Voice of Supply Chain – June 2022
Featuring: Michael Van Keulen
Welcome to Voice of Supply Chain, brought to you by ISM New Jersey and SourceDay.
The purpose of our show is to tell stories of people in procurement and supply chain doing extraordinary things. I’m your host, Sarah Scudder. I oversee marketing for SourceDay. We automate purchase order changes and enable supplier collaboration for manufacturers, distributors, CPG brands, and retailers. If you want to talk more about women in ERP or what’s happening in the manufacturing world, you can connect with me on LinkedIn and follow my two hashtags: #WomeninERP and #manufacturingmaven.
Today, our guest is MVK. MVK, I feel like it’s your week. You were just on another one of our shows yesterday, so thanks for being here today.
Yeah, thanks for having me.
So, we’re going to go back in time and start with talking about your childhood and the purpose of this show is a little bit different in that we want to tell your personal journey and your personal story about how you got to where you are today. So, I’d like to start with having you share a favorite childhood memory.
Yeah, thanks for having me first and foremost, Sarah. It’s always good to see you and like you’re feeling better. Look, my favorite childhood memory, I was born and raised in the Netherlands, and if I reflect back, I think the biggest thing or my favorite childhood memory has been just growing up in an environment where I was exposed to lots of different cultures, lots of different nationalities, lots of different habits. I had friends from almost every walk of life, every part of the world, and so if I reflect back on my favorite childhood memory, it’s probably that that taught me, at a very young age, that diversity in thought, diversity in upbringing, religion, opinions, it really… That’s probably my favorite childhood memory. I have lots of others. I had a really good childhood, if you will, but that’s probably my favorite one, is to be at an early age, get exposed already to lots of different cultures and nationalities.
What one thing stands out from your childhood that shaped you to be the person you are today?
Yeah, besides what I just described as being my favorite childhood memory, I also was a very passionate football player, or as some Americans call it, soccer, but we call it football. And what it… A big team player. I was the captain for most of that time. So, it taught me the importance of leading by example, work hard. I wasn’t maybe necessarily technically the most advanced player, but I tried to make up for that in effort and work hard and be part of a team, and that together, you drive better outcomes. In this case, on the pitch, you train hard three, four days a week, and then on Saturday and then later on Sunday, you have that moment where you get to compete against another team. And didn’t always win. I’m a very bad loser, as some of the listeners will probably know, you know, and I’m hyper-competitive. But yeah, that really shaped me in terms of, you know, together driving to common outcomes. And the fact that I was the leader of the team, as being the captain, it also taught me a lot about leadership at a young age. Does this mean you’re a Ted Lasso fan?
Yeah, to some degree. Yeah, you could probably call me a Ted Lasso fan, yes, yes, yes. I could say yes. I binged season one and two and anxiously awaiting season three. Yeah, it is quite good. I’m not a binge watcher, so I’ve seen a few. I’m not a binge, binge person, but yes.
What’s the tradition you learned from your parents that you’ve continued on with your family?
Yeah, that was an interesting because of course, these are some of the… To see that in my family, we’re not very big about tradition. So, you know, like it’s not like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day or Christmas or, you know, those traditional things. I think the thing that I learned is that family time is really important. We do always enjoy coming together as a family. I live on the other part of the side of the world. My parents are in Amsterdam or close by in Amsterdam, and I’m in Vancouver today. But it’s… I think that the tradition is just coming together as a family. I’m a really big family man. I got three kids, or we have three children, and, you know, to me, family is really, really important. It always has been very important to me. And I think I got that from my parents. So that’s maybe the tradition, is just finding time to be together as a family is important.
Most influential person in your childhood and why?
Yeah, I thought about it long and hard, and very typically, you start to think about your parents, and, you know, I think my dad has probably had the most influence on me, not because he was around a lot. My dad worked a lot and to support a family of three kids, and my dad was a taxi driver, and so he worked a lot at weird hours and didn’t always see him a lot. But at least he taught me, you know, hard work pays off. He worked really, really hard, like 12 hours a day and sometimes seven days a week, and drive a lot, and every time you’re on the street, you’d make money, right? But he also came from… He was one zero down. My dad was an orphan. He was born right at the end of the Second World War. Not everybody knows this, but I’m fine sharing. And until the age of 12, he was raised in an orphanage, and you know when your character is formed as a person until the age of 13. So what I admire about my dad, I’m not even sure if I’ve really told him ever really this way, but what I admire is that he was still able to overcome some of the challenges that you have when you’re raised in an orphanage for 13 years of your life, 12 years of your life, and still be able to raise a family, know what the priorities are. My parents have been married for well over 50 years now, and yeah, just… I mean, I do admire that. You know, like a lot of people let their past catch up with them, and he’s been able to work that out. Not always easy, but yeah, I do. And he taught me a lot around, you know, prioritization, work hard, remember where you came from, you know, that kind of stuff.
What’s the one thing you learned as an adult that you wish you knew as a kid?
Patience. I am still very, very impatient, but I’m much, much better than I was when I was younger, and yeah, character is everything, absolutely. I couldn’t agree more, David. It’s patience, and you don’t always have to… You know, yeah, I think patience. That’s how I would respond to that. It’s something I wish I knew when I was younger, also in your career. Yeah, I know we’re going to probably talk about that in a bit, but patience is important.
So you and I both share something in common in that we both majored in economics. So curious to know why.
Let’s see. I’ve always been a numbers guy. So when I was in… I think you call it kindergarten and middle school, I think you call it in the U.S., and it’s slightly different in Europe, but that early, just until you’re 12, I was doing high school math when I was nine years old. So, I’ve always been a math wiz. I’m very good with numbers, and then when I started to understand, you know, a bit more the world, when I went to high school, I started to realize how important economy and economic development is in the world, how it can really change countries and how it can change people’s lives. And so I really quickly understood that I wanted to do something with my numbers, hat, didn’t really like algebra, for example. I didn’t… I did it, but I didn’t really like it, but I like to apply my numbers and my ability to make sense out of numbers. And so very quickly, you then come to economics and accounting, and those were the two majors that I did, and banking and insurance. I very quickly realized that that would be something that I could get really passionate about.
What’s the most important thing you learned while going to college?
Well, what’s the most important thing? Well, one, that I couldn’t wait to get into the real world. I’m not sure if this is the right thing to say, but I’ll say it anyway. I am a big believer in… Yeah, you need to have a certain baseline, but I also knew that I wanted to get my degree as quickly as I could because I couldn’t wait to go into the real world and get out there and get experience. So, I graduated when I was 21, which is relatively young, I think, so maybe one, I learned that I wasn’t going to be, you know, doing any post-grad or anything like that. I knew I wasn’t going to do that. I think the other thing is that you don’t always have to be the smartest kid in the room because I… There were some really, really smart people where I was in my years in school. And that’s okay that you’re not always the smartest person in the room. I think those were probably the two big things that I learned. I hope that made sense.
Perceived worst advice you received in college that actually turned into useful advice later in your career?
Yeah, I mean, it’s a difficult one for me to answer. I didn’t really think I got any bad advice that I could turn into something positive. I think in my high school years, I had a mentor that, you know, I was the kind of student that liked to challenge my teachers and ask them the why and ask them, well, why is this relevant? Why does this matter? Not in a judgmental way, but I wanted to always understand during my school years that, you know, I was always interested in, well, how does this apply to, you know, to the world, to the real, you know, outside? And some teachers didn’t necessarily like that. And so I’m not sure if I’m answering your question, but my mentor was really important to me in my high school years, and I’m still in touch with him, and I’ve thanked him several times, and I said to him, I said, look, the piece of advice that he gave me is to never be afraid to speak up. But there were teachers who actually told me that I… I should stop asking the question, you know what I mean? And so what I saw… It’s maybe a double-edged here that I’m answering the question. The advice that I got is to occasionally not challenge, but my mentor actually, at the same time, said, do it. And I’m still grateful for that.
But it also got me into trouble sometimes in school because not all teachers like that. So, you liked numbers, which is why you majored in economics and accounting. What did you think you were gonna do after graduation?
Accounting. So, my first role was at Arthur Anderson, and I thought I was gonna be an accountant. And so when I graduated, that was my dream, to join Arthur Anderson, because, I’ll translate, back in the day when I graduated in ’95 or ’97, in that time, the best accounting firm in the world was Arthur Anderson, the Big Five—those that are PWC and Ernst & Young would disagree, but anyway. So, I really wanted to go after accounting and I wanted to work for the best accounting firm in the world, which I managed to get into, Arthur Anderson, at the time.
And from what I recall from looking at your profile online, you decided not to go back and get a master’s. Is that correct?
That’s correct. So again, you and I share that as well. Would love your thoughts on—or maybe walk us through—the reason why you decided not to go back and get a master’s.
Yeah, it’s… I kind of maybe gave it away a little bit earlier. I do believe in having a certain foundation when it comes to knowledge coming out of books, but I’m a very practical, pragmatic person. That’s why I think I do what I do today in supply chain and finance procurement. I do feel it’s very pragmatic. I just couldn’t wait to get out into the real world. I just knew I… I was craving knowledge that I didn’t feel I was getting out of the books, but that I wanted to learn in business, in companies, and apply some of the theory into practice. And I still learn every day. Yeah, every day I learn in my role, even today still today at Coupa. And I felt like I couldn’t get that out of my books. Now, I’m not saying that that’s for everybody, and I’m certainly not discounting the fact of the importance of having degrees. I’m not advocating for not having any. But I also know that a lot of the very famous and successful entrepreneurs didn’t even finish college. So, it’s… Everybody learns in a different way. My wife, on the other hand, is a constant learner, and she has more degrees than I can probably put up into my office. So my point is, people learn differently and have different ways of developing and growing in life.
School is not my thing, and my boyfriend has a PhD, so I can relate.
Well, there you go. We said… I didn’t even know that, so here we go.
So your first gig after college was in accounting. What was the best and worst part of your first gig?
Yeah, the best part is, you know, I did work for Arthur Anderson, which I can again… I can’t speak highly enough of. And I worked with some incredible people, super smart, you know, I learned a ton. I did a lot of consulting there. So the best part of my gig there was that I got to look in many, many kitchens, as in companies, in my first two years of my career. It allowed me to work for GE, I worked for the Dutch Railways, I worked for Sterling Commerce, that ultimately I did join after. I loved the fact that I could learn a lot in a very short period of time, get exposed to some really great resources, both people, but also the libraries that they had, the thought leadership that came from AAA at the time, white papers, and I craved that because those were real-life examples. And so, the first two years, my chargeability, as they called it, was like 200%, because I worked my ass off, if I may say. But it’s because I recognized the opportunity that I was given, and I was a sponge. I just did everything. I said yes to everything, and I did every single project that I was given, and I learned a ton. I think the worst part of that gig was, as a consultant, you come in, you do something, you do something for a certain period of time, you make something better, you implement something, you write a… You know, I did accounting manuals, I implemented ERP, I did a bunch of different things together with a group of people. But when the project was done, you were always off to the next project, and what I missed was learning from my projects, also from my mistakes, and opportunities to do things better next time. And I miss that, and that’s what ultimately led me to leave my consulting after two years, is because I liked that feedback.
So you left your consulting gig. What’s next?
Yeah, I joined the customer I was working for at the time, Sterling Commerce. Sterling, I did… I set up a finance shared service center for Nuance in Europe—or I, it’s always ‘we,’ but when I say ‘I,’ I mean ‘we,’ of course—then I moved to Foot Locker. And at Foot Locker, I was the European controller. And I was asked if I was interested in implementing e-sourcing with a company called Iasta at the time. Again, it’s a little while ago, in the early 2000s. And that’s how I met my wife. She worked for FreeMarkets, then moved to Iasta. And we implemented e-sourcing, and yeah, that’s how I got passionate and excited about procurement and sourcing and bringing my finance brain with my supply chain procurement and driving value. And making fact-based decisions. Yeah, that’s really when I realized that finance was maybe not my career. It’s kind of repetitive, every quarter, every year. Sarbanes-Oxley wasn’t there at the time, but you know, of course, it’s there today. And compliance and U.S. GAAP accounting and ref-rack. It’s… I’m not saying it’s not fun, but it wasn’t necessarily what I got passionate about. But what I did like was bringing my finance brain together with my desire to be part of the business and drive business value. And that’s how I really recognized that my passion and my future was going to be in sourcing and procurement and supply chain. But my wife reminds me occasionally that it’s her fault.
We’ll need to interview her on our show sometime as well.
Yes, yes, that would be fun.
So, what next? Walk me through the rest of your career path.
Yeah, then I moved to VF, and at VF I initially started in finance, but very quickly said, ‘Hey, why don’t we have procurement in Europe? We’ve got all these brands, so VF has house brands—Lee, Wrangler, North Face, Kipling, Eastpack, JanSport, Timberland, Vans, etc.—and 30 brands grew very rapidly, did some acquisitions, and I said, ‘Why don’t we have procurement in Europe? Like, the spend is, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars, and we don’t have any procurement, and why don’t we have it?’ And I just came from Foot Locker, and I said, ‘Hey, there’s so much value we can create.’ And I started with shopping bags. It’s a funny story—like every brand, of course, has a shopping bag, and in some cases, the same supplier was charging different prices for similar specifications. And so, I aggregated the spend, ran a competitive RFP, demonstrated that we could save a million bucks, and that’s when we realized, ‘Hey, Michael, why won’t you go set up the procurement function in Europe?’ Which we did. That went really well, had lots of great support, great leadership that really recognized the value that procurement can bring to the table in Europe.
Then I was asked to lead a global transformation with VF, together with McKinsey, and that got me to the U.S. So at a very young age, I always told my mother and my father that I wanted to go work in the U.S. That was when I told them when I was five years old, I started talking about that. So when that opportunity came, I was like, ‘Wow, you know, check the box.’ So I moved to Greensboro, North Carolina, and spent a couple of years there, led global transformation at VF. That went really well, and then I got a phone call to say, ‘Hey, would you like to do this kind of same thing at Lululemon,’ which, at that time, had no procurement, no real rigor, no structure, no governance, no procurement really. And it felt like a great opportunity. It’s in Vancouver, a great city, and it made sense for the family, it made sense professionally. And so I did that for four and a half years, and both VF and Lululemon are Coupa customers. I’ve been a fan of Coupa for a long time. And then, you know, once you set it up and it runs, you’re kinda ready, maybe, for the next gig. And that’s when the opportunity came to join the mothership, which is where I am today, at Coupa. And I consider it, honestly, an honor and a privilege to be the Chief Procurement Officer at Coupa Software. You know, being in my role is almost like being the head of marketing at Marketo or the head of HR or, you know, like, etc. They had a Sales at Salesforce. And it’s just a tremendous honor, and it’s honestly, I feel like everything I’ve done so far has led me to where I am today, which is, you know, probably the best. I just sold my house in Greensboro, David, great place to live here. But yeah, it kinda led me to where I am today, which is an amazing feeling to have if you can say career-wise that you feel like you’re at the right place at the right time of your career and you’re driving real value for the company I work for today. Yeah, it’s a great feeling.
So you said a couple of interesting things. One of them being two of the organizations you worked for had no procurement function. So, what did that look like?
Yeah, it meant that the business made decisions on what suppliers to select, how to negotiate with them, and what mattered to the business. Now, that is, of course, all really important—you know, of course, I am here to support the business and then here to drive better business outcomes. But I do say negotiation and procurement is a career, it’s a profession, it’s a skill, it’s teachable, it’s not rocket science. Procurement is not rocket science, or at least it shouldn’t be. We’re here to support the business, but it is something that deserves time and attention. And I’m also going back in time, right, VF today has a very mature procurement function, you know, led by Zach and Patrick Tewksbury and others, very mature function. But I’m going back in time, right, ten years ago, where, you know, it was immature, was very tactical, very operational in nature. And it means that, you know, companies are not optimizing the value, opening up the risk, and we all know what that means and what that could result in, especially over the past two years with all the disruption we’ve seen, that if you have no maturity in your supply chain, you don’t know your suppliers, you don’t know enough about your suppliers, what that could do to your business. So, it looks very frantic, is what the answer is. Kind of like chaos is what I imagine.
Yeah, I kinda describe it to your teenage years, you know? When you’re a teenager, you don’t have to be fiscally responsible and necessarily think about where the money goes and how much you pay for certain things, because you can just maybe be a little bit more opportunistic. But as you grow and mature as a business, you have to understand your supply chain, your suppliers, the risk you are willing to take, trade-offs you’re making between maybe single source versus having several options when it comes to where you get your stuff from. And so, I think giving that kind of maturity to your organization will just set you up for more success and get you to mature procurement and ultimately drive innovation, which is, you know, the holy grail of any procurement function.
So, the other thing that stood out to me in your career story is the fact that you started out in Europe, actually, and building out a procurement function there.
What, what would you say were the biggest differences at the time for running and being in procurement in Europe versus the U.S.?
Yeah, I think we, we in Europe, we, you know, I’d say we have the tendency to be very, very direct and not be afraid to challenge the status quo. I, of course, need to be mindful I’m not trying to be disrespectful here, but you know, we really, we, we went across the brands. We started leveraging spend across the brands. The brands were very, very receptive, you know, whether it’s North Face or Vans or Wrangler, you know, standardizing shopping bags across brands to go to one supplier, of course, de-risks the supply chain across factories, etc. But you know, that was not very sensitive at all. When the brands realized that hey, we can uncover resources that you can reinvest back into the business, and yeah, and improve efficiencies, right, and exactly what you’re saying, David, yeah.
It’s not just about cost, it’s about driving more value. It’s how can you accelerate objectives, how can you potentially, I said to marketeers, how would you like me to give you 20 more budget? And now marketers are listening to you, right? I mean, you’re a marketer, Sarah, you know exactly where I’m going with that. And that was the value prop and that went really, really well in the U.S. It required a little bit more convincing, and you know, I never believe in somebody being mandated and pushing it down a business. I do believe in procurement having its own elevator pitch and driving from within and really collaboratively drive better business outcomes. We got there in the end. We saved a significant amount of money at VF at the time, but it was a little more challenging than I than I originally anticipated to get all the brands to get behind the journey. Ultimately a phenomenal project, great results, it really took my career to the next level. I had a great support from the operating committee, all the way from the CEO and everybody else, so it’s never a one-man show, but yeah, I still have really good memories of that project, but it especially in the beginning, it took a lot of convincing.
One of the things that really stands out for me about you is your passion for leveraging technology and implementing technology in procurement and supply chain. Why do you think you’ve been so successful in your career before joining Coupa in implementing technology? It’s one thing to talk about it, it’s one thing to go out and buy something, but to actually implement something that’s utilized and works is a completely different story. So would like to have you share with us, you know, one of what you learned, and you know, you, I’m sure you stumbled along the way as well, but you know more than most, I think, have been very successful in this area.
No, thank you, and there’s there’s tons of others, but I appreciate, I appreciate it. Look, I think there’s a few things important when it comes to driving transformation. I think the first one is, you know, don’t be afraid to build some scars along the way, and trust me, I have some where you’re not afraid to challenge the status quo, to stand up to lead, and to also take accountability, even if you maybe don’t have the responsibility, you can still take accountability for the outcomes. That is risky because, you know, if things don’t go the way they you plan them, you could get into trouble, but I do believe in, you know, be bold, get out there, and if you’re not doing that, then I don’t think you can be successful in procurement. It’s my opinion, yeah. So I think that is one key takeaway. I think the other thing that I think is, is really important is that you take, like, I owned the digitization journey, not IT, not finance, not the business, no. I was, I said look, it is procurement’s responsibility to drive better business outcomes in the business spending that we have, and we need to do that through the power of technology. And I want to take responsibility and accountability for the investment, but it should be my procurement decision, and not IT. That’s like mechanics buying their own car. It doesn’t make any sense, and I was fortunate enough that, I have to say this, right, it’s important that I had leadership that trusted me, but also listened, and also I had IT leaders, which is not always the case, that recognized and said, hey, that is very different, you know, the language that you’re using there is very different, and I said look, I said I want to partner with IT. Of course, you’re important, data integrity, integration, you know, all those things, single source of truth, they all matter, cost of maintaining it, that is all important, but it shouldn’t be IT determining what platform we’re going to deploy. That is procurement, that’s my responsibility, and a great partnership both at VF and at Lululemon, excellent partnership, I still have lots of connections at both, but it’s important that procurement stands up and lead, and I think that was the secret, that is the secret to success in my opinion. I hope that that made sense.
Where does ERP fit into the mix of everything?
Yeah, ERP is, I’m not going to say necessary evil, but maybe I just did. ERPs are good, you know, they’re fine, they are the single source of truth you need them. I’m a finance person, right, it’s important that you have a single repository of your data, you close the books every month, every quarter, every year for your auditors, it is typically where you house your financial reporting, where you have your master data, both for direct and indirect, you do your payments out of, although you no longer really need to do that, you can do that in Coupa if you want, but my point is like that is the single source of truth which is really critical. Where technology like Coupa or, you know, SourceDay or others come in, you know, CRM with SalesForce and Workday for HRMs and you know you’ve got some other platforms of course, and Zendesk and ServiceNow and is recognizing that the ERP is not necessarily very friendly to use, is not necessarily very intuitive, and that’s where a company like I work for has recognized the opportunity to simplify, to make that experience much more seamless and easy, so you get a high level of adoption, both from the supplier side and the internal user side, and now you get data at your fingertips and you no longer just look at where spend gets booked because procurement doesn’t really care. I don’t really care if it’s Capex or Opex or if it’s SG&A. For me, it’s spend and I need to know what do we buy, how much do we buy, where do we buy from, why do we buy, what’s my demand, category management, those, that’s what matters to procurement, and that’s what, you know, the company I represent or work for has been able to do. So yeah, those are the distinctions between ERP and more like a best, you know, best of breed, you know, end-to-end solution like ours.
So there’s a lot of niche category solutions on the market now. How do you figure out which one is best for you?
Yeah, I am a big fan. I’m not trying to, this is not a Coupa sales pitch, yeah, so I’m certainly not trying to do that. I’m a big fan of thinking about a process end to end, so from, you know, in my profession, sourcing, contracting, req to PO to invoice, invoice to pay, managing risk, managing the life cycle of your contracts, you know, the payments, treasury, cash flow. I like to think of it like that, and for me, it’s more important that I don’t have to deal with, you know, point solutions, but that I can do that in one single platform, so that I have a single source of truth.
I don’t have to deal with integration.
I can very quickly run metrics, you know, source the contract cycle time and spend, to PO and spend on the contract and req to PL. Cycle times and those things really matter to procurement, how quickly can I support the business? So I’d like to think of it more of a, like if there is something I can do end to end, then that’s what I would select. So I would never deploy a contract lifecycle management solution individually. I would never do that or a risk solution. There’s great solutions out there, yeah, so I’m not discounting those solutions but I’m a big fan of thinking about it end to end and whether that’s on the procurement side or on the CRM side or on the HRMs side. I’m a big fan of thinking and rather than, if you can, yeah, I would never just have a talent module, you know, or a recruiting module or a performance review for if you talk about HRMs. I would rather have, you know, an end to end which may mean you have to sacrifice a little bit of functionality individually, but then the benefits you’re gonna get to have it end to end are far greater. Where does data fit into all of this? Yeah, data is, you know, data has always been king, and I remember when I started in procurement, I had AS400 in ERP, and I had to download an AP subledger file into Excel and manually classify all my spend to use some kind of taxonomy which I used, you know, in SPSC, can’t believe I did that. Yeah, I had 10,000 suppliers, 13,000 invoices a year if memory serves, and I was manually classifying it, and so data is king. I need to know, or gold, or you know, however you want to describe it, I need to know my data at my fingertips. I need to know what I buy, how much I buy, how much I spent, very quickly. And so having accurate data at your fingertips is absolutely fundamental. I mean, it’s been fundamental for a decade. The solutions are out there, again depending on what kind of data you’re looking for, if it’s on the HR side or the sales side or the procurement side, or maybe on help desks or you know, I think it’s absolutely fundamental. If you don’t know, I say to practitioners, if you don’t know, I ask them typically three fundamental questions, you know, what’s your spend on the contract, and what’s your total addressable spend, and what’s your total spend? If you don’t have those three answers like this, then I question your ability to be in procurement. Right? So yeah, you transitioned kind of a did a little bit of an interesting career hop and that you went to work for a supplier. So walk us through kind of what your day to day is and what it’s like being a CPO for a supplier. Yeah, I never really looked at it like that, to be honest. I also don’t, you know, I’d never look at a company like Coupa when I was on the receiving end as a supplier. It’s more like a, you know, strategic partner, but fair enough, I see where you’re going. What my day looks like at Coupa today is I probably spend 30% of my time on procurement, roughly.
I’ve got an excellent team, high performing. I’m very grateful that we have such a, I do really have a really great team. I’ve pretty much throughout my career, to be honest, I’ve been pretty blessed with the teams that I’ve been able to support. So I have to call that out. But so I spent 30% of my time on procurement. I probably spend roughly 20% of my time or so on, maybe 15% depending on when, but on the product, supporting, you know, we’ve got a really great team developing the Coupa platform, the BSM platform, and so I get to play a role, it’s a small role, yeah, but get some early reads on dashboards or things that the product team are thinking about and asking me, hey, does this make sense? And they value my opinion, so I appreciate that, and it’s that’s part of building your own car. And then the third thing is, of course, the advocacy that’s, to be truthful, the biggest reason why I joined Coupa is, you know, I love this company, the culture is great, etc. I’ve been a big fan, and the way this company’s been led by Rob and the exec team, and I mean, I’m not trying to blow smoke here at any point, but is is because I love procurement, and I will never do anything but procurement, you can quote me, you know, I’m super passionate. I mean, we’ve known each other for probably like a decade now, Sarah, so maybe a little less, but we’ve known each other for a long time, you know that I’ve been very, very passionate about this profession, and I’ve always said that procurement deserves a seat. Nobody needs to give me the seat, I’ll grab it. We’ve earned it, especially now, but even five years ago, ten years ago, I’ve always believed that, and to be given an opportunity to advocate for procurement at a company like Coupa, you know, where better can I be, right? So I’m also, you know, I believe I’m at the right company at the right time, as I said earlier, and that’s what I love doing most, is to talk about procurement, support our community, talk to prospects, not from a, hey, you need to buy Coupa, but hey, let’s get on this procurement transformative journey together and see where we can share, exchange ideas, you know, it’s the, none of us is as smart as all of us, kind of concept that we love applying. It’s the community, and just to play a role in that is, yeah, I sometimes say I can’t believe I get paid for this. What makes a great CPO in 2022? Wow, well, I know several really awesome CPOs. I think that the CPO of 2022 is almost like a CEO, you know, I’ve said that the CPO should be in the running of the CEO job, I’ve talked about that not long ago. And what I mean with that is, you know, empathy is important, emotional intelligence is extremely, extremely important. I had to teach myself, I’m still learning, I’m not great at it, I think I’m getting better at it, but you know, empathy and natural, does not come natural to, to most men, you know, emotional intelligence, same thing, maybe I’m getting myself in trouble here, but I mean, I think it’s a really key trade. What I’m seeing, you don’t necessarily need to know commodities and, and you know, be a 30-year lifelong procurement negotiator anymore. I don’t think that’s necessary. Diversity in teams, building the right team, recognizing diversity is critical in your team, supporting your team, letting your team run the business, you know, give them the trust and the empowerment almost. I think those things are really critical.
I mean, of course, it’s under, it’s important to know how to get people excited about procurement and convincing people and stakeholder engagement. Those things are all important, but I think the key things for me are more on the softer side than on the harder side. If that, I hope that makes sense for those that are listening that have the end goal of being a CPO, what things can people do now in their careers to get the right exposure and skills to be considered for a CPO role in the future? Yeah, I’ve always believed in controlling your own destiny, and you know, I think the things that you can do now are things like, you know, build your network, think about, you know, think about how you built your network. I mean, I always say, like, you know, spend at least an hour a week not in your career, but on your career, you know, it’s important, of course, you perform and you do things well, but certainly encourage you all to, to work on your career, and you do that by, you know, networking, reaching out to people. I feel free to reach out to me if you want to talk about procurement in more depth. I’m all for sharing and learning from each other, because I believe that together, we legitimately drive better outcomes. So work on your career, be bold in your job. Go pick a category, I’m sure every company has a category that’s underutilized, maybe has been underexplored, under-resourced, whatever, and run with it. I mean, that’s what I did. I mean, I took shopping bags, I digested it, I dissected it, and I went to the CFO, and I said, “We can take out a million bucks if we do these five things,” and he’s like, “Well, let’s go do it.” And that’s what got me into procurement. But then not shortly after, I was asked what my next gig was at VF, and I said, “I’m gonna leave the company,” and that’s when I was given an opportunity to lead global transformation. So my point is, not that was not to impress anybody, it’s more, nobody is going to give it to you on a silver platter. Take some risk, be bold, control your destiny. But, you know, I do believe in a certain amount of, you know, you get what you give, and, you know, I hope that makes sense here, how I’m trying to describe it, but it’s really, you know, don’t wait for things to land on your lap, you know, that’s just never gonna happen, you know, you just get out there and trust your instinct, trust your gut. We are in procurement, I mean, this is our time. If there’s never been a better time to be in procurement than today, if you go look on LinkedIn, type in procurement on the job search, and you’ll see opportunities everywhere. And so I highly encourage all of us in procurement, especially, to step up. I mean, this is our time. What’s something that you haven’t yet done in your career that you want to do?
Wow, what’s something that I haven’t done in my career that I’d like to do? I don’t know, that’s, I don’t have a good answer for that question. What is something that I would like to do? I haven’t, I know, let me think, maybe I’ll get back to you on that. Let me give that some thoughts. Let me, I don’t have a great answer right now, so that’s, that’s a great question, but I’m not sure if I got a good answer. What’s the biggest impact you’ve made in your career? Yeah, I’d have to say Lululemon, for sure, although at VF, it was also quite impactful, but, you know, that was a company high growth, had some challenges in supply chain and procurement, a lot of people forgot about seven years ago, and together with the group, yeah, we were kind of brought in to build some governance and some structure and some built some controls, and I really feel like, you know, it’s never one person, you can never point to this thing or, but I do believe that without procurement and without the resource inefficiencies that we uncovered during especially the first two, three years of my journey there, it allowed the company to invest in in digital, in e-commerce, in omnichannel, and, and, yeah, I really feel like we had a really big impact there as a group, supported of course by a group, and, yeah, I really felt like there was some, some really good things that we did there that ultimately, I mean, the company now is like 6 billion in sales, and of course there’s great product and product development and, and, you know, lots of great people there, but I feel like there’s there’s definitely we did some really cool things there. I’m a Lulu customer. Thank you for your business, or I used to say that. One of the things that you’ve shared with me before is that you like to develop people. It’s something that’s a passion of yours. What makes you a good leader? Yeah, you’d have to ask my team, yeah, to be, I like, I mean, I can say what I but how I like to, but what I’d like them to respond if you’d ask somebody that has forever reported to me. I think, um, you know, if the way I lead is I set a really high bar for myself. I’m very demanding, but I think it has to start with me. So I’d say lead by example, as has always mattered to me. Also, you know, if I look at good leaders that I’ve reported to, and let’s say leaders that had some room for improvement, I think it is lead by example, say what you do, do what you say. You know, empowering my team has always been important to me. You know, I’m not here to babysit anybody.
I want my team to feel empowered. But also that it’s create an environment where it’s okay to make mistakes. You know, fail fast, ideally move on. I think those are key traits. I think that I like that I’ve liked about how I’ve been managed. Okay to fail, show them that I have their back, and empower them, you know, really empower them, not, you know, like if somebody’s done something really well, a great piece of project or, I don’t know, some great outcome, it’s for them to take that to leadership, to my boss, to Tony, to who supports me. I don’t want to take credit for someone else’s work, and I think it’s really important that you do that, and what I have noticed is that there are leaders out there that don’t think like that, and that I think comes from a place of fear and a place of insecurity, and the leaders that I’ve worked best with are the ones that gave me empowerment and, you know, ability to learn, but also gave me exposure, and it’s really important because if I’m not at Coupa tomorrow, then the company still needs to know who my team is and what they do and why they’re so good at it, and it shouldn’t be, just, you know, I shouldn’t be like pretty, you know, does that make like I leaders that do that I think have no place in 2022, or in you know, ever in history, but especially today, when you’re hiring someone, what are the things you look for?
Attitude, I mean that to me is king, you know, I hire attitudes over resumes any day, so I typically know after five minutes if I will hire someone or not, and that maybe sounds a little crazy, but attitude to me like procurement is a teachable skill and, you know, you can train it, but I get it, but it’s very difficult to train is attitude is, you know, things like natural curiosity is getting passionate about procurement, and that’s not easy to teach that to somebody, you know, I’d rather slow somebody down than to speed somebody up, right, and, and so I hire attitude, and if somebody can, you know, can tell a good story, storytelling is really important in procurement, and, but if somebody has the ability to excite people and and rally people and and bring things to close and and, yeah, I think that is really critical but also diversity, so that doesn’t mean that you hire the same people all the time because that does not drive like if everybody is like me on my team, that’d be a disaster, right, that’d be an absolute disaster, so you also need to find the right balance between not just gender, yeah, because I know that’s very typically people start to think about equality like, you know, diversity in terms of gender, but it’s also ethnicity, religion is important, upbringing, anytime Andy but also education, they don’t all need to have a finance background, in fact, there’s no procurement school which I think is something we need to fix, and Coupa should lead that discussion together with, you know, SourceDays and others that are in the space but definitely, you know, hire engineers, I’ve hired EAs in procurement in Europe, I’ve hired somebody that was in HR, and the reason why is they know how to resonate with people, how to get quickly, like if you’re an EA, I mean, they’re the multitask galores, right, I mean, they know how to get done right, multitask, prioritize, to some degree that’s procurement right, and you know, work on the pressure and stress, and and serve many different so I I think those are skills that I look for, so it’s attitudes over over resume for me.
You mentioned stress in your last comment. How do you juggle so much between family, work, and hobbies? Yeah, I think I’m not good at it. You can ask my wife. I mean, you should interview her. You know, she regularly reminds me that your health should always be number one, and I, that’s a constant battle for me. I love my work. I’m very, very passionate about my work. I’ve always been. I’m not gonna call myself a workaholic, but I do spend a lot of time in my job because it energizes me. But yeah, sometimes I need to learn to unplug, and it’s very, very difficult for me to unplug. So I’m not here, I’m not gonna give any advice because I would not be truthful, and I would not be authentic, which are two of my core values, if you will. So I’m, I’m struggling with that. My priority is always my family, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I always show that. So we’ve got a non-stop journey from there.
We’ve got a question that came in from the audience from Maryam that I want to make sure we have time to address. She says, ‘Can you recommend a tool or template in which procurement can communicate its accomplishments to management?’ Yes, Maryam, I can. Why don’t you reach out to me? I’m happy to share how I’ve done that. But it all starts with not just being focused on cost, but it starts to be the value drivers that procurement can bring to the table. So it’s not just about taking out costs, especially in today’s market. It’s almost impossible with inflation being, you know, double-digit, etc. I have some templates I’m happy to share, but it’s about value drivers. So first and foremost, know your baseline. What is the baseline of what it is that you’re procuring, whatever it is, goods or services? Get alignment on that baseline and then determine what the value drivers can be. And that can be better quality, lower lead time, you know, maybe de-risking your supply chain. Diversity, ESG is a big deal, of course, today. So talk about what matters to the executive team. Like, how do you demonstrate value? It can come from different angles. I definitely have a template that I’m happy to share, but I think it’s important that we stop talking about cost and taken out. Because there was another gentleman, I forgot his name, but he made that comment as well around, ‘Hey, it’s not just no longer about just taking out cost.’ That was easy five years ago, right? But today we should be talking about… Yeah, thank you, David. Now I remember, it was you. You know, we should move beyond that, and it’s really, really important. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, or my email address is very simple. It’s MVK@Coupa.com. Just drop me an email.
All right, so we are at the Spitfire round time. I’m going to ask you five questions, and you’re going to respond with the first word or phrase that comes to mind. Okay, go for it. Accomplishment you are most proud of? Kids. Quality you admire most in yourself? Perseverance. What’s your dream? Grandkids. Biggest pet peeve? Taking things too personally. Favorite thing to do in your downtime? Spend time with my children. Like I have to say. All right, well, with that, I want to give a big thank you to MVK for spending an hour on our show today. For those that want to reach out to him, the best way to do so is LinkedIn or shoot him an email. And tune in for our show next month, which will be July 20th at 2 pm Eastern time. Have a wonderful afternoon.