Voice of Supply Chain – Oct. 2021
Featuring: Kelly Barner
Welcome to the Voice of Supply Chain Show, brought to you by ISM New Jersey and Real Sourcing Network. This is a show that takes place the third or fourth Tuesday, Wednesday, I should say, I’m getting all my days confused, of each month. 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 Real Sourcing Network. We help companies make their packaging more sustainable. If you want to talk more about sustainable packaging, shoot me a note on LinkedIn. You can also follow my hashtag #ScudderSays. Today, our guest is Kelly Barner, CEO of Buyer’s Meeting Point. Now, Kelly and I have known each other, I want to say maybe three or four years, and I actually got to meet her in person when I was in town a couple of years ago, so that was really a treat.
This show is meant to be interactive, so don’t be shy about sharing your thoughts in the chat and using the Q&A to submit questions. So feel free, anytime throughout the show, if you want to say hello or make a comment, you can do so at the bottom of the screen. So, Kelly, with that, I want to welcome you to our show. Very excited to have you as a guest today. And this show is really meant to tell more about you and your background and get to know Kelly as a person a little more, which I know is kind of weird, to be answering a lot of personal questions. So, I want to start by going all the way back to your childhood and having you talk to us about, let’s start off with a favorite childhood memory.
So, I would say I’m going to take a different twist on this, Sarah, and first of all, thank you for having me. Thank you to ISM New Jersey. Thank you to everybody that’s joined us today, live or will join us later on demand. I’m actually going to go with a tough childhood memory that really changed me. So, believe it or not, when I was very young, I was probably the shyest child on the face of the earth, shy to the point that when I was in about second grade, I was at a party with a bunch of other kids, and there was a piñata, right? This was a huge deal. You’d get these at birthday parties, whack it with the stick, the candy all falls. I was so shy, I couldn’t get into the crowd of kids to get a single piece of candy. I just didn’t…didn’t have what it took to get in there and wrestle for candy. And it’s one of those things that was sad at the time, but I’ve actually thought back to that so many times throughout my life, because, well, you have to do things that are uncomfortable sometimes in order to succeed. And sometimes, you just have to relax and let go and go after that thing that you really want. So, it’s one of those things that I will think of, especially, you know, some entrepreneurial days are tougher than others. That piñata will pop back into my head, and that’s sort of like my secret little motivator that gives me what I need, whether it’s the drive to get in there despite my reservations, or whether it’s just give over to the joy of the moment and get in there and get some candy. But that’s one of my earliest childhood memories that I think is…it continues to be a part of who I am, and I find it interesting that you were so shy, and now you do quite a bit of public speaking, both in person and virtually, and I know that that can be really, really scary and overwhelming for a lot of people and energy-draining, right, if you’re someone that happens to be an introvert. It doesn’t mean that you can’t get up and do those things. I’m sort of a textbook introvert. It just means that I need my corresponding down times or quiet times to recharge. I try to be very thoughtful even about how I plan my day now. I’ll know that, you know, a day like today, I did a webinar with Philip Eidson this morning. I’m meeting with you all this afternoon. I’m very thoughtful about how I plan out the time in between and the time before and after because I sort of have a sense of what sort of a toll that’s going to take on my energy level because I want to be effective in these kinds of virtual sessions or effective if I’m meeting someone in person. But still able to kind of have a full day with the right balance of activities.
So, another question that I want to talk about from your childhood is a tradition that you learned from your parents that you’ve continued on today.
So the best tradition is something called Friday night snack.
So I have a younger sister. When she and I were little, if we were good all week long and went to bed right on time and also went to sleep right on time, we had this incentive that we were working towards called Friday night snack, and what it was was at the time that we normally had to go to bed, instead we would be in our jammies, we would go sit in front of the TV. There would be an extra special snack. Like, I think the biggest snack of all was either Hostess cupcakes or Ring Dings with ice cream on top. That was sort of like a really good week, and as a family, we would sit down depending on the era (so I’m going to date myself), we would either watch The A-Team or we would watch The Dukes of Hazzard as a family and have our snack, and it was such a nice celebration. I don’t know if all of you share the same feeling: you get to Friday night and you’re not sure if you want to go party or if your gas tank is too empty to go and do that, but it was kind of the perfect combination of celebrating, getting through another week. It gave you that incentive to be really good all week long, but it’s just nice to bring everybody together to do something that’s sort of fun and indulgent. And it’s a tradition that I continue with my three kids to this day. We no longer watch The A-Team; now The Simpsons is more of a favorite as my husband is teaching my kids all of the essential, I guess, episodes of watching The Simpsons. So the tradition has changed slightly, but we have, in fact, continued it. Now, actually, for the third generation, my mom and her siblings did the same thing as kids, so that’s a fun, multi-generational tradition we’ve kept alive. So, I have to ask, what was last Friday’s treat?
Last Friday’s treat?
Okay, now this is going to polarize people:
We love candy corn in my house. I know some people consider that like punishment candy for Halloween. We are big candy corn people, so we had some cupcakes with just some very basic frosting and then really as many candy corn as you think you can put on your plate without getting a bellyache. That was our, that was our Friday night snack last week.
So, sugar high is going strong on Friday nights.
Oh, sugar high, of course, for the grown-ups, the sugar high comes more in the form of a margarita. So they have their sugar high; we can have our margaritas. Everybody comes together to watch a show, and it’s just a great way to wrap up the week.
So, who is the most influential person from your childhood and why?
So, this is hard. I had mentioned this to you, Sarah. This is we could talk about supply chain risk and, you know, all kinds of things all day long, but this is a really hard question. So, going with my instinct, I’m running towards the pinata. The person that comes to my mind, in response to this question right now, is actually my maternal grandmother, Ethel Fabrizio. And the reason that she comes to mind is that my family’s a little bit interesting. Both of my parents were born to my grandparents in their mid-40s. So, there’s actually a generation missing in my family. What it also means is that all four of my grandparents were part of the Greatest Generation, and so, my grandmother was always older. All my life, she was also an Avon lady. So, her husband died very young. He passed away when my mother was 10, and so she had to support my mother and her two older brothers completely on her own. There wasn’t a lot of other family. There wasn’t a big savings to fall back on, and so, in those days, there were fewer entrepreneurial options available to women who had children that they needed to care for and also be at home, and so, for decades, she was an Avon lady. Sort of the stereotypical, cute little come to your door, have a cup of tea, flip through the catalog, order some Skin So Soft, which is sort of the standard. But I was always impressed by what a business person she was. She had a great balance of being able to connect with people personally, but then also, obviously, she had to be able to move product if she was going to be successful. She never complained. You know, there was never a lot of excess money. There weren’t a lot of frills, but let me tell you, no one could create a holiday like my grandmother. And it was a combination of traditions that had a lot of meaning. So, for instance, what did you watch on Christmas Eve? What did you watch on Christmas morning? When were you allowed to open presents? Right down to the detail of, we knew where on the dining room table the precise bowl was going to be with the exact same type of fancy olives in it. I mean, she was a very ritualistic person, but she had a way of making it all feel very magical. And so, one of the things that I take inspiration from, in all of that, is that there should be meaning in our traditions. I do my very best not to complain any more than humanly necessary because the world doesn’t need more of that. But one of the things, for anybody that’s known anyone in Avon or has been in Avon themselves, is that they actually have an award that’s offered every year called the Miss Albee. It’s a l b e e, and she was one of the earliest, most successful sales ladies. And there’s, they’re sort of like statuettes, about a foot tall, but every single year, the Miss Albee award was given to the salespeople that reached a certain threshold. And she received one almost every single year of her life that she sold. When she passed away, the collection was divided between the granddaughters, and so above my fireplace, on the mantel, I have six Miss Albies. And so, they’re a part of my everyday surroundings. They’re about as beautiful and charming an award as I can possibly think of. And so, it’s a nice way to have her physically present in my day, and I certainly think about her quite a bit. I wish I had realized I was going to go down the entrepreneurial road before she passed. She passed away when I was in college because there are so many things now I would have liked to have asked her: how did you handle a tough sales day? Or how did you handle the stress of an impending deadline? Because she really kind of went through it on her own, and like I said, without complaining, she just soldiered on and she created her joy and she did what she needed to do. But I would love for today me to be able to travel back in time and ask her some more questions. So, she is someone that was very influential in my childhood, and I absolutely carry what she taught me with me today.
And it’s interesting you bring up the Avon reference. So, being that I’m in the print and packaging space, I’ve talked about Avon several times. They’re one of the master users of the catalog, and they actually still produce 26 catalogs a year. And they’re a company that’s actually really continued to embrace print instead of doing a major pivot to digital. So, they’re definitely a company I’ve been to their corporate office; I’ve studied their strategy and kind of looked at some of the things that they’re doing, and that’s above and beyond even empowering women to earn for themselves in a time when that was not a common thing.
So let’s transition from childhood and talk a little bit about college. So, one of the things that I find really interesting in your background is that you majored in English Lit at Clark University. And the reason is my dad is a writer and has published a couple books, and he also, and he was an English teacher, so writing is something that’s been, um, an important part of my childhood and continues to be an important part of my career and an important part of our upbringing and family. So, just curious, why you chose to major in that.
I somewhere along the way, probably high school, absolutely fell in love with Shakespeare. So, my original plan, which clearly did not work out, was to be a professor of English Lit before 1700. So, I focused on Shakespeare; I focused on Chaucer. While I was an undergrad, I actually had to learn to read and speak Middle English. They made me take Latin, which was not awesome. I was also not particularly good at it. But I always loved the level of depth in those stories.
And one of the things that I, I think back to you all the time, and it and it kind of makes me laugh is I had an English professor while I was there. Now, so, Clark University is in the middle of Worcester, Massachusetts. If you’ve ever been there, not necessarily the most picturesque city; I mean, it’s, it’s sort of post-industrial, typical city. But where Clark is, because it’s very old, there’s a main campus, and then what they’ve done is they’ve expanded out into the surrounding neighborhood. And so, the English program was relatively small, but it was housed in the most gorgeous little tiny yellow Victorian you’ve ever seen. So, I mean, just think New England liberal arts college movie. I mean, if Hallmark Channel made a movie, this is where the English department would be located. And so, we would have these very small classes in what used to be a well-to-do family’s dining room. We would sit around a replacement dining room table and discuss.
And I had a professor that would always say to me, “You read these plays like an analyst.” And of course, at the time, I’m thinking, “I’m not even good at math. Like, this is analyst,” because my observations were always around trends. Like, did you notice that after this event in the play, so and so is only ever in the company of women? Or did you notice that after this point in the play, the terminology changed in this way? And I would, I would pick up on these patterns and signals and trends, while other people in the class were more focused on I don’t know, tone or the, you know, the type of literature that always sort of passed me by. And I would read it very differently. And I’ve thought to myself many times since ending up in procurement and supply chain, isn’t that funny? All that time ago, I was already thinking like a procurement, like a supply chain analytic type thinker, even back in the day when I thought that I was going to be a professor, when I thought I was going to focus on literature. And it, it just goes to show that there’s room for multiple schools of thought in any discipline.
And so, having that crossover, there’s actually a lot of value in it, no matter what field you end up in.
What is the perceived worst advice that you received in college that is actually turned into useful advice? I know I can remember some things from my college days, but I’m curious what your thoughts are on this.
So, I would like to say, before I offer this advice, I did not take it. So, it’s, it was bad advice that at the time I had the wisdom not to take, and that advice was to try everything. So, I am really, really glad I tried a lot of things while I was in college. I did music, I did sports, I tried theater very exceptionally briefly. But I’m glad that I didn’t try everything, because when I was going through college, we were just starting to get to the point the social media wasn’t so much a thing yet, you know, we didn’t have the pressures that kids in high school and college have now, where at 16 you need to be worried about your future employers’ hiring process when you’re 34, that they may dig up some horrible picture.
But there were already digital photos being taken and records of things, and so I pushed the boundaries from a time management standpoint. I don’t think I slept the whole time I was in college, ever. But I’m glad that I focused my experimentation around things that would round me as a person, versus ever getting myself into trouble with, you know, drugs or getting in trouble at big bad parties, you know, where the police would show up. So, I’ve often thought back to that. You know, people would say like, “These are your college years. This is when you have to let go and be crazy.” And I didn’t. That’s, you know, that that was the me that did not go for the pinata. So, I’m glad that piece still existed, because it certainly kept me out of trouble. But, but in looking back, I
that was definitely a terrible piece of advice that I am glad I did not take.
And what did you think you wanted to do after college?
So, I thought I wanted to be a professor of Shakespeare, and it’s interesting because this starts to become part of the story of how I found my way. So, I had graduated magna cum laude with a double major in English Lit before 1700 and history from Clark, and I had made this deal with my parents. I desperately wanted to go away to college, and they felt like we live in central Massachusetts; you can’t walk out the door without hitting first to Dunkin’ Donuts and then a college. So why would we spend all this money for you to go live on campus, but what they offered me was, we will pay for grad school right after undergrad. I’m thinking, okay, this seems like a pretty good deal. So, my original plan was to go directly into a master’s program for English, and I applied to three schools. I applied to UMass Amherst, I applied to Boston College, and I applied to Boston University, all three of which are exceptionally difficult to get into.
I did not get into UMass, but I was accepted at both Boston University and Boston College to enter their master’s programs in English. But then I stopped and I thought, it was fifty thousand dollars a year without room and board, guaranteed for two years, and at the end of that time, you were basically qualified to go back to more school, because a master’s degree in English, you know, not necessarily that easy to get a job that justifies spending all that money on tuition.
And so I made what was one of the most terrifying decisions of my young life, and that was to turn down both programs and pivot. And what I actually ended up doing instead is I did a one-year program full-time and I got a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from Simmons College in Boston. And I thought, okay, if I can’t be a professor, I’ll be a librarian. This will be great. It’s lots of books. It’s the next closest thing. And then I got there, and I was kind of like, I don’t know about this. I didn’t love the public library setting because we had to have exposure to that. I wasn’t so sure about the college library setting. But while I was there, I discovered the fact that companies sometimes have libraries, and so I ended up graduating with a specialization in corporate libraries, and I went off to downtown Boston to work for a boutique consulting firm that has since been purchased by EY. It’s called the Parthenon Group. And that was sort of my first taste of business. So what I would do is the research team would support the different consultants on gathering commodity data or competitive market information or researching specific companies or trends, and I loved that work. I absolutely loved that job. It helped that it was right on State Street in downtown Boston, high enough up in a building that you could see the harbor. I mean, it was just, it was amazing. And after being there not very long, I did change companies, but that was what really led me down the road of going into business. And it’s also how I ended up continuing on to get my master’s in business, which sort of cemented me staying in the business world.
So you have this first job right after your first, I guess, extended degree, because you went back and got two of them. So to walk me through what you did after your first, I guess it was more like an analyst role, where you were doing research and supporting people internally. How did you transition from that and get into more of a procurement-focused position?
The simple answer is I got laid off. So, at the time, I was working at, it was called Ahold USA. Now it’s Ahold Delhaize. I was part of their global knowledge management program, so that was actually leveraging my library science degree. Ironically, I ended up getting the job because all through high school and undergrad, I had worked at my local Stop and Shop supermarket, stocking shelves. That was like my high school job, and it helped me get the corporate job. So, I was working as part of their global knowledge management team when the Dutch corporate parent had an Enron-style accounting scandal, you know, people in and out of the building with the cardboard boxes and the evidence and all that. Not, not good. And they said, okay, in order to protect the stock price, we have to start killing all programs that are not absolutely essential. And when you’re in grocery retail and you take the handbook and you look up non-essential, it says knowledge management right at the top of the list. And so, they had axed my entire team. We all had our appointments with HR, but some clever person looked at the records and figured out that I was about a third of the way through a fully company-sponsored MBA program at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass. They had already invested a lot of money in me, and they realized if we lay her off, she takes that money and she walks. And so, they came to me about a week before my termination or my exit meeting and said, how do you feel about strategic sourcing? And I was 23 or 24, and I knew there were college loans coming, and I had never heard of strategic sourcing. So, I said, I love strategic sourcing, and I accepted the job. And I spent my whole first day sitting at my desk googling strategic sourcing so that just in case someone came by, they would not think I was a total ass. But I had to 100 learn on the job, and it actually worked to my advantage that I didn’t know what I was doing because anyone that came in with sourcing or procurement experience, they put them with the category of spend they had previously managed. But because I had no idea what I was doing, they stuck me in hired services. And so, I learned between location-based services and corporate back office services… I learned how to source on services, and that’s one of the challenges I think that people that start with product struggle with. It’s not as different as it seems, but it’s different enough to potentially create a little bit of a hurdle. And so, I got my start on things like pest control and grease trap cleaning, and parking lot snow removal and all of those kinds of things when you run a supermarket. But it definitely worked out for me in the longer term, being very comfortable sourcing and managing services.
What skills would you say were most important in that first role that you took in strategic sourcing? I mean, it helped a ton that I had gone through the library science program. I mean, even so, if you’ve ever been to a typical library, there’s their reference desk where people can come up, and it could be everything from “What’s the average cost per square foot for commercial real estate in Manhattan?” or “How long was the first man to go into space in orbit?” I mean, it could be any question. And part of the master’s degree program is every semester you have to take a reference library course, and your study is all about techniques, and your homework every single night is 20 random questions that are incredibly difficult to find the answers to. So you want to talk about like superb googling skills. You learn every single trick, every single tool. Having those skills is something that I have always fallen back on. It led me certainly to writing my first book, but even to this day, being able to very quickly and accurately get myself to a piece of data or realize quickly I don’t think I’m going to be able to get to this piece of data. I should stop and ask someone or stop and reassess because I’m kind of going down a rabbit hole. That is a skill that from a procurement perspective, when you think about supplier qualification or discovery or category management and all of that, it’s been an incredibly useful skill to have.
So, before we transition into the world of entrepreneurship and kind of how you got into what you’re doing today, I want to talk a little bit more about when you were in this strategic sourcing role and had your procurement career, what do you feel is the biggest impact that you made in any of your procurement roles?
What is the biggest impact that I made?
I’m going to cheat. There are two. So, the first one is the favorite thing that I like to point to. When I was in consulting, I was working for Conway, and they had just rebranded their whole fleet of trucks with a new design. And we were in the very final stage of negotiation. We had two or three vendors that we were still working with, and there was this feeling, I’m sure everybody that’s listening has experienced this, there’s this feeling that you can ask for a little something more. There’s some little something that you can ask for. And in a way, by asking for it, you’re almost cementing your relationship with this supplier in a way that you can’t do if you don’t ask this extra little favor.
And so spontaneously in this meeting, and at this point I’ve lost the numbers, but it’s hundreds of thousands of pieces of equipment, I said to the company that ended up winning, “If we give you the business, I think it would be a really nice gesture for your company to pay for both the material and the application to put an American flag on every single piece of Conway equipment.” Now, they had those flags already on the equipment, so it wasn’t about adding something new, but in the rebrand that was going to be going away, and it was something that the drivers felt strongly about. It was something that the distribution center people felt strongly about.
And so, that was my recommendation: you pay for all these stickers, you put them on all of the equipment.
They did agree. They did win the contract, and one of the reasons that I like that so much is because I’ve pointed out to my kids now over the years, every time we pass – of course, now they’re rebranding to Expo because they’ve been acquired – but every time we pass one of these trucks, and you see the American flag on the door, back when I had a real job, as we talked about it, back when I had a real job, mommy helped put those flags there, and it’s just, it’s a nice physical representation of my work. It sort of helped me start to tell my kids when they were very little about something that I might have done.
But I think the thing that I’m actually proudest of is there was a woman who was working as an admin for one of the teams that I helped transform, and I always felt like she was capable of so much more. And not that there’s anything wrong in the world with being an admin, but she would always show signs of getting involved in project work, or she would ask excellent questions. She just had a knack for sort of cutting right to the point. And so, I approached the department lead first, and I approached her second, because I didn’t want to cause her trouble, but I actually coached her.
They moved her over to becoming an analyst on the procurement team. They hired a new team admin, and it was a big change for her because she went from an hourly role to one that was salaried. Her benefits improved, which ended up being a big deal as she fell ill just a couple of years later, and so having that better benefits package ended up making a huge difference for her personally. And we always kept in touch. And so, I thought to myself, you know, I love the flags, I love every dollar worth of savings I’ve ever negotiated for somebody, but that one person’s life that I felt like I was really able to impact, that is something that kind of has nothing to do with procurement, but I think that’s the thing that I’m most proud of.
I love that.
So, Kelly, you were in procurement for a few years, and then you decided to, what I call, leave the corporate world and become an entrepreneur. So, walk me through the journey of why you decided to make the transition, and how did you what was the first thing you did as an entrepreneur?
So I wish I could say there was a grand plan, there was not. I was working as the Associate Director of Consulting, and I’m Torres another job I loved. But for anybody that’s ever consulted, it’s like 8,000 travel, and you never see your family, and it was time for me to actually start a family. And so, consulting was not going to work. So I went on maternity leave, and I did a little bit of contracting, but my previous boss from Ahold USA approached me and said, “Hey, I was starting this business with a colleague, and then he got the job opportunity of a lifetime and had to go, so we’re now something like three months prior to launching this business called Buyer’s Meeting Point, and I no longer have a partner. Would you like to come in and be sort of like the replacement partner?” And I really gave it a lot of thought, because I liked the idea, but I was very nervous… I, at this point, was six months pregnant with my second child, so not a good time to start a business at all. But the opportunity was just too compelling, and it was like I needed to know how the story ended, and so I did end up joining her. We worked together for I think six years as partners on the business. Back in 2012, no, that’s when I started. Back in 2016, I bought her out, and at that point became sole owner of Buyer’s Meeting Point. I’ve kind of never looked back. I mean, it’s ironic because I got my MBA from Babson, which is the number one program in entrepreneurship in the country, and I was so positive that entrepreneurship was for me, I never took an entrepreneurial class while I was there. That’s on the regrets list.
The thing that I like most about being an entrepreneur is having control over my situation. Um, some days are easier than others. You know, when things go well, you think to yourself, “Yes, like this is all to my credit. Everything went so well.” And when things go poorly, there’s really nowhere to look but the mirror. And so you do a lot of growing. Um, I’ve largely followed my instincts, everything from taking the leap to convincing my partner it was time for me to buy her out to partnering with Phil Ideson now to work at Art of Procurement, where we’re taking on some live streaming work through Dial P at Supply Chain Now. I’ve always followed my instincts, and it has typically served me pretty well.
I will say, it’s, you know, it’s great in the sense that it’s flexible, so I can both work a really crazy busy day and also be there at my daughter’s track meet this afternoon. So I have that degree of flexibility, but it also means you’re never off. I remember being about 10 years in, and I thought to myself, “I wonder how many years you have to work before you can take a weekend.” Because and even the idea of putting on an out of office, what am I, crazy? Why would I put an out of office? You know, a deal might come in, and I’m going to miss that opportunity or people are going to think that I don’t work enough. So there’s this sort of constant adjustment of expectations and how do you draw a line on where you spend personal time, which is like five minutes in between phone calls.
But it’s, if you’re open to a little bit of craziness, it’s an amazing ride. You meet fantastic people, you forge amazing partnerships. I never would have thought that it was something that I would want to do, but I’m glad that I decided to take the leap because I absolutely love being in control of my own professional situation.
So, what’s the most important entrepreneurial failure that has made you a better leader and business owner?
It’s a failure that I’ve had repeatedly, which is a problem. There’s one question that savvy people ask that I have a very difficult time answering, and I’ve gotten better at this over time, but it’s still a struggle for me. If you have one of those networking or first kind of connection meetings with people, I’ve always noticed that really savvy people will say, near the end of the meeting, “So tell me, what can I do for you?” And that is such a stumper to me. Not answering that question and not having a thought-through answer is such a mistake. And yet somehow I always find myself getting caught off guard by the question, and it’s, it’s not that you want to sit around and think like, “Okay, if someone stops by today, what am I going to have them do for me?” Because, you know, no one’s going to stop by, but every once in a while that question comes up, and so that’s one of the things I try to prepare myself for. I will try to think to myself, “Okay, I’m meeting someone for the first time. What do I know about them, or even during the call, I will think to myself, “Okay, if they ask me that question at the end, what am I going to say based on what they’ve told me?” And the only thing that I would hope is that for anybody that I ever wasn’t able to answer that question for clearly, I didn’t come to the meeting with an agenda. So I was not a manipulative person. Hopefully, that would come across, but to me, it’s not necessarily having that thought in the back of my mind or not being able to come up with the right answer, because I have a feeling there were a few times over my career that if I’d just been able to come up with the right thing, it could have actually made kind of a difference in my career. But that’s one I have yet to completely solve. So we’re still working on that one.
So for those that are with us today or watching the recording after this interview, I’d like to have you describe what Buyer’s Meeting Point does. I’m sure that not everyone’s familiar with what you’re doing, and then also talk about why, what are the benefits of somebody joining your community? What’s the value add? Why would a procurement leader be interested?
Sure, so I would say Buyer’s Meeting Point does two pretty distinct things. There’s a set of things that I do for procurement and supply chain practitioners, all of which are completely open source unless you feel so moved just to buy one of my books and never sell anything to procurement and supply chain. The other is what I do for product and service providers.
So, for the practitioner community, which I have to say in my heart I still think of myself as being a part of, I provide events listings, I review new books, I provide commentary on the major themes and topics, and news that affect our industry. All of that gets published on buyersmeetingpoint.com, but it also goes out on Twitter and Facebook and through LinkedIn and a couple of different LinkedIn groups. So, one of the things that’s always been very important to me is that there be something that I provide to practitioners that will help them. So, for instance, every Monday, I put up a listing of the three webinars or virtual conferences that I think are worth people’s time for the week. Now, some business people might say this is crazy, but you cannot buy a spot on that list. I do not list demos. And so, I really try to maintain that practitioner perspective in those recommendations, and I try to preserve the trust that I feel like I have with that community. And I have truthfully turned down money. I’ve been offered money to say, “Hey, include us in this list, how or how much does it cost to get my event on your list?” And I will quite frankly say, it doesn’t cost anything because you only get there if I want to put you there, and I won’t commit to it in advance. It’s very important to me that that be truly objective. And sometimes I pick events based on the speaker, sometimes the topic, and sometimes it’s just a sense of this is going to be an up-and-coming thing. And they’re not always fully procurement events, sometimes they’re finance, sometimes they’re somewhat CIO oriented. But I always feel like there’s a connection from a knowledge and learning perspective that procurement can benefit from. So, that’s sort of an example of something that I do for the practitioner community.
For the providers, Buyer’s Meeting Point is my home base for written content. So, Buyer’s Meeting Point’s predominant source of revenue is written content. Companies partner with me to do web copy, to write white papers. I will interview their executives, interview clients, and help write case studies. And so, I am constantly preparing myself to have sort of the most interesting conversations I can have. I’m a fanatic about reading the newspaper. I read multiple newspapers a day, in addition to following sort of procurement and supply chain specific news. And I like to, whenever I can, bring a perspective and that’s something from the wider news and say, “Okay, this was on the newspaper, what on earth does this mean to procurement?” That’s one of my favorite things because I remember how busy it is to be a practitioner. You don’t always have the luxury of reading three newspapers a day or following the main industry publications. And so, if I can try to bubble something up to you that might not have otherwise hit your radar, that to me is a success. So, very focused around bringing content in a digestible, actionable format. Try to make it short and easy to access, so that people in the few spare minutes they have get a little nugget of something new, maybe find some inspiration for how to do something differently, and then they’re back on their way back to work.
So, something that you said a few minutes ago was the fact that you had written a book. You’ve actually published three books, and I think some or all of them are behind you, right now. So, I’d like to have you tell me a brief overview of each of the books and which one was the most difficult to write and why.
So, they’re all very different. The first one is about supply market intelligence for procurement professionals. I co-authored it with Jeanette Jones. She runs Control Research. She actually sort of gave me a bucket list gift without me knowing I had it. She approached me somewhat out of the blue and started the conversation about should we maybe work on this book together. And so, she was sort of like a fairy godmother from a professional bucket list perspective because what a gift to do that book.
So, it’s a combination of process advice, skills advice, and then information resources that you can leverage if you’re going to do research specifically for procurement application.
The second book, I co-authored with John Hanson. It’s called “Procurement at a Crossroads,” and it’s about the evolution of the function from old school purchasing to a more strategic community. And so, many of the other things that have changed along the way.
The third book is completely different, and it’s “Finance Unleashed” that I wrote with Magnus Lind. And, again, it’s even the format’s different. So, we interviewed a whole series of executives with different perspectives. Now, some of them are in procurement. David Losby is one of the people that we interviewed that’s in the book, but it’s mostly about the financial supply chain. So, not supply chain finance in the sense that you help suppliers with their cash flow, their liquidity, but the financial supply chain itself in terms of where wealth is created, how it flows from large organizations to smaller ones, what companies at different sizes can do to increase the wealth that they create, and both the good and competitive-related work that they can do to reinvest that money in themselves or in their supply chain.
In terms of which one was the hardest, maybe the book with Jeanette because it was the first. I mean, writing a book is an undertaking, and I don’t think I knew quite what to expect. With the other two, I went in eyes wide open about how hard it was going to be. But I think, you know, as many blog posts as you can write, even white papers and other long-form content, actually writing a book is such an undertaking. It’s almost hard to explain if you’ve not gone all the way through it. But it was, I’m glad that I did it because it’s sort of like if you’re someone who runs 5ks and you finally get to the point where you’ve reached marathon. Everything since writing that first book has been so much easier, I think. I think both working with Jeanette and also working in that length of content, it improved my writing skills in ways that I’ve managed to keep with me.
So, if there’s someone who’s with us today that is interested in writing a book, potentially procurement-focused or not, and has no idea where to start, what’s the one piece of advice you would give, beyond “do it, absolutely do it”? It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but it’s one of the most rewarding. My advice would be start very small, start with a piece of paper and a pencil, and see if you can list the chapters that would be in your book. If you can’t get to about 12 or 15 very different standalone chapters with some sense of what you would say in each one, put the list away and think about it again in six months. You will not actually do your table of contents until one of the very last things, but I’ve always kind of found that was a really good way to gauge whether you had enough content in your head to go from a long article to a book because so much depth is required to pull off an idea at that length, and if you can’t work out what you feel like would be a really impressive table of contents, it probably saved you a lot of time in the short term on actually starting writing.