Introduction Chat with Jamie Levy and Craig Greenhouse, founders of pdnhub


[00:00:01.980] – Craig Greenhouse

Hello, everyone. Welcome to Procurement Development Network, also known as PDNHub. I’m Craig Greenhouse, and I’ve got my very special guest and business partner with me here today, Jamie Levy, for the first of our podcast interview. So Jamie, very good to have you on board. Thanks for coming on and agreeing to be video interviewed. If you’d like to introduce yourself to our viewers, that’ll be great. Thank you.

[00:00:27.810] – Jamie Levy

Good morning. Good morning, Craig. I think it’s morning my time, evening your time. It’s delightful to be here. Jamie Levy, co-founder with Craig of PDNHub. I am currently residing in the delights of California and working with Craig.

[00:00:48.120] – Jamie Levy

And I’ve worked in procurement for the last 25 years on various different roles, starting at the bottom end and moving up to the most senior end being a CPO, advising companies on procurement strategies and working with them to build those strategies.

[00:01:08.220] – Jamie Levy

Training, I’ve trained across the world. I’ve worked in public sector. I’ve worked in private sector. I’ve worked as a consultant. I’ve worked as an Interim and I’ve worked to the permanent. So there isn’t much left for me in terms of jobs that I’ve got to do in procurement in my mind.

[00:01:25.860] – Craig Greenhouse

Been around the block of it and seen a few things in corporate life, as it were.

[00:01:30.210] – Jamie Levy

So yes, I may say I’ve been around a few blocks.

[00:01:33.240] – Craig Greenhouse

Yeah, so what was it that first made you decide to get into the wonderful world of procurement then, Jamie?

[00:01:39.420] – Jamie Levy

So the truth about the wonderful world of procurement is I didn’t actually choose the world of wonderful procurement. I was a graduate having the usual graduate worries of money and no jobs. And and in the days of the late 90s, where everyone was fighting for jobs, it was a case of get a job, whatever job you can get. [crosstalk 00:02:01]

[00:02:05.810] – Jamie Levy

What was that, sorry, Craig?

[00:02:05.880] – Craig Greenhouse

It’s recession days, weren’t there? Remember ?!

[00:02:07.660] – Jamie Levy

Yeah, that was it. So so we just get a job and pay bills. So I got an offer from a company at the time who I’d never heard of called ICL, who now issue services. And what I want to go and work with them in procurement. And yep, I said yes, fantastic, and finished my university degree or two degrees and went on vacation, and arrived on my first day at the job with blonde hair. I believe it was blonde. [crosstalk 00:02:39]

[00:02:41.520] – Craig Greenhouse

They’re sort of almost blonde aren’t they?

[00:02:41.970] – Jamie Levy

They’re getting there now! That’s the worry sides.

[00:02:48.360] – Craig Greenhouse

So you got your first job at ICL, obviously in procurement. You’ve remained in procurement for twenty years. You obviously love it. So what is it you particularly like and love about it that has kept you in the industry for so long?

[00:03:01.440] – Jamie Levy

I think there’s things that procurement does. You really do deal with a different level of management than you would normally deal with. So as a person on the backside of the procurement world, the back side of that business, you generally will deal with a level above yourself.

[00:03:19.650] – Jamie Levy

So if you’re dealing with directors in your business, you most likely to be able to see. So it’s very interesting in terms of the level of people that you’re dealing with, especially as your contracts grow in value.

[00:03:32.310] – Jamie Levy

So when you start to deal with multi multimillions and then eventually billions in terms of longer term contracts and larger contracts, then you start to see the complications. You start to see the challenges. And you start to see the value that you can actually add even when it’s not seen. But you can understand the value that’s added.

[00:03:53.880] – Jamie Levy

And it’s just fun at times where you add that value and you’re working with great people, whether it be internal or external, or working as a consultant was fantastic experience. I’ve done it three times now. I’ve been an interim for a number of years. So, yeah, it’s just different challenges for me.

[00:04:18.660] – Craig Greenhouse

Okay, so it sounds like you enjoy it very much. I would imagine there are aspects of the job that you rather weren’t there. So what would those be?

[00:04:28.950] – Jamie Levy

The aspects of a job I wouldn’t or want to have? I think early on in the career, one of the aspects of I think not just myself but younger people was the fact that promises were continually made for development and growth and they didn’t exist. And that really hampered my early career.

[00:04:46.500] – Craig Greenhouse

What training and stuff, yeah?

[00:04:47.820] – Jamie Levy

Yeah, training and development. And I think the world is changing from that. But I think that’s probably one of my biggest bugbears in terms of the procurement world. Especially when you’re in procurement, procurement tends to get more of a focus when budgets get cut. And obviously one of the first budgets that gets cut is training.

[00:05:10.220] – Jamie Levy

So suddenly, people want you to do more, but unfortunately, you haven’t got the training to do more and there’s now no budget to do it. So it’s a bit of an interesting philosophy in how that works. In terms of other areas that are challenging, I think there’s an element of some creep. For me personally, it’s changing jobs that actually interest me is having new challenges and that’s always interest me.

[00:05:39.210] – Jamie Levy

So put me in a role sometimes have been roles or just been there too long. And it’s just not a challenge for me anymore. And so those are probably and my two biggest frustrations that I had in my career. I did record a video for some students at Coventry University, where I did a discussion on leadership.

[00:05:59.920] – Jamie Levy

And I said in that moment, what it is, is sometimes in your career, you face a wall. And you have to find your way around that wall. And that’s just the way careers are. There’s nothing you can do about it. But it is an interesting one.

[00:06:14.090] – Craig Greenhouse

So we’ll put the link to that video on the website, actually, so that our viewers can watch that as well. So in terms of development then, so what degree did you do to get into it and what training does someone actually do the job well would you say?

[00:06:31.530] – Jamie Levy

So I think in terms of degrees, so I have two degrees. I have one from Coventry University, Business Studies, French and Engineering. And I have one from the University of Piedmont in France. So that’s two degrees. I’ve done some modules of my MBA, which I pulled out of because I just preferred to learn myself rather than do the theory.

[00:06:56.120] – Jamie Levy

I’ve done my chartered institute exams and qualified through those. So there’s a level of training that I’ve in terms of what it is. I think there’s got a lot more for me, a lot more practice, a lot more on the job experience, which has been invaluable.

[00:07:13.160] – Jamie Levy

But I think in terms of training and what what’s been the most valuable, I think the direct training that I’ve received from people, working with people who have done this for 20, 30 years. The experiences I have brings you up that level twice as fast as anything you need to do. And I think that those are the key ones.

[00:07:34.070] – Jamie Levy

In terms of training that you actually need and what can be done, I think there’s an element of, we call it the T-training. There’s depth from this breadth that you need in there. And there’s always a conversation about depth in terms of [inaudible 00:07:49] knowledge and breadth in terms of the overall procurement process.

[00:07:54.290] – Jamie Levy

I’m one of those people who believes in the procurement process. The process will help you through. There is a depth. But if you were asking me what you need as a procurement person is probably the 80, 20 breadth versus depth. So that’s what I would believe.

[00:08:10.610] – Jamie Levy

But I also believe that everyone should have an element of procurement training. I think people, whatever business you go to, everyone likes to spend money. It’s just one of those things. Everyone likes to spend money 

[00:08:27.050] – Jamie Levy

Yeah, absolutely. And it just doesn’t mean that they can do it well. It just means they can do it. So that’s the thing. I think it’s actually training the masses to have a basic level of knowledge so that the procurement people can get on with the advanced stuff. But the basic stuff we don’t really need to be involved with day to day. So that’s what I would say in terms of training and development.

[00:08:47.570] – Craig Greenhouse

So it’s interesting, you mentioned about you didn’t explicitly say about having mentors and the fact that people have been in the business for 20 odd years, which I know you don’t look old enough, but you’ve now yourself been in the business for 20 years. So I suppose that’s I mean, I know we’ve talked a lot about why we set up PDNHub, but I know you want to give back to the industry and help people develop, and train, and stuff. So that’s why we’re developing our training materials, yeah?

[00:09:14.720] – Jamie Levy

Yeah, there’s training materials. So obviously, we’ve got three rungs to our ladder. One part is the training materials that those procurement people need. We need all that material. We need the tools and templates. And I can see how useful they are. And it’s incredibly useful to my career.

[00:09:32.030] – Jamie Levy

And even teaching other people, younger people now, giving them those tools and templates they just love, it’s just easy for them. And I see a lot of people making it very complicated and actually keep it simple as an easier way to run it through. So there’s the templates.

[00:09:48.770] – Jamie Levy

There’s the other part, the second part, which we’re building, which is the mentor exchange. So I think there’s a huge amount of resource. All the people that are around want to actually work, want to carry on working, but don’t necessarily want to do it full time work. So that mentoring exchange is there to try and help people.

[00:10:07.940] – Jamie Levy

And I think the that breaks is apart from the the the masses in terms of what we’re offering is we’re offering masterminds as well. And those masterminds not necessarily going to be us. We’re going to bring in those experts, the world experts, who can actually teach you a certain amount of the expertise that’s needed.

[00:10:26.390] – Jamie Levy

So it’s about bringing those people with deep expertise at the right time, not at the wrong time, and giving the flavoring of being able to give the depth as well.

[00:10:37.850] – Craig Greenhouse

So we’ve talked a lot about training and mentoring. So what would you advise someone new into the sector who’s at the beginning of their career and is enjoying it and wants to progress? How would you advise them to progress and have a great career path?

[00:10:52.160] – Jamie Levy

So probably an old story of mine when I first started. And so I first come into a job. And I remember speaking to a father, one of my father’s friend working at ICL at the time. He was the director of ICL. And he said to me, congratulations, welcome to procurement. Nobody will ever like you again.

[00:11:12.290] – Jamie Levy

And it was an interesting scenario when somebody said that to me and I’ve just got my first job. So the reality is, is that when you move into your first job, the expectations that you have are much higher than what really will happen. And I think time is the big problem because you think things will happen a lot faster than they will.

[00:11:34.010] – Jamie Levy

However, get yourself a mentor. Be clear where you want to go. Because if you’re clear where you want to go, I guarantee that path will come. There’s a famous quote by Mr. Tony Robbins, which is:  “where focus goes, energy flows”. Just choose your direction.

[00:11:51.050] – Jamie Levy

I’ve always said, if you sit on the fence, you’ve got a 50 percent chance of winning if you make a choice. If you don’t make a choice, you’ve got 100 percent chance of failure. So pick your choice. Pick where you want to go. Make a choice.

[00:12:06.350] – Jamie Levy

And it may not be right, but you can always change again. So I would say definitely pick where you want to go. Get yourself a mentor, if you’re in a corporate life. And if you’re in a business, then go and find a mentor. If you’re not in corporate life, then go and find a mentor elsewhere. I’m currently on the hunt for a new mentor myself.

[00:12:26.360] – Jamie Levy

So you’re constantly updating and changing because that’s life. That’s careers. And it’s part of that. But also make sure you give back. You’re in that job to do something for that business as well. And by giving back, I don’t just mean giving to charity and giving to everyone else. I sometimes mean that the company will sometimes ask you to do things because that’s what it’s there to do.

[00:12:51.410] – Jamie Levy

So I remember one point in my career I was asked to go into a more tactical role. And I wanted to stay in a more strategic role. And I ended up leaving business. But I stayed in that business for another six months while they found somebody else and while I found a new job.

[00:13:08.840] – Jamie Levy

That was an agreement between myself and my boss, because I knew they were happy to keep me around because I was doing the job. And I knew that I was happy to stay around as long as I could find the next path. I was giving them what they needed and I was getting what I needed.

[00:13:24.050] – Jamie Levy

Sometimes you just need to do that. And that’s just the way it is in terms of where you are. So I’d say if you’re new into the world, get yourself around the people, get yourself into those, get a mentor, decide what direction you want to go, and then get on it.

[00:13:41.060] – Craig Greenhouse

Sounds great. Yeah, it’s funny you should say about the hanging around a bit. I’ve also done that in jobs where I felt loyal to the company and to the boss as well. And so, you know what? It’s really good to rather than leave the company or the boss in the lurch, actually help them solve a problem and then move on because everyone wins. And it’s great experience.

[00:13:59.540] – Jamie Levy

Absolutely. And you just can’t… You have to decide where you want your life to go, where you want your career to go. And because of that, you will make decisions and sometimes they won’t be the best ones, and sometimes will be the best ones. I mean, most people I’ve ever met who’ve been fired or removed from a job say it was the best thing they’ve ever had. And you don’t think about it.

[00:14:26.930] – Craig Greenhouse

A blessed relief!

[00:14:27.280] – Jamie Levy

Exactly. So these are things that happen in their life and the career. And things change, and you meander, and you find different ways. But what I have found is there’s more people coming into procurement as a choice. It’s not when I looked 20 years ago, people fell into procurement.

[00:14:46.150] – Jamie Levy

It became a job that you did. So if you’re a director and you looked after stores, then suddenly somebody said, would you mind looking after procurement at the same time? And and people fell into that career. That’s less happening now more than people. It’s more professional, just institutional structures driven that to be a more professional way.

[00:15:08.470] – Jamie Levy

So it’s definitely looking up versus when I was 20 years ago.

[00:15:14.620] – Craig Greenhouse

So where as a profession do you think, what are the changes that are coming down the track? How are things changing? How will the job look in say five years time as compared to now? What differences will there be?

[00:15:27.310] – Jamie Levy

I think if you talk to any person in procurement, we always say cost. We hope the reliance away from cost is one of the element. We don’t want to be the guys who are always the bad guys, who are always trying to kick you for the extra few pennies.

[00:15:46.780] – Jamie Levy

I think as a result of COVID, there’s a few things that are going to change. Risk in the supply chain is going to be huge. And no matter where you go, the conversations on the supply chain are growing. The demands for you to understand the risk in supply chain, block chain, and the such are all growing.

[00:16:05.950] – Jamie Levy

And I think that’s going to change the focus. It already was there, really when you were in a manufacturing environment. But I think outside of that into services environment, it wasn’t really looked at. I think that’s changing now from what I’m hearing and from what I’m seeing in the work I’m doing.

[00:16:21.040] – Craig Greenhouse

And we’ve seen a massive risk in the global supply chain with that container ship that decided to block the entire global trade for a few days, haven’t we?

[00:16:29.140] – Jamie Levy

Exactly. And I’m in California now. And if you go online and try and try and buy things from IKEA, you find half the products are missing. And the reason why is because all of those products are actually sitting outside in a port because the staff in the port in California are on leave because of COVID.

[00:16:50.200] – Jamie Levy

So they’ve got something 20 ships that are sitting outside California that are waiting to dock to unload, so that’s all those kind of products. So that’s all risk in supply chain. And this has got to be assessed, and traditionally nobody ever looked at that.

[00:17:05.770] – Jamie Levy

Everyone said, well, if we get it faster, we’ll do it that way for the cost. I think the second piece to that is the whole digitalisation piece, the way the digitalisation is coming and speeding up the supply chain. And so how can we get through the process quicker? How can we manage and organise things a lot faster?

[00:17:30.640] – Jamie Levy

Purchase to pay, we’ve all seen the explosion of purchase  to pay Oracle and the likes. Most of the people are listening to us would have dealt with Oracle, would have dealt with SAP and implementations and all those wonderful things that go along.

[00:17:44.440] – Jamie Levy

But those things are all becoming standard. It’s becoming the norm, not the option for the companies. Say as that grows more and more, as that implements itself more and more, things will happen faster. Expectations are higher. There’s always an expectation that when you do anything in technology that things will happen very fast, very quickly and be very, very cheap.

[00:18:07.840] – Jamie Levy

The reality is somewhere in the middle of that and what is the expectation? But it’s not quite. It’s not quite going to match that yet. So I think that’s the other one. I think we’ll go back to what I call the fundamental principles.

[00:18:26.530] – Jamie Levy

So one of the fundamental principles that I was taught many years ago was that you should spend between 60 and 70 percent of your time out with supplies, not sitting on your desk. We spend huge amounts of time with stakeholders and looking stakeholders, not understanding our suppliers and not understanding what goes on with them.

[00:18:45.310] – Jamie Levy

So if you’re managing, which is quite common now, if you’re managing a couple hundred million or one hundred million in spend and you may have 30, 40, 50, 100 suppliers, how can you possibly manage that without actually understanding suppliers? And understanding suppliers doesn’t mean just sitting at a desk and reading books on them.

[00:19:04.180] – Jamie Levy

It means actually getting out and understand how that

[00:19:06.580] – Craig Greenhouse

It’s mirroring selling effectively because buying is selling, isn’t it? As the saying buying is selling. So you have to be out there and actually talking to people, building relationships, understanding where pain points are, and solving problems.

[00:19:18.400] – Jamie Levy

Yeah, and we’ll spend more time. There’s more connection needed with the internal customers. That’s always been the same. It’s just there’s been a lot of focus on the internal customers. Once we can get the processes in place to deal with that, then I think we’ll start to have more time for people to be out there.

[00:19:37.240] – Jamie Levy

And I think with the remote working, that’s going to be more of a driver. I think people will go to suppliers more and will go out to see people more because they won’t want to necessarily be at home all the time. They will need to see other people. They will need to see what business is going on.

[00:19:53.830] – Jamie Levy

And because of the risk element, you need to see physically what’s going on. We all know you can’t necessarily trust everything on a spreadsheet. I think those are the biggest ones. Artificial intelligence is coming through. This was talked about, say, 10 years ago.

[00:20:11.910] – Craig Greenhouse

It’s always the next big thing, isn’t it?

[00:20:13.120] – Jamie Levy

Yeah, there is. And artificial intelligence is coming through with something. So I think people are talking about when negotiation disappearing because of the artificial intelligence and various other elements. So I’m not sure yet. I don’t think it’s proven. I think they’re early adopters out there, but that’s definitely another one of the what I would call the top four things that are changing in the industry right now.

[00:20:35.450] – Craig Greenhouse

Okay, so finally, I just wanted to talk again about Procurement Development Network, otherwise known as PDNHub. So why the decision to set up PDNHub?

[00:20:46.990] – Jamie Levy

Obviously, we talked earlier about three strings in the vibe that we’ve actually created in the business. And it’s about having enough people. It’s about pushing using my skills to try and help everyone else. I think there’s a couple of things that I’ve seen in my career. I’ve seen older people who have huge amounts of knowledge, huge swathes of knowledge.

[00:21:12.100] – Jamie Levy

You just retire and disappear and we need that knowledge. The biggest question is always asked by anyone says, I want you to have the breadth of knowledge of the procurement process, but I want you to have the depths of knowledge of the category.

[00:21:24.800] – Jamie Levy

But I can’t get the depths of knowledge in the category of 20 years to be 10 years. So learn from it very quickly. Pick that knowledge very quickly. And I think that’s one of the things that PDN is trying today.

[00:21:36.430] – Jamie Levy

The other thing is, is that we got to bring the materials to the masses. We’re going to bring the training to the masses, because I think there’s an element that there are a lot of people out there that are training procurement for procurement people.

[00:21:49.720] – Jamie Levy

But we all know it’d be much easier if our customers actually understood 90 percent of what we’re talking about. So when we go to them and talk to them about tender, they actually know what we do. They’ve actually seen it before. They know what a tender is.

[00:22:01.360] – Jamie Levy

When we talk to them about any auction, they have a clue what reversely auction means. When we talk about stakeholder management, they understand what we’re trying to do and how we’re trying to connect with people.

[00:22:12.070] – Jamie Levy

So that element of training is really that and really needed. And the other bit  that’s been key is I’ve seen this in my career a number of times, is that depth of knowledge that we want people to have? What we need to try and do is we need to bring the experts in to do that. Let’s not try and sell something that we try and fluff our way through.

[00:22:34.130] – Jamie Levy

I remember years ago as a consultant that was put in front of a whole room of people in the consultancy, and I was asked to train these people on accountancy and on accounts.

[00:22:47.560] – Jamie Levy

And the first question I asked was, is anyone in accounting? And nobody put their hands up! And I got a really hard time from three people in the back. And eventually one of them, as we got toward the end, turned around and said, he had previously been the CFO of a  rather large corporate.

[00:23:04.060] – Jamie Levy

So when you get into that world where you got the expert, what I’ve learned is learn from them very quickly. So that’s our masterminds. Our masterminds will have the sprinkle, but will have the depth into them that will bring stuff that people will just be amazed about and be astounded to learn.

[00:23:24.010] – Jamie Levy

And that, I think, is the key for me, at PDNHub, we can do everything, because we’re not going to try and do everything. What we’re going to do is bring you the experts that can.

[00:23:35.320] – Craig Greenhouse

Great stuff. Sounds really good. Thanks for talking, Jamie. Thanks for taking the time.

[00:23:40.780] – Jamie Levy

No problems. Thank you, Craig. And looking forward to getting more work done with yourself.

[00:23:46.120] – Craig Greenhouse

Yeah. Great. Cheers.

[00:23:47.940] – Jamie Levy

Have a great day, Craig. Thanks.

[00:23:48.890] – Craig Greenhouse

You, too.


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