you were… he was a single parent for most of your life. Yeah, what was one of the things that stood out to you that shaped who you are today? From your childhood, if there’s a memory or a lesson or something that you just really hold dear that your dad taught you, or something that you learned in school?
Yeah, so my dad, and I think I’ve told this story before, my dad was a juvenile probation officer, so he worked in the courts and he worked with a lot of juvenile delinquents. He tried very, very hard to make a difference. And when I got old enough to understand what he did, which was trying to get kids who were off the chosen path back on the path, I asked him one day, I said, ‘This is going to be an exhausting job. You know, all you see all day long is kids in trouble, kids in trouble, kids in trouble.’ And I can remember him telling me, ‘If I can help one kid a year, I’ve done my part. You know, of the hundreds of kids I see, you know, three or four kids a day times 200 days, I see 600, 800 kids. If I can help one of them get out and change their life, that’s enough for me.’ And probably the lesson learned that I learned from my dad was, it’s an amazing responsibility and requirement to be able to try and help everybody else without asking for things in return. So, I mean, that’s certainly probably one of the driving principles that I’ve had in my life. My dad was the type of guy who would… he would… I would grow up, and there would be a kid on our couch on Saturday morning so that he didn’t have to spend the night in a detention center, because then he would be taking him to a camp or to a delinquent center where he could get outside. And my dad was that type of guy. He was like, ‘Hey, why don’t you sleep on my couch?’ So I met a lot of kids on my couch on Saturday mornings before we took them out to a logging camp in Maine or a rehab facility out in Western Mass. And it was an amazing lesson to learn that my dad ingrained in me, which was to try and help others whenever possible and do it without asking for something in return. And I see the mentorship theme a part of Procurement Foundry, and I’ve seen some posts recently where you’re helping people find mentors. So, I can see that’s a part of the core of the company that you’re building also, which is awesome.
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you know, we built Procurement Foundry, I built Procurement Foundry, selfishly because I needed to, I needed to talk to some other people. But at the same time, I built Procurement Foundry because, as a chief procurement officer, I’ve never found a really good collaboration point for procurement and supply chain people before. I mean, we went to conferences, and conferences are great, don’t get me wrong, but conferences are a one- or two-day event, and then you get back and you get 700 emails. And I thought to myself, ‘Geez, I can’t even remember the name of the person I met on Wednesday night because I had one too many cocktails at the bar or something like that.’ And thank God I know they’re one of the 45 or 50 business cards that I have, and I put those business cards down with all the best intentions of connecting up with them, and I always never get around to it as a CPO. I was like, ‘Okay, I need to build a collaboration point where people can come in once a day, once every couple of days, and collaborate and be able to answer questions, build relationships, find people who do what they do, and get advice both personally and professionally.’ And we are building out a mentor program. We’re designing a mentor program right now. We’re in discussions with one of the largest mentor software companies in the world to try and give us an instance of their software so we can build a, what I think will be, the first industry mentor program that’s not affiliated with either an organization or a corporation of some type. Most mentor programs that I’ve ever been a part of were with the company that I worked for. And we’re looking to go across industry segmentation, across geography. So, that’s our goal, is to create a first-of-its-kind mentoring program for the entire industry, for all practitioners. So, we’ll see if we can… Let’s see if we get there, and we’ll dive into that a little bit more as we talk about Procurement Foundry and some of the innovations and cool things that you’re doing there.
Okay, so let’s fast forward a little bit to when you graduated from high school. So, you were a football player, you had Taco Tuesday, you were really close with your dad, and then you went off to college. And what’s the most important thing you learned at Marist College?
The most important thing I learned at Marist College was how to live on your own. I had, you know, I didn’t know anybody when I went to Marist College, as most guys do who live with fathers. We started to have some friction in our relationship, nothing really horrible, but we had some friction in our relationship, and it was time for me to… Marist was the father’s school away from my father that I got accepted to, so that’s why I went there.
Was it drivable, or did you have to take a place?
It was drivable, but it was about four hours, so it wasn’t like, ‘Okay, I’m coming home for the weekend.’
Yeah, you’re not gonna hop in your car, type of thing.
Not to bring laundry home, no. No, I’m not one of those.
But I was kind of on my own. I didn’t know, there was nobody from like a neighboring school or my school or anything like that. I got to… You know, I don’t know, mid-state New York, and you know, the closest one was… There was some kid from Cape Cod, I think, that I met. But you had to learn how to completely start all over again, start new relationships, live on your own. I had to go out and find a couple jobs because I was paying for school by myself. So, I had to go out and I had to figure out a way to convince the leadership at Marist that I needed my car and how to get through school. And I was paying for school myself too, so I was trying to… You know, pay for college and finish college in four years on the regular plan, while doing all that kind of on my own. And that was probably the biggest lesson I learned in college was how to survive on your own, when… I wasn’t that great of an academic student, but I finally fell in love with something that I enjoyed, and I did really, really well in that stuff. And you know, I found some relationships with a couple of professors, and hopefully they mentored me through the process, and a couple of decent roommates who I still stay in touch with, and they kept me alive. And you know, also learned that… You know, tequila’s not my friend. I also learned that in college.
Yeah, learned that one weekend up in Utica, New York. If there’s anybody from Utica, I… I’ve left a piece of me there, so… It’s good, good living up in Utica, yeah.”
So, what did, when you were going to school and you were hustling and working and learning how to cook and do laundry and all those things we have to do when we’re on our own, what did you think you wanted to do after graduation?
I went to school for radio, television, film. And I had all the intentions in the world of being behind the camera in a production studio environment. During high school, I got connected up with my local cable channel, kind of in the town here. And cable has awards, kind of like Emmys, they’re called ACE awards. And I was on a production team that won an ACE award for a documentary on a hurricane that came through Cape Cod at one point in time. And that kind of… That gave me the bug to be in video, in production services for television and film.
So, I was a steadicam operator for a little while and… and yeah, my I had all the intentions of the world of going on and working in production. And then, then I realized I needed a job. And… I don’t know, it was… I had two options. One was to go down to New York City and get in the page program at CBS or NBC, which wasn’t a paying gig back at the time. You had to… And I had student loans, I would be doing three or four months, so I didn’t have a choice. I had to have a paying job.
And… the other option was this crazy startup in Connecticut where they were going to be broadcasting sports 24 hours a day, with a bunch of my buddies who were going there. And I was like, ‘You’re absolutely nuts, that’s never going to work. Nobody’s going to… Nobody is going to watch sports 24 hours a day.’ And now I know some really high-level executives at ESPN, obviously. But I put myself through college on the waterfront back in Massachusetts. So, I was operating fish houses, operating import-export companies, and I was actually a fisherman for two summers. So, I went back to the waterfront where I knew I could make money and pay my bills versus going down to New York City into a free program. I babbled around with it for a little while, but I actually never… I never got back into video, in… in motion production. But that was my goal, that was my objective.
So, I come from a family that’s obsessed with sports. I’m the only one who’s… I would consider not an athlete. And many, many hours have been spent at the Scudder household watching ESPN. So, I know the music, I know what it stands for, I know a lot of the broadcasters.
Yeah, well, listen, anybody who hasn’t walked a runway in three and a half to five-inch heels, in the middle of Fashion Week in New York City or Paris, doesn’t realize that fashion is its own sport. So, I congratulate you on your own sport. So, it’s a sport, trust me. Awesome, Mike. That’s exactly what I think too. I agree with you, Page. Yeah, it’s ultra-competitive too, ladies and gentlemen. For those of you who don’t know, and by the time you’re 25 or 28 years old and your career is over, yeah, you’re basically Tom Brady at 25. Yep, yeah, I got you. I got you.
So, you got your first job at a seafood company because you had loans to pay, so how did you land your first gig and what did you do there?
Yeah, so, I… I was that kid who never went on spring break or never went away on holidays. I… I had… I went home and made money, right? Because I decided, you know, at the ripe age of 18 to go to a private school in upstate New York, which in 1988 was ridiculously expensive. So, I decided, yeah, okay, I’ll go to the probably the most expensive school I could. And so, I needed to make a lot of money to pay for school, which I did.
So, I was working in the seafood industry and over the years, when I graduated from college, I had a knowledge base because I had been involved with some different operations. And one of my friends called me and said, ‘Hey, I’m going up to East Coast Seafoods,’ which at the time was the largest lobster company in the world, which was north of Boston. And he said, ‘I’d like you to come up and help me run operate the import-export division of East Coast Seafoods for the… for the… for the fish side of it.’ So, they… their primary business was lobsters, and I had all my background in fish. So, when you ship 2,000 pounds of lobsters to Paris, there’s a little bit of space for some fish, and they would fill in the space with 500, 600 pounds of fish. And then they’d put it on the airplane and fly it overnight to Charles de Gaulle. And we were responsible for that 500 or 600 pounds that was being exported overseas. So, I went to work doing that.
Yeah, so… so you… so you landed in supply chain, without it being planned. You know, that’s the funny part was, I didn’t realize it. I had my first supply chain job when I was 17. I had just finished high school football, and I wasn’t running winter track at the time. And my friend who actually got me a job later on in life came and said, ‘Hey, I’m unloading scallop boats, the boats are coming in, so the harvesters are coming in. We need to unload them, put them in a truck, and then distribute them out to the processors who would package them and send them to San Francisco or New York City or wherever they were going.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, all right, I’ll come do that.’ And what I didn’t realize at the time at 17 was I was inserting myself into the supply chain of one of the most difficult aspects of the supply chain, which is raw, fresh seafood.
You know, it’s a supply chain for bolts and nuts and sub-assemblies of automobiles is difficult, but putting yourself into the supply chain associated with a product that is perishable and dying and losing value every second you own it is… I would argue probably one of the most difficult supply chains. And I had no idea I was in supply chain. No idea. I had no idea. And then I stayed in it for about 11 years even after college. And then one day I was running the largest fish exchange in the world, the digital auction based on computers and software. And I was like, ‘Geez, I’m the only guy down here with a four-year degree. I probably should go try and do something else for a little while.’
So, you left East Coast Seafoods, yep, and then you went to… I will say if I’m saying this correctly, Digitask, yeah? So, Digitask, yep, yeah. Digitask was actually… I made a quick little stop during Y2K at State Street Bank. Excuse me. So, I went from East Coast Seafoods to… I actually started getting involved in computers. A friend of mine came up one weekend from… from D… from Marist and said, ‘I’m going to work for a magazine that’ll never go to print.’ And I was like, ‘What the hell does that mean?’ And he said, ‘It’s called the World Wide Web. I’ll be up this weekend, I’ll show it to you.’ Had a laptop, had to dial in from some bizarre place and showed me the… you know, the dial-in modem and all that. How big was this laptop? I… I’m not sure, I can’t… It was… it was about the size of a copy machine, I’m not gonna lie. And you know, and he said, ‘This is the World Wide Web, and it’s based on the internet,’ which is really interesting because Marist College is right next to IBM, and Marist College was actually on the OperaNet. So, Marist College was one of the original positions. So, I had email back in ’88, ’89. I had no idea what to do with it. So, I was like, ‘Well, what the hell is this?’ And he said, ‘It’s an extension of the network that we had at Marist, where you could talk to people from Stanford and all these other colleges.’ And I was like, ‘Ah.’ And he said, ‘So, it’s starting to commercialize.’ And that was my first introduction to computers in the World Wide Web. I got into and started building websites. I went from East Coast Seafoods, and then I started managing the fish auction, because the fish auction was computerized, and I was the only kind of guy that they could find that was… that knew computers and fish.
Then I… then I had that aha moment where I was like, ‘Okay, I’m the only guy down here with a 4.8 degree, I need to go.’ And that was right around Y2K.
I went to State Street Bank for Y2K for… for a hot flash minute. The Vice President of I.T inside of the division that I was in landed the Chief Information Officer role at Digitask within five months of Y2K ending. I’m sorry… yeah, Y2K ending. And he called me and he was like, ‘Hey, I’ve got… I really trust you, I like your work ethic, I think you’re gonna be great. I don’t have a role for you yet, but I want you to come check out this digital advertising shop that I just learned that’s the Chief Information Officer at, and it was in Boston. And I was like, ‘I’m not going into Boston.’ Like my job was right on the 128 loop, it was great. It was going to be another hour. In a total cliche moment, we sat and had dinner in a steakhouse in Boston. He slid the cocktail napkin across the table at me and told me how much I was gonna be making, and I promptly drove back to Branchy and gave my notice and said, ‘I’m starting in Boston on Monday.
Yeah, so you went from fish to back to media.
I went from fish back to media. And I, oddly enough, inside of Digitas, I worked in the I.T department, and I told them, I said, ‘Listen, I’m not… I’m not a technologist, I don’t know routers, I don’t know switches.’ He said, ‘Yeah, but you kind of did the call center thing and support services for Y2K. I just need somebody I can trust.’ So, uh, so he immediately threw me at this portfolio of contracts. I was sitting on his desk, he’s like, ‘Just read through these and see if we’re getting killed.’ And that was my introduction to procurement.
And he said, ‘You know, it seems like you happen to have some negotiation skills that you’ve acquired from all those years on the waterfront.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, man, I can… You know, I ran an auction house. If you can’t negotiate if you run an auction house, and you can’t negotiate, you’ve got problems.’ So, so yeah, I learned how to negotiate and haggle, and you know, yell at people across the waterfront and truck drivers and all that, and then I went to Digitas and started running their I.T procurement. And that’s where I kind of cut my teeth. I met Emily Koshvalev, who’s fantastic and still, you know, one of my closest friends. And Emily and I worked together for about 18 years, and I just managed the business side of technology for a hyper-growth digital marketing company.
So, in the midst of all this, one of the things that I think is most unique about your background is you also bought and ran a company while you were working full-time. So, you bought and ran a tackle shop, which owning a retail establishment while having a full-time job and building a family is not easy. So, why did you buy this tackle shop and what would you say is a mistake that you made as a business owner that’s helped you in your career today?
Other than buying the tackle shop.
Other than buying the tackle shop.
Okay, so, so the tackle shop thing, I got to go back to my dad. My dad and I grew up… My dad was an avid fisherman, and, and again, he took me everywhere he went. So, we used to go camping down on the beaches in Cape Cod for overnights and do surf casting, and all of his friends were there with fires, and we fished on boats. Our family has owned boats our whole lives. And, so, we’ve been… I’ve been fishing since I was, like, four years old.
And my dad was getting ready to retire from the state, from his juvenile probation officer job. And he was literally at my house with my wife and my newborn children almost every day, and my wife was like, ‘My God, we need to find this guy a hobby.’ So, I, at the time, we were still fishing together, and the tackle shop came up for sale. I knew the guys who owned it, and it wasn’t that expensive. And, and at the time, I was with Digitas and doing pretty well and, and, I thought, ‘Okay, I can invest in a tackle shop, and it’ll give my father something to do, and he’ll run it for me during the day, and I’ll just keep the books.’
And so, we bought it, and I bought it kind of for my dad to run it for us. And probably the biggest mistake I made was thinking if you buy a business that is your favorite hobby, you will continue to be able to do your hobby. So, we owned a tackle shop and we owned a boat, and I think in the five or six years that I owned the tackle shop, I think I went on the boat about three times.
Yeah, and I missed a lot of Fourth of July weekends because I was selling bait and I was selling lures and I was… So, I was watching everybody else have all these vacation weekends and do all the things I love to do, and I was like, ‘Ah, so this is where the hobby becomes the work.’
Yeah, so did you, did you make money?
We made money, yeah, we made money. We… It wasn’t a lot of money because the tackle, the fishing, the recreational tackle industry and fishing industry in Massachusetts lasts about five months. Like, if I was in Florida, I’d be retired already. But, because of the fact that that economy in that industry only lasts about five months in Massachusetts, you really have to take advantage of those five months, and then you gotta sit around for seven months paying your rent. And that was probably one of the things. And the other thing probably that I didn’t do, which I should have done more, was I didn’t take advantage of my technology partners at Digitas to build out an e-commerce engine for the tackle shop. I did it kind of a little bit and played around with it, but we should have gone wholeheartedly into e-commerce distribution of tackle.
And we didn’t. It was… You know, it was a hobby, it was a tiny little place, it kept my dad and I close to each other. We had our loving moments and our throwing lures at each other moments, but it was… It was fun. I wouldn’t recommend getting into small business ownership with family unless you have a lot of patience. But, yeah, that’s probably another one of the lessons that I learned there.
So you and pops were entrepreneurs together, yeah? And you got out of the tackle business. And when you did that, did you ever have plans of becoming an entrepreneur again?
I did, actually. So Publicis Group came in and acquired Digitas in 2008, and I had owned the shop for about three and a half or four years at that point, and three or four other fishing tackle shops were for sale on Cape Cod, and they were coming with the real estate, which was really interesting because most of these are in like strip malls or things like that, but these actually had real estate with them. So I wrote a business plan to actually go buy the other three shops, keep my one in New Bedford, and I was going to go private label fishing tackle out of China and bring in my own brand for all four or five shops with, like, weights and hooks and line and all the things that you sell there, right? And I actually took a trip to Beijing to the fishing tackle show and had the whole plan ready to go and was going to the SBA for some funding and all of those amazing things.
And I got a phone call from Publicis. I had no belief at all that Publicis was going to keep me because, like, Publicis at the time owned like 200 advertising agencies, and I thought we’re just a number, you know? I’m in the I.T department, they’ve got a central I.T organization, they’re just going to liquidate us all. And so I thought, ‘Geez, maybe I want to take this hobby and turn it into an actual larger plan.’
And I got a phone call from Paris one day, and it was David Kenny, the CEO of Digitas. And he called me up and he said, ‘I need you on the next plane to Paris. They’re attempting to build a centralized procurement organization for Publicis Group in all of their 300 agencies around the world, and I told them how much money you’ve saved us in technology over the years, and they want to meet you right away.’ So I had to put the whole fishing tackle conglomerate industry on hold, which was great because it collapsed right after that. And I went to Paris and took a job and headed up procurement for Publicis Group for the next almost 10 years, and that’s kind of… that’s the story. That’s true. That’s what you wrote.
So, what was the hardest part of being a Chief Procurement Officer at the global enterprise level?
The hardest part about being a Chief Procurement Officer for me was getting consensus on programs when you’ve got a company that owns multiple hundreds of business units. So, like, if you were to develop a travel program, I mean, we had almost 100,000 employees. Our travel program was, I want to say, 150 or 200 million globally. And you had to go down and you had to, you know, explain and meet just about every business unit and get them to agree to what you had been working on for six months. So, getting consensus and buy-in probably was the hardest part, and getting building those relationships so that they trusted you to be able to actually believe that you know what you’re doing in the travel business. Because, as you know, most of the time when you’re in procurement, your stakeholders think that they know more about what they’re doing than you do. And I had a lot of people like, ‘Yeah, our travel program is fine, we’re not going to move on.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, well, let me share with you what I’ve built before you start to… before you start to exile it.’
Yeah, I’m good at building relationships, so it worked out well, and I got a lot of buy-in, and we had a lot of… But that was probably the hardest part, was navigating the geopolitics of a global enterprise company. That was probably the largest, hardest part. And it’s interesting, Mike, that you say stakeholder engagement, because I feel like it’s more relevant today than it has ever been. So, the stakeholder engagement piece never seems to leave procurement.
Yeah, I mean, you’re basically a salesman. That’s what I… That’s what I told people. I said, ‘You know, I’ve got a bunch of people that go out and negotiate contracts.’ So, like, our talent travel program had about 10 or 12 contracts in it, right? Air and rail and hotel and booking systems and T&E systems and all those things. We’d match those all together, and then I would take them out and be like, ‘Okay, here’s the program, this is how it works, whether you’re a 25-person advertising shop or Leo Burnett with 6,000 people. I need you all to row the boat together because Leo Burnett could have gotten really close to those price points, but all the others were seeing massive margin improvements from aggregated buying.’
So, I’ve actually been to the Leo Burnett office in Chicago.
Yeah, I had an… I had an office there for a while. I had an office in Boston at Digitas, an office at the Leo at the Merchandise Mart, and at Leo Burnett for a while, and I had an office in New York City on Broadway. And I called it the Procurement Bermuda Triangle because I had… I had the I.T. folks in Boston, I had the production, marketing, and production, and advertising folks in Chicago, and I had all the rest of indirect procurement like travel and everything else in New York City. And I’d go back and forth between the three of them almost every week. I was on the road how many days a year were you traveling? Between 120 and 150.
Yeah, I was… A lot. I’m a Platinum for lifer. Yeah, no question about it.
So, as a Chief Procurement Officer, I know you worked on a lot of different types of deals. I want to hear about the most interesting deal you worked on.
Wow, the most interesting deal I’ve ever worked on… Outside of my marriage files… I let’s see… Hopefully, your wife is listening. We’ll make sure she gets a copy of this.
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for that.
I think some of the most interesting deals… I used to think that software deals were really complicated, and I used to think that… Some of the other deals were really complicated. And then I sat down one day and tried to digest one of our airline contract deals, and I was like, ‘Okay, so I don’t understand how there’s only 120 seats on this plane, but there’s 180 types of tickets that you sell on one plane. And then there’s routes, and then… You know, the airlines have this thing called Sabre, and when you sign up to a contract with the airlines…
The airlines make you agree to allow them to pull all your Sabre bookings so they know what your usage is in certain markets. So, like, for example, from Boston to Chicago, every airline that I was negotiating with knew exactly how many segments we were flying, exactly who we were flying with. And it’s kind of like, so you can’t leverage the market share game and say, ‘Okay…’
I want to give you three percent, five percent more. And it was really, really complicated. It was, it was… I mean, it took… And for those of you who are in the travel side of the world, large travel program contract negotiation… Because then there’s footprints. Like, are you going to go with United? Are you going to go with Delta? Are you going to go with American? Are you going to, like, okay, I need this much footprint. And you’re going to give me discounts on these segments but not these segments. That was the hardest part. Probably the most complicated contract… Some of the most complicated contracts I was ever a part of…
Some of them, I feel like we need to give a shout out to Susan and the data. It sounds like the airlines had some good data.
The airlines have all the data. The airlines have all the data. And you walk in the room and they’re like, ‘So, why don’t you tell us about what happened this month?’ And I’m like, ‘Why should I tell you? You guys know everything. Just tell me what happened. Tell me where my people didn’t meet.’ Like, they would come back to me and say, ‘Oh well, you hit your bonus segment for this, and you had… We had 38.3% of the market between Boston and Cincinnati this month, this quarter, and the target was 38%, so we’re going to pay you your incentive for the month.’ Or then they’d come back and be like, ‘Oh, you hit 37.8% this quarter, and we’re not paying.’ And I’m like, ‘How do you guys know all this?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, well, when you signed the contract, you gave us rights to every piece of data you’ve ever had for every one of your travelers.’ And I’m like, ‘Okay, man. Yeah, so I just basically gave you my travel DNA, and now you can just hammer me every time you come in the room.’
The power of having your data in order for the airlines. Yeah, yeah, data is… Listen, spend data, spent aggregated spend data, is huge, you know? And you know, I work for a big multinational with 17 ERP systems, and trying to get all that data aggregated… I became an Excel and SQL and Power BI nerd at one point because I was trying… And I broke Excel a couple of times trying to import, you know, CSVs from multiple ERP systems. Thank God somebody created something called Power BI and Power Query and Power… You know, Power Pivot.
But yeah, yeah. I had to… We had to become data nerds. I was teaching people how to be data nerds back in 2012 through 2016. So, you were a Chief Procurement Officer for a few years, and you didn’t want to move to Paris, so you… You decided to leave Publicis Group. When you left the company, what were your plans? What did you think you were gonna do next?
When I left Publicis Group, it wasn’t because I wasn’t gonna… I wasn’t gonna go to Paris. I actually originally, back in 2008, had offered to go to Paris, and we couldn’t come to an agreement on travel expenses and things like that. So I said, ‘Listen, I can do all this out of the United States, and I can come to Paris six times a year, and I’m sure my wife would love that.’ So we agreed to that, but I decided to leave just because I felt like, you know, we had done everything that we kind of set out to accomplish there. I mean, I had put in a really nice program, we had gotten some amazing… People, amazing quantities of people of my groups actually on the contract, so we had, you know, 80, 90% of our business units on these contracts. And the leadership team in Paris was kind of looking to do some more center of excellence work, and I was like, ‘This might be a right time for me to step off the train.’ So, we kind of mutually agreed that it was about the right time for me to step off the train.
And I thought, ‘Geez, you know, I’m 48 years old when I did that…’
And I thought, ‘I think it’s time for me to leverage my 20 years of experience of enterprise-class procurement and maybe go out and teach some other folks what I’ve learned and see if I can monetize my knowledge.’ So, I opened up a consulting practice and thankfully landed a couple of clients, uh, fairly quickly, not right away. I lost a lot of money in my first year owning my own consultancy practice, which I don’t advise jumping out of a plane without a parachute if you’re gonna start your own consulting practice because I’m sure there’s a lot of people in the room right now thinking about it.
I tell people all the time, ‘I’m thinking about starting my own company.’ And I tell them, ‘If you’re thinking about starting your own company, you probably need to go back to work tomorrow and hug your boss and thank him or her for the paycheck and just continue what you do. If you are up at three o’clock in the morning scribbling notes into a notepad in your kitchen in a bathrobe and your dog is looking at you like you’re insane because you can’t sleep because of what you’re thinking about actually doing, then you know that you’re almost there and ready to go out for business. And go be an entrepreneur. Like, if it doesn’t encompass every waking moment of your life and you’re thinking about doing it, I highly recommend you continue to think about it more until you realize what it is. It is not for the weak at heart.
So, Mike, I remember you and I first met at a procurement conference. You were speaking. I can’t remember if it was solo if you were on a panel, but it was right after you had left Publicis Group and you were starting your consulting firm. And I think I told you, ‘Get two years of savings ready because you’re gonna need it at least the first year.’
Yeah, I would say two to three years. I would say two to three years is probably reasonable. I mean, listen, hey, some people come out of the gate and they make a ton of money, and they got a client or, you know, whatever they did. They’ve got a client that they’re going to go work for, and God bless them, and they can, you know, arbitrage their previous income. But yeah, two to three years of income is probably right because, you know, you’ve got travel and marketing and, you know, the fact… And your laptop and software and, God forbid, you actually need staff and things like that. So, yeah, it’s a lot to take down and… And it’s… You have a ton of resources when you’re in a large company. When you start your own thing, it’s you and only you.
So, you don’t have, you know, you have to do the billable hours, but you also have to do the billing at the end of the week. So it’s, it’s a lot of work, yeah. And it was fun, I love it. I’m an entrepreneur by trade, you know. Although I had a corporate job for 20 years, I mean, the tackle shop kind of scratched that itch for a while. And then the consulting business scratched that itch. And along the way, I knew that at some point I was gonna come back into the industry and help that collaboration problem that I had seen when I was a Chief Procurement Officer. And what I didn’t realize was, as I started my consulting business, I needed that collaboration just for the thought leadership and the knowledge. So I started it fairly quickly in the consultancy side of the business, just so I could stay in touch, because I hadn’t actually negotiated a contract in probably six or eight years. So I had to get, you know, the kung fu was kind of rusty, I had to get back in the game.
So, you started doing consulting, then you decided to pivot and create some sort of collaboration, virtual community, and originally it actually wasn’t called the Procurement Foundry, if I recall.
Yeah, originally we started it on LinkedIn, yeah, and we called it ‘The Real Deal’.
And I just, I started ‘The Real Deal’, and there’s probably a couple of ‘Real Deal’ members in here today. And if you are, please shout out in the chat so I can say hello to you. ‘The Real Deal’ was supposed to be Fight Club for procurement. It was going to be on LinkedIn, I was going to invite 40 people in. It was non-searchable, you couldn’t find it. If you wanted to get a seat in ‘The Real Deal’, someone in ‘The Real Deal’ had to actually sponsor you, and then I would do a background check on you and bring you in. And it was Chatham House rules. And I thought, okay, we’ll get 60, 80, maybe 100 people in here, and we could be talking about, you know, best practices or RFP templates or, you know, maybe we’ll talk about some different levels of category management or something like that, or some things like supplier diversity, inclusion, things like that. And to my surprise, it went from 40 people to about 800 people in five months. And my new full-time job was vetting people into my LinkedIn group. And that’s when I went to my consulting partner and I said, ‘Hey, I think this micro-community, collaboration, procurement, and supply chain thing has legs. It seems to be a massive space, empty space. And I’m going to hand you off all of our consulting work.’ And my partner still handles our consulting business, and I am focused, since that day, since we agreed to it, since that day I have been 100% dedicated to building out the petri dish social experiment that is the Procurement Foundry.
So, you, I remember when you and I were talking and you decided that LinkedIn probably wasn’t going to work, it was kind of clunky and there’s not a lot of search functionality. So you went out and started looking at platforms, and eventually you landed up on Slack, which is what you’re still using today. And then you came up with the Procurement Foundry name and the logo, yeah. How did you know when you had the right idea? And I know that’s a question a lot of people who are with startups or who are entrepreneurs think about a lot.
There are still days where I don’t think I have the right idea, to be honest with you. If I’m fully transparent. But I think that we’re dialing in and we’re getting better at it every day. I think probably the first time I knew that we had something worth fighting for and it was the right idea was when somebody called me or text messaged me, or I don’t know, you can get in touch with me through 100 different channels. Somebody reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, I just want to let you know, I made a connection inside of the Procurement Foundry Slack community. They mentored me a little bit, I found a job through the job board, and I just landed a job from Procurement Foundry.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a moment when I can help somebody actually. And we’re not a job board, that’s not what we’re there. We’re a community, and the community is to help each other collaborate, grow, learn, share. But I can remember the first time somebody said to me, ‘I just wanted to thank you. Without you building this thing, I wouldn’t have left the job I hated inside of the job that I love.’ And that was a real special moment for me. And that was one that I won’t forget. And then I also had another moment where probably once we got to about 1,200 to 1,300 members, one of the major C-level executives of a major financial institution called me up one day and he said, ‘Hey, I got to be honest with you, I just cancelled my Gartner subscription.’ And I was like, ‘I’m sorry, what?’ And he said, ‘Your collaboration room with your 500 IT category managers in it, I get faster advice and more information from your peer collaboration network than I get at Gartner. And it’s unfiltered, so I get it directly from my peers. So I don’t need Gartner, I don’t need a magic quadrant, because I can just go in and I can ask my peers, and they answer me in an hour or two hours.’ And that’s when we had 500 people in there, now we have 1,500 people. Yeah, that was another kind of aha moment for me, where I was like, ‘Wow, we’ve created a real peer-to-peer sharing network that kind of eliminates the consultancy model a little bit.’
One of the other things that I think is really hard for visionaries and creators like you, because you’re the idea person, right? You’re always thinking about what to do next, how can we pivot, is the leadership part of it and building a team and managing people. So, how have you become a good leader through starting and building the Procurement Foundry?
I kind of tapped into some of the skills that I developed at Digitas. And I don’t know, I mean, there’s probably some of my old team… We can certainly call Emily on the stage at another future event and ask her. But I tried really, really hard to build teams of people I trusted and who had ambition. My thought process is, if I can trust you and you have ambition, I can probably teach you just about anything you need to know, or I can send you someplace where you can learn what you need to know. But I need to know that I can trust you, and I need to know that you’ve got the drive and the ambition to want to do something powerful. And if you want to do that, then I can give you the tools and the ability to be able to go do that. And that’s what I try to do with my teams, and that’s how I try to develop teams. And then I try to step away from them a little bit and be like, ‘Okay, listen, I want to be in the event space. I want to be running webinars and conferences and things like that. I’m going to bring some folks in who I’m going to share my vision with, and then I’m just going to let them go build it, because I don’t know how to build conferences, right? I mean, you and I built the conference together, and we did as good as we could do together, right? But you and I haven’t been in the conference development business before. And we did a great job for the one that we built together. And then to watch some real pros come in who have been doing this for their careers and be like, ‘Oh, this is what you’re supposed to do. Okay, great, go do it.’ So I try not to micromanage, and that’s probably… And I try to positively reinforce people. And, you know, it’s kind of like coaching a T-ball team, right? You don’t want to go, ‘Hey, Jimmy, you did a horrible job, you missed the ball.’ It’s like, ‘Hey, buddy, great swing, you tried it. Next time, maybe lower your battle, just try to help them learn what they can do to improve and let them go at it, because watching them have that aha moment is amazingly rewarding to me, too. So, I love building teams.
The other thing that is really hard about being an entrepreneur is you get told ‘no’ a lot. You can’t do this, this isn’t gonna work, this isn’t a good idea.
Yeah, how do you handle adversity and doubt?
Yeah, and I should ask your wife this too when you’re not around and see what she says. So, so you know, I don’t go out and kick the dog or anything crazy like that. I cannot tell you how many people have told me that I’m crazy for building a community and not charging membership fees. Literally, almost everybody I’ve talked to is like, ‘Okay, so you’re not charging membership fees for the 5,000 people, and you’re giving them this massive amount of value in collaboration. Why are you doing that?’
And my ‘because you know’ part of my goal is to help an industry that helped me, right? I’m kind of on the second half, anyway, of this career in this industry, and I want to try and help as many people succeed and upskill as possible and get to where they want to get to because this industry helped me along the all my early years.
Getting told ‘no’ happens every day. I think not only so here’s the interesting part. People outside of you are going to say ‘no’ to you every day, like, ‘Oh my god, that’s a horrible idea,’ or ‘Oh no, you can’t have a conference and charge $49 for people to come,’ or ‘I can’t believe you’re running a community and not charging people membership fees,’ or ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe you’re going to actually attempt to build out a, you know, a conference.’ I mean, look at the people who are in the conferencing industry, you’re going to try and compete with those people? What are you, crazy, right?
And that pales in comparison, in my opinion, to the conversation that you have in your head all the time about the self-doubt, of… and I’ve learned this through Clubhouse… imposter syndrome of, ‘Oh my god, I don’t know if I’m good enough of an entrepreneur.’ And you’re saying no to yourself all the time in your head as an entrepreneur. So, I think the ones that are external that people say no to, that’s easy for me because that fuels me to go, ‘Yeah, oh you don’t think I can do it? Watch this, right?’ So I will, I will kill myself or die trying to prove you wrong if you say no you can’t do that to me. The ones that get me are the ones in my head that, as an entrepreneur, you’re talking to yourself all the time, and you’re second-guessing and doubting yourself, and you’re actually telling yourself no. You shouldn’t do that because of the fear of the what you know as a safety zone. And it sounds kind of cliche, but there’s a little sticker on my on my on our on our refrigerator, you know, life begins after your comfort zone. And that’s definitely something in the entrepreneurial world. It’s like, all right, man, you’re gonna hang it all out there because you’re an entrepreneur right now, and this is all about risk. Entrepreneurism is all about risk. You have to accept and take more risk than somebody else with will in order to succeed in my opinion.
Yeah, I think there’s a lot about saying no. People say no to you, but I also think the voices inside of your head as an entrepreneur, they tell you that all the time, too. So, it’s different, too. It’s a different way to cope with both of them.
So, Mike, we’ve got five minutes left, and we’ve got some questions coming in from the audience that I want to make sure we address. And then I’ve got a couple of spitfire questions for you that will close out the conversation with.
This question is from Evan. Sure, he says, ‘Cut from a similar cloth, former WPP guy in their procurement group, having also touched and couldn’t agree more with being an internal salesman. My question for you, what would you consider the most valuable skill learned during advertising holding company procurement, other than stakeholder engagement, trust building, patience, and managing up and down the management level?’
You know, managing up to Paris, because there’s always somebody above you that you have to report to and you have to manage their expectations and educate them on what you’re attempting to do. And then you have to manage down as well, down into your teams and your organizations and your peers’ organizations. And you need to be able to collaborate and communicate at all of those levels at any given time. So, you know, you need to be able to talk to a junior creative who doesn’t understand why the Canon copier is leaving and you bring in a Ricoh. And you need to explain to the CEO of a holding company the value proposition of reverse engineering the leasing contracts for $40 million worth of equipment all at the same time.
We’ve got a question from Eileen. ‘Aside from Apple CEO Tim Cook, procurement and supply chain career path is not often demonstrated as a track to the C-suite. What are recommended strategies and/or tips for procurement and supply chain professionals to position themselves to ascend to C-suite roles?’
I think you need to be a real student of the game. I think you need to spend a bucket load of time with the other C-suite executives. Yesterday, I spent two hours on the phone with a Fortune 100 risk management officer, talking about insurance, captive insurance, what’s happening in risk, financial risk associated with the companies on trade working capital. I think you need to be talking to HR and benefits. You need to be plugged into all your peers. You can’t do this in a silo. You need to be learning everything else and be in and what you do by that, in my opinion, is you become intelligent and can hold those conversations with them. You don’t need to be a subject matter expert in HR, but you need to be able to understand what they do and how they do it, so that you can help add value from a sourcing perspective, because they don’t think like we do. They don’t think about, ‘Oh well, we’re going to do programmatic marketing buying, and we’re trying to negotiate our spot buys with Google right now.’ And it’s like, ‘Hey man, you’ve been spending $10 million a year with Google for the last 10 years. Why don’t we go to Google and write a three-year contract, but we’ll spend $30 million with it? We’ll guarantee them that money because we’re going to spend it with them anyway. So, take some of your knowledge and your expertise against the Chief Marketing Officer and understand what they do and translate it into their language.’
Alright, Mike. My three spitfire questions for you as we close out our discussion:
Quality you admire most in yourself? The ability to stop and have a conversation with anybody that wants it, regardless of what company they are or what rank they are or anything like that. I’m more than willing to give time. It chews into a lot of personal time, but I’ll give anybody, anybody who needs it, I’ll give time to them.
Biggest pet peeve? Being told ‘no.’
Favorite thing to do in your downtime? Spend time with my lovely wife and children. And I enjoy being on the water, sailing, and fishing. And also, I really enjoy, now, and I do it every day for at least an hour, talking to members of Procurement Foundry and just hearing their story and their career path. It’s amazing what I hear every day. So, that’s some of my favorite time right now.
Awesome, Mike. Well, we are at the hour. I want to thank you very much for being a guest on our show today. If you want to reach out and connect with Mike, he’s active on just about every social media platform, but feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn. If you are a practitioner and want to learn more about Procurement Foundry, you can go to procurementfoundry.com, sign up for the community, register for the events, the newsletter, and start to get all the updates and information that they’re producing. If you enjoyed our conversation today, I recommend you check out our future interviews. This is a show I host in conjunction with ISM New Jersey every month, and we’ve got an awesome guest lineup for the rest of the year. So, with that, wishing everyone a wonderful afternoon or evening, and Kathy will be sharing this recording in the next day or so. So, if you want to share it with colleagues or rewatch to get some of that great information that Mike shared, that will be available in the next 24 hours. Thanks, everybody. Really appreciate it. Thank you, Sarah.