Tag Archives: entrepreneurship

Five Ways Procurement Can Change the World for Entrepreneurs

“Behind every growth story like ours, there’s always a procurement person who has provided an opportunity.” Procurious caught up with inspirational dynamo Nina Vaca at ISM2017 to discover why procurement needs to give entrepreneurs every chance.   

“The unsung heroes of my stories are always in procurement and supply,” says Nina Vaca. The Chairman and CEO of Pinnacle Group has experienced a roller-coaster of ups and downs in her 20-year journey from a niche IT business that was started on her living room floor to the workforce solutions powerhouse it is today.

“Success is rarely linear,” Vaca says. “Some of the hardest moments of my life were after 9/11, when we were at the brink of bankruptcy and almost didn’t make payroll. But every time, someone in procurement saved the day by providing the opportunity to bid.”

Procurement wasn’t just responsible for pulling Pinnacle Group back from the brink. A series of big breaks, provided by people who saw the vast potential in Vaca’s business, enabled an incredible growth story from a local, to regional, to national, to a global player. “Whether it has been the CPO, or a procurement executive, or a procurement manager responsible for our sector – those are the people who have always given us a shot,” she says.

Vaca gives the example of an RFP from the procurement team at Verizon. “We lost the first, the second – by the time we got the 10th RFP, we asked them for mentoring to discover exactly what we needed to do to win the contract. When we eventually won the contract it had grown from a tiny piece of work to a significantly bigger opportunity.”

“Our next big break came from the CPO of Electronic Data Systems. At that point we were a $40 million company, and we won a $160 million contract. Again, it was because the CPO really believed in us, and mentored us through the process. That contract took us from four states to all 50. That was followed by our biggest contract in Pinnacle’s history, awarded to us by the CPO of Comcast. We didn’t know each other very well initially, but he was willing to take a leap of faith and was very intentional about doing business with us. They were looking for a minority-owned company for a very strategic piece of work. That was a very aggressive RFP process, but winning that contract affirmed our ability to provide service on a very large scale and helped us become the number one fastest growing woman-owned company in the US.”

The result of Pinnacle Group’s incredible growth was that the company found itself breaking through a ceiling that no other Hispanic, female-owned company had crossed before. “When I broke through that ceiling, I found myself to be the only woman, and the youngest, to be in that position. That’s not acceptable to me, which is why it’s so important to nurture hope and inspiration in others to do the same thing. In a way, when the CPO awarded us that contract, the community benefits outweighed business benefits.”

“‘Ambition’ is seen by some as a dirty word, along with wealth creation. That’s how the U.S. has prospered, through people creating wealth not only for their families, but for their communities and the nation. For my daughters, ambition is a necessity, so long as you approach it in a positive way, and not by trying to succeed at the expense of others.”

Five ways procurement can help entrepreneurs succeed:

1. Provide them with an opportunity to play: Big breaks, such as those that propelled Pinnacle into its position as a market-leader, were only made possible because someone in procurement saw potential, took a risk and provided an opportunity.

2. Do your homework: “Look for the best and brightest, not just at the numbers”, says Vaca. Depending on your organisation’s goals, you might be looking for the fastest-growing or most scalable organisation to work with.

3. Mentor entrepreneurs: Contracts are won when someone in procurement is willing to guide you, offer a helping hand, take your phone-call and provide an opportunity. The common thread across all of Pinnacle’s big breaks is there was a supportive CPO mentoring them through the process.  

4. Sponsor wherever possible: Vaca has a very clear definition of sponsorship: “Sponsorship means someone being willing to put their personal brand on you – your success is their success.” How do you attract sponsors? “Be crazy good at what you do, and you’ll become a magnet for people who want to sponsor you. They won’t sponsor you if you’re not bringing your best every day.”

5. Get engaged in the ecosystem: For procurement, this means getting out of your comfort zone and getting engaged with organisations like ISM, or ramping up your online presence to build your network. For Vaca, engagement means philanthropy and providing inspiration and information to people who may want to follow in her footsteps. For this reason, she launched ninavaca.com, immersed herself in promoting STEM education, and takes every opportunity to give back to the community. “We host groups of students all the time at Pinnacle headquarters, and we are the industry partner for Thomas Jefferson Collegiate Academy – an early college high school preparing students to work in STEM fields upon graduation. If you want to do global things, start locally.”

Nina Vaca is Chairman & CEO of Pinnacle Group, and Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship.

Four Ways To Ensure You Still Have A Job In 2020

Futurist Anders Sorman-Nilsson warns that unless we act now, there’s a good chance we’ll find ourselves unemployed as early as 2020. 

Sorman-Nilsson spoke with Philip Ideson as part of Procurious’ Even Bigger Ideas, a 5-part podcast series sponsored by State of Flux. You can access the series exclusively on Procurious.

Futurist Anders Sorman-Nilsson wants procurement professionals to ask themselves two crucial questions.

  1. Firstly, think about your future career, your employability, or your entrepreneurial plans for the future. Given the kind of work you’re doing today, can a computer, an algorithm or artificial intelligence do it faster, cheaper, and more efficiently in the future?
  2. Imagine jumping into a time machine and travelling to 2020. You step out of the machine, expecting to find yourself further up the career ladder, successful and wealthy. Instead, you discover yourself lying on the couch, watching daytime television, and no longer employable. What happened?

Roll up your sleeves and conduct a pre-mortem

Business are familiar with conducting post=mortems, particularly after a project or initiative has failed. Sorman-Nilsson advocates for “pre-mortems” instead: “Imagine that in 2020, your personal employment brand is now defunct. You’re no longer employable. What were the trends that you missed? What were the signals you chose to ignore? And what were the education investment decisions that you chose to delay that led to your personal brand’s demise?”

“Finally, ask yourself what change will you make today to prevent that outcome from happening?”

Job-stealing robots are already here

It’s notable that when Sorman-Nilsson talks about time-travel to the future, he doesn’t pick a far-off date decades down the track. He chose 2020, less than three years away. That’s because the AI disruption is happening already. Self-driving cars are a reality, machines have automated a lot of blue-collar work and AI is already impacting white-collar work. “In Japan recently, 34 humans in complex insurance claims processing were made redundant in favour of an insurance firms’ investment in IBM Watson to do those claims instead. We’re really just scratching the surface of what’s possible with artificial intelligence and computing power.”

Four actions to take today to save your career in the future

  1. Examine your skill set and focus on where you, as a human being, might still have some kind of competitive advantage over a robot. Where can your emotional intelligence (EI) compete with, or complement, artificial intelligence (AI)? In a world where everything that can be digitised eventually will become digitised, what are the fundamental human skills that you add to a profession that’s largely about numbers?
  2. Learn to speak digital: “You don’t need to speak Java or know the intimate details of cloud computing and data science, but you need to be comfortable in speaking digital. Digital really is the global language of business for the future.”
  3. Embrace the gig economy: As corporates start opting for robots instead of humans, it’s time to take matters into your own hands and offer your personal brand through increasing entrepreneurship.
  4. Invest in your education: “While we’re already experiencing fundamental shifts, we do have some time to prepare ourselves, but this means we need to really invest in our own learning, and our own agility in the way we position our skills. Aim to invest in at least one new skill every year.”

Anders Sorman-Nilsson is the founder of Thinque – a strategy think tank that helps executives and leaders convert these disruptive questions into proactive, future strategies. His latest book is titled Digilogue: How to win the digital minds and analogue hearts of tomorrow’s customer. 

Are you a CPO in the Asia-Pacific region? Don’t miss out on seeing Sorman-Nilsson’s keynote at PIVOT: The 10th Annual Asia-Pacific CPO Forum in May 2017.

Not Worth The Money – Will Entrepreneurs Avoid Business in Britain?

The Great British Pound is in trouble again this week and it’s making budding entrepreneurs think twice about their business plans.

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Talk of a Hard-Brexit Sparks Global Concern

The pound plummeted to a 31-year low last week sparking global concern. The crash followed Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement on Sunday 2nd October, which revealed a firm timeline for triggering Article 50 and the beginning of Brexit. Extra fuel was added to the, already well-stoked, fire when the media reported that she would opt for a complete break from Europe- a “hard brexit”. Reports  already suggest that a “hard brexit” could result in a loss of 70,000 jobs and cost £10bn in tax receipts.

With the pound sitting at $1.27 against the US dollar, chancellor Philip Hammond scuttled to New York with the hope of reassuring America’s biggest banks about the consequences of Brexit. He will try to convince the Wall Street powerbrokers that London will maintain its position as the world’s leading financial centre once the break from the EU is complete.

The pound is also falling against the euro this week, hitting a five-year low and continuing to escalate concerns.

Weak Pound Triggers Rise in UK Services Sector Prices

The dropping value of the pound is already affecting the UK services sector as input prices rose to a three and a half year high in September 2016.

David Noble, group CEO, CIPS, said: “Firms raised their prices in response, to counteract increased costs for fuel, food and elevated wage bills and as the weaker pound had an effect.”

Companies demonstrated their concerns at the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit implications through their reluctance to forge ahead with confidence.

“It’s clear that the pace of expansion has cooled since the first half of the year, reflecting widespread concern about the potential future impact of Brexit”, David commented.

Is Brexit Scaring Off Entrepreneurs?

The aftermath of Britain’s Brexit referendum back in June 2016 saw a strong display of optimism from many entrepreneurs. Indeed, a survey conducted by the Financial Times confirmed that the majority of founders and investors had confidence in London retaining its status as Europe’s biggest center for start-ups. But, is there a change in the wind?

Diana Paredes, CEO & Co-founder at Suade Labs and passionate entrepreneur spoke with Business Insider last week about the effects Brexit will have on entrepreneurship.

She questions why anyone would opt to start a business in the UK given the current economic climate. Operating in London adds a premium in terms of housing and talent and people often see the many business opportunities on offer as a justifiable compromise for quality of life. However, with the future so uncertain, is it worth the risk and sacrifice?

Existing organisations might also be keen to relocate their bases to elsewhere in Europe where it is cheaper to operate, less isolated and they can continue to be regarded as a European company and not simply a British one. 

If you’re an entrepreneur, what are your thoughts? Is the dropping value of the pound enough to make you run a mile from UK business? Let us know in the comments below.

Find out what else has been happening in the world of procurement and supply this week…

Samsung in Trouble Again

  • It’s been a month since Samsung recalled its new flagship phone, the Galaxy Note 7, following several cases of it exploding and injuring customers.
  • The company have been issuing replacement devices to customers who bought Galaxy Note 7 phones.
  • However, a Samsung recently started smoking uncontrollably on a flight before takeoff, forcing the cabin crew to evacuate the plane. This could lead to a second recall and a disastrous outcome for Samsung.
  • Google announced its Pixel smartphone this week and could be well placed to steal a whole host of disappointed Samsung’s customers.

Read More at Business Insider

Uber’s Self-Driving Cars

  • Uber’s self-driving car pilot program may want to fasten its seat belts after the bumpy beginning it has reportedly gotten off to.
  • The cars have reportedly gotten into accidents and ignored traffic signs during testing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  • Whilst it is still very early days for self-driving cars, it’s believed that they are, ultimately, inevitable given the overall, enticing end-game which should see the cars combatting road deaths.

Read more at Tech Radar

Supply Chain Leaders Pressured to Embrace Climate Change

  • Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) meets next month in New York with the current cri de Coeur being “bold climate action”.
  • Analysts have observed that multinationals must raise their ambitions by investing in climate finance, transition to renewable energy, and find more innovative was of ensuring resilient supply chains.
  • As well as encouraging change in organisational culture to embrace clean energy and other climate solutions, BSR insist that supply chain managers join Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) managers in becoming .intrapreneurs.
  • Supply chain managers can – and must – play a major leadership role in addressing the alarming consequences of aberrant global weather conditions.

Read more at Supply Chain 24/7

Drones Tested for Emergency Cell Service

  • Verizon Communications is testing the deployment of large-scale drones to provide mobile connectivity in emergency situations when the land-based cellular network has been damaged.
  • The drone which is being flown by American Aerospace Technologies, is nothing like the small, quad copter devices flown by amateurs at home. With a 17-foot wingspan, Verizon’s drone more resembles the types of unmanned aircraft used in the military.
  • Data gathered in Thursday’s trial will be shared with the FAA in order to help craft future rules regarding drones, Verizon said.

Read more at Fortune

Talented New Mothers – Please Don’t Quit!

Are you a new mum? Thinking about starting your own business? Tania Seary lays out the benefits for new mothers of staying employed in the corporate world when children arrive.

New Mothers

The wait leading up to our launch of Procurious was killing me.

It was like re-living those last few weeks waiting for a baby to be born. There’s not much I could do other than hope and pray for a safe delivery. Fortunately we launched successfully and have had some great traction so far.

This waiting period, in conjunction with my eldest son’s 9th birthday (yikes!), and the daily juggle between work and family, gave me cause for some reflection on the whole topic of motherhood and career.

Australian procurement superstar Georgia Brandi recently posted this very thought-provoking article on LinkedIn written by Sramana Mitra. Dramatic opening paragraph aside, the rest of the story covers just about every tricky point of this highly political debate. To stay at home, or not? To work for someone else, or yourself?

Career Super Women to Working New Mothers

I’ve had some flashbacks of those awkward first days transitioning from career super woman to working mummy. Highlights of which mainly focus around breastfeeding, but, given we have a mixed audience here, I’ll save some of those stories for another forum.

I could write a book about my journey as a working mother. But in the interest of brevity, I would like to put forward my thoughts on the benefits of staying employed by a company, vs. opening your own business, when women become new mothers.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love owning my own business, I have had a fantastic time, working with, and for, some great people. But it hasn’t been easy. Also, my business was a few years old when I had my first child, so I wasn’t exactly starting from scratch when I first “went on maternity leave”.

Employee vs. Mumpreneur

I had a lot of reasons for wanting to start my own business. Primarily I had a strong vision of what I wanted to create – I wanted to create a specific workplace culture, more than a specific company. And twelve years on, I’m happy to say that culture is alive and well.

I also wanted to do my own thing, be free of the corporate hierarchy which I found very frustrating. I was tired of being judged by peers and leaders I didn’t always respect. This of course was a very naïve reason, as you will always be judged – when you’re in your own business, your clients/customers are the ultimate judge!

I also wanted to have children and travel with my busy husband. So there were lots of forces driving me to do my own thing.

But of course, the path I chose took a lot of hard work and perseverance. It took a year before we won our first big client, so I had to fund the business (and myself) during that period.

And then we needed to (and still do!) keep proving ourselves and winning new business, while we’re working on producing quality outcomes. When I had my children, I asked different people to help run the business, with varying degrees of success.

But in the end, it has all worked out. And if you’re feeling an affinity with all the above, I fully encourage you to pursue your dream.

However, I can also see many benefits in remaining employed by someone else during your child-bearing years.

Here’s my top 5 reasons to work for an employer when having children:-

  • Do it for the Sisterhood

Australia (and the wider world) still has an appalling lack of female representation at the highest levels of business. The more women that actually stay in the workforce will provide us with the greatest chances of increasing the number of women in the senior ranks.

  • Do it for the Money

How much money you generate from your own business in the early days totally depends on the business model. However, in my case, I had to fund the business for at least the first 12 months of operation. You need to be prepared for this loss of income.

On the flipside, if you stay with a corporate employer today there is more financial support than ever before. When you return to work, you will continue earning at the same rate as previously, and hopefully continue on your career trajectory, which will be compensated with salary increases.

  • Do it for the Recognition

I am going to make a broad assumption that most corporate women have reached their late 20’s, mid ‘30s when deciding to have children. This means you have reached a certain level of success and have built a reputation within your internal stakeholders, suppliers and other third parties.

Starting a new business is very humbling (I’m trying to be positive here). You will have many setbacks on your journey to success..and when you do achieve success, it will be only you and your team there to recognise you.

In a corporation, you will be recognised and rewarded (well, not always, but more so than working for yourself!).

  • Do it for your Development

There’s no doubt that you learn a great deal running your own business, but nothing as formal (unless you organise and pay for it yourself!) as the quality and frequency of training you receive in a large organisation.

Think about it. Companies train you on everything – from Microsoft office, to the latest legals, compliance and your professional training. And there’s maybe even the odd corporate off-site or incentive travel.

  • Do it for your Sanity and Self-Esteem

Really, this is a point in favour of either working for yourself or someone else.

If you’re the kind of gal that finds domestic life a struggle, just knows she needs to work, or has the all-important financial imperative – then you will no doubt need to get back into the workforce in some capacity.

I’ll never forget those early days going back to work. Buying a cup of coffee from my favourite barista, then sitting at my desk in a zen-like state for at least five minutes soaking up the serenity.

That was heaven. It saved my sanity and definitely kept my struggling self-esteem somewhat in tact.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Have I been too harsh on the entrepreneurial option? We’d love to hear from all the new mothers (and any career super women who are also supermums) on how you made the choice.