Reflecting back on a Decade of Entrepreneurship

I received an incredible amount of messages this last week congratulating me on Matchbook’s anniversary. LinkedIn provides great PR for work anniversaries, but what touched me most was the gratitude coming from people who said I had inspired them as an entrepreneur.

I founded Matchbook 10 years ago. It is great business that provides strategic sourcing and procurement services to an expanding number of fast growing companies. It has given me the opportunity to work across a hundred different organizations and gain deep industry insight. Over the past couple of years, I have been able to attract a talented and experienced team to carry the torch while 150% of my time and energy is spent building and growing tealbook.

As I enter my second decade of entrepreneurship, I can’t help thinking how much I have grown and learned. I know that being an entrepreneur is not for everyone. It is risky, scary, and a constant roller coaster. But I wouldn’t want it any other way… For me, it is freedom, passion, and perpetual change that allows me to devote myself so completely to building my vision. Creating something from nothing and being so directly accountable for its success is enormously gratifying.

Growing a service company was no walk in the park. It required putting myself out there and acquiring new clients on my own until I was finally able to build a team. The work depended on my ability to manage processes and leverage my deep industry experience. It has been a gift that has allowed me to become somewhat of an industry expert and uncover an unmet need in supplier intelligence and discovery. It led me to tealbook.

Building a technology company is a completely different beast. It has tested every inch of me and has elevated me from entrepreneur to CEO. It constantly pushes me to step outside of my comfort zone in a giant jigsaw puzzle that has required me to lean on an army of people to reach each critical milestone. In this new phase of my journey, I am excited to be growing our team and working with them, our customers, and suppliers to accelerate our growth and reach new heights.

For anyone in the early stages of an entrepreneurial journey or thinking about taking the leap of faith, here are some of my key learnings which I hope can help:

1) Naiveté is a gift. If I had known how hard it was going to be to build technology from scratch, I could have been persuaded not to do it. Not knowing allowed me to take the plunge and put the pieces in motion. Once you’re in it, the only direction is forward and my appetite for learning is insatiable.

2) Don’t start with a plan. This goes against everything you’ll read in business books, but it helped me to get started without finding excuses. The business plan would have been hard to develop without truly understanding the market opportunity. For this, I needed real insight from my extended network and they were much more inclined to help knowing that I was truly invested. The plan evolved and became much clearer as the business grew.

3) Surround yourself quickly with smart people that complement your skills. Recognizing your weaknesses and skills early on and complementing them with experienced people is critical to survival. You need to learn quickly how to sell your vision and find people that can get really excited about it. When someone doesn’t buy in or is not aligned on your vision, don’t wait and see. Move on. You will both be better for it.

4) Step outside of your comfort zone every day. You’ve stepped outside of the ‘known’ by starting the company, but in order for it to be a success you have to continue to push yourself. You should have a ‘feeling scared’ moment every single day. 🙂

5) Listen to your customers and industry experts. Bringing in clients and industry experts early into our journey allowed us to learn the real market opportunity and build strong advocates for tealbook. They have been an integral part of building our platform so it best meets their needs. As the product evolves, it is important to continue asking questions and welcoming criticism. It is the only way you can truly improve and deliver a better product and experience.

6) Don’t give up. Being an entrepreneur is the loneliest job in the world. In the early stages, everything depends on you and you will doubt yourself a million times. Surround yourself with positive people that believe in your vision. Remember that you did this for a reason that was strong enough to make you choose this path and take this leap of faith.

I invite other entrepreneurs and founders to add to this list and hopefully inspire many more people to start their own journey.

The Digitization of Supplier Discovery

digital supplier discovery and knowledge management by tealbook

“According to The Hackett Group’s 2017 Key Issues Study, 84% of procurement organizations believe that digital transformation will fundamentally change the way their services are delivered over the next three to five years. Yet only 25% say that procurement has the right resources and competencies today to execute that transformation.” 

– Patrick Connaughton, “The 2017 CPO Agenda: Keeping Pace with and Enabling Digital Transformation – Part 1,” The Hackett Group, 13 January, 2017.

Although ‘digital’ has already emerged as one of the top buzzwords of 2017, procurement would be wise to give the term serious thought before we start using it with any regularity. Going digital requires more than just the involvement of technology. Procurement has been down that road before, in some cases more than once. Implementing technology is not the same thing as initiating a digital transformation. So what’s the difference?

Taking a process digital requires technology to be involved in such a way that it completely changes the way the company carries out the related processes, leading to a sea change in results. What better area to take digital than supplier discovery and knowledge management?

Historically speaking, supplier discovery has been one of the least digital activities in procurement. When we need new prospective suppliers, we might call a colleague on the phone, browse an online directory, or poke around in our desks looking for an old business card. None of these activities is particularly efficient, and they are probably even less effective.

What procurement really needs is to leverage the powerful intelligence that is created by the combination of trusted data, internal knowledge, and peer-driven intelligence. That way, when the need arises for suppliers of a product or service, procurement can quickly and reliably access suppliers and instantly identify what they are known for.

Let’s see if ‘digital’ supplier discovery meets the requirements for using the term.

1.    Completely changes the way the company carries out related processes: We’ve already talked about procurement’s ‘traditional’ methods for carrying out supplier discovery. Not only are they loosely based on ‘hope’ as a strategy, they are incredibly time consuming. No one would stand for such an approach when looking for a place to buy something personally when the option existed to go straight to one, large, trusted, consumer friendly source. Why should we tolerate anything less in our B2B buying habits?

2.    Leads to a sea change in results: Digital supplier discovery is instant, comprehensive, and trustworthy. It also maximizes the savings and value creation potential associated with the project by having the right mix of suppliers involved from the outset. In fact, when procurement carries out supplier discovery early in the sourcing process, new approaches and alternative solutions may come to light in time to not only qualify them, but also present them as bidding options to all of the suppliers invited to compete for the business.

If there is another benefit in the process of digital supplier discovery, it is related to supplier knowledge management. Making supplier intelligence so easy to capture that there are no barriers to doing so, and putting that intel in the hands of colleagues in the exact moment a need is identified creates a powerful opportunity for procurement. Fundamentally changing how the organization preserves and leverages supplier intelligence makes it far easier to re-use that information in the future to improve results: meeting the requirement to fundamentally change the process and also increase the results generated by it.

Growing into 2017

tealbook supplier discovery SaaS platform

My team and I have spent the last two years uncovering the real challenges created by poor supplier data, lack of shared supplier knowledge across organizations, and inefficient supplier discovery processes. We wanted to know exactly how tealbook fits within existing systems and to capture the value of optimized supplier intelligence, discovery, and identification for procurement teams and their internal stakeholders.

We sponsored surveys, held roundtable and advisory board meetings, and collaborated with procurement professionals on articles and a whitepaper. We asked questions and listened carefully so that we could build a platform to solve the unmet need across procurement teams and their organizations.

Our ability to integrate feedback from procurement professionals. internal stakeholders, and suppliers enabled us to win 6 large enterprise customers within the first year. Our outreach generated curiosity and interest among procurement leaders interested in changing the status quo and bolstering their collective supplier intelligence to increase collaboration, speed, and value to the business.

We are entering 2017 with a robust pipeline of new customers and the burning desire to be the best in class source of peer-driven supplier knowledge and intelligence for enterprise. With the help of our customers, tealbook is building the most trusted and valuable supplier community by inviting their suppliers to enrich and manage their information in one place. So far, our initial outreach has led to over 10% of suppliers updating their profile . We are confident that invitations from multiple clients and increased multi-channeled awareness of tealbook’s unique value will rise supplier adoption as we reach over 2 million suppliers in 2017.

As I look into the future, there are two important factors that will drive our continued success and scalability:

1) TECHNOLOGY: We will provide a best in class platform that uses machine learning and AI to provide value, leading to predictive intelligence and strong adoption by all users, and

2) EXECUTION: We want to offer a painless implementation and an overall experience that turns our clients, suppliers, and employees into raving fans.

To support the above, I am honored and excited to welcome Geoff Peddle (CTO) and Ian Woodbury (COO) to the tealbook executive team. I can’t think of two more qualified partners to join the next phase of our journey to significantly improve supplier intelligence and discovery. They are the real deal. They bring the experience, the focus and commitment needed to support our growth. I am excited for the opportunity to lean on and learn from them as my role becomes that much more focused on our customers, building industry-wide advocacy and drive our vision forward.

Please join me in welcoming Geoff and Ian to our team!

A Founder’s Experience For Procurement

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend 48 Hours in the Valley, an event organized by the C100 to help top Canadian emerging companies gain access to The Valley’s elite community of tech founders, mentors, and investors.

tealbook was one of 20 carefully selected companies from a pool of 170 sponsored candidates. After spending 2 1/2 days with the founders and CEOs of these companies, it was clear that the committee had thoughtfully combined some of the most promising new Canadian tech companies and an impressive group of founders.

The event was a mixture of team building activities, workshops, speakers, and investor meetings. It was an amazing opportunity to step out of the day to day race and share notes with other passionate entrepreneurs at all stages in the journey. I was grateful for the experience and made connections that will last a lifetime.

As I reflected back on my experience, I realized that many of the insights I received during the event are transferable to any procurement leader wanting to gain a seat at the executive table. Here are some of the key take aways that influenced me as a founder and CEO – any of which are applicable to any procurement leader interested in growing their impact on the business:

Scale yourself and your team

Sukhinder Sing-Cassidy (CEO, Joyus) spoke about scaling yourself. She compared the process of scaling from founder to CEO to transitioning from author to publisher. Like founders, many procurement professionals have a hard time not getting caught in the weeds. Scaling yourself and your team is critical for success. Here are some of the tips that Sukhinder shared:

·     Hire smart people that complement your skills and give them the time and autonomy to brainstorm new ideas as a team without you. Remove your influence and let them develop a solid business case for opportunities that have the greatest chances of success before presenting them to you. Giving them the freedom to push boundaries and preparing to support their ideas will empower them and help drive systemic innovation.

·     Allow your employees to manage you. Let them know what is important to you and what you expect from them early on. Clear communications and expectations go a long way in building trust and relationships.

·     Find a ‘priest’, someone that you trust but that is not involved in your business. Don’t make your employees, friends, or spouse your priest. A mentor, life, or career coach can be a good investment when setting goals and working through challenging times.

Think Big

Tim Draper (Founder, Draper Associates) talked about wild ideas that are not too far distant in the future. Look ahead of today’s possibilities and think BIG. Don’t be afraid of shooting for the moon when developing short and long term plans. Encourage your team to think big about how procurement can impact the organization – and allow for failure. Nothing innovative happens without big ideas and healthy risk taking.

Positioning and Winning

David Baga (Chief Business Officer, Lyft) brought up the importance of positioning. It reminded me of the importance for procurement to set up a clear mission statement for its role in the company. That vision can be built by truly understanding senior leadership’s expectations and internal stakeholders’ goals and needs. Branding procurement with a focus on winning can be a powerful way to generate more value and improve internal collaboration.

Power of the Network

Jasper Malcolmson (CEO, Skylight) facilitated a workshop on the power of the social network. Any good procurement leader understands the importance of connecting with internal stakeholders. Jasper mentioned that some of the best conversations he has were in Uber Pool. Find ways to connect with people internally by spending time in social places like the cafeteria or team building events. Beyond visibility, you will always learn something by connecting and listening to others.

ABR – Always be Recruiting

Jen Holmstrom (GGV Capital) shared her experience recruiting for Facebook among other companies. We know that finding great people is difficult in general, but finding good procurement people is a greater challenge. Look for skills that can be leveraged to support your goals such as great account management people from the supplier side or internal stakeholders that have deep category expertise and are looking for a new challenge. The more innovative and forward thinking your team is, the better the people you will be able to attract.

We wrapped up the event with a pitch competition. Each founder had 3 minutes to pitch their company in front of an investor judging panel. We worked on perfecting our story to make it as attractive and clear as possible to potentially interested investors. Being prepared and getting your story down to the most value-added essentials should be imperative for procurement leaders when presenting to the executive team. This would be a great exercise to better articulate procurement’s mission, what it has done for the company, and what it will do going forward. This should be the beginning of any leadership team meeting where you want them to learn more and invest to take procurement to the next level.

Press Release: tealbook Wins ‘Biggest Upside Potential’ Award at 48 Hours in the Valley

TORONTO – Dec. 14, 2016 – PRLog — tealbook, the most trusted source of peer driven supplier intelligence and discovery for enterprise, won the prestigious award for Biggest Upside Potential at C100’s ’48 Hours in the Valley’ entrepreneurial event in San Francisco, CA.

tealbook went through a competitive application process and was one of only 20 companies out of a pool of 170 selected by the C100 to be part of their winter cohort.

“This was an amazing opportunity to meet with the peers, advisors, and investors able to accelerate tealbook’s vision for reimagined supplier discovery,” said Stephany Lapierre, founder and CEO of tealbook. “Clearly, the pitch competition demonstrated that our business model holds significant upside potential for our customers and investors.”

48 Hours is run by the C100, a non-profit, member-driven organization built by successful Canadian investors, entrepreneurs, and executives living in Silicon Valley. 48 Hours offers Canadian founders access to the venture capital, mentorship, and knowledge necessary for growth at a global scale.

About tealbook

tealbook is the most trusted source of peer driven supplier intelligence and discovery for enterprise. By helping companies instantly access and share trusted supplier intelligence, tealbook significantly reduces the time and effort required for supplier discovery and exponentially increases the scale and productivity of procurement teams. tealbook also helps improve collaboration with internal partners. With tealbook, supplier connections and intelligence are centralized and combined with aggregate endorsements from industry peers and data from Dun & Bradstreet’s common language taxonomy. Suppliers can easily self-update profiles with news, blog/web content and social media activity, providing companies with a valuable, first-hand perspective. For trusted intelligence, instant supplier identification, and elevated industry knowledge, tealbook is your solution. For more information, visit www.tealbook.com or Twitter: @tealbook.

The ‘Brandyberry Trilogy’: Productivity, Efficiency, and Innovation

Over the last few weeks, Gregg Brandyberry, former CPO of GlaxoSmithKline, shared his point of view on current and future state of procurement through a 3-part series of posts on Procurious. Gregg is a recognized pioneer in procurement and sourcing technology with 40 years’ experience in the automotive, textile, manufactured goods, electronics, and healthcare industries. We were particularly excited to see this series of posts run because Gregg also happens to be a member of the tealbook Advisory Board.

Given that his career in procurement spans four decades (so far…) you would think that he had watched our technology go from the invention of the wheel to flying cars. On the contrary, it hasn’t changed as much as you might expect. And yet, as Gregg writes in the final post, procurement isn’t done innovating yet – perhaps the best is yet to come.

 

Part 1: Why Instant Supplier Information Access Can Fire Productivity

Although most procurement teams today use a shared, centralized database to manage supplier information, these solutions usually rely on internal team members to manually enter and search for supplier knowledge. The true transformative value of any technology is its scalability. tealbook advances procurement’s scale by making it possible to accelerate the discovery process through instant supplier recommendations, improving the match between business needs and prospective suppliers. With better suppliers available sooner, procurement can achieve a step change in productivity and move the needle on the all-important metric of spend under management. (READ MORE)

 

Part 2: The Efficiency Value of a Marketplace Approach

We talk a lot about efficiency in procurement, but we take very few steps to actually improve it. Real efficiency goes beyond just doing more with less – it is also about timing. Sometimes, doing the same task at a different time increases your effort’s impact potential. Case in point: risk management – addressing risk should be an active part of the sourcing process, not just something to be managed afterwards. While risk information is readily available, sometimes what procurement really needs to know what their peers think of a supplier. That’s why tealbook combines internal supplier knowledge, data from Dun & Bradstreet, and aggregate intelligence from industry peers into each supplier profile. Adding a peer view to the supplier discovery process not only makes it more robust, it significantly increases the trust factor – and actionability – of everything procurement learns. (READ MORE)

 

Part 3: Procurement Isn’t Done Innovating

When we aren’t clear on the true mission of procurement – maximizing the ROI of every dollar spent – it’s not a fun place to work. But hope is not lost. Procurement isn’t done innovating. Everything we do (or have done) should be subject to reimagining. tealbook has actively taken up this challenge in supplier discovery. All of the value potential uncovered in downstream processes like sourcing, optimization, and negotiation, is capped by how well procurement has handled supplier discovery – bringing in and evaluating a broad range of suppliers. And while it might seem like more work to increase the pool of prospective suppliers, it’s actually procurement’s best chance to affect results by more than a shade or two at a time. Innovators don’t get up in the morning for incremental improvements – they think big and push hard for step changes, an approach procurement should embrace. (READ MORE)

 

Speaking of innovators and big thinkers, many thanks to Gregg for sharing his experiences and vision on technology, discovery, and intelligence creation!

Tell us… How much does supplier discovery COST you today?

Procurement regularly assesses the costs of the products and services consumed by the rest of the organization. That is one of our bread and butter responsibilities. But as our focus becomes one of value above and beyond savings we need to understand what our own processes cost us in terms of time, resources, and impact on our results.

tealbook is partnering with The Hackett Group to learn more about the cycle time and cost of supplier discovery. Please take 15-30 minutes to participate in the 2017 Sourcing Cycle Time and Cost Measurement Study between now and December 8, 2016.

In addition to providing us with incredibly valuable information that we will use to help you improve how you manage and access supplier intelligence, all participants will receive a complimentary report from The Hackett Group detailing:

  • How your FTEs compare with other organizations
  • A look at sourcing technology investment levels
  • Typical cycle times required for sourcing
  •  The quantifiable benefits of eSourcing software

 

Note: This study is intended for procurement leaders with direct responsibility for, or knowledge of, both tactical and strategic sourcing processes. If you are not the best person to take this study, please forward it to the appropriate individual in your organization. Please be assured that your responses will remain completely confidential.

What competition?

About once or twice a week, I receive an email from someone with a link to a company that they believe might compete with tealbook or should be in our radar.

I spent over 10 years working with companies of all sizes and procurement philosophies. In those years and since launching tealbook, I have not yet come across a similar solution. This is what motivated me to build it. In the 3 years since we started actively building tealbook, no other company addresses this specific issue or has provided a solution to customers. We know this is true because procurement still buys reports, uses Google, and relies heavily on getting supplier intelligence from their peers in person or by email.

While perceived competition might exist, I focus on our mission to build the most valuable source of supplier intelligence and discovery available to procurement and supply partners alike. Building a valuable platform in conjunction with our customers has been critical to our growing success. We have spent a lot of time and resources capturing the challenges and costs associated with procurement not having easy access to credible and up to date supplier information, lacking internal transparency and shared knowledge and the bottle neck that happens when taking too long to identify qualified suppliers.

So, if there is no real competition, how does tealbook compare to the other platforms we have seen?

  1. tealbook is a front end platform that optimizes (not competes with) all of your existing systems, tools, and processes. It is the supplier source of truth that centralizes your intelligence, give your team access to the most updated information and accelerates your processes.
  2. tealbook is not A marketplace of suppliers. It is YOUR marketplace of suppliers that you already do business with or who are connected to your internal and industry peers.
  3. The recommendations are not made by an anonymous third party, they are made by a collection of your peers – people who do the same thing as you and have similar business goals. No matter what ‘quadrants’ might tell you, peers are always the most trusted source of recommendations.
  4. Implementation is almost instant. While we obviously need to gather some information from our enterprise customers, they can start working on their tealbook within a few days. No manual pre population or update of data. It’s a plug and go!
  5. The intelligence grows. The sooner you start a tealbook account, the richer your data will be and the more knowledge transfer will happen. This is an incredible legacy that allows your teams and future employees to get up to speed instantly and collaborate internally.

We are not going to reveal all of our secrets, but we know tealbook is the easiest, most intuitive, least expensive way to accelerate access to updated supplier intelligence so you can increase the scale and productivity of your procurement team.

What are you waiting for?

To learn more how tealbook can help you bring value beyond savings and turn you into a strategic leader, visit www.tealbook.com.

Is your senior management asking for value beyond savings?

Procurement is increasingly being challenged to provide value beyond savings. Traditionally, procurement focused on bringing more spend under management and driving savings – both of which are easy metrics to measure.

I believe that in the near future, procurement will regularly see meetings with senior leadership that don’t address savings. The ability to show the positive impact of procurement on the business will call for the rise of a new kind of leader.

Procurement can no longer rely on adding headcount to accomplish their goals. With new technologies, we have an opportunity to increase the scale and productivity of procurement teams.

Here are a few suggestions for how procurement can prepare to excel under new, value-oriented metrics:

1. Investigate new and intuitive technologies to speed up processes and automate tactical responsibilities. There is a new wave of procurement platforms available that can bring best in class functionality without a heavy investment or a lengthy implementation time. Imagine going from supplier identification to contract in minutes… This is not futuristic thinking; it is possible today and can accelerate the process of bringing spend under management. In addition, it reduces the overhead associated with gaining access to a large number of innovative small and diversity suppliers.

2. Scale your efforts by making information directly available to your team and internal stakeholders. Controlling information doesn’t work and doesn’t allow procurement to be scalable. Allowing your internal stakeholders direct access to internal and external data will enable them to initiate the supplier discovery process with valuable information provided by procurement. It will also empower procurement to function as internal experts and collaborate to build good partnerships.

3. Train your internal stakeholders to be better procurement managers. Truth be told, this is not my idea. I met the head of procurement from a Biotech company last week that is looking to train employees on strategic sourcing and procurement. Giving them the tools to make better decisions will help them understand procurement processes. Once they see the value in leveraging existing partnerships and improve their negotiating skills everyone will be working together towards a positive impact on overall spend. This is brilliant and a complete shift in existing paradigms.

4. Embrace supplier innovation as a company and leverage them as a powerful source of new ideas. I constantly hear about procurement’s struggle to quantify supplier-enabled innovation. While procurement tends to be somewhat risk averse, bringing in new innovative suppliers may be accompanied by increased risk. Set up clear guidelines on what innovation means for your company and allow for failure. This is a powerful way to encourage new ideas and introduce new suppliers that will make an impact on all areas of the business. Procurement teams have an unbelievable opportunity to find supplier ‘gems’ and bring innovation to their company.

5. Pursue diversity with purpose. Tools like tealbook are game changers for the diversity supplier community. Allowing procurement to instantly consider top diversity suppliers at the exact moment a need for products and services has been identified increases diversity spend and demonstrates a genuine desire to include diversity suppliers in the evaluation process for every opportunity.

There is still a long way to go, but this is an incredible time to be in procurement. Make yourself and your company more competitive by challenging the status quo and embracing change. You will be able to get a comfortable seat at the table and attract a new generation of procurement professionals that are ready add to the positive change already underway.

To learn more how tealbook can help you bring value beyond savings and turn you into a strategic leader, visit www.tealbook.com.

Why SAP can’t build it

During this year’s ProcureCon Pharma conference, a panel was addressing best practices in vendor management. During this discussion, one of the panelists asked why no one had developed a good supplier dashboard that would centralize supplier information and give greater visibility to a company’s existing supplier base. She specifically called out to SAP folks to build it. A few friendly faces in the audience turned over to me and smiled. They know it does exist, and they also know exactly why SAP couldn’t build it.

Don’t get me wrong, dashboards and portals exist. For decades, companies have tried to build their own version of a dashboard to increase access to credible supplier information. Technology companies have created intuitive dashboards and portals to enable their customers to store supplier information in a more efficient way.

So why the plea to have someone build it? Why doesn’t this procurement professional who has been in the industry for years have something that works well for her and her team?

Here is the answer:

If companies build a solution for themselves, it only captures their information which quickly becomes stale and outdated. It requires significant efforts to keep supplier information up to date and to make sure the information isn’t limited to what they know. The supplier landscape is moving too fast and it is too large for a single company to keep up with it.

If technology companies build a solution, it will only reflect their customers’ information. It might be a step up, but it will never become the single source of truth as the truth is MUCH MUCH broader than can be represented by one segment of the market.

So who can build supplier information management?

The industry required someone to take a step back and build a platform that was connected to all without sharing proprietary information. A solution that did not compete with what existed, but supercharged customers’ unique supplier masters and enhanced their own legacy and new procurement systems. A single source of truth that would sit in front of and seamlessly integrate with Oracle, SAP/Ariba, IBM/Emptoris, SciQuest, Zycus, Coupa as well as other contract and vendor management platforms. A solution that would centralize all supplier data and become the gold standard in supplier intelligence. A social media-like tool that would even gather procurement and internal stakeholders’ perspectives to enrich intelligence and power procurement with real information at their fingertips. A central place for suppliers to maintain their information in real-time for the purpose of growing their business the right way… based on what they do well and known for.

So don’t look to SAP to build it. It has been built. You can make the supplier data in your ERP system accurate, credible, visible, transparent, collaborative, and more actionable.

Learn more how tealbook can optimize your existing systems and processes and become your single source of supplier truth.