Transcript: Voice of Supply Chain – September 2021

Voice of Supply Chain – Sept. 2021

Featuring: Sam Gupta

The purpose of this show is to tell stories of people in procurement and supply chain, doing extraordinary things. I’m your host, Sarah Scudder. I’m a growth strategist and help B2B tech companies with their marketing. I oversee marketing for Real Sourcing Network, where we help companies make their packaging more sustainable. If you want to talk more about sustainable packaging, shoot me a note on LinkedIn. I’m very active and post lots of wild and crazy things about packaging.

Today, our guest is Sam Gupta, founder of WBSR Rocks and CEO of his own consulting firm. This show is meant to be interactive, so don’t be shy about sharing in the chat and using the Q&A to submit questions.

So, Sam, I like to start my interviews talking about some memories and things from your childhood. Can you share a favorite childhood memory to kick us off today?

Okay, first off, thank you so much for having me, Sarah. I am a big fan of your work and obviously a big fan of the show as well. So, I am actually going back in time right now and I am picturing myself on the stage. As you know, I think I spoke about this specific memory in my podcast episode as well. That was the first one, and this is the memory that actually got me thinking a lot in terms of my own personal capabilities. So the story is, you know, I, this was the first time I’m not the sort of the creative types, the way you are, Sarah. I mean, you can do pretty much anything and everything when it comes to creativity. I was more of a shy kid. I never felt comfortable coming out of my shell, coming out of my comfort zone. So this is the time my teacher, you know, just like Sarah, pushed me to do a drama on a stage, and I was supposed to memorize the lines, which I am really terrible at. You don’t want to make anything pre-scripted in my case. So they said that, you know, what, this is really simple. It’s, it’s people like four lines, and believe it or not, I could not do those four lines. I literally froze on the stage. So that’s my favorite memory because I figured out that, you know what, I had to do a lot more thinking in terms of what my strengths really are. So yeah, so for me, if I do anything scripted still today, I don’t feel comfortable.

Do you remember the name of the play? Is it something that any of us would recognize or remember?

I don’t remember the name of the play. I think I was supposed to be, you know, etching a bird, if I remember correctly, and I was supposed to be doing some lines related to, you know, looking at the sky. That’s what I remember, but no, sorry, yeah, I don’t remember the name of the play.

Continuing on a little bit about your childhood, what in your childhood shaped you to be the person you are today?

One of the things that my family was always into, they were very disciplined in general. They always wanted everybody in the family to be disciplined. And obviously, we are a very business-centric family, as you know, you are always going to have ups and downs. I don’t think my parents ever had a fixed paycheck. So obviously, you need to watch your cash flow all the time, and one of the things that actually taught me from my childhood memories is, you know, you need to be really disciplined. You have to keep hitting, otherwise, you don’t know when you are gonna have that rainy day. And then, so yeah, so that’s something that I always live by, and I think the discipline that I have today is because of my childhood and because of my parents’ financial management.

Financial management 101. I always wish here in the states that we started it in preschool because I think a lot of people get to high school or college and really kind of have no clue or sense about savings and how money works.

What’s a tradition that you learned from your parents that you’ve continued on into adulthood?

So one of the things that I remember being pushed a lot, to be honest, initially I don’t know if I liked it, but my parents were always into, you have to take a shower before you step out of the house. They were really strict on that. Every day morning, you are supposed to take a shower. Now, you know, when I, I sort of grew up and I don’t know if I’m completely grown up right now. During my college days, I would not be able to concentrate if I’m not taking a shower. I sort of, you know, figure out how to manage sometimes without taking a shower because, you know, that would become a crisis, let’s say, if I don’t have water in the house. Then, oh my goodness, I cannot work, I cannot focus. So that is one tradition I think it’s really good. It does teach you a lot of discipline. You know, I don’t know if my kids are going to like that, but I’ll probably continue with that tradition for sure.

And then, Sam, who was the most influential person in your childhood, and why?

I would say my uncle. And the reason why he was really influential, in my opinion, I think he was one of the sharpest in the family. Obviously, he really knew his stuff. He was an engineer. He could pretty much fix anything around the house. He was very well respected. He constructed a lot of different bridges. He was a civil engineer, so he did a very large-scale project. Obviously, he was very respected, but what I really liked about him is, he was really fair in his approach. Everybody who ever interacted with him, he really taught them financial management. Sometimes we get emotional, we make poor financial decisions, but he was really good at teaching, number one, financial management, and number two, being fair with everybody. Not being too kind, not being too hard, be fair.

Sam, something else that I’d like to talk a little bit about. So you grew up in India, and you spent time in the U.S., and now you live in Canada. Yeah, talk to us about what it was like growing up in India. I know for me, I’ve never been to India. I have friends that have been there, roommates that are from India, but would like just to expand for the audience about what that experience was like and maybe how it differs from living in Canada and the U.S.

So, one of the things that I personally remember, if I contrast both of these cultures and these societies, there, I think people have to sort of live with not as many resources, so you become slightly more creative overall in terms of figuring things out. And obviously, you’re going to be slightly more entrepreneurial in general. I think the overall Indian culture is very entrepreneurial in nature, especially the kind of society I grew up in. You know, we were very entrepreneurial, we were always thinking about money. But when I look at the positive side of, let’s say, the U.S. or Canada, I’m not, and by the way, Indian society tends to be slightly more technical than having the actual communication skills, the people skills, that you need for the work environment. I think they can, I could probably improve on that as growing up in India. So that is one thing, but yeah, so overall, I would say entrepreneurial skills, technical skills, they are really, really strong, not as much, I would say, in the people’s side of skills or how the workforce typically works together. Team spirit is probably better here in the U.S. or Canada.

So you went to college in India, and then you made your way to the U.S. So talk to us about that journey.

Yeah, so I went for the undergrad program in India, did that for a few years, and then, you know, moved to the U.S. very early on. I think the first job that I had was in a manufacturing company. I could survive there for just a month or so. You know, not because, not because, you know, I wasn’t good at it. The president actually came to us, and it was his own bias, to be honest, and he said, you know what, we hired you because we actually wanted to get the brand name of your college, but we don’t want you to spend your career here because I have my own kids, and I would not like to see them, you know, here. And I think he was mistaken. I don’t think that was the right decision for him. I think manufacturing is extremely bright, the way he perceived manufacturing. It shouldn’t be this way, in my opinion. Again, I don’t know how the outcome was going to be, whether I continued there or continued somewhere else. But I don’t think that was the right thing to do for him. So, you know, I was there for a few months, and then I moved on to consulting because I grew up in a very manufacturing and distribution-centric family, so I already had that business background. And then I did the engineering in electronics, so I had a little bit of technical background and a little bit of software skills. So I applied for one of the consulting companies, and they really liked what I brought to the table and got the job. And that’s how, so after getting the job within a few months, I think they wanted me to come to the client side directly, just because they felt I could add a lot of value. You know, that’s how I actually came to the U.S.

Okay, and so you did consulting for a few years after your couple month gig directly at the manufacturing plant. Why did you choose to go into an executive master’s program? I know it’s something I personally get asked a lot about from people that are in supply chain and procurement. You know, should I go back to school? Is it worth it to get a master’s? Is it worth it to get extended education? So, we’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

So, in my experience, to be honest, and you see, I have always been slightly more curious. I really want to go deeper into things as opposed to understanding things at the surface level. Even though I grew up in a very manufacturing distribution-centric family, and obviously I had the business background, and by the way, I always had the entrepreneurial itch because in my family, you know, you are supposed to be entrepreneur, that’s how you are born.

That’s what you are supposed to be doing when you grow up, okay? So, but in my case, I really wanted to figure the formula out. Even though I had the business background, I just didn’t know if I could start a business on my own. In fact, I started a bunch of ventures during my undergrad and afterwards, but I could not imagine feeding my family with those ventures. So that’s why I wanted to figure out how to build a scalable business where I can really feed my family. So that was the journey that I had with the consulting. It took roughly 10-12 years to understand different markets, to really work under people, to be honest, the people who were really good at their craft, because to be able to run a business, you really need to know these subjects super deep in my experience, unless you get lucky. You get out of the college, you create a startup, and you become lucky. So, after doing that for roughly 10-12 years, then I wasn’t still sort of confident whether I can figure out the sales, I can figure out the marketing, I can build the business. So even though I sort of knew how it is done, but I didn’t have the structured framework. This is where this program came in. I wanted to do entrepreneurship, but I just didn’t have the structured framework, and this actually provided me the structured framework, a lot of things that I didn’t know. So, honestly speaking, if it were not for this program, I would probably not be as successful because the kind of people I met there in the program, the kind of learnings I had, the kind of structured approach that I got through the program, you know, I don’t think I could have gotten anywhere from anywhere else. So, executive, anybody should be considering doing that if they feel that they don’t have a structured methodology to achieve whatever they are trying to achieve. In my case, I wanted to build the business, that’s why I went for the program that was designed for that.

So a lot of companies use consultants and several people that are with us today probably have hired or interacted with consultants. But we’d love to hear your perspective on what’s the hardest part of actually being a consultant, and then what are some of the benefits? Because, while I know it can be really tough, there’s also some really nice things involved with being a consultant versus working full-time for one company.

Yeah, so honestly speaking, consulting is not for everyone because typically as a consultant, you are coming as the expert. You really know your subject deep and deep out, and then when you are going to be joining that company from the first day, you are expected to perform because the client is going to pay on an hourly basis. Now, think of the situation, let’s say if I’m actually going for my first consulting gig, and now the business is expecting that you know what, when you walk in here, I want you to know my financial statement, I want you to know my business model, I want you to know how my sales channels are done, I want you to know everything so that you can write the code or implement a program that I am going to do use for my business. That’s a tall task, you know? It’s not for everyone. So, unless you have visited, let’s say either 50 or 500 facilities which are doing similar things that you can gauge what business might be doing internally by simply looking at the website, it’s going to be really, really, really hard for you. So, as a consultant, obviously you need to study a lot, okay? You need to research a lot. You really need to know what you are talking about. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, then obviously either you are not going to be as successful as a consultant, or you are going to be wasting people’s money, which personally I don’t like to do. You know? So, personally for me, I don’t think I can be an employee, to be honest, because I don’t get that enough boost that I need for my intellectual curiosity. I need to be on my feet. I need to be doing new things. Otherwise, I’ll probably get depressed.

Flipping the conversation a bit, several of the people again that are with us or that we’ll be listening in later probably at some point in their careers are going to need to hire consultants. What advice do you have for people that are responsible for hiring consultants?

So, I’m actually going to start with a story right now because I know that you love stories, right? So here, the story is just a couple of days where I can, and it’s not really related to consulting, okay? It’s going to be a very simple problem that you were trying to fix around your home that everybody can relate to. We had a very simple problem, it’s called a plumbing problem. If you ask anybody in the market, they will probably tell you that they probably know a bit about plumbing, they can probably fix simple plumbing problems. So, what my wife decided to do when we had a little problem in our toilet, and I am always like, okay, how much time do you need from me? Because I’m, you know, super pressed for time. Okay, what is going to be my time commitment? You know, what are the consequences? Because I’m thinking like a CFO that, okay, if I’m going to be spending 10 hours, oh my goodness, that’s probably not worth it. I would rather hire somebody who’s going to charge me, you know, 60, 80, 100 bucks, whatever. So now she decided to take this on, and she was like, you know what, she’s very cost-sensitive, and she’s always like, you know, it’s going to be each store. You are hiring an expert for 80 dollars, we are going to spend. So that’s how she likes to think, okay? So we are like, okay, we are going in this argument that, no, no, no, you should be having an expert. It’s not worth it, you know, we don’t know what is going to happen. So we start doing our plumbing thing, okay? We unscrewed a couple of things that we needed to do in the toilet, and after that, we realized that we are probably going to flood the toilet, and we ended up actually flooding our toilet. Okay, then after that, what we had to do, as we had to shut off the water supply in the whole house. So not only we were impacted, the other people who were in the house, they could not use anything, their work was impacted. And after that, there was another person who came because they still didn’t want to spend money, to be honest, okay? So they called the neighbor, okay, hey, neighbor, can you fix it? Because I always call the neighbor, and the neighbor started fixing it. He ended up flooding even more. Can you believe this? Okay, so what would have cost that eighty dollars ended up costing roughly a thousand dollars for us. Okay, now let’s talk about consultants. Okay, consulting is the expertise, guys, okay? And expertise comes when you are doing something and living on a daily basis. Just because you can repair your phone, just because you can repair your house, it does not mean that you are going to be as fluent in doing that, because you are not seeing these scenarios on a daily basis. The consultant is the expert. They only do one thing and one thing really, really well. Okay? They specialize in that. So, when you hire a consultant, you are getting the expertise that is going to hit the ground running from minute one, not even day one. So that’s my take. I don’t know if you like my story or not, but that’s why the consultants, in my opinion, I think I would always hire a consultant. I would never venture into something that I am not really expert at. Note to self: hire a plumber.

So that was a really good explanation, I think, about the benefits, right, and the value that a consultant has. Now, what advice do you have for procurement and supply chain professionals that don’t know which consultant to hire? Right, so there’s a lot of consultants out there. What are some of the questions, the processes? What do you recommend that people do to make sure they’re finding the best consultant for their project and for their business?

So, from my personal experience, and obviously, you know, we have to hire a lot of people as well, and we need to hire the right people. We are still a startup and we don’t have millions of dollars that we can afford to waste, to be honest. So, we need to be equally cognizant of the dollars. So now, when I look at the consultant, I think we are living in a world where we have a real critical reasoning crisis. We don’t know how to basically interpret the marketing material, how to distinguish fact from beliefs or just the surface-level understanding. So, when you are working with the consultant, if they cannot explain or express about a particular concept, for example, plumbing, if you have a really good plumber, they are never going to overcommit themselves. They are going to give you five pros and cons for every tiny decision that you are going to make if they are really good. If they have done only one plumbing job, here’s what they are going to say: “Super easy, don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.” That’s how the unsophisticated consultants sound like. The insufficiently sophisticated consultants are also going to sound like, “Hey, you know what, this is not as hard. Plumbing is not meant to be as hard. We can do it, we can take care of you.” It’s going to come across as if a politician making a speech.

That’s not how experts sound like. Experts know their details, and they can connect the dots when they are going to evaluate each of the details. So now, this is going to be go back to your critical reasoning exercise. Any of the procurement people are probably going to have some sort of business degree or MBA. Go back to how to identify the assumptions in your arguments. What are they backing up with? If they are backing up with the outlier.

I have never seen this instance my entire life. That’s your belief. This is somebody saying, I mean, now who are you? Is this guy really credible? So again, go back to facts. Are there any facts that they are using to back up, or is it just a sales page? So again, when you hire the consultants, look at the facts. Go back to the fundamentals of critical reasoning. Go back to how to find assumptions in any of the arguments that have been made. If you don’t understand something, ask them to explain. If they cannot explain, most likely they don’t have enough experience.

So two other questions that I have for you, because I have several friends in procurement that this year, in particular, have had to try to go out and hire consultants. The first thing I know they’ve struggled with is how to benchmark pricing, yeah. So how much should someone in procurement, or should a stakeholder, or should a company be paying for a consultant? So I guess I don’t really like to talk about the pricing as much because you know, when you are going to, you are going to get anything that is going to be either inexpensive or free. If you are going to get a deal, there are always going to be frills associated with it, okay? So I like to think like a CFO. Recognize the financial risks, go deeper into the statement of work. What are going to be the financial risks? Let’s say if somebody is charging, let’s say they are charging 150 an hour versus 200 an hour. What are the arguments that the 150 dollars an hour person is a person or the company is making versus 200 an hour? And are you going to be losing anything substantial that could be really important for, you know, your implementation or whatever you are hiring this consultant for? Now I’m actually going to give you another story, and most of my stories are going to be around my wife, you know, sorry, I hope she’s not listening to the show, but she tends to be very cost-focused always. She cannot, you know, analyze things comprehensively. When it comes to, and this is something, you know, this is how you grew up. Sometimes when you are very cost-focused, you cannot, you actually lose the bigger picture. So her perspective always is if I’m getting something for a dollar, you know, what can he lose? You know when you get something for a dollar, okay, this is how I like to think, okay? When you are getting something for a dollar, sure, it’s cheap. You can probably afford to lose a dollar. But look at what, how this particular thing is going to impact your life. Even if you are buying, let’s say, as simple as a shirt, okay? Now, what do you have to do when you, when you take it in, maybe you are not going to feel comfortable wearing it. Maybe you are going to develop, you know, skin allergies or whatever. So the holistic perspective is going to be the comprehensive picture that you need to look at, everything as opposed to looking at just the price. But obviously the pricing is going to be competitive. I’m not saying that hire the most expensive person. If you talk to four companies, figure out how much they are charging, and if everybody is charging, you know, let’s say 150, and all of a sudden one company is charging 200, they must have a reason to do so, and they must be able to back it up. If they are simply saying that, you know what, I have done 5000 implementations, sure, I mean, if you have done 5000, you know, it doesn’t guarantee that they will be successful in the 501st. But if they say that, you know, they have really good consultants who have this educational background, they have this much experience, and you know the other company that you are looking at are probably not going to have as much experience. This consultant is probably thought leader in the community. You know, he speaks at all, and because whatever public knowledge you can have is probably going to be far more validated than your, you know, with spurring sales pitch. Um, so yeah, so the pricing benchmark I would say shop around, you know, look at what is the real competitive price, and work on the competitive price as opposed to going lowball, because lowball always fires back in my experience.

And then what advice do you have for procurement professionals who have to go convince their executive leadership teams to give them budget to bring on a consultant? So honestly speaking, my advice is going to be around the same. Executives, that’s the way they like to think, especially from my experience working with the executives. If you’re going to talk to a financial executive, they are really looking at the 360-degree view of everything. They will not be as excited, to be honest, if you are going to say that, you know what, I am getting a really deep discount, this is 50 off. Their question is going to be why is this company giving 50 off? What are the core reasons? If the reasons are going to be year-end, sure, I mean, that’s a possibility. But if you have a real savvy financial executive, they are going to look at the comprehensive picture of the deal. What is going to be the risk for me? Is it a really well-established company? Is the person I’m going to work with and you know they are not going to run away after taking my money, even if it is getting I’m getting 50 off? There may be a chance that the company may not exist or whatever, right? Again, I’m being slightly extreme here, but those are all possibilities that could happen in a business deal. So when you are talking to the executives, be really, really, really comprehensive in your research, be really informed in your assessments, and when you are going to present the facts because they are really looking for facts, they don’t have time for, you know, just tell me, tell me what are the facts? So if you have the real facts, as opposed to opinions or outliers, they will definitely buy into your ideas. And one of the other things that I see most commonly when I look at either procurement people or middle management, when they are pitching to the executives, executives don’t really care for the most awesome technology out there. They are typically looking for the business value that they are going to get from the implementation of the technology. So build a business case, present a business case, present it in a way that is going to have a real impact on the bottom line or top line, or that is going to improve somebody’s life in the corporation. And then they are going to be excited about it.

So you started your own consulting company, Elevate IQ, several, what is it, almost seven years ago now? Yeah, I mean, I don’t think seven years ago the name existed, but definitely the concept was there. So yeah, so roughly around that time, yeah. So Elevate IQ, we focus on the ERP, and even though I like to call it ERP, it’s the whole digital transformation that we are doing. So our sweet spot is really helping companies with the pre-ERP process, and a lot of people might not recognize how important that pre-ERP process is because that’s where you are going to be doing, let’s say, your process mapping, going to look at how you can optimize your current processes and how you can really tune to the way you really want to grow. That pre-ERP phase is super, super important. So we get into that pre-ERP phase, then we do the system selection, and obviously we like to get into the ERP opportunities because that’s obviously our strength. But in the engagements that we are typically getting into, it’s going to have at least five to six different systems, you know, they are going to have all sorts of integration challenges, so our role is going to be to define the solution architecture of all of those systems, how they are going to talk to each other, define their IT strategy, augment, let’s say if they have the CIO, then our role is going to be to be the advisor for the CIO. If they don’t, then probably become the CIO to advise them on the IT strategy. So this is the selection part. Then we also do the rescue and recovery. So sometimes companies actually want to get into ERP implementation, they don’t even know what they are getting into, to be honest. After a year, the implementation is not going anywhere, it’s a drama, to be honest. So we get in there for the rescue and recovery, okay? Our role is going to be how we can control the implementation so that they can get real business value wherever they might be in their journey. So that’s the rescue and recovery project, and then we do fresh implementations as well, obviously, you know, from the ERP perspective, or if anybody requires any sort of integration help, then we help with that too.

So you mentioned digital transformation. This is a word that I think gets thrown out a lot and maybe some a little bit overused now on LinkedIn and in a lot of the content that I’m seeing. What noticeable digital procurement trends are you seeing this year, and what do you think you’re going to see next year as well? Several of the people with us today, I’m assuming at least are somehow involved with a digital roadmap at their company, so would like your really blunt, down-to-earth perspective about some noticeable trends. So to be honest, I actually did one of the interviews with Edmund Zagorin from Bid Ops. He’s the CEO, and we were actually discussing, really fun conversation, to be honest. And he was always like, I mean, see, you always have this sort of healthy conflict between your sales and procurement, right? So procurement always thinks that, you know, sales always get the technology or the attention in the corporation, procurement does not get as much attention. So from his perspective, what he mentioned was that procurement was sort of, you know, left behind in terms of the technology adoption. Procurement departments don’t really have as much technology as the other departments, such as if you look at the operations, or you know, finance, or anybody else. Now, if I look at the current trends right now in the market, to be honest, okay, the excitement that procurement community has, I have not seen that kind of excitement anywhere else, and I am obviously observing and, you know, everything else in the market. So procurement, just look at the number of startups that we have that are really utilizing AI really, really, really well. Okay, and I am not talking about just random AI that is probably going to solve a problem in 2015. I’m talking about a problem right now. Okay, we are talking about spend reduction, we are talking about spend category management, and honestly speaking, the analysts that we had in the procurement department, they had a lot of pain. So obviously using these AI technologies, whether you are talking about contract management, you know, talking about the company App Orchid, right? I mean, see, they are doing amazing work. So obviously, a lot of inefficiencies from these specific functions, they are going to be taken care of by AI. But what is important about these things is not really the technology. Again, AI is very overused in my mind. The business value is what I personally care for. The business problem that these technologies are really able to solve for the procurement people as well as for procurement executives. So one of the things that I know that I’ve seen companies that I’ve worked with struggle with, and several of my friends and colleagues in the industry, is the technology implementations. So we do an RFP, we select a new system, and then we have to actually implement it. And sometimes procurement is heavily involved, sometimes not so much, but they’re still involved because they’re often implementing the contract and you know, setting the ROI and the end result. So what advice do you have for procurement leaders? What can they do to make technology implementations more successful? So yeah, so that’s probably going to be a million-dollar question. I’ll try to help as much as I can, but one of the things that people often mistake, and this is the trend that I typically see in the market, just because you can develop a software, that does not mean you can implement it. The developing of the software is very different from the implementation. It’s a very different skill. Okay, I’ll give you an example that we, if you look at, you know, software as complex as any of the ERP systems, they are designed to be a very, very, very, very complex machine, even though you don’t see it. Okay, and the purpose of that machine is going to be that it can produce a lot of different products, a lot of different, you know, it can do a lot of different jobs if you actually implement it well, if you actually tune it well. The calibration process, the tooling process that you have, in the case of your system, is the most important.
So one thing that you don’t want to do when it comes to any system implementation is you don’t want to over-customize it because you are developing the equals of developing the system because when you are developing, sure you sort of have a target but you don’t really have a target where that system is going to be used. But now when you are talking about the implementation, you need to implement in the four, you know, walls of the boundary and you need to implement based on the constraints that are actually provided by the system. Now that becomes a very challenge, that’s where your creativity is going to be handy. But typically, when people look at this, their creativity is going to be, ‘Hey, I have this closed system and I am going to create another system on top of it.’ Okay, they think of this. Okay, you are actually buying windows as the operating system. Your goal is going to be to be inside the Windows operating system. Okay, but most people, what they do is they try to create another operating system right by it, and they start living on it, and it’s just a, you know, a crazy scenario for everybody inside that.

So basically, if I were to help anybody improve the chances of the system implementation, what I like to do is, if you want to do any sort of system implementation, one of the things that you need to understand and embrace is if you cannot trace the system on paper, most likely you will not be able to implement the system. So when I say ‘creasing on a piece of paper,’ meaning you should be extremely articulate about your processes. Okay, and if you cannot explain your own business process, that means the problem is actually you, it’s not the system, it’s not the consulting company. Okay, in most cases, 40% of the businesses, okay, not 40% of the business. Most businesses are not going to know what is happening in the 40 percent of their business. Okay, so 40 percent of the business processes either live in somebody’s head or, you know, they are just some sort of knowledge that is sitting somewhere that nobody knows about. Now, unless you take them out from somewhere, okay, put them on a piece of paper, and if you cannot track that, obviously your system implementation is not going to be successful because if you don’t know what you are implementing, how are you going to write the test cases? It gets really detailed. I mean, you can’t implement a system based on some assumptions, that’s not how software systems work. You really need to document each line level, and you need to—and I’m pretty sure, Sarah, you know about this one—when you are setting a goal and you are working with a coach, they are going to teach you one thing called SMART methodology. If your goals are not going to follow SMART, which means Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely, okay, that is the methodology that you are going to be have to follow with your requirements. The way you are writing, if you are simply writing, ‘Hey, I’m looking for inventory management,’ what, tell me a little bit more. Okay, just ‘inventory management’ doesn’t mean anything. Okay, we need to probably write 500 lines right next to it to be able to expand what kind of specific process you have in case of inventory management.

So yeah, to improve the chances of system implementation, write down everything that you can, and that can help you a long way, to be honest. Not only in terms of the implementation, it’s going to help you in writing the test cases, it’s going to help you in writing these scenarios, it’s going to help with the training and adoption, and also to create the sustainable model that will really make you ready for scale. Yes, it is going to be an expensive process, but sorry, technology costs money.

When should a company look at bringing in a consultant to manage an implementation versus trying to do it in-house? So that’s an interesting question. In my opinion, I think you always should have an advisor or the mentor, the internal people, even if they are able to do let’s say the hard work. But you are not seeing 500 implementations on a daily basis, so somebody should be watching the implementation as you are doing, and they should be telling the best practices because each of the decisions that you are going to make, that is going to be based on five companies that you have worked at, okay, in your past life. Because if you have been full-time in your career, in 20 years of your career, you probably have seen five scenarios, five businesses, five implementations. Now, statistically speaking, five is a very low number overall, in terms of drawing the conclusion. If you want to have an unbiased approach, you have to see at least 30 implementations to be able to form that expertise, to be able to be articulate about these things. So when you are able to do that, let’s say if you are able to see 30 implementations or you hire somebody just as the mentor, just the advisor, they are not going to do anything. The only thing they are going to help you is they are going to be a guide, a navigator, and you should be thanking them, to be honest, even though they are not doing any work, because they are providing you the best practices that you cannot find on Google, I promise you.

So yeah, internal implementation is great. Typically, if the system is going to be as robust and as critical as ERP, where your order processing is going to be done on your ERP, and I have seen businesses struggling to close their books, to be able to cut their invoices, to be able to process their orders, and that’s a very embarrassing situation. And I have also seen businesses losing millions of dollars just because of the implementation failure, and in some cases, again, I don’t like to think to the extreme, but in some cases businesses do go down just because of the implementations because they may not understand what was their implementation risk, what was their financial risk, what was their legal risk, what was their information risk. So that does happen. Again, it’s a very complex system. So at least hire an advisor who can guide you through the process, even if you are trying to do everything yourself.

Now, when you talk about the analytics, analytics is great but it is not considered to be, you know, the core operational process. So you can introduce or you can introduce a lot more radical changes because you can do study on the side that is not actually going to impact your core business processes. So, in my opinion, I think that is something that you can probably do a lot more experimentation, because you don’t have as much risk as you would have, let’s say, if you were touching your ERP system or P2P or WMS system. Because those are your core operational processes, you really need to be thoughtful when you are making the changes there. But if it is going to be really the side system where you are simply analyzing, understanding, and the reason why, uh, these executives use the spreadsheet is because the spreadsheet is easy. They don’t have to learn the comprehensive tools, to be honest. Okay, there is a little bit of personal bias there, in my opinion. But you know, at the same time, I think that if you are, let’s say, building the business logic in your spreadsheet, that’s a big no-no. Okay, you should not do that. If you’re building your business processes inside your spreadsheet, that’s a big no-no. But if you are doing some sort of, you know, throw-away analysis that you are going to actually get data from your P2P system, ERP system, and you are simply going to analyze it and then, you know, whatever you studied you are actually going to bring back to your either ERP or P2P system, that’s probably okay. But then nowadays, if you look at the market, for example, companies like Anaplan or any of the, you know, the planning space, right, they have tons and tons of tools that they can make you far more efficient overall in terms of your analysis, as opposed to doing it, let’s say, on the spreadsheet. So I don’t know if I propose any sort of radical changes and not a big fan of proposing any radical changes, but I would definitely, you know, recommend looking into the areas of inefficiency and what you can do to improvise.

So, Sam, we’ve got about nine minutes left and I want to talk about your newest startup, which is WBSR Rocks, which you started, gosh, I think a little over a year ago now. So would like to have you explain today what actually is it and what inspired you to start this community?

Honestly speaking, so, you know, I was into roughly what, you know, five-ish years in the business, then, you know, then COVID happened that nobody wanted, uh, and there were a lot more surprises than I would have expected, to be honest, uh, especially when you have really sort of the expensive deals. They actually have a lot more impact than smaller size deals, in my personal experience. So as soon as it happened, I mean, we were not, nobody was ready for it, and, you know, the, the, the speed that it really impacted our lives, it was just mind-blowing, to be honest. Okay, so in our case, and I had the personal impact because of that, uh, you know, anytime the stock price was going down on Wall Street, I would lose one contract, okay, and then, you know, our sales and marketing campaigns, you know, they would stop performing, okay. So I had my weekly cadence that, okay, these many leads we expect for our campaigns, and all of a sudden, just nobody started showing up. So we were not getting new customers, and we were not actually, we were getting the existing contracts killed as well. So now, this was a very tricky position as a business owner. Obviously, you know, we had to let a lot of people go. That is not the comfortable position for anybody in the market, but this is what it is. I mean, if you want to survive, you gotta do something. So we really needed to think, you know, deeply, okay, what can we do now? Okay, so one of the things that we had never done, because obviously we were really good at what we were doing and we were finding business because of our name, um, you know, because of our knowledge before COVID, but after COVID, it was really hard. So we had to think about, okay, what are my competitors doing? Okay, what are they doing differently? If I have a brand in my industry, what were they doing differently? So then we started researching in terms of, okay, we were not doing any sort of inbound marketing, okay? Now how to do inbound marketing? So the first thing that we started doing is we started writing our blog, and, you know, to our surprise, and we were like, okay, if we are going to write, if anybody is going to like it, because I don’t know, I have never written publicly, I don’t know if anybody is going to appreciate that, but to our surprise, everybody absolutely loved it, you know, because the only thing we were writing is whatever we were talking over the phone when we were in the sales calls. So, you know, the only thing we have to do is we need to come, we had to translate these ideas, you know, on blog, and then after that, obviously, we wanted to advance in our, you know, the inbound journey. So we had to figure out, okay, what else are our competitors doing, but some of the competitors or these startups, they were actually doing the podcast. And we analyzed our competitors, some of the competitors had really strong presence on YouTube, but none of the ERP companies had really good podcast, okay? So that was our strategic advantage, to be honest, in the ERP community. So we wanted to start really educational podcasts that can really help somebody, you know, when they were going through this journey. So we started as a podcast, but then, you know, it now became a media company, because we are doing a lot more things. We have a very well-built community. Obviously, the goal of the community is primarily going to be, you know, our thought leadership, our own personal branding, but then we are actually extending it to other businesses. Let’s say if they want to build their own thought leadership, they can utilize our network, our community, and they can capitalize on the two years of effort that we have put in in building this community.