Podcast: Procurement, It's a Group Thing

By Katherine McCleery | January 27, 2020

Una CEO Anthony Clervi took some time recently to chat with Sarah Barnes-Humphrey of the podcast, Let’s Talk Supply Chain.  They discussed how group purchasing fits into a holistic approach to procurement, leading your purchasing strategy with core values, and how Una is on a mission to empower sourcing heroes of all kinds.

Listening Guide

  • [1.50] Una’s unique perspective on Procurement
  • [7.13] Biggest challenges facing procurement professionals in 2020
  • [17.15] Why collaborate with Una?
  • [28.39] Working with Procurement and Sourcing Heroes
  • [32.20] The Future is NOW

We’d like to thank Sarah and the entire Let’s Talk Supply Chain crew for having us on the show.  For more information on the podcast and its host, please visit: https://www.letstalksupplychain.com/


Sarah: Are you looking to up your social media game or maybe just your LinkedIn game for 2020? Well, don’t miss last week’s episode where Daniel Stanton. That’s right mr. Supply chain. And I recently did a LinkedIn live giving our tips and tricks for networking online, and we turned it into an episode for more information and to listen to the episode, go to Let’sTalkSupplyChain.com/episode 99.

Welcome to Let’s Talk Supply Chain. My name is Sarah Barnes H phrey, and each week I bring you the top supply chain professionals in the industry. You’ll learn about best practices, new innovation, and most up to date information about supply chain. I believe that collaboration is the future of business. And I have designed this show to ensure you have all the information you need to succeed in business and in your supply. 

On today’s episode, we are diving into procurement and I am talking to a company who is changing the procurement game with their unique solution that we will reveal soon. 

So back to today’s episode, Anthony of Una is joining us on the show today to talk about their unique group purchasing model.

And that helps increase your buying power and gain access to better contracts and discounts. Isn’t that what every business and every procurement specialist is looking for. Well, before we dive into more details, let’s get to know Anthony just a little better. Anthony is an experienced entrepreneur with a demonstrated history of executing and providing value within the group.

Purchasing industry. Anthony is skilled in everything from sales and marketing to strategy and leadership to competitive sports. He’s keen insights, strong business background, and go get her attitude. Drive the vision of the entire unit team. So welcome to the show, Anthony.

Anthony: Hey, thanks for having me. I’m glad to be here.

Sarah: Yeah, Katherine on your team reached out to me last year and I am so glad she did. You know, since then I’ve done some research on what you and your team are doing at Una. And I can’t wait to hear more about it because it sounds like you are a procurement specialist. Best friend. Yes. You heard it right here.

We’re going to learn more about that. So let’s get started. Una has a unique perspective on the procurement industry. So tell us who you are and what do you do.

Anthony: Awesome. Well, thanks again for having me, Sarah. So Una, we just went through a rebrand, which is fun, and actually una the word actually is Latin for together.

And as we all know, in the supply chain sourcing procurement world, we need to be thinking together and collaboration, especially with suppliers, these stakeholders. The whole idea. So the concept is una. We saved together. Our whole symbol actually has this kind of a unity triangle together in this to it.

There’s a cool story behind it, but we truly believe in why we did a rebrand. , is that empowering procurement and cha , supply chain sourcing professionals is, is. Well, key and critical, and we just want to, we want to put our stake in the ground. , and there’s a lot of ways that we can do that. And then kind of the fun way that una says it is that we want to empower sourcing heroes.

So I don’t know if anybody’s checked out, , ours kind of simple explainer on what we do, but in the overall procurement world, , GPOs play a role. And we think that within procurement, GPOs, which is just the short version of group purchasing organizations, , can play a role and serve the customer base and supplier base.

, we believe that our customers, , they’re actually using the products and services that we offer and our suppliers are our customers too. So we call them our and try to our supplier partners. Again, it gets back to that. , we need everybody collaborating and being together and saving together. It sounds cheesy, but it’s real.

Sarah: No, no. I mean, if anybody listens to my show, they know that I always say collaboration is the future of business. And I truly believe that even my company name victorious, it means winning together. It means collaboration because I think, you know, we can only move forward really together. There’s enough to go around for everybody and let’s figure out how we can do that together.

Can you tell us. Really quickly, what that story is behind the branding.

Anthony: So actually I want to give a lot of credit to Katherine and her team. , we had just gone through a rebrand, , here we’ve just finished. It all happened kind of in like at a hundred days. I think it was, , I would say it was an absolute whirlwind, , but we’ve always had the una name.

And I think, , again, to get back to this, we really want to emphasize empowering the procurement professional because I think the major thing. That’s a challenge. And I’ll get into that. As we, as we talk further is getting buy in for procurement and supply chain and sourcing heroes. So the, the rebrand was to support, , I would say a more h an approach to the procurement.

Again, and sourcing world that’s a little boxy and can be over analytical and overemphasize. And maybe in my opinion, a C-suite is not embracing it and certain, a small to larger of course, larger organization. So we wanted to take a fresh and different take and really emphasize. How can we empower the, the sourcing heroes as we like to say at Una.

And what does that look like? How do we keep it simple? , but still very engaging, , and, and bringing real value beyond just cost savings, which of course is the end result of, of a proper procurement strategy. But you’re right. You know, we’re all h an beings.

Sarah: Right. But I like the fact that you’re using the word heroes.

Anthony: I mean, they are heroes, so it’s our whole theme. And we truly want to, we want to kind of just continue to instill that. And I think, like you said, you’ve got, you got great energy or we can call it cheese, but people want to do business with people that they like. And so that’s right. It does matter what you say and how you say it.

And we want to, I think we can launch this saying, how can we support the heroes in this space? Yeah. And they want partnership, they want collaboration. They don’t want to feel alone. They want to make sure that, you know, they’re doing everything they possibly can and having a team around them and having the right partners, I think is really essential to that.

Sarah: So you mentioned challenges, right? So, what are some of the biggest challenges facing procurement professionals in 2020?

Anthony: Well, I think the first one that comes to mind is I’ve mentioned it is C-suite buy-in, just even committing to a procurement strategy for the year and totally understanding that there are certain suppliers that could.

If we’ve thought about a strategic way that can benefit the overall business and that there’s actual collaboration and the PE stakeholders, that whether it’s a director of purchasing, let’s not go through all the titles, but it’s a top down approach, which I think you’re seeing a lot of emphasis of this on culture.

And I do believe that procurement does start at the top just like culture. I think the second one is data management and making sure that there’s transparency and accurate data. I was just on the phone actually with a friend of mine, who I went to school with and he manages a, almost a billion. In managed spend, he has two analysts with him.

And one of the biggest things he emphasized, I asked him the same question. What’s your biggest challenge? And he said, accurate data. And so what tools again, not just to use tech, they use tech, but it’s again, it’s hopefully it’s, hopefully it’s a run on sentence that it happens, but tech to empower more accurate data, more collaboration, more strategy within a, you know, supplier balance and tears, et cetera, et cetera.

And then third it’s kind of the unplanned spend or the fancy way is dark purchasing. So just making sure Hey, compliance, which again, I think reinforces n ber one, if you have buy-in and clarity at the top, then there is proper compliance to where a sourcing and proper procurement strategy if committed to can be executed and actually show results.

Absolutely. And I would totally agree with you on the data management.

Anthony: I mean, if we’re not getting the data that we need by the end of 2020, I mean, how are we doing now? What are we doing? How are we filling those gaps? How are we reaching goals? I mean, we really need to get those data houses in order, but I would, , You know, if he’s struggling with it, then what, what do we need to do?

And you know, where working companies really start? I mean, that’s, that’s what we’ve been about. It’s like the elephant, right? How do you eat? How do you eat an elephant one bite at a time? And I think, , just really making sure. I just want to emphasize enough that the, the impure, , empowering the procurement professionals, that there is true understanding from C-Suite.

that’s why I wanted to start with that. And, , you had mentioned it. Look, we believe right now, especially in 2020, the voice of the procurement hero, I’m gonna use the inner language. It could never be louder and more clear that it’s, that it’s relevant, that it’s necessary. And all I would use the word critical.

Sarah: Absolutely. No, I would definitely agree with that. And those are definitely the top. I would say challenges that, you know, procurement professionals, even supply chain professionals as a whole are facing, especially this year. So how do procurement professionals traditionally negotiate contracts with their suppliers?

Anthony: I mean, you know, we’re all getting into the digital, we’re all getting into the technology, but let’s. Let’s reel it back a little bit and talk about how traditionally it’s been done and then maybe how we can do it better. Sure. I mean, my traditional understanding of being in this space, so just under 10 years is you’re going to go through, you know, an RFQ or RFP process and typically, , you know, it’s a fancy way of putting it out to bid and looking at vol es and looking at, is it, is it just national as a global and what are the delivery locations?

And what’s the demand, what’s the commitment? Ideally, developing a relationship with a supplier and making it less about, well, the best price. , but again, at the end of the day and this kind of arrangement and the service commitments and the pricing is going to be critical.

And so that’s all the front end work to identify the key supplier. Again, I think there’s going to be some, , various levels of detail and further discussion and contract negotiation that would go on to a supplier. That’s going to be more on the direct spend side.  And that they’re thinking about that. I will say this too. And some of the traditional, and again, that’s the fancy way of saying going direct and not using even a company or advisory firm, like an owner, that we, you know, again, we believe as a GPO, we fulfill.

A part and we have a place in the overall procurement world that is, you know, supply chain, what have you. But, so there’s this direct aspect of working directly with the supplier, going through their RFP, all the things that I had mentioned, and I think the critical piece, and I hope that it it’s transcending, not only are we empowering the, you know, the procurement hero or sourcing hero, you know, within the organizations, but really uplifting the suppliers and making sure that okay.

And what other conduits or availabilities are there variables that both sides of the aisle can take into account rather than I just want the best price I want it now.  And most anyone who’s in that type of negotiation, depending on the spend vol es we’re talking about, if it’s a couple million, a couple hundred million again and then across how many skews and how many suppliers, you know, those are things to keep in mind.

We are somewhat supplier agnostic, but we want to make sure you understand. We do have better alliances and relationships with suppliers where we’ve been able to show consistency and integrity and commitment. , and it just makes it a better two way path, which. Go figure, reinforces their relationship.

Sarah: Well, and I also think too, it takes hours, like traditionally the way things have been done in sourcing and procurement. I mean, let’s face it, you know, not only your team on the ground here, but the team on the ground with the supplier, you know, everybody is spending so much time, which one’s your number one asset?

Anthony: That’s right. Time. Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, how do we cut that down? And nobody likes to really spend all of that time just going around in that dance. And I mean, some people like negotiation, some people just, okay. And I think to your point, you said hours. I think it can take days and weeks. Yeah. As long as everybody’s respecting each other’s time and being upfront of what they can’t do and can do, there’s still value valuing that traditional model.

But if you, as, as things are changing, as you mentioned, digitizing, how does technology play into this? How is their accountability and their relationship? And is it true? And then is the data accurate, there’s this additional value prop. Well, it can be tricky too, to evolve past the traditional ways that we’re doing things requires that big C word collaboration.

Sarah: I was just going to jump in with that because I think you’re right. I think, you know, that’s the only way to move forward no longer. Is it the blame game no longer. Is it the tough. Negotiation to really get that price down, down, down. I think there’s so much more to it. And I think we’re also keeping in mind the end customer, right?

Anthony: Because everything that we’re doing at the front end is also affecting the customer at the back end and everything in between. We try to encourage our, our customers, again, our, our ecosystem, our ‘Unaverse’, if you will, , that we look at it as this, this fair zone and be up front with that. And those conversations when you’re, when you’re going through these, these processes and procedures with the folks across the aisle.

Sarah: Absolutely. So why is it so important that we look to collaborate with something like Una and what sets you apart?

Anthony: So collaboration with owners, we believe and understand that we’re not a fit for everybody. So we try to take a very consultative and advisory approach. And I think a lot of people are saying that we just actually do it.

And so there can be a lot of conversations where we’ll start and identify what are the problems, what are the concerns, what are the needs? And maybe it’s very, maybe it’s very standard. We’re just going to talk about a handful of categories, typically on the indirect spend side, , that we can bring value immediately.

Because they want to skip what we just discussed, which is the contract negotiation, or don’t have the time, which again is our number one asset. And there’s a complimentary opportunity there. And then additionally, we have some other alliances and relationships and consultants that we work through in our ecosystem where we will make handoffs and recommendations that we have no financial gain to at times.

Una doesn’t want to be the butcher, which a lot of GPS in procurement, it’s kind of like the plug and play. Get it up on the shelf. We’ll forget you. We’re different in the sense that we want to be seen as an understood as, and communicate and collaborate as the dietician in that, in that field.

We want longterm customer value, lifetime value for a customer. If they’re seeing value upfront, we’ve understood their needs. As a dietician, we really assessed the problem. Maybe looked at a few categories or said, Hey, we can’t. We can’t help you there. Maybe there’s something else you could do. Have you thought about this?

Can we bring in that and again, not just sell a meat well, in your procuring trust, right? Pardon, but you’re procuring trust. I mean, the first example, you know, where is that trust? You know, what are the motivations behind, you know, what you are suggesting to me, whereas the second one procures trust.

Sarah: And it procures that partnership that we were talking about. And I liked the fact that you were able to bring that metaphor. You know, into our everyday lives, because when it comes to food and different things like that, and exercise, not everything for one person is good for everybody else. You know, one size fits all.

And I think we need to adopt, you know, certain things from other industries. Yep. That we can bring into our business life and can help us move and be successful, move forward and be successful. So you just gave us an example, but I want to, I want to paint the picture for the listener of, you know, if I’m going to work with you and I’m going to work with your team at Una and.

You know, what does that look like for me? Walk me through paint, the picture of an example of how you’ve helped the customer and what a client of yours can expect to see. Maybe even from an ROI perspective as well. Sure. So typically there’s an engagement. There’s a number of different ways that the companies, organizations can engage with Una online.

Give us a call, there’s again, una.com and you check us out, going to get a view of that. But however, the customer gets to us and we’re engaging with our, with our team over the phone or face to face. We’re quickly getting into a conversation about. Needs and wants and desires and pain points.

And again, that, that dietitian approach what’s going on with you. And we do have a, I won’t use the name of the customer, but a customer where we’ve gone through this process of, Hey, look, it’s qualification. It’s understanding what’s going on. And why did you come to us? And what’s, what’s been communicated to you at

It was a director just right before C-suite role of, of purchasing and sourcing. And she had a lot on her plate. She actually had eight other businesses that she had responsibility over. Wow. So it was a little bit a unique kind of a private equity play of subsidiaries that she was delivering results for.

So like you said, not one size fits all because there was different verticals within those eight subsidiaries. And she was unfortunately, but fortunately, which we see this a lot hired reactively. With, Hey, we’ve got all this business. Now we have all this spend. We’re thinking about this. We need you to go implement collaboration, which is a kind of a safer way of saying change.

Cause that seems to deter people. And so we’re going through this process, understanding that where she has buy-in, where she doesn’t, as a sourcing hero, if you will. And we’ve identified a handful of categories, we identified that we can be a fit, we can bring value. And it it’ll go beyond just savings.

I will say on, on average, I believe we say this on our side and through social, if you can connect with us where it makes sense that we’re saving customers on average 10 to 20%. 

And that’s what we feel comfortable marketing or advertising as far as how we brought value, but to go back to the individual. The superstar, this, the superhero with eight subsidiaries, we found some travel categories of fleet category and office supply category. And we went through the analysis stages, identified where they are today.


Anthony: We’ve got to find a baseline. You know, the first question, Sarah, if I said, Hey, If I may give you directions, you know, the first question you’re probably going to ask me is, well, where are you starting?

Sarah: Right. So it’s the baseline. We’ve got to figure out the baseline. And you said it best build trust so that we can share data.

And where can we help you fill those gaps? Whether we can do it specifically, or we’ve got people in our network that can help you as well. We want to make sure that we are coming at this from, you know, every single angle that we possibly can and help you to also communicate that above right. Say, here’s what we’ve done.

This is why, and this is what it’s been able to provide us as a business. Or even savings.

Sarah: You mentioned analysis, right? So do you think spending analytics really make a difference?

Anthony: Oh, absolutely. I think I mentioned it briefly in the, in the front end of our discussion. I think it’s pivotal for 20, 20 and beyond, and has been for, for years.

Spend analytics and having the proper and correct data. I mean, the best example is if you’ve got a company that’s got 50 million in spend and has 2,500 suppliers. What are they doing today? Are they doing that all in Excel? What spend analytics tools are they using? How are they holding their suppliers accountable?

Again, it gets back to some of these reinforced conversations and do they have different tier structures? How they managing the contracts, the skews. But what, what if there’s opportunity for supplier consolidation? Are you, like, as you mentioned, looking at that holistically, are you doing that all in house?

One of the questions we like to ask is, well, we do that all in house and this is our tool or why, and just keep asking why, you know, there’s a phrase like a man convinced against as well as still unconvinced which is a little tricky because it’s kind of like a fancy way of saying stubborn people don’t change their mind.

Maybe it just in my opinion, but if you can build enough trust to say, you know, so what would it look like if we were to do this or what would be the hindrance to look at this option? So you’re absolutely right. We are looking at a holistic approach and then we’re even introducing a spend analytics tools that we have in our network that we can provide to customers that maybe they’re not able to achieve the visual value of seeing it all right in front of them in a dashboard perspective.

Sarah: Right.

Anthony: And we’re seeing more in 2020 and investment and spend tech tools, data than ever before.

Sarah: Right.

Anthony: So I think it reinforces that number one challenge, which is getting C-suite buy in and so making that investment in some kind of tool, whether you build it home grown, lease it or buy it. I mean, there’s, there’s multiple ways to do that. And so we look at that. We value it. And we, we really try to work with customers that, and suppliers that understand that because it’s, we think it’s critical, especially in the time.

The unplanned spend builds up and you want, and you want visual on that. And then the proper spend analytics tool plugged into the proper procurement strategy.

We believe with whether it’s an outside or inside sourcing team or sourcing heroes, if you will, can really help you to deliver and execute on that strategy with the right tools.

Sarah: So you bring up a good point cause you were talking about percentages. So who would be an ideal client and what questions are they asking themselves before they should reach out to you?

Anthony: So the ideal client for Una would be, typically what we focus on is in the indirect spend side and that’s, you know, it’s office supplies, it’s furniture, it’s travel as fleet it’s, you know, copiers the things that, shipping, hotel plan within travel. And the ideal customer that’s, you know, it could be a couple hundred thousand across multiple categories, but typically we’re working with customers that are doing at least to half a million to a million and an indirect or a supply chain spend and an up and up from there.

There’s less and less of them and of course there’s a competitive landscape, but so that’s the size. And maybe some of the categories that come to mind that we’re able to deliver the most value, mentioning the categories and of course their top line revenue, but I will say, and I don’t think, I hope we’re not unique in this cause I think it’s a, it should reverberate throughout the globe in North America is we find as a core value driven company at Una with five key core values that the best customers align with our core values and share those values and it extends beyond just the one to one. It extends in with the supplier again. 

Sarah: but it’s true then. And I’ll just, you know, I’ll put a little bow on it with collaboration, collaboration, collaboration. So if I’m a procurement hero or a sourcing hero and I’m sitting there, you know, I’ve got a lot of things going on. I’ve got a lot of things on my plate. What am I thinking about? Or what questions do I have, where I’m sitting there and going, I need to call.

Anthony: Yep. You did ask that. I forgot to answer that question. So the questions, the questions that come to mind and hopefully that you’re talking about and thinking about a front and preparing if possible, sometimes it can be anything from, I don’t know what I don’t know. So can you just share with me how.

So typically we are finding there’s a lot of educational questions. What do you do? And then we know we’re at a good place when the, when the thought comes up or the question comes up. This sounds too good to be true because we’re, we’re a little bit different una doesn’t charge its members. That’s not, we have a it’s built in with our relationships, with our suppliers.

I think it’s important to know, transparency. Yeah. There’s not a right necessarily or wrong way. I don’t even think it’s a right or wrong scenario. It’s just how una has chosen to go to market. Absolutely. And I like that. I like that explanation. Right? So you’re sitting there and the top down is kinda said, , you need to take a look at these categories or maybe the heroes themselves and said, listen, these categories are getting a little bit out of whack.

You know, we really need to take a look at them and what are our options? And it sounds like you’re not, is definitely one of those options to consider and to pick up the phone and say, Hey, I need some help. And can you take some of this off my plate, but you know, also helped me save in the meantime as well.

Sarah: So let’s talk about the future. What’s next for Una?

Anthony: It’s exciting. Look, I think this space is heavily untapped. I think there is a substantial, substantial opportunity for a boutique, a boutique advisory firm. I could own it to serve, like I’ve said, I think there’s a, there’s a natural fit within the overall procurement space.

I think the challenges that are real and are impacting customers and suppliers because the market is changing. You know, the, the commodity, the tariffs, everything that’s going on globally, that that is that’s a real impact. We want to continue to look at some home grown options as far as our own spend analytics tool right now.

And so we just believe it’s smart. How can we be a more educational, holistic firm or company that looks for core values that looks for shared values? And I think, again, there’s, there’s definitely a technology play where we’ve done some of that. Some of it, I can’t really talk about. Right now, but I think there’s some really fun stuff that’s coming that, , look, I’ll end with this and I’m sure, you know, if there’s a little bit more, why does everybody like Lyft and Uber?

The short story is it saves time, which we’ve talked about, and that’s the way una needs to be thinking, how can we help our customers save time and bring them more value?

And so if you’re able to solve more problems, which is the fun part about business, if you’re solving more problems and bringing more value to your customers while the end result is sure you should be growing.

Sarah: Absolutely. And time is of the essence, especially these days. And I’m excited to see where you guys go.

So if you are a procurement specialist looking for unique way to save more money and maybe even reduce the amount of time you are spending on negotiating each individual contract, you may want to consider what Una has to offer. If you would like more information about Anthony, Una or this episode, please visit letstalksupplychain.com/episode100.

Thank you to Katherine and the team at Una for making this happen and to you, Anthony, for coming on the show and talking to us about how you are changing the industry one contract at a time.

Anthony: I love it. Thank you, Sarah. You rock, appreciate being with you today.

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