Len Wierzbicki, Vice President, Operations, Poppin, discussed what it takes for a startup company to reap the benefits of effective supply chain management and procurement in his keynote address to Argyle’s CHRO membership at the 2016 Leadership in Supply Chain Management and Procurement Forum in New York on Nov. 16. In his presentation, “Supply Chain for a Startup,” Wierzbicki explored how startups can fine-tune their supply chain management and procurement processes.
According to Wierzbicki, startups must possess more than just an “entrepreneurial vision” to succeed in today’s global marketplace. Instead, startups must be committed to a business approach that emphasizes hard work and patience and develop plan to ensure a company can accomplish its immediate and long-term goals.
“The entrepreneurial vision when [a company] first starts up doesn’t necessarily relate or correlate to a business plan,” Wierzbicki stated. “[An entrepreneur] has this beautiful view of how [he or she] thinks things are going to go, but then they have to bring the talent in to start merging and formalizing this concept.”
Although supply chain management and procurement may seem essential at first, developing effective supply chain management and procurement processes rarely, if ever, will happen for a startup in the first few months or years after the company’s launch.
“Technology has enabled the speed in which we can react to things. [Technology] gives us an opportunity to reach people that we’ve never reached before.”
Comparatively, a startup will need to develop its operations and find customers to ensure it can build its business gradually.
“It’s all about customer acquisition,” Wierzbicki said. “What are things that you’re doing to procure customers? That has to be your primary focus. Because if you don’t have customers, why do you even need a supply chain?”
Furthermore, startups must develop revenue streams and collect revenue data over an extended period of time. This will enable startups to provide meaningful information to investors.
“The best way to predict the future is to look at the past successes,” Wierzbicki stated. “Analyze that momentum and look at the objective to obtain success.”
Wierzbicki also pointed out many investors will choose to persevere, pivot or perish with a startup, and this company must show that it can deliver consistent returns to investors both now and in the future.
“Nobody wins if [a company] is overvalued or undervalued,” Wierzbicki said. “[Determining fair value] is going to draw a lot of strife between the investor and the organization.”
How a startup embraces technology may dictate its long-term results as well.
If a startup is ready to leverage technology, it may be able to find innovative ways to enhance its operations. Comparatively, if a startup ignores technology or is slow to adopt new technology, it may struggle to gain ground on the competition.
“Technology has enabled the speed in which we can react to things,” Wierzbicki pointed out. “[Technology] gives us an opportunity to reach people that we’ve never reached before.”
Understanding the “voice of the customer” is essential for startups.
The voice of the customer refers to the feedback and user-generated content from customers around the world. Meanwhile, startups can understand the voice of the customer if they utilize technology to retrieve customer data and mine it for meaningful insights.
“Trust is the foundation [of credibility]. Without trust, you’re not going to be able to believe.”
Today, social networks and other online platforms empower startups with free, user-friendly tools that they can utilize to find out how customers think and feel about their brands in real-time. If startups leverage these tools consistently, they may be able to obtain a wealth of user-generated feedback that they can transform into actionable insights to drive their companies forward.
“The internet and social media have given us the reach to connect with so many people,” Wierzbicki said. “A big-time component of this is the real-time feedback provided by automated customer surveys and product rankings.”
Establishing realistic expectations is crucial for startups, regardless of industry, and a startup must learn about its target audience and find ways to build long-lasting partnerships with them. By doing so, a startup will be able to set expectations and develop a plan to provide customers with the products, services and support they need.
“Expectations are coming at us from everywhere, and this is driving a lot of the things we do on a daily basis,” Wierzbicki said. “All of our customers today expect availability, mobility, price, speed and service.”
How a startup approaches the global business landscape may have far-flung effects on the company and its brand reputation.
A startup that takes a bottom-up approach will be able to develop processes and operations and fine-tune them over an extended period of time. Conversely, a startup that fails to learn about its customers and investors may lose sight of what’s important – keeping its stakeholders happy and ensuring they are fully supported at all times.
Len Wierzbicki is currently the VP of Operations for New York’s very own Poppin, Inc. Len has spent nearly 25 years of his life dedicated to evaluating and improving Supply Chain activities. His journey to Poppin has taken stops at places like Home Depot, Black & Decker, Family Dollar, Yankee Candle, Sara Lee and Dillard’s Department Stores. Len has also helped other Fortune 500 and Entrepreneurial companies transform their Supply Chains through global strategy development and system integrations as a consultant in Ernst & Young’s Supply Chain Practice. He has also been trained and has leveraged Lean Six Sigma, 5S and Kaizen methodologies to aid in the continuous improvement of the companies he has worked. Len has also been invited to speak about Supply Chain related topics at other industry recognized events and has acted as a guest lecturer at the W.P. Carey School of Business on the campus of Arizona State University.