Podcast: Empowering the Sourcing Hero

By Katherine McCleery | June 17, 2020

Recently, on the Sourcing Industry Landscape podcast, Una CEO Anthony Clervi and SIG’s Dawn Tiura dig deeper on the effects of supply chain disruption and how group purchasing can play an important role in cleaning up some unmanaged spend categories.

Browse the listening guide below and listen here to find out how Una is changing the landscape of group purchasing.

Listening Guide

  • [00:02:27] The genesis of Una
  • [00:05:29] How Una is positioning itself differently
  • [00:05:52] Introducing the Sourcing Hero
  • [00:08:13] Engaging in the supplier partner relationship
  • [00:10:50] Who can benefit from a GPO?
  • [00:13:55] Supply chain disruption during the pandemic
  • [00:17:48] Next steps for Una

Listen here and read the full transcript below.


Dawn Tiura: [00:00:00] Welcome back to the podcast. This is Dawn Tiura and I’m so excited to welcome to the podcast today, Anthony Clervi. Now Anthony is the president and CEO of Una, U N A Una. So Anthony, welcome to the podcast.

[00:00:24] Anthony Clervi: [00:00:24] Thank you, Dawn. Glad to be here.

[00:00:26] Dawn Tiura: [00:00:26] Yeah, I’m glad to have you, but, and I’m dying to get into what Una is and everything else. And I know our listeners are going to be very curious, but first I would like to know a little bit more about you. So president CEO of Una. So just tell us real briefly what Una is, and then let’s talk about your journey, how you got there.

[00:00:45] Anthony Clervi: [00:00:45] Sure. So, Una is a group purchasing organization. We help small,  medium and semi larger companies, get value through, obviously extended contracts or managed spend. And driving value through economics, sourcing opportunities, the whole gamut. We’re trying to take this advisor approach and be the GPO for the people for not only our members, but, for our partners as we call them our supplier partners.

[00:01:14] And we’ve been doing that now for about almost a decade.  How I got started to jump to that question;  I joined some investors again, like I said, just about a decade ago. And it was a very unique opportunity because, to say the least things were kind of in the toilet, not doing well.

[00:01:32] And typically when there’s a mess and things are not going well, there’s opportunity, as I’m sure, you know, and there wasn’t a brand, there really wasn’t any direction. And so I jumped on board and, prior to that, I was in the home services space, through a company called Home Advisor,  they’ve done very well recently.

[00:01:50]Not because of me, but I spent a couple of years there. And then, I was doing some work, for Sears prior to that. So this idea why I bring it up, of connecting two different parties together and kind of this, whether it be a platform or however you want to explain it, has always made sense to me.

[00:02:27]So let’s see, 2012 is when I’ve kind of jumped in and it was given the opportunity, okay. Turn this thing around, and bring it to where it is, where it is today. So look, prior to that, I was a baseball guy. I played baseball in college. knew I wasn’t going to move on. So competitive sports doing something competitively, kind of having control of my own destiny has always made sense to me.

[00:02:50] And I wanted a challenge. I wanted something fun. I came out of college, didn’t know what I wanted to do. You know, I planned to never grow up,  if you can relate to that. And, I bounced around a lot of different places, on and off on different careers or different jobs and kind of just giving you a back and forth story of how, how I came to be and where, where Una came to be.

[00:03:11] Dawn Tiura: [00:03:11] Anthony, none of it makes sense. You were a baseball player. Did home advisor, you worked for Sears. How on earth did you learn about your procurement and ended up in a role here?

[00:03:27] Anthony Clervi: [00:03:27] So yeah, the opportunity came through the chaos. So I joined the investor team that had built a little bit of a portfolio and some understanding, but there was just a lot of debt.

[00:03:42] There was a lot of unknown. There was a lot of uncertainty. And one of the investors is my brother. So there’s a family business tied to this as well. And, after all the failures and just in my own career where basically around 2012, I was in between. And that’s when the opportunity came up and the investor group had had some success in the fraternity and sorority space, and they were trying to explore this new space within healthcare and business.

[00:04:10] And so that’s when the opportunity came up really 2012 was the big year. Where I’d already done, as you mentioned, some experience and work with Home Advisor, Sears, baseball career, some other odd end jobs and  business opportunities, but this one stuck out, but frankly, you know, learn about procurement or group purchasing.

[00:04:30] Gosh, I’m still learning. So it was a painful couple of years. We were trying to figure out an established brand from 2012 to, you know, kind of go for the next couple of years from there. 2012 to 2015 were painful. But again, I believe in the sentiment that you are rewarded based on the difficulty of the problems that you solve.

[00:04:51] And so there was a unique opportunity where group purchasing, I’m sure your audience is aware of. It was really genesis in the acute health care space and has been for decades, if not almost the beginning of the century. So it’s not a unique concept, but what we tried to do and what I was trying to understand is how can we be different.

[00:05:12] How can we not be like everyone else? And so that if you fast forward to today, which has taken a long time, we’ve tried to establish ourselves. This is how we’re different. This is what Una’s doing. And the biggest thing I’ll kind of end with this and we can get into more questions, is we have positioned ourselves.

[00:05:29] We want to empower, and I know your SIG folks and audience will get this, the sourcing hero. And that’s where we’re going all in on to say the least, we are going all in on how we can empower the sourcing hero and take an advisory approach.

[00:05:46] Dawn Tiura: [00:05:46] Just hearing the term “sourcing hero” makes me smile from ear to ear.

[00:05:52] Anthony Clervi: [00:05:52] So think of this here on the cape, that everything, that’s what we want. We want it to be fun. We want it to be different. Yeah. And we want your experience to be different. And we think that beyond just a member to that sourcing hero, how can our partner, our supplier partner, we want to call it our partner different.

[00:06:09] How can we be different with them? What does that synergy? We realized there was a healthy tension there, but we want there to be real synergy and understanding and transparency.

[00:06:17] Dawn Tiura: [00:06:17] So to be honest with you, although we do have a number of healthcare members, we have, majority of our folks are not. And so not every company is aware of what a GPO or group purchasing organization is.

[00:06:29] So can you sort of just describe what it is, what it is?

[00:06:33] Anthony Clervi: [00:06:33] So you’re absolutely right. There’s a fantastic educational opportunity  in the business community and the simplest version to say is, look, we want to help you, the sourcing hero, or business or future member, buy like the big guys.  We have leveraged billions and billions of spend with thousands of supplier partners in our entire portfolio.

[00:06:54] And most of our focus is taking a look at your non-strategic or indirect spend and looking for ways to bring quick, transparent economic value. And then after we get in with a few categories, we try to have a full discussion on what else is going on. But at the end of the day, we are a group purchasing organization or what it is is ultimately a quick and painless way to drive savings.

[00:07:20]And what we like to say kind of turnkey solutions for the everyday sourcing hero that already has so much going on specifically, probably on their direct spend side C-suite initiatives, et cetera, et cetera. So we try to be the complimenting approach to hopefully ideally in the business community.

[00:07:39] And I’m sure a lot of large and small members already have a procurement strategy that’s working or I’m sure pivoting right now in the current Covid environment. But we believe the group purchasing, sourcing option that we can provide is a part of that. Right? We want to be a part of that story.

[00:07:56] We’re not the whole story. And so we know our place and we know how to serve and, and connect with our members and future members.

[00:08:03] Dawn Tiura: [00:08:03] So I like to the idea that, that you’re trying to be different and trying to be the source and help the sourcing heroes. But where do you, so you you’ve put the contracts in place people can buy off of your contracts.

[00:08:17] Is that correct?

[00:08:18] Anthony Clervi: [00:08:18] Simplest? Yeah, well said.

[00:08:20] Dawn Tiura: [00:08:20] Okay. And then how do you not, how do you keep your end customer or on this side, the procurement person. How do you keep them connected to their supply base? Are you that, are you that conduit or do they actually develop a relationship with the suppliers or are you the relationship holder?

[00:08:40] Anthony Clervi: [00:08:40] Excellent question. So again, how does this sourcing hero, once they’ve engaged Una and starts working with the supplier partners, what does that relationship look like? I think is what I heard you say, Dawn, and it is as fluid and as simple as a sourcing hero or member with, like at the end of the day, they’re paying the supplier partner, they’re working directly with them.

[00:09:04] Whether you have one location or a thousand locations, our role is to help manage and implement the contract and we kind of like to position ourselves as, how can we help kind of coach along or guide and make sure that the member is getting the expectations exceeded by the supplier partner and as a supplier partner, doing everything that they said they would do, but ultimately they have a clear line of sight, right.

[00:09:29] To the supplier partner. They paid them. We’re not in the way, if anything, we’re there to help guide, make sure that there’s full transparency. We look at, I like the word and we use it a lot accountability and making sure we’re following through on quarterly or annual reporting or, business reviews.

[00:09:47]What’s the analytics, are there deeper needs that maybe we can bring that, that are not specific to the supplier partner that Una can facilitate. So those, those are a lot of things, but to the simplest. You know, go back to your original question. They work directly with the supplier partner and typically we see this.

[00:10:06] It’s not always the greatest benefit to the supplier partner, but there’ll be conversion. They may already be the incumbent. And so they’ll join Una, see our portfolio and realize savings with their current incumbent. Or they may look at a different competitor in that category, and we look at a conversion.

[00:10:23] So we try to make the process as simple as can be and make sure it’s really emphasized in the process that there’s two major parts of this puzzle. It’s the member and the supplier partner. And if we help both, we like the adage, you help enough people get what they want, you get what you want, which ultimately if we can help both of those parties win and do it consistently, Una will win.

[00:10:50] Dawn Tiura: [00:10:50] I like that. So you say you typically serve small and medium businesses. Can you serve the fortune 1000?

[00:10:56] Anthony Clervi: [00:10:56] So we have a few right now, obviously under NDAs, we can, our average, again, our kind of our avatar, our go to sourcing heroes, anywhere between 1,000 and five thousand employees, we do have some in the 5,000 to 10,000.

[00:11:11] Again, it really depends on the category. And I’d say that’s another thing that we try to do a transparency and candor at Una. Hey, there’s going to be some categories of spend where we are really competitive, specifically like our ride share and some of our others, I won’t get into kind of that nitty gritty, but then there’s going to be other categories where we would advise the member of future member, hey, you need to look elsewhere or maybe we can introduce you to something or, you know, at the end of the day, you know, again, we really want to take that holistic advisor approach.

[00:11:39] So simple answer is yes, typically though, again, we’re servicing that, you know, 1000 to 5,000 employee market or sourcing hero, and then we do have 10% or less is going to be in between that 5,000 and 10,000 employee size. Okay. So when, when people come to you, how many categories do you have available in your portfolio?

[00:12:03] We have thousands. We typically, though try to start with, hey, where are your biggest pain points when you talk about this tail spend or non-strategic spend, you know, we believe that most of that, depending on how large a member or a future member is from a spend or top line revenue, of course, employee sizes are key indicators.

[00:12:26]We’re really trying to start around this five to 10, let’s start with five to 10 categories and then work our way down. It’s kind of the old again, cliche, but how do you eat a big elephant one bite at a time? And so we really try to even go deeper and say, can we just look at a couple that probably have some significant spend, but you’re not paying attention to it.

[00:12:47] It’s non-strategic or we can also another way to say it’s unplanned, but it starts to add up, you start to look at things and what are you doing to manage that? So we do have a robust portfolio, but sometimes it can be like, the cheesecake factory don’t know if you’ve ever been there. Obviously nobody’s going there right now, but their menu is overwhelming.

[00:13:06] So we have condensed our approach and we start with the ones that we know universally can bring a lot of value in that we can be very competitive in, but it’s also much easier to digest.

[00:13:17] Dawn Tiura: [00:13:17] No, that makes sense. That makes really good sense. So when you guys are doing your agreements, are you also managing some of the third party, risk management side of it?

[00:13:28] Anthony Clervi: [00:13:28] You know, not as much, a lot of that is, is built on, through the supplier partners and what the terms and conditions that they’ve agreed to. A lot of where we try to do is stay in our lane with Una. So, Hey, here’s we want to talk about the category, spend the management of that, the analytics, the value, the relationship, not as much on the risk side, that’s not currently something that we’ve managed or tried to take on.

[00:13:55] Dawn Tiura: [00:13:55] So since we’re in the middle of a pandemic right now, as we’re doing this recording, have you seen a lot of supply chain disruption from the folks that you work with?

[00:14:04] Anthony Clervi: [00:14:04] You know, I think it’s been hard and I know that it’s hit the economy. It’s universally is just unfortunately this unemployment or the furlough.

[00:14:11] And so what I think about is service and it’s really impacted some of the relationships currently. And so we’ve had to really pivot and understand which suppliers in the portfolio, in which you know, which members, unfortunately, both are considered this essential business. And it, some have been really tied to whether it be the restaurant industry, et cetera.

[00:14:31] I’m thinking about our partners now on the supplier side, supplier partners, that’s probably been the most dramatic, as far as just trying to figure out who’s still available. Who’s not on furlough, what’s working, what’s not. And then we have members reaching out to us, that are dealing with, you know, XYZ issue.

[00:14:49] We have a whole thing about COVID than what we’re doing on our website at Una. So I think there’s some good, you know, there’s been some good topics of conversation there, but I’ll tell you, in my personal opinion, my professional opinion, I believe as we get on the other side of this. We’re hopeful that we’re going to start to see more of manufacturing and supply chain set in America.

[00:15:09] So just more, less foreign, how should I say it demand or need, if you will, are kind of at the mercy of. Probably a better way to say it. And I also think that, although this may be contrary to our business model, I think it’s important for us to understand our place, that there’s going to be more emphasis put on the trustworthiness of the supply chain, regardless of the expense, which I think again, kind of reinforces the comment, you know, “USA made”.

[00:15:39]But I think that’s going to be much more critical as we think about, well, what’s the next quote, unquote virus, or what do the next five to 10 years look like in any kind of infectious disease, et cetera.  By no means, am I an infectious disease professional, but I just, I think about those dynamics and hopefully as we continue to work with sourcing heroes and members and supplier partners, there’ll be a real understanding.  Hey, as a GPO, what can we do to facilitate that?

[00:16:07] What things are we doing differently and how are we corresponding and what, you know, there’s a lot of conversations that are going to start to happen. That we’re already being a part of because people are focused on cost cutting, but then they want to know like, what’s the reliability. So like, I think it gets back to your question where, you know, we do a lot in food distribution, obviously office supplies.

[00:16:29] I can go category by category. And so these, these conversations are all starting and we’re trying to figure out how can we balance that?  You know, one of the number one things we do is we have to bring economic value. That’s assumed, but there’s going to be new demands. There’s going to be new things that we need to look at and listen to.

[00:16:48] And so I think it’s an ongoing conversation, Dawn, if that’s fair.

[00:16:52] Dawn Tiura: [00:16:52] No, I think, well, you’re absolutely right. And I would love to check back with you like in a year and say, what did we learn?

[00:16:58] Anthony Clervi: [00:16:58] That would be great! Yes.

[00:17:00] Dawn Tiura: [00:17:00] We shored up our supply chains and made them more reliable.  And, you’re right. You know, this has been an incredible awakening for people in sourcing and procurement to realize the, that global pandemic first off is possible, which none of us have, have really ever considered in our sourcing initiatives.

[00:17:19] And then, and then second, you know, where are we buying all these items from and how strong are those connections going to be in the future? So it’s very, very interesting times, and I think we’re going to be changing a lot of the methods that we use. And certainly hope that the federal government learns how to use procurement a little bit better and source a little better.

[00:17:44] So what’s next for you?

[00:17:48] Anthony Clervi: [00:17:48] So Una is continuing to evolve. We think there’s a fantastic opportunity, as I’ve stated before to this conversation of cost cutting supply chain category spend, although not super sexy, although I think your audience gets it and knows it and wants to be that sourcing hero.

[00:18:05] And is that sourcing hero. We believe because budgets are just going to get crushed here and just relax, you know, realistically for 2020 that we’re going to be a real topic of conversation and hopefully be a great resource to our current members and future members. So I think we have an incredible opportunity as hopefully in the right way, the country does open up over these next three to four months.

[00:18:27] Again, I emphasize the right way safety first, but I think people do want to get back to work. It’s this weird tension. So I think Una is primed and ready to work with its members and partners to serve and be a part of those conversations where it makes sense. And then me personally, I’ve got a personal brand at anthonyclervi.com.  You know, what’s fun about Una is we want to empower sourcing heroes and my personal brand, I’m taking this on. I want to empower business leaders. And so we think there’s some good, some good synergy there, some good back and forth. And I will say what’s fun. We’ve been doing it just in the Kansas City area. Give KC a little shout out. One of our, one of our platforms is called Una Cares.

[00:19:08] And what we do with Una Cares is we, again, same language empowerment, but we’re sticking it within Kansas City, but it’s with the Kansas city youth.  And so we’ve done some fun things here recently, just specifically just meals. And obviously the best is Harvesters. I think it’s $3 or $1 equals three meals.

[00:19:27] So I’ve kind of be remissed if I didn’t share that. So just it’s fresh in my mind that we’re in this COVID deal, and we think there’s continued opportunity to serve and quantify that here in Kansas city. But that, you know, those are the things that I’m thinking about is we’re having a lot of conversations now.

[00:19:44] With different folks that are kind of coming out of the woodwork because they’re looking for different ways to save money. They’re looking for ways. There’s an education opportunity, even if it doesn’t really lead to a lot of new business for Una that we want to, that we want to make sure, we are a part of, we are transparent in and delivering the facts.

[00:20:06] Dawn Tiura: [00:20:06] No, I love that. And I love the fact that you have Una Cares and that you give back to the community. I think that’s extremely important. And any leader.

[00:20:13] Anthony Clervi: [00:20:13] Well, we’ve a great team. It’s not just Anthony. We’ve got a great team behind us. And, I would say the new marketing. So our head of marketing has done a fantastic job.

[00:20:23] So as the marketing team, to position us right. Position Una. And so a lot of the things that, you know, for leaders, I just want to make sure I’m not interrupting, getting in the way and that we’re casting a vision. That’s clear to the sourcing hero. To the folks that are in the business community and that not just in healthcare, that the GPO conversation doesn’t have to be complicated.

[00:20:49] It doesn’t have to be long and drawn out that it can be easy and simple, and there can be real value in transparency.

[00:20:56] Dawn Tiura: [00:20:56] That’s awesome. Yeah. And, you know, and having been in this exact position during the last recession, it is an opportunity for sourcing too, to really get a seat at the table because not only can we drive the value, we also can be the ones that can shore up the supply chain and make sure that our sourcing initiatives are not full of risk.

[00:21:16] Anthony Clervi: [00:21:16] Yes, absolutely.

[00:21:18] And we’ve talked about that too, Dawn, we’ve got a, I think of a fun blog that talks about how do you gain C-suite buy-in and I can’t emphasize enough. It’s like a culture, you know, you’ve built a great brand and culture. It starts with you.

[00:21:30] It starts at the top and the same thing applies in procurement. So we’re really trying to. How can this sourcing hero, whether the sourcing heroes, the CPO, or the staff, you know, within that team, how do we get C-suite seat at the table? And if there’s not, we’re not driving compliance and it’s not strategic and it just becomes this tactical piece together, you’re really missing it.

[00:21:55] But I think you’re right. I really do believe there’s an extraordinary opportunity for folks and the C-suite to look at things differently, you’ve got to apply a new lens, especially in this current environment.

[00:22:07] Dawn Tiura: [00:22:07] I can’t agree more. Well, Anthony has been so nice spending some time with you today, and I really would like to invite you back and then get your view.

[00:22:17] Yeah, it’d be wonderful. So is it una.com?

[00:22:20] Anthony Clervi: [00:22:20] una.com. Easy. You got it.

[00:22:23] Dawn Tiura: [00:22:23] It is easy. All right. Well, thank you so much, Anthony. And I do hope that you and your family stay safe and healthy, and I look forward to hearing more from you.

[00:22:32] Anthony Clervi: [00:22:32] Awesome. Thanks Dawn. Take care, be safe.

[00:22:35] Dawn Tiura: [00:22:35] Thank you, and folks, that’s Anthony Clervi, he’s president  and CEO of Una. una.com.

[00:22:42] Thanks for joining us and tune into another podcast very soon.

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