Voice of Supply Chain – Nov. 2022
Featuring: Craig Smith
Welcome to Voice of Supply Chain brought to you by ISM New Jersey and SourceDay.
The purpose of our show is we try to bring a little unique and different perspective to all of the supply chain shows and content that’s out there by having people tell their personal journeys and stories, so not as much about the career stuff but more about the human element and the struggles and challenges and wins that people go throughout their careers. I am your host, Sarah Scudder. I oversee marketing for SourceDay. Our supply chain collaboration platform automates direct material purchase order changes to prevent late part delivery, so we do a lot of work in the manufacturing space. If you want more intel on what’s happening in the supply chain manufacturing world, you can connect with me on LinkedIn and follow my hashtags #ManufacturingMaven and #WomeninERP. And I have to give a shout out to our guest today, Craig. Our color is green. I’m kind of obsessed with green. I post about it all the time and wear it, and Craig actually is on brand today wearing a green shirt. It’s actually pretty close to our actual color, so way to go and show us again. You’ve got the logo. There we go. DHI represented as well. So this is kind of cool because Craig and I just spent some time together in Vegas a couple of weeks ago. Craig is part of the Procurement Foundry community that Mike Cadieux started a few years ago. I’ve been a big supporter and part of the network as well, so we got to meet up in person for their first-ever conference, and it feels like it was longer than two weeks ago, but nice to see you again, Craig, and have you on the show. Great to see you and really good to be here. Thanks for the invite.
What was your favorite takeaway from being in Vegas?
So really, the people that were there that were involved. Being a part of that community and being heavily involved in the Lone Wolf channel, just meeting great peers that are excited about the role and the profession and helping each other with certain issues that come up or bouncing ideas off of one another, just continuing that type of relationship building with the peer group was fantastic. And then getting to meet a lot of the vendors and suppliers in the space too was really helpful.
So, I love fun names, and I love the name Lone Wolf. I think Paul and and you’ve got a core group of 10 or 12 of you, so can you describe to me what is this Lone Wolf group?
Sure. So it’s really about small procurement and sourcing or vendor management teams that are a bunch of us are a team of one, and then others have smaller two to three people-sized teams of running the procurement organization within their different entities, right? So a lot of work with a bunch of a switch between the tactical and the Strategic on a daily basis, so it’s just I think we face maybe some different challenges than larger procurement teams, and we’re definitely juggling and keeping a lot of balls in the air as we’re going through our day-to-day.
Yeah. From talking to you and some of the other Lone Wolfers, it’s you guys are either a team of one or a very, very small team, so you’re tackling and having to figure out how to prioritize what to work on because you don’t have a lot of resources, right?
So, for those of you that are are just tuning in, feel free to drop us a note in the comment section, tell us where in the world you’re joining us from, if you are a Lone Wolfer as well, let us know that, and then tell us how you’re feeling today. We’ve got Vincent Hattie joining us. He says, “Green is my favorite color. I like it then blue better than blue and yellow put together.” Love that, Vincent. Kathy Perna is joining us from ISM. She’s welcoming the team. So, feel free to put comments in throughout, and Craig’s a pretty transparent, open book type of guy, so any questions that you have about his journey as we go through it or what it’s like to build and be a team procurement team of one, I’m happy to answer any of those questions.
So, Craig, I want to go way back in time, years and years ago, before you even knew you were gonna fall in this crazy world of supply chain, and would like to have you tell me about your childhood. Okay, so what were you like as a child? Let’s start there.
So, I was really funny, so my parents had really great sense of humor as well, and my sister, so we were a really hilarious family. We enjoyed each other’s company. We played games. We laughed. My grandparents were were real hoots as well. So, there was a lot of laughter in jokes and games and things going on in the house when we were growing up.
Scrabble, especially with adding um, dirty words in it.
So, there’s a couple games I’m going to recommend if you’re still a game family. One is called telesketch. I hosted a team dinner with my marketing team and our BDR SDR team, and someone brought it, and we actually played it the entire time. It’s absolutely hysterical and it requires you to draw things really quickly, and then pass it to the next person, and then they have to write down what it is. So, if if you’re not a good artist, the game is even more fun. And then the other, the other game, two other games that I love are Scattegories and code names. I’ve played Scattegories before. That’s one. I haven’t heard of code names. Is that what you said? Code names is another it’s it definitely requires you to be on it like mentally. So, don’t drink a lot and then play code names, but highly. I was a game grew up in a game family as well. So, played a ton of games, and those are a couple really good ones. Awesome.
Favorite childhood memory?
So, we did a lot of camping growing up. We had a camper that sat on the back of a truck bed, and on one of our trips, we went all up and down the East Coast, starting in the Smoky Mountains, and then went up to think all the way up to Boston, and then home. One of the funny stories was one of the memories I had I have of that trip, there were two. Is we, we went through or went under a bridge that was a little too low, and it ripped all of our bicycles off of the top, and we didn’t know until later when we got to the campsite, and our bikes were gone, and then another story, we were driving through, I think it might have been the Smoky Mountains, because it was a fairly windy road, and my mother was attempting to make chili as we were driving, and so she was slinging around, and I think my my dad and my sister were in the front, and mom and I were in the back, really laughing and having fun trying to keep the pot on the stove and avoid any really terrible office-like mistakes. Sorry, Kevin. I won’t even ask the outcome of the chili making in the car because it. I feel like it could be very disastrous. It worked. It worked. She she was she managed it well, only a few expletives hurled it towards my father as he was driving, and then missing bikes. That’s quite interesting. I think not being sure if somebody stole the bikes or what happened. That’s it. They ripped off and we never saw them again, and and hopefully somebody put them to good use.
What in your childhood do would you highlight or really point out as that shaped you to be the person that you are today?
So, I grew up in a a town in Oklahoma, Oklahoma called Ponca City. So, it was a town of about 24,000 people. It was a big Conoco oil and gas town. It was called Ponca City, but it’s a town correct? Yeah. Okay. And there was one high school. There were two junior highs, and then I can’t remember how many elementary schools. So, a lot of us just really grew up together, and so there was well. There were some clicks and things like that. I think most of the school were were you know people in the school were friendly friendly towards one another. We knew each other’s background and things like that, so it was a really supportive environment both from the community and the in the friends that you grew up with and the peer group that we grew up with, so that was I think that made it really comfortable growing up, which then allowed me to continue to be comfortable comfortable around both adults and and peers going on through college and into the workplace.
What’s a tradition that you learned from your parents that you’ve continued on into adulthood?
So we still camp a lot as a family, so my wife and daughter and I, we have a we have a camper van that we just got last year, and we’re starting to put that to use. One of our holiday traditions is we had a blind gift, so we’d, you know, put on a blindfold and and somebody would give you a gift, and you’d have to to guess what it was. We did that while my parents were still alive. We’ve done it every now and then. It’s not a yearly tradition, but if there’s something that we’ll we’ll try to we’ll try to do that, so I am not a camper. I don’t camp, and your gift exchange idea is a really fun one. We do something every year where we have a theme and there’s a budget, but we’ve actually never done the blindfold guess one. So, that’s a that’s a good idea. I might incorporate that this year. It’s really fun, it’s really entertaining.
Influential person in your childhood and why?
So, my dad started talking to me about
the workplace probably around junior high, about looking people in the eyes,
when you’re communicating, introducing yourself, remembering names,
and then, you know, as you see folks down the line, you remember their names and things like that. That was really influential to me from a business setting, and I’ve tried to keep that ongoing and tried to teach that to my daughter as well. I think it’s really important in building those types of connections with people that you work with.
What’s one thing that you learned as an adult that you wish you had known as a kid?
So, I would think I thought about this one a lot and I think it’s for me it was you don’t have to please everybody or you don’t have to be friends with everybody. They’re, you know, there are times they’re going to be people that you just don’t have a connection with and there’s nothing in common, and that’s okay. You can still be civil and polite and things like that, but there just may not be a connection and that’s okay. And, you know, the whole I think the pleasing everybody thing, it’s hard to do and hard to maintain, and you have to really take care of yourself. Yeah, I think as you get older I, at least for me, I care less and less about what people think of me and I just try to be myself. It kind of goes along with that theory.
So, Craig, you and I share something in common and that we both chose to major in marketing. So, would like to have you tell me a little bit about your college experience and why marketing?
So, my sister was five years older than me and we both went to the University of Oklahoma. She went through the journalism school and majored in advertising, and I kind of thought that that might be fun because I thought of myself as creative, even though I have no musical skill or artistic skill or anything like that, but so she told me, “Listen, don’t do what I did. Get a business degree.” There was a marketing degree with an emphasis in advertising, so I chose to go that route. Never got into marketing per se, but I went into sales and sales engineering after that. We’ll have to get into a little bit later about some of the similarities and differences between sales and marketing because I don’t think everyone realizes sometimes the overlap.
What was the most important thing that you learned in your undergraduate program when you were majoring in marketing?
So, I’ll give two examples. Number one, I didn’t start at OU with the intent on being in marketing. I actually wanted to major in history and be a college professor, and had a great European history professor that I talked to about doing that, and he said, “Listen, if you want to be poor like me, don’t have a car, bike to work. You may want to think of something else,” and so that’s when I decided to make the switch. And then really in college, I left to work. I didn’t really like to study, so I had about three different jobs while I was at OU, which I really just wanted to work all the time and make money. But I had some really great sales and sales management classes that stuck with me, but I’ve moved on since then.
So, what did you when you started college, what did you think you wanted to do after graduation?
Well, when I started, I thought I would become, you know, hopefully becoming a history professor. When that switched over to marketing, I had thought I would try to get into the advertising business. I didn’t really know. I just really wanted to graduate. I was living with my sister at the time and she just wanted me out, so which I don’t blame her because I was a terrible roommate. Terrible, why? Let’s dig into this. Yeah, I just, I had a dog that was dirty. I wasn’t super clean and, you know, she was five years older, so she was mid to late 20s and wanted to do her thing and I had to take care of her little brother anymore. You were, you were kindly booted is what I like to say. I was prodded to start interviewing and sending out resumes, yes.
Oh, so you had, you said I think three or four jobs throughout school. You really liked working and making money, maybe not studying and testing as much, but that’s something you just learned about yourself. What was your first paying gig after college?
So, I moved to a an even smaller town in Oklahoma where a young man that was still at OU, he had a RAM manufacturing business, so for RAM memory, it was primarily for Apple Computers. So, I joined his sales team and sold RAM memory on a commission-only basis with customers in the US and then my territories were Scandinavia, had a couple of customers in the UK, a couple of customers in France, and then a few in South Africa as well.
So, smaller town meaning how many people?
I, if I recall, there was a there was a four-year University there, I think with the college, it was about 18,000 people.
Wow, that is tiny.
It was, it was fun. It was a really fun little town, good people. When I was working there, they did not have liquor by the drink, so you either had to join a club or do that type of thing at your home. And, but after I left, I think that passed it finally passed a few years later, but it was a it was a really great way to start a career. I had some success. The memory market fell about 80 percent from a pricing standpoint, and so the paycheck started dwindling a little bit, and I got a little wanderlust and needed to spread my wings and get out of Oklahoma.
So, I moved to Atlanta. My father was in telecom with Conoco, a friend of his knew of a company, a small backbone company, an IP backbone company in Atlanta that I joined up with. I think the title was customer relations manager, which was similar to what customer success is now. So, and a lot a lot of renewals, smaller type deals, and then handled kind of billing question calls and things like that. And then I followed my boss there to a few other stops in that in that same space in Atlanta.
So, how did you get into procurement?
The boss I was working for in Atlanta started working in here in Denver for another larger Telecom company, made a role for me, which was funny. It was a tech, as a tech writer position, but I never did any tech writing. It was kind of kind of a gap-fill role. I helped with asset management. I helped with forecasting and budgeting for the IT team. The person that was running vendor management, IT vendor management for us, got pulled into a SOX project. He knew of my sales and sales engineering background along with my boss, and he said, “I’ll teach you how to do this and you’ll love it.” And that’s that’s how it started. So, for those that don’t know, what is SOX? Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. So, various financial controls around risk mitigation and things like that.
So, it kind of seems like this job was created for you.
It was, really. When he decided to take my, my a co-worker then became boss, took on that project, he had the confidence in me to take over, although that role hadn’t been around for too long, and had a great set of leaders and teachers in that position both from both Mike, my boss, and then the legal team there as well. That was really helpful in in getting me started to redlining contracts, thinking about what I needed to look for, and things like that. So, really started me on my path.
So, we’ve got a question from the audience from Rodrigo. He says, “Craig, coming from sales and marketing into procurement, did you ever feel as an outsider in procurement, and has this feeling disappeared?”
I never really felt as an outsider. I just thought I had changed sides of the table, right? So, I still was still negotiating, I was still building relationships, whether internally or with external vendors and things like that, rather than external clients. So, I think the work was very similar. It just instead of a quota, I had to, you know, either negotiate price savings or mitigate risk or things like that. So, the, I think the goal was a little different, but the process was very similar.
All right, Rodrigo, thanks for being with us, and feel free to drop any additional questions. Maybe you’re on the sales and marketing side and thinking about getting into procurement, so would love to hear more from you, and Craig might be a good person for you to reach out to offline.
So Craig, you are run? You kind of had this position created for you, your redlining contracts. You’re learning more and more about procurement. What did you do next?
So, the boss that I that took that stocks effort went to another company, a large financial services company. Was there for a few months and asked me to come on board to join his IT sourcing team. So, I did that, and and did various sourcing types of engagements, from hardware, big enterprise software, some network security, professional services, things like that. So, and then stayed in that role for six and a half years and then actually moved into our operations and infrastructure team. Doing some similar type of activity but not direct negotiation with the vendor, it was more around service costing, IT planning and budgeting, and forecasting, and that type of activity, and some other one-off type projects as well, but still stayed close with the vendors and things like and the internal clients as well.
So, how does someone get good at IT sourcing if they don’t have an IT background?
“So ask for help. The both position, those first two positions, and companies where I started off in the career had really good engineers that loved to whiteboard, either you know technical diagrams or things like that and explain to me about the products or the services or the components that I was helping to procure. And it was just those types of conversations and asking a lot of questions. I took a couple of small classes, like how to configure some Cisco routers and things like that, but more, it was just sitting with those engineers, being invited to various luncheon learns with the vendors and things like that, and then asking, continuing to ask questions. I had never heard of a mainframe before the second role, and that was a big component of the business. So, I had a great VP that I worked with here in Denver that really took the time to explain how it was used and what components fed into the pricing, and what was important from a negotiation standpoint, so just really had some excellent engineering and IT mentors that helped me learn the business.
Yeah, I think IT sourcing is still kind of a hot role. I know when I’m on LinkedIn or talking to people, I feel like I hear about companies who are looking for and hiring IT sourcing professionals, so it seems like it’s a pretty good space to be in still. But I know I hear people say all the time, I’d love to get into that but I don’t have a tech background or I don’t have an IT background. I don’t think that is a barrier to entry. I think if you’re if you’re willing to ask those hard questions or ask those types of questions, and you have kind of a learning mindset, you’ll pick it up quickly, especially if there are folks at that company that are willing to spend 15 minutes with you, you know, on a I don’t even say on a regular basis, just to whiteboard out and explain things. You just have to find the right people and build those relationships with those folks internally that you can say, ‘Hey, can you teach me more about firewalls or things like that? Yeah.’
So, you pivoted into operations. You were there a couple years. What did you do next?
So, as part of my role there, I ran an RFP for an IT financial management tool. And there was a company that participated that I really enjoyed talking to, enjoyed the people that we were working with during the RFP process and then during implementation. I reached out to them about, you know, ‘Hey, any interest? I really like the company, I really like the product and the service you’re providing. We made something work.’ I became, so I did contract management from the sale side, just negotiating primarily the T’s and C’s of our contracts, and then ran a professional services team of a really great group of implementation folks and product advisors that guided our customers towards best practices and industry best practices, and things like that. And it was there for three years, just under three years, maybe.
Okay, they received some private equity funding, as you know, a lot of smaller companies do, and the middle management there was asked to leave, and so I did, and that’s when I really did, I knew at that point I wanted to get back into vendor management, sourcing, and procurement.
So, you did something that I think is a little bit risky, and that you joined a company with, in essence, no procurement department.
So, why did you do that?
During the interview process, the folks that I interviewed with really had I don’t know, you could tell they were really good people. They were interesting, the services that DHI provides is helpful and needed. And I really thought it was an exciting time to join, so I could actually build out the function, I could select tools, and really I could continue to do what I like to do, which is build those relationships internally with all parts of the business. With my background in primarily IT sourcing, I looked at it as a benefit to really get to learn marketing, and perhaps product, and then other areas of the business, although that’s probably the majority of our spend at the moment.
You joined a company that knew they needed a procurement function, which is a huge step. There’s organizations that I feel like sometimes I get shocked, where a company is, you know, 100 million plus in revenue and has no sourcing or procurement function, which is baffling to me, but it happens. So that was a good step, they hired you. You are one person. There’s a lot of contracts, a lot of suppliers, many different stakeholders. What did you do the first year? Kind of walk me through the process of how did you assess and prioritize and build out what your role was going to look like.
Okay, so I mean, the first thing I did was I pulled some spend reports, just looking who are the big vendors that we used. Did I know of some of them, which on the tech side I did. I started reaching out to all those different team members, joining. I didn’t know what a DOT what the adoption would be like, right? Would there because everybody was doing their own deal, so I didn’t know if there’d be a lot of pushback. And that’s really what I was expecting, but that was not the case at DHI, everybody was welcoming and talked about how much they needed help and they needed this role to succeed, so they could focus on their day-to-day. That really helped drive the business forward.
So, I took, I was able to help take some activity off of their plate, just getting spending time again with different folks in those teams, getting to know their vendors, the services that they needed, the products that they were using, and then figuring out how I can help. And there was a lot, right? And that growth is still continuing. I’m still learning new vendors and products and services that are being used across DHI, but I’ve, I hope I’ve built great relationships with the different business teams and leadership, and folks that I support on a day-to-day basis. We have really good back and forth, we collaborate when we’re planning some difficult conversations with some vendors. We have a plan of, I don’t say a plan of attack, but a plan of kind of what we want to ask for, how we can come to an agreement, you know, where are we willing to give and where do we really want to push, and things like that. So it’s really having that partnership with those business teams and driving towards the same goal, and maybe playing a little good cop bad cop along the way, if needed. But it’s, it’s really progressed.
First year, we, I had an in-place contract management tool that was helpful to have, but it didn’t contain everything. I put a new one into place for a year or two years, we just rolled off of that, because I really needed an intake tool. I was managing requests for help, whether it’s a new deal, a renewal, or an NDA or whatever, just through teams or emails or drive-bys or things like that. So, I’ve, I’ve put that intake tool in place nine days ago, it’s had some good adoption so far. So, we’re kind of in the slow period at the moment for new deals, but we’re doing some renewals and things like that. So, it’s really helped me out and provide a, a better level of service, but I don’t want to say self-service, but just a place where they can go into requests, get some status updates, and things like that. And then I hope to build on that in the future, for phase three, four, five, whatever, whatever’s next.
So, one of the things I would argue is prioritizing stakeholders and suppliers is really difficult, and it’s way more than just the amount of your spend. So, how are you prioritizing where you’re spending more of your time and energy versus other projects or stakeholders?
That is a tricky spot, because I think folks within the roles are hearing the same thing, ‘Oh, this is urgent, you know, we need to expedite this,’ everything is expedited, right? So, it’s, it’s really trying to uncover, okay, what’s the actual timing? When is the required due date? You know, I mean, renewals, those are easy, but for the new deals, it’s trying to plan what’s important, what’s a big impact. We’ve got a couple of larger project slash engagements going on that are taking priority at the moment, that are impactful to the business, that are taking good priority right now away from some, away from some smaller deals or maybe less important deals, but we’re, I’m still striving to get those through and completed on time as well, but having that intake tool where I can and set my priorities is supremely helpful.
So, what’s taking priority? They understand the different business units understand what’s driving that prioritization.
I would argue risk is really important. The spend may not be as large, but if it has a significant impact to the company’s security or financial risk and also impact to revenue, I’m in the direct materials world and there may be a three cent bolt that a company buys and maybe they only spend ten thousand dollars a year, but that may take priority over a multi, you know, million-dollar contract if that bolt will prevent the production line from running if it’s not there. Absolutely, and I think that’s where good communication across those business teams in leadership is important because you can understand those impacts and schedule accordingly.
So, we have a comment from Larry Lang. ‘Hello, Larry.’ Larry is joining us from Canada today. Shout out to a fellow Procurement Foundry member.
He says, ‘Planning for difficult conversations is extremely important.’ So would like to have you, Craig, maybe elaborate a little bit on this.
Couldn’t agree more, especially you know, I think right now in our realm within, you know, let’s say some SaaS providers and things like that, they’re, you know, we have those annual increases come renewal time. Some folks are attempting to raise those really high. Working with the business teams before that to say, okay, have they provided any better service? Are we getting additional benefit from the tools that we’re renewing or things like that that would make that increase more palatable, or is this just an increase because of inflation or things like that, right? You know, some of the economic impacts that are hitting everybody at the moment. Being able to plan for those conversations is making those conversations not easy, but we’re able to deliver the message in a more constructive manner.
So, you’re a team of people who are live with us today. I would consider Lone Wolfers, but maybe they have a couple team members, lucky.
We have here’s one who’s laughing at our Lone Wolfer. Haha. So, I’m not sure if Gvido’s a Lone Wolfer or not, or just likes the title, but what advice do you have for people who are wanting to figure out how to prove or show their value to the executive team, so you can one, keep your job, but also potentially get budget? I’m sure many times you think throughout the year you’d love to have a couple more people on your team, but you have to build out a business case for that.
Absolutely. I knew for me where we are as a company at the moment, headcount would be great, but really for me, the two, the two that were important were, so getting the right first set of tools was really important. I really needed the, the intake request to manage, the, the, the things coming in from the internal teams where they needed help, whether it was a requester in NDA or whatnot, and then being able to have the contract database to where I could look up renewal periods or notification periods and things like that, just to manage the renewal book of business as well.
I did have to build a small business case for the tooling because all we had all I had in the budget when I started was a legacy contract database that didn’t really meet my needs. And so, I had to, to build on that dollar amount and show where that could create additional value across the team. With as being a Lone Wolf, being able to provide some of that self-service type of activity helps free up some, a little bit of my time to, to do more of that tactical type of work.
What skills do you think are important for a Lone Wolfer or somebody who’s on a very, very small procurement team?
So, I’d say first of all, you have to be a little bit of crazy and like a little bit of chaos, a little bit or a lot of crazy, maybe a little bit of crazy but a lot of chaos, because it’s, it’s the, the demand is fast and furious, they’re, you know, it’s, without a tool, it got difficult to be able to prioritize and to just remember everything. You know, I worked, I did a small thing in Excel. I did a small thing in Smartsheet, which helped, but really to be able to manage approvals and, you know, whether I’m getting budget approval from FP&A or legal approval on T’s and C’s and things like that, I really needed something to track all of that just to maintain my peace of mind. Being able to communicate and have difficult conversations with either internal folks or vendors is important. I think in this business, in, in our, in our business, there, there are times where you get frustrated. Trying to maintain a level head, I think, is key, not burning bridges because at some point you’re probably going to need some help, maybe from a vendor that you’ve stopped using, but then perhaps they have a new product that comes and solves a problem for you. So, you can’t burn bridges. You have to be able to maintain a, a civil relationship. Maybe not a positive one, but at least a civil one.
Would you be open to sharing some of your personal goals for 2023?
I always think it’s really interesting to hear what different procurement leaders are prioritizing and focusing on.
Sure. So, I mentioned with the intake tool that I have, that also has a contract management system attached, there are, there’s a spend management function in that as well. I’d like to be able to ingest some of our spend data and have some higher level conversations with our business teams about where their spend is going, who the big spend in those different departments are, you know, do we have the right allocation, are there some vendors in there that may have a little bit bit of risk where that where we may want to shift some money around to spread that risk across maybe some more vendors, and just being able to provide more actionable data to those folks is really important for me for the next, I would say, for 2023.
What can people in your role do to better leverage technology? So, you’ve mentioned a couple of times this intake system that you’ve rolled out, which has been really important for you. But I think a challenge that people have is there’s so many systems and software out there. It can almost be overwhelming to figure out like, I don’t even know what I need, I don’t even know who I should be looking at and then buying and implementing is a whole another can of worms about actually getting people to change their ways and use something new. So, maybe you could talk a little bit about some of your experiences with leveraging technology.
So, I’m going to give a huge shout out to the Procurement Foundry and the different Slack channels, especially the Lone Wolves. So, conversations that I have on there, you know, within the Lone Wolf Channel, we were talking about different intake tools and different contract management tools and things like that and, um, were those meeting, you know, let’s say, were those meeting people’s needs or did, was there a, a portion that it wasn’t covering and were you getting that elsewhere? So, really using that community knowledge of, of what’s available in the marketplace really helped me focus in on a few vendors to consider, and then hearing different experiences with those vendors really helped me align with who I wanted to target.
Using technology, I will say I’m a, I’m a bit Excel heavy, but I did get better doing that in some of the IT finance roles I’ve had. I had and so, my Excel skills are getting better. That’s another goal. But just being able to to read and communicate the data appropriately so leadership and business teams can take action on it are really important. Especially at renewal times and impacts the budget with those annual increases and things like that. They, they make a big difference if you look at it over the large vendor community, right? So, you think, oh, this eight eight percent increase on this really small software deal doesn’t really impact the budget that much, but if every vendor is going to do that, that’s a large impact. So, we have to to manage that and and help keep that at a palatable level.
One of the things that I’m really passionate about is supplier relationships and supplier management. I think it is absolutely critical today to have a strong relationship with your suppliers. You can’t just treat them as transactional entities. You really need to have that collaborative approach. Can you speak a little bit about how you approach supplier relationship management, especially as a Lone Wolfer, because it might be a little more challenging to maintain those relationships when you’re handling so many different aspects of procurement?
Absolutely, it’s a it’s a great question. It’s a it’s a topic that I really enjoy because I believe in this wholeheartedly. Um, so I think it starts with when you when you get on board, you have to reach out to those business leaders and those stakeholders and the vendors that you support, because those, if you are a Lone Wolf or you are a one-person shop you are, your job is to support them, to help them out, you know, help them remove some of that tactical work that they may not want to do. Um, I think being able to be available and show them the value that you bring is really important. For vendors, being able to provide actionable feedback, whether it’s on the the the services or the products that they provide, if there’s a better way to do something, and I think it’s also really important for folks to know that it’s okay to, to ask your vendors for help. Um, you know, if you are a, I don’t know, a one-person shop and you need some additional resources, don’t be afraid to ask your vendor for help. Um, you know, hey, I’m, I’m really maxed out, I’m looking for somebody that can, you know, provide X, Y, and Z, do you have any suggestions for me? Um, being able to have those conversations I think are really important. It helps with the relationship, but it also helps with, with what you’re, what you’re trying to do.
I think it’s also, I don’t want to say it’s a lonely position, but you don’t, you don’t have people that you, that you typically bounce ideas off of internally. And that’s where I feel like, you know, groups like the Procurement Foundry and some other networking organizations, they, they really come in to play because it’s, it’s your own network that you can reach out to to ask questions or, or, or, or things like that, especially when you, you may not have those internal folks to bounce ideas off of.
Well, we have to be so resourceful as a Lone Wolfer. It’s really about leveraging the resources around you and building that network that you can tap into when you need that support, when you need those ideas. And I think that’s a great point that you brought up.
Yeah, I’m, I, I really hope to be able to make Procurement Foundry again in 2022. I’ve made it every year since I’ve been involved, so I, I’m, I’m hopeful for that as well. And I’ve seen a few other folks there at different conferences and things like that, that I’ve been to. So, I think it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s an important thing for folks to to do, and not just for yourself, but for the business teams that you support, you know, being able to have a network of folks that can help provide information, whether it’s, you know, on, on a contract management tool or a, you know, how to do something tactically, or how to, how to try to, you know, what do you think is a good timeline for a project, or a negotiation, or things like that, having, having that network is, is important, I think.
Absolutely, and I think that’s a perfect note to end on. Thank you so much, Craig, for joining us today and sharing your insights as a Lone Wolfer in the procurement world. It’s been really valuable, and I’m sure our audience has gained a lot from your experience and your perspective. So, thank you again for being here.
Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate the time.
Absolutely, and thank you to everyone who joined us live today. If you have any more questions or comments, feel free to reach out to us on the Procurement Foundry. We’ll be happy to continue the conversation. And until next time, take care and stay curious.