A Founder’s Experience For Procurement

December 20th, 2016

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.

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