If you want procurement to be on the top table, make sure you’ve got something to say

Communication and how procurement can benefit from the art of telling stories

Episode highlights

Exciting trends in procurement
Why do most procurement transformations fail
Story telling in tech adoption
Aligning procurement to the business' strategy
Having something to say at the top table

Posted by: ZivioReading time: 101 minutes

With Simon Geale, EVP Procurement, Proxima

00:00:00 - Best of breed technology's lesson from putting monkeys in space
00:07:45 - Diversity of talent in procurement
00:17:30 - Why do most procurement transformations fail
00:28:00 - Story telling in tech adoption
00:37:50 - Aligning procurement to the business' strategy
00:44:40 - Building trust in supplier & stakeholder relationships
00:48:00 - Having something to say at the top table
01:01:00 - Preparing the story before you tell it
01:07:10 - Visualising a successful outcome
01:13:00 - Exciting trends in procurement


Jonny Dunning:  0:00        Okay, so Simon Geale, great to have you here. Thanks very much for joining me.

Simon Geale:       0:05        Pleasure, Jonny. Nice to see you again.

Jonny Dunning:  0:07        And I just said to you, we are probably not going to need all of the time. And you have just said to me, we probably will.

Simon Geale:       0:14        Yeah, because when someone says to you, we won’t need all of the time, it’s an invitation to you to take all of the time, pretty much talking about whatever you want.

Jonny Dunning:  0:23        Well, why not? So we are here to talk about having a seat at the table. It’s one of those areas that, as I have said to you before, it’s kind of like an overused term. It’s something that I think people get... It’s kind of been around the houses a little bit few too many times. But you have got a really interesting take on it. And this is something that came out in a conference that we were chatting at recently, where you said to me, “It’s all very well having a seat at the table, Jonny, but if you want to seat at the table, you need to have something interesting to say.” Which I found it really stuck in my head. And it was something that we discussed a little bit at the time. And I thought, a great opportunity to discuss in more detail. So we will come on to that. But before we do, I want to go back to the monkeys in space. No one brought it up multiple times. I want to go back to the monkeys in space, because this is probably a really good example of what we are going to talk about today. So we were at the World Conference. A guy asked the question to you innocently sitting there in the audience. And you started your answer with something along the lines of, in 1947, we put a monkey in space. 

Simon Geale:       1:40        ‘48. 

Jonny Dunning:  1:41        1948, sorry. So with that answer, you certainly got my attention. And I know there was a point behind it. But that communication style really intrigued me in the sense that it really got me listening. What was the...? Firstly, what’s the story behind it? But also how does that come into your way of communicating?

Simon Geale:       2:04        Right, you want to hear about the monkeys first? 

Jonny Dunning:  2:05        I want to hear about the monkey.

Simon Geale:       2:06        Right. Yeah. Okay. So, of course, it was purposefully stemmed from a conference I was talking about. And I was there to talk about tech. And, of course, the sort of... It’s almost become over popular, this whole narrative of bashing the big boys and talking about best of breed. And I wanted to have a slightly different slant on it. And I wanted to talk about the difference between what’s possible and what’s practical when it comes to tech, and somehow, my strange brain decided that talking about monkeys would be a good idea. And so, anyway, the story about the monkeys, let’s get it out of the way, right? In 1948... I have actually got some notes here, which will probably help with this. So in 1948, the American send a monkey up in space. His name was Albert. And what Albert was trying to do was to get up and reach this thing called common line. 

Jonny Dunning:  2:59        Common line?

Simon Geale:       2:59        Yeah, which is technically where space starts. 

Jonny Dunning:  3:03        So, effectively, end of the stratosphere and beginning of space or something along those lines. 

Simon Geale:       3:07        Something along those lines. 

Jonny Dunning:  3:07        I am probably wrong with that as well.

Simon Geale:       3:09        Well, I am not actually like a space fan or anything like that. So I don’t actually know how I fell into this. But, anyway, so Albert goes up. He doesn’t make it. He gets about 70 miles or something like that. And then his parachute doesn’t work or something and he dies on impact. Next year, they send up another monkey, Albert 2. He doesn’t make it either. Then they send another one, Albert 3. He gets up... I think he gets into space, but then his parachute fails. 

Jonny Dunning:  3:35        I feel quite sorry for these monkeys. 

Simon Geale:       3:37        Well, exactly. Then Albert 4 and Albert 5. And it goes on and on and on. And then in 1958, if you think about the concept of marginal gains continuous improvement, NASA have got all this data on these spaceflights. All this data on these flies that haven’t been successful. And unfortunately, the monkeys have died. And so taking all of that continuous improvement into practice, they came up with one fundamental shift. You know what it was? They change the name of the monkey. So, that’s 1958, Gordo, he didn’t make it. And then in 1959, a monkey called Miss Baker goes up into space with, I think, one called Abel. And they make it in space. They land successfully. And she goes on to live for 27 years. So she was the first primate to survive space travel. Anyway, don’t ask me why that’s applicable to procurement technology. But that’s where it came from. But why did I use it? Because I can stand there and say, everyone’s unhappy with insert large platform here. Everyone’s doing that already. So how are you going to be memorable? Because when you walk out that room, people were getting fed lots of information and lots of narrative, but how are you going to be memorable? And the fact that you remembered that, actually, is massive compliment to me. I am really happy you said that. Because you want people to go, that’s a bit different, that’s interesting. Maybe I will talk to him or something like that.

Jonny Dunning:  5:06        Exactly. In a world of so much information, how do you make your message stand out? But also, for me, it was like, how do you make your message have impact? So it caught my attention immediately. And I listened intently to what you were saying after that. And I think one of the things you pointed out was that if we look at the fact that NASA were launching monkeys into space in 1948, through to successfully in 1958, when a woman finally got the job done, one of your points was that actually we should expect high rates of development in terms of the way that technology operates. And actually, in some ways, you could be slightly underwhelmed by where we are now. And that kind of fed into the whole kind of debate around it really.

Simon Geale:       5:55        Yeah, and when I first said it, what I wanted to come out with, was it just a different way of doing that sort of platform bashing, which was effectively going to be: “We sent a monkey into space in 1948. And here we are, 70 old years later or 80 years later, and people still can’t get their spend analysis right.” And so that was kind of the point. But in doing that, I then almost pivoted that message slightly, that a lot of people... Again, I am no sort of space geek or anything like that. But in researching the stories, a lot of people say that: “Oh, there’s more technology or more processing power in my phone than there was in the space shuttle that then sent men to the moon about 10 years later.” And that’s true. There was. But it’s not because the tech didn’t exist, it’s because they needed something practical that would be reliable that they knew they could get to the moon and back with. And so it’s this message that we can talk about the bleeding edge. All do we like. But actually, for a lot of people, they are just trying to plot a course. And that means being inspired by what’s possible, but doing what’s practical, and not getting sort of way late. And I guess that’s where the monkey story develops too, which is probably a far more mature narrative than “Let’s go and bash a platform.”

Jonny Dunning:  7:12        Yeah, more mature. And it kind of inspires more thought and conversation in terms of the ways people’s brains interpret it.

Simon Geale:       7:22        Yeah. And I think if you walk into a room, as you, I, and anybody who’s listening, or anybody out there does, you got to think about how you make an impact. And if you are asking for a decision, or if you are promoting yourself or promoting something else, how do you make an impact that people take it away and remember it?

Jonny Dunning:  7:46        So, I think that’s the kind of key theme I want to discuss with you, just to expand on that. But before we get into that, I would be interested in your take on the type of talent that exists in procurement at the moment, the type of talent that needs to be coming into procurement. And just what skills are required and how that’s changing? Because I do feel like that feeds into it in terms of... What are the kind of base skill set we are working with? Where does that need to go? And how does that tie into this part of the conversation?

Simon Geale:       8:20        Well, that’s an interesting question. Well, I think, you got to start by saying there is more talent coming into procurement than there’s ever been. It’s now...

Jonny Dunning:  8:31        Do you mean more people in general, or high quality talent, or both?

Simon Geale:       8:35        I mean, both. So it’s an entry-level career path now recognized. There’s several universities and further education establishments who are teaching about procurement and supply chain. And we are certainly seeing a higher quality of enthusiastic people coming through the system who want to forge a career in procurement. And, of course, like any other profession, it’s a mixed bag. But I certainly think that on a sort of pure procurement skills basis, I think things are improving, I think we are seeing high-quality people, using better quality tools, doing the things that you would expect them to do. But if you look around the fringes, and we can talk... This is great because now we can talk about Novak Djokovic, which is something I wanted to do. So, look around the fringes of what a procurement person should be able to do. And that’s where you find the stars. So that’s the people who can seamlessly get their head around tech. It’s the people who can influence. It’s the people who are curious. It’s the people who can tell stories. It’s the people who can inspire trust and inspire action. And those are the sorts of skills that regardless of what you do, whether it’s procurement or finance or something else, those are the things that are going to make you stand out and be the best at what you can be. So can I tell the Novak Djokovic story now? 

Jonny Dunning:  10:14      Yeah, go for it. 

Simon Geale:       10:15      So, Novak Djokovic, again, I am no sort of tennis buff, but this sue the narrative on a presentation I was given once on marginal gains. And I will find the exact stats because it’s important.

Jonny Dunning:  10:29      Just before we dive into it, one quick thing to add. When you were talking about the talent coming into procurement, do you feel it’s less of a situation now where not so many people are gonna say, “Oh, I kind of fell into procurement”?

Simon Geale:       10:43      Oh yeah, definitely. I mean, I fell into it. But every year we hire a bunch of grads who have purposely done it. And some of them haven’t.

Jonny Dunning:  10:52      But you can say it on the tech side as well, in terms of the level of investment in procurement technology, the growth size, plenty of unicorns out there in the procurement technology market. That was never the case. That wasn’t quite as much the case. It’s rapidly growing, rapidly accelerating. And at some point, will probably be as big as marketing technology market, which is absolutely massive. So it’s kind of paralleled in the way that procurement is developing really rapidly. But it’s a function that is younger than some other functions in terms of its sort of inception. 

Simon Geale:       11:22      Yeah, I think so. In procure tech, sustain tech, risk tech, they are counter cyclical at the moment. They are really performing well in terms of getting investment. Not to say that it’s another challenging time for those who are out seeking funding now, but certainly, if you look at trends like that, that gives you a flavor of where ultimately the people who got the money think, the market is going, which can be super important. 

Jonny Dunning:  11:47      Yeah, so back to Novak Djokovic. 

Simon Geale:       11:49      Yeah. So, obviously, world’s most successful tennis player. We are certainly one-off debate, whatever. I think he’s world number one for the longest period of time, something like that. But the thing that struck me was this, right? So in 2004... Well, let’s just backtrack. The data here comes from a study that was done, which is basically, what they did was they measured the percentage of correct decisions on a tennis court. So, essentially, when you play a shot, is it going in? Is it a win or whatever? Versus, is it a bad shot? And in 2004, Novak Djokovic was something like - I don’t have the exact stats in front of me - something like numbers 641 in the world or something like that, and he was making about... I think it’s about 46-47% of those decisions right. And he earned $35,000 on a single tour. Fast forward three years. And he’s improved that percentage by about three percentage points. And he’s up to number four in the world. 

Jonny Dunning:  12:51      Wow. 

Simon Geale:       12:52      And he earns $3.4 million. And you fast forward four years, 2011, he’s number one in the world, he’s got another two or three percentage points. So it’s about five percentage points swing upwards. And he’s earning $10.9 million. In 2015, he goes on to win $15 million, etc. But there’s a lovely quote, which I haven’t got in front of me, so I can’t recite it. But he says something like, in terms of playing ability, there’s nothing between the top 100. And I think you can apply that to procurement or any profession. In terms of core skills, there’s nothing between your standard professionals. What made him stand out was the little things, the marginal gains, like looking at the grip on his shoes with the surfaces, looking at his recovery, never drinking cold water during a tournament, taking his own pillow with him, etc. There’s loads and loads of stuff that he did around the edges. And I think you can liken that to your ability to tell stories, your ability to inspire trust, ability to influence. Because if you don’t, you will be in that sort of technical box of very good technician, excellent technician, keeping being a technician, and which is fine, right? You can have a brilliant career doing that. And some people definitely won’t do that. I am certainly not trying to drive down on that. But that CEO at the table point, where in the boardroom people are looking for inspiration, influence, business thinking, critical thinking, decision support, etc. those are perhaps some of the things around the edges, which if you want to CEO at the table and to be relevant.

Jonny Dunning:  14:35      It feels like - the way you are positioning that - they are ultimately differentiators.

Simon Geale:       14:41      Yeah, I think so. And by the way, I am not saying here as some sort of guru who pretends to be brilliant at them. There’s just things I have observed personally. And, actually, someone said to me, not too long ago. And we talk about this call from within the marketing team, approximate, which is one of the things that I do. When everyone else is zigging, you go zagging. And I think is that thing about, if everyone else is really strong at the technical procurement stuff, what are you going to do to stand out? What are you going to be the best at? And I think it’s really important as well, because we are all human beings, we are all different, we all have things that we are good at, or not so good at, and you need to bring those things out that you are good at, or you enjoy doing outside.

Jonny Dunning:  15:33      That’s the beauty of everybody being different, isn’t it? It’s adding different input, different thought processes, different experiences. Otherwise, if everyone had the same ideas, you just haven’t got that breadth and depth that allows you to solve problems.

Simon Geale:       15:48      Yeah. And I might be overdoing it because I have come from... In the last decade, a half at least, come from consulting background, where there’s a perception, and sometimes a true perception, that you try and grow people to be to fit a mold, and you take one consultant, output another in, and you lose nothing, etc. And I have certainly seen that in some of the firms I worked with in early in my career, but unfortunately, now that’s not the case. We sort of celebrate differences and try and bring those things out where I am now. But I think for young people, coming into the profession and looking at experienced practitioners, I hope that they are looking at who inspires me by telling stories, who do I want to follow because of their leadership, who has a really creative edge, or who goes the extra mile. I hope they are looking at those things alongside how do I do the things that are ultimately going to be automated.

Jonny Dunning:  16:45      Yeah, very good point. And that’s the kind of automation conversation I find that quite interesting in the sense that, for us, as a procurement technology vendor, occasionally you would kind of come across those situations where I don’t know a category manager or somebody like that might sort of go. But is this a threat to my job? And ultimately, automation is there to automate the things that should be automated so that the professionals working in the area can actually concentrate on the more cerebral strategic, nuanced activities that they can really, devote themselves to. So, it’s an opportunity, really, but I think there’s an opportunity within the profession in general, not just with the new people coming in, but with people already in existing roles in terms of upskilling, looking at how they can do things differently. And the point I wanted to come on to next was around why procurement transformations, in some cases, or perhaps in many cases, actually fail? Because I think certainly from briefly chatting with you about this before, you had quite an interesting perspective on this in the sense that a lot of them don’t even get off the ground in the first place.

Simon Geale:       17:56      Pressures really on, isn’t it? When someone says you got an interesting perspective?

Jonny Dunning:  18:01      I have built that right up there, haven’t I?

Simon Geale:       18:05      What was that? Did you actually say something interesting? I mean, you can be shaped by your own experiences, aren’t you? And in many ways, I suppose in many ways, that’s right. But I sort of see four stages of transformation. And the first one is also a case for change is that up front piece before you have sort of gone and secured the budget and got everyone aligned, and then you can sort of move into, design, the change itself, and then what happens afterwards. And transformations fail, at all stages, any project can fail at all stages of that. But I think most probably be Dragon’s Den, right, or whatever it’s called, in other countries, Shark Tank, and I don’t know, whatever. But it’s probably a bit like that, isn’t it? A bunch of people go in with this case for change and this pitch, and they are after investment. And the people sat there, they know that they are not going to invest in everything that comes through the door that day, they are going to try and pick the best things that they see. And some of them win, and some of them don’t. And generally speaking, they win because there’s something interesting that they have done, the economic stack up, they are on top of it, they are inspiring, and they inspire belief and you know, the person who’s got the money and it’s not that different, is it? When you are going in and pitching a transformation or a project or whatever. And here’s... So, because I am a consultant, and because part of my responsibility is marketing, I love surveys.

Jonny Dunning:  19:44      Right.

Simon Geale:       19:45      Because that’s what happens, isn’t it? You go and surveys people and then you go 60% of people don’t know surveys or something like that. And but we did one about four or five years ago, when sort of best of breed narrative was sort of bubbling under and we were really seeking to figure out whether people were going to follow this best of breed route. But we are also looking at a digital transformation. And as we sort of called it back then before it became fashionable, and we asked people about transformations failing and success, etc. And the thing that really struck me was that there was a question in there about whether or not your transformation would be perceived as a success before you... And we uncover that about 30-40% of the 2000 or so people who answered thought that the transformations that they would go, will be deemed a failure. But that was before they even started them. 

Jonny Dunning:  20:48      Right.

Simon Geale:       20:49      And so there was this, this feeling that before you start, are you starting out to succeed or starting to fail and that can be a number of things, it can be your confidence of getting the investment, it can be the perception that you are painting, and will it live up to it etc.? And then the follow up question was that a similar percentage or something like 40-50%, were concerned that they were not going to be able to go and get the blessing and the funding from the sec. So, if all that talk of seeing the stats coming out about 70%, or what, five or six transformations fail, or whatever, I think a lot of fail before they have even gone through the Dragon’s Den.

Jonny Dunning:  21:29      It’s like a funnel, isn’t it? That’s probably the highest percentage failure point at that stage, as the funnel kind of narrows down to those that get past step one and step two, and step three, I think it’s a really interesting analogy you make about Dragon’s Den, because, absolutely, as far as the, whoever signing off the budget goes, they are not just looking at this one opportunity. It’s not just a question of, is this worth the money? Is this more important than doing X? And it’s like, a guy that I have done a lot of work with, in the past, always used to say to me, when you are talking about company budgets, yeah. But Jonny, they have got a tarmac, the car park as well. 

Simon Geale:       22:04      You know that’s really, really interesting, because when I was one of my sort of procure tech adventures, two time failed procure tech adventure. On the first one, I saw a cottoned on to the idea that those two things really make people act or make people release funding. It’s fear or opportunity. But fear is much more successful of the two, a lot of the transformation cases that you will take into, in procurement, at least, compared to finance or finance transformation in the old days, a BPO, would essentially be right, we are paying X, and we are going to pay Y. And it’s going to save us 25%, whatever. And the guy across the table knows that he’s gonna go through a bit of pain. But actually, he thinks, right, well, even if we get 50% of that, we are paying X and we are gonna get Y plus whatever, that’s not a bad case, let’s go for it. And then a procurement transformation walks through and says, “Well, we are doing it this way.” And if we do it this way, we could save X and the ROI is going to be this. And it’s a hypothetical ROI. It’s not, paying this getting that.

Jonny Dunning:  23:15      It’s always a more complex measurement. I mean, it’s people are working towards it. But it’s much more complex than just saying we are currently paying X. And it’s then going to cost.

Simon Geale:       23:23      Yeah, and you are saying that to someone across the table, who’s probably, let’s say, they have got a procurement function today, maybe doesn’t necessarily bank the savings on the bottom line, doesn’t necessarily believe the ROI. There’s all these doubts swirling around in their mind, which it might be a brilliant story, it might absolutely be true, but there’s those doubts swirling around in their mind. Whereas, if you walk in and say, if we do not buy this piece of tech, we are going to fall foul of regulation X, or there is this risk. Generally speaking, that inspires people to act more, which is a sad state of affairs. Right. But I think fear can be a great motivator.

Jonny Dunning:  24:05      Yeah, I think the other thing that you brought up was about people almost kind of expecting failure, before they have even begun, before they have even tried it. I think it’s partly about people not having visibility of or understanding or experience of the flight path. 

Simon Geale:       24:21      Yeah. 

Jonny Dunning:  24:22      And I think this is where people can be very successful on a consulting and an interim background, where they carried out a successful transformation, and they can take that blueprint somewhere else and take that methodology with them, or even that attitude and understanding where the winds are. And that applies to sport and things like that as well. It’s like, some of the stuff in sport now, one of my friends was a really good BMX rider, when he was a kid, really, really high level, but the stuff that people the professionals are doing now is so much more advanced than what people did back in the day because kids can just jump on YouTube and go, Oh, yeah, that double backflip, that’s doable, and I am watching it, I am gonna do it and I can do that. Whereas before these things have actually been achieved, people just look at and go, there’s absolutely no way that’s gonna work, I am definitely gonna smash my head and break my neck. 

Simon Geale:       25:09      Yeah. 

Jonny Dunning:  25:09      So, I think the more that conversations can be shared, and the more that procurement as an industry can collaborate, and have open discussions, is only going to help, it’s only going to help people who are maybe at the beginning of a journey, where they are listening to people who have been through the journey multiple times, or advised other people on the journey, they can gain that confidence from understanding. They need to understand the objective before they actually get started, really.

Simon Geale:       25:35      Yeah, I think I think that’s absolutely right, actually. I think, painting a picture or telling a story, I don’t know, it just spoke about fear. But I think I believe that you need sort of what I call blend magic and logic in a story to sort of inspire people. And some of that inspiration might be through opportunity. Some of it might be through fear. But I do think if you are asking someone to go in, and essentially give you their backing or give you money, or resources, whatever. I do think you have really got to go and give it your best shot. And I see a lot of... I see, it’s probably me actually. I can recall times where you think, right, I will go and do this pitch, or I will go into this presentation. And you get your slides out and you sit there and you write everything down. And you send it off and you think, Oh, thank God for that, right? When’s the thing right? Next Tuesday, okay. And you go next Tuesday, and you go in and you talk through it, and you start getting asked questions and you disintegrate under the questions and it’s clear, you haven’t rehearsed it, and it all sort of falls apart, and it doesn’t fall apart, because it’s not a good, not good case. It falls apart because you haven’t prepared it properly. You have seen the writing of the presentation is the end, whereas it’s not, it’s somewhere in the middle. And I think people can be a lot more, or I think it’s easy to be a lot more effective. If you sort of see that, that element of it, the Shark Tank, or the Dragon’s Den pitch or the presentation. Which is just one of the tools in you going and presenting your case and getting that investment back. 

Jonny Dunning:  27:25      Yeah, I think in the same way that you can kind of smell fear in someone if they smell the nerves. And it’s someone if they are putting forward a presentation. If somebody’s actually thinking about the outcome, and actually thinking about a successful outcome. I think that comes across because just the thought process is different. If you are pitching something that you are already thinking about a successful outcome, clearly you have thought about planning, you thought about budgets, you thought about execution, you thought about why it’s important, what it’s going to deliver, and what the world is going to look like when that’s done. I think that’s critical in any kind of pitch. And procurement are well versed in dealing with pitches, quite often they are on the other end of it. So, procurement professionals in general have strong negotiation skills, they are good at that relationship building, building rapport. But I think in terms of addressing this type of transformation, there are tangibles and intangibles within it. When you are talking about ROI, for example, that’s definitely more towards the slightly more intangible scale of things as it stands. But both have to be addressed. And it can’t just rely on kind of just factual information. But also it has to have that a bit of that aspiration around it really, doesn’t it?

Simon Geale:       28:43      Yeah, I think it doesn’t. I just think as you were talking about, because, I mean, if you look at what you do, and what your platform does, and a lot of other tools and tech and etc. You are essentially doing probably lots of things but what springs to mind is two things, you may be asking someone to do something slightly differently to the way that they do it today. And you may be asking them to use a tool, which is different to the tool that they use today. And if you put that into a four box model, you are going to end up with, you bottom left hand corner will be well I already do this, and I already use this tool, so they are already sort of transferred if you would like or transformed, whatever, that sounds terrible, isn’t it? But then you have got what I do this activity, but I have got to adopt a new tool. So, then you are into a case of well, how do I persuade those people? What’s the faster better, what’s in it for you argument that or perhaps the other element is, well, I am using this tool but I don’t do this activity today like turning on SRM or something in a platform blah, blah. So, what’s the benefit of the activity? What’s...? Why is this important to the business, etc.? And then up in the top right you will have what I don’t do this today. And I don’t use this tool today. And if you want to complete sort of reeducation there. And a lot of change programs are simply. Well, we are doing this, we are going to do all this. It’s great for the business, etc. that doesn’t get to the heart of the small [Unclear] the person, the person there, that the rational human, that sits at the center of all this, who’s got to be persuaded if it’s going to work. And I think a lot of things failed because of that human adoption at the back end. And just probably not thinking about them as irrational individuals.

Jonny Dunning:  30:39      Well, it ties into what you are talking around telling stories. And it ties into this multi-level, human acceptance of, for example, transformation as a concept as something that’s worth doing. So, you have got the Dragon’s Den stage, where you have got to convince the paymasters, that this is something worth investing in. You have got to convince your team, your colleagues to buy into it. You have got to convince technology providers to work with you in the right way perhaps. But more importantly, within the organization, you have got to convince stakeholders and your colleagues and other people involved, finance may be involved in in the process. For example, for us on the services, procurement side of things, we are dealing with complex services categories, when it comes down to invoicing our system can produce those invoices off the back of a milestone and a statement of work, but then need to interface really easily with finance, because finance don’t want to change. So, part of that narrative is to finance, you are not going to have to change anything, you are not even necessarily going to have to adopt any new systems. It’s going to work really easily for you. But it’s all around the story of why this is worthwhile for every different person along the way. So, do you think procurement teams typically communicate well within organizations?

Simon Geale:       32:01      No, but I don’t think organizations typically communicate or functions typically communicate well. I mean, it’s a big question, isn’t it? I mean, I think I have seen a lot of transformations or procurement leaders talk a lot over the last 5-10 years about the brand of procurement and needing to sell procurement and all of that. I think my shift into... When I shifted into sort of, or took on marketing as part of what I did, I think, and start working with professional marketers. It really opened my eyes to actually what happens upstream from sales and that concept of creating a brand, understanding your customers. So, a customer centric approach that we then rebadged as customer centric procurement about five or six years ago, because ultimately, procurement is for its customers, in the same way as stories are for the audience, or presentations are for the people in the room not for the person who’s, who’s giving it. And honestly, when you ask that question, I can see three or four different parts that we could we could talk about which were all super interesting. But let me talk about robot vacuum cleaners. Have you got a robot vacuum cleaner?

Jonny Dunning:  33:22      No, no. But again, you have got my attention. 

Simon Geale:       33:25      I came home one night after some sort of evening out. And I got home at around about midnight, and I walked into the kitchen and there’s this box. And I thought I was box. This is really exciting. So, it’s quite a big box. And then I opened up the big box. And then there’s another box inside... 

Jonny Dunning:  33:41      Even better. 

Simon Geale:       33:41      And it said on it, robot vacuum cleaner. And I thought that’s a bit odd. That’s a bit odd. I never knew I wanted the robot vacuum cleaner. But there’s one in my kitchen. And so I went to bed and I sort of nudged Mrs. Geale, who didn’t thank me for nudging her, in quite industrial language. And I said, “There’s a robot vacuum cleaner downstairs.” And she said, “I know.” And that was it. And so...

Jonny Dunning:  34:06      I know, I ordered it.

Simon Geale:       34:07      Yeah, no. Bizarrely, it was a gift from some friends for something we did for them. 

Jonny Dunning:  34:12      Oh, right. 

Simon Geale:       34:13      I mean, that’s a heck of a gift. Right? Anyway. So robot vacuum cleaners, the robot vacuum cleaner, that was a big one in the US, the Roomba. And they did a focus group, essentially, of customers saying, “Well, how would you like to improve the Roomba?” And they said, “Well, you know, we would like it to be more powerful bit faster, a bit quieter, something like that.” And so the engineers go away, and they figure out well, how can we put more power in, longer battery life, I think that was a bit faster, etc. And so they reconfigure it, re-engineer it and they come back with this thing, which is faster, more powerful and longer battery life. In doing that, they took out some features and one of the features they took out was a little voice that when it bumped into things it went boop but they feel well that does matter because people want it faster and more budget blah, blah, blah. And they, really the focus groups and actually satisfaction went down. Why? Because people quite liked it. 

Jonny Dunning:  35:04      Yeah. 

Simon Geale:       35:05      Because the rational side of them, the logical side would have gone well, it’s only a robot vacuum cleaner, it doesn’t matter. Look at it now it’s better, it’s gotta clean, faster, quieter, longer battery life problem. But actually, they say they are going to work quite like that. And actually, I named it. We have named ours by the way, it’s called Barry. And that emotional side of it, you can’t get away from the fact that human beings are irrational creatures. And actually a study that we cottoned on to by Lindstrom Foundation, which is sort of a brand marketing foundation, bit divisive, but essentially, they said that 85% of human decisions are based on emotion rather than logic. We live in a world where procurement tries to sort of force the logic. And so it’s tempting to go in with logical arguments every time but people are looking for that emotional element in their sort of stories, their decision making, etc.

Jonny Dunning:  36:02      I suppose especially, sorry to interrupt you there, but especially, if your world is 90% logic based information coming your way, then maybe that emotional side of people in that situation is under stimulated, and therefore has a higher percentage value.

Simon Geale:       36:22      Yeah, yeah. And I did a presentation on this about five or six years ago. I am calling it faster horses, because there’s that quote of Henry Ford asked people where they want it. They would say, faster horses. If you went into, procurements got all these customers, and we always talk about procurement, the procurement service touching everyone in the business. So, everyone in the business is your customer. Forget about end customers for a second. New customers. If you went and asked all those people, what they wanted from procurement, which is an important thing to do, you are probably going to get back faster horses scenario. They will go well, I would like it to be a bit easier, bit faster. And but kind of the same. So, you are then being defined by their view of what procurement should be. But I think you can shoot for a bit more, I think you can try and figure out if you are going to design a worldly and function, if you are going to make a transformation that inspires and goes beyond what people thought was possible. You got to get further, you have got to understand well, what’s their objectives? What do they worry about? What can procurement do that they don’t think it can do today? Because I do think that sometimes we are only. If you ask the question, what do you want from procurement, you are always going to be defined by what that person thinks that procurement can do.

Jonny Dunning:  37:49      So, there is an opportunity for procurement to position themselves in a way that’s far more inspirational. I always think this just can be far more tied to the organization’s overall goals. Just in terms of that alignment, it’s not just about what a procurement going to do for me, as a stakeholder. It’s about why are important procurement important within this organization? How do they contribute to this overall journey that we are all on?

Simon Geale:       38:17      Yeah, I think there is that impact point. And actually, a lot of functions let’s not pretend that, let’s not sit here and go, Well, everyone needs to do this, this is the new, the new big thing, a lot of functions are already doing that. Yeah, there’s some brilliant digital functions out there, some brilliant creative functions, some brilliant cost transformation functions. There are some absolutely fabulous examples of world class procurement out there today in the market. What’s interesting, though, is that when you profile procurements customers, all around the business, whether that’s people running R&D, or people in finance, or people just sort sat there ordering stuff from time to time, or people doing big, strategic IT programs, they do all kinds of want different things, which makes it very difficult to provide a one size fits all model. And where we sort of started to look towards was that there are some brilliant digital functions, who perhaps are not necessarily that well engaged on the more strategic stuff. There are some brilliant creative functions who are out there doing the innovation and strategic stuff, we are perhaps not necessarily that digitally mature and they kind of map to the rhythm of the business. And they find it, if you have one flavor of procurement, it can be quite hard to project that flavor on to other parts of the business. You don’t necessarily want to work in that way. Simple example is, if you take competing objectives like reduce cost, generate ROI, or generate growth, or standardization and flexibility, competing objectives, which are all completely valid in the same company at the same time, point towards different flavors of procurement. So, low cost standardization, there’s no reason why that can’t be completely automated, or extremely automated if you have got the budget and the people to do it. But that’s a tech function, it’s not a procurement function anymore. Like the product is the service, it’s the digital service that you have built and the transparency and the visibility of it, so run it like a tech function. So, he talks about skills, what sort of people... Well, you need people who can run a commercial tech function, because that’s what that is. And then at the other end, when you think about growth, or ROI and flexibility, well, that’s an innovation function. And so what sort of skills you need there? Well, you need people who are curious, can engage well, project procurement and they have got those mindsets that suit that, that’s very different to the tech function. And so in a large function that where you have got the ability to grow the separate strands of procurement, if you are going to truly integrate into the business and become a business enabler, and all of that, you probably build in different flavors, I think.

Jonny Dunning:  41:19      Or I guess, different kinds of capabilities within the broader function. Flavor sounds... Flavors... Again, flavors is more emotive. But I think you are right. And from a supplier perspective, that’s an important consideration as well. So, there’s the how does... What experience does the business get from procurement? What does that feel like again, emotion or what does it feel like to deal with procurement? Why does procurement feel valuable, important and useful to you, as a business stakeholder, exactly the same from a suppliers point of view when it comes to things like innovation, that’s not where the supplier needs to get the hard edge side of it, or the super automated side of it. That’s you are saying about the kind of logic versus magic.

Simon Geale:       42:08      Yeah.

Jonny Dunning:  42:08      That’s where it needs to feel like a collaborative environment where maybe that magic within the supplier can be brought in to benefit the business. But there’s got to be an understanding of working that out together and allowing some creativity to flourish.

Simon Geale:       42:22      Yeah, I think that’s... You know what, I was part of an innovation program not too long ago. And it was really interesting because we bought together a bunch of suppliers and the customer, etc. I was just brought along too as an observer and someone to sort of chat to. But what I found was that everyone was getting very excited about this collaboration and innovation approach on the client side, and how collaborative it was. But then on the supplier side, certainly initially, it felt extremely transactional. And sitting there and watching the sessions taking place, it felt very formal, it felt very buyer-supplier, it didn’t feel very collaborative with...

Jonny Dunning:  43:08      People sitting on one side of the table going, show me some innovation.

Simon Geale:       43:11      Essentially, it was a little bit like that. And you sort of being marched into, metaphorically marched into a virtual room, camera goes on five people.

Jonny Dunning:  43:22      Do your best impression of me.

Simon Geale:       43:23      Yeah, it was like that. And I remember afterwards saying, “Well, look...” Everyone was very happy with how it went. I said, “Look, I think you got focus on this supplier experience here for a second because I don’t feel collaborative behaviors being displayed here.” And anyway, again, probably nothing to do with me, but it went on to be a great success. And I think they have done a fantastic job. But as a supplier, ourselves, the supplier experience is really, really important. When you are a new note as well when you are looking at your clients. You don’t want an easy ride. You don’t want...

Jonny Dunning:  44:04      You don’t expect an easy ride.

Simon Geale:       44:05      And you don’t... No one wants one, what you want is a good productive working relationship, which is based on mutual value. That’s what suppliers want.

Jonny Dunning:  44:16      And again, storytelling, engage in the emotional side of it. We are all human beings. And it’s always going to be humans, whether it’s humans having those interactions and making those decisions at the end of the day. And even as a supplier you need to buy into what that procurement team wants to achieve. So, when we were talking about kind of getting the buy-in from the different people, in different parts of the process, mentioned the suppliers as well, that is important because engaging in that partnership. What’s the bigger goal? Where do you want to get to? It’s quite inspiring from a supply perspective as well. I certainly find that when we engage with customers and they have really got a vision and they want to engage with us. They want to engage our expertise, our knowledge of what works within the market, best practices, etc. That’s where suppliers are naturally there’s that extra mile, that is possible to go the extra mile. And supplies, generally, in a lot of cases always want to go the extra mile. But in some cases, they might not be given the space to do that. So, I think tying them in with this kind of openness and a vision of where you want to get to, again, it comes back to understanding what the journey, what desired outcomes are. That’s really powerful on the supplier side as well.

Simon Geale:       45:28      Yeah, we have seen quite a lot of that now, aren’t we? Lots of people, especially in things like ESG, rooting their supplier relationships and the overall objectives and having supplier days and a lot of collaboration. And I think it’s fantastic. And I have never seen collaboration on this level before. You can get a bit drunk on it, it’s still not as a percentage of activity out there is still pretty minuscule. But the examples are super inspiring. And those stories are going to inspire others to go and it’s going to do the same thing. And I think one of the things we spoke about before, which I really think is the importance of trust in those relationships, and consultant bullshit, there’s a thing called the trust equation.

Jonny Dunning:  46:16      It could be a nine-box or something, isn’t it? 

Simon Geale:       46:17      Yeah. Yeah. 

Jonny Dunning:  46:21      So, it’s an equation, what’s it called?

Simon Geale:       46:22      The trust equation. 

Jonny Dunning:  46:23      Right. 

Simon Geale:       46:24      And we use it, but I think it’s really interesting is credibility, reliability, intimacy, over self-orientation equals trust. So, broadly speaking, saying, are you credible? People look at and think, yeah, they are credible, you do what you say? And are you there? Are you around? Are you there? Are you in the room? Are you part of it? And then divided by? Are you essentially not proud? So you know, and that’s the sort of thing that can inspire trust. But if you just reverse engineer that, and say, why wouldn’t someone trust me, because you don’t display credibility, because you are never there, because you never do what you said you are going to do. And because whatever, you don’t listen to him or you march in there or, or whatever. So, you can unpick it, look at it the other way, and say why wouldn’t people trust you? And you can do that with your stakeholder relationships, you can do that with your supplier relationships. But when you... Because what you are looking for, isn’t it? You are looking for that person that when you look, you look them in the eyes, when they are not there. You just know, you just know that you are working towards the same thing. And so I think, for individuals thinking about, just unpick it, just say do I inspire trust? I am sat here moaning about my stakeholders, or my suppliers, have I done my part? Am I inspiring them? Or am I ambiguous or whatever? You know, putting ambiguity in there or whatever?

Jonny Dunning:  47:55      Yeah, yeah. Again, it’s unlocking the relationship with people. And it’s unlocking the conversation, and it’s unlocking the motivation. And I think when it comes to storytelling, and taking on the emotional side of it, you are putting a picture in people’s minds of what the objective is, what this brave new world looks like, why it’s going to be great to achieve whatever it is you are trying to do. I guess it kind of comes back to originally the kind of start the conversation around, if you want a seat at the table, make sure you have got something to say. Because there’s no point being putting yourself in that situation, you might only get one opportunity to really convince people or to really make things happen, whether it’s trying to get a transformation, budget approved, or whether it’s trying to get buy-in from your suppliers, buy-in from your stakeholders, etc. Because otherwise, you have kind of put yourself in a position and you are not ready to take advantage of it.

Simon Geale:       48:56      Yeah, in 30 seconds, I am gonna ask you what the best gig you have ever been to was. Or...

Jonny Dunning:  49:00      Blur in Sydney in 1998.

Simon Geale:       49:05      Right. In 30 seconds. I am going to ask you that.

Jonny Dunning:  49:07      Oh, sorry. I felt like I was under a 30 second timeline.

Simon Geale:       49:11      I was gonna say one thing about, which we discussed before was the seat the table thing, which I know we both don’t like, as a phrase. But the way I always looked at it was that, when I was a kid, growing up in the late 2000s, or growing up in the... I was born in the mid-70s. So, I am mid-40s now.

Jonny Dunning:  49:36      So, you grew up in what? Sort of like, late 2000s? 

Simon Geale:       49:39      Yeah.

Jonny Dunning:  49:39      I left the growing up to later.

Simon Geale:       49:42      But there was this thing where my parents would host dinner pies and they get all the neighbors around or get some friends over and the kids would be on a kid’s table or something or shut away in the living room and the parents would all be there, having these sort of probably beef bourguignon and smoking or something, I don’t know. And you would sit there and you go, I would be great to be on the adult table, that would be really cool. And then maybe you go out there, maybe, you get a little seat there and you sit there and everyone’s a human you for a little bit, and then the conversation returns to whatever it is they are talking about. And suddenly, you are like, Oh, this is a bit boring, or I don’t belong here or whatever. And so that’s where it comes from. If you are going to sit at the top table, you have got to have something to say. Because you need to be interesting to them. And you need to be able to engage with them on their level about the things that they are talking about. And in the boardroom that might mean things like fragmentation, deglobalization, neurodiversity, climate, the things that are shaping the business of tomorrow. If you want to be regularly at that table, you got to be able to talk about those things. But let’s get back to blur in Sydney. Why is that the best gig you have ever been to?

Jonny Dunning:  51:00      Probably combination of great venue, exciting times, positioning period of time in my life, all of those things combining for the ultimate kind of freedom and enjoyment.

Simon Geale:       51:11      And how did you feel when you were in Sydney, there and leaving?

Jonny Dunning:  51:14      Fairly drunk. No, euphoric. Brilliant. 

Simon Geale:       51:17      You know, there were those days. Because I think, essentially, that’s the story. 

Jonny Dunning:  51:22      Yeah. 

Simon Geale:       51:23      Right. And you just come up with four or five things around some people on stage doing some stuff, which made a magic for you. But it was for you. If that makes sense. It was inspiring, it was there to inspire you. Yes, it’s alright. It’s about them, they probably enjoy that. But there’s however many 1000 people there that that is for, that show is for? I think you can take that into presentations. So, I use a little self-made model, which won’t be for everyone. But it’s a little canvas. And essentially, it’s split into a few things, but the main our purpose audience materials are new. And so purpose? Why am I telling this story? What do I want to get from this story? And it comes back to your point earlier about that unshakable belief but if you want to get a decision, or if you want to raise an issue, you got to be thinking about that on every single facet of your story. Whether it’s on PowerPoint, whether it’s in Word, whether you are standing up or pitching it, whether it’s a combination of them, you have got to keep coming back to Why am I doing this? What do I want to get as a result of doing this? Particularly in things like Q&A, and questions and all of that? And then when I talk about audience, who’s it for? Why should they be interesting? And what do I want them to do as a result of that? Who are these people? Because you can walk into lots of different rooms and blows cases, have many 1000 blur fans jumping up and down, writes about them? How am I going to inspire them? How am I going to make them feel euphoric? Then it’s about materials. So, in this case, we have got, the Sydney Harbor bridge, probably the opera house, got the lights, the acoustics, all these things at your disposal. And in your case, in a procurement person’s case, it might just be a pre-read, a deck to read, a deck to present the chance to stand up and tell a story or something might be those, but how am I going to make those things work in sync? To give that audience the best possible experience that is going to inspire them and make them feel euphoric or great or whatever? And then finally, it’s about you yourself, and how do you prepare, so that when you get into that room, you are on top of your game, and just going through those four things. And next time, you have to do a presentation or pitch or whatever, just thinking about those four things, I think can give you or certainly for me, anyway, it’s given me a framework to go in and be at my most effective, because it stops being about you. And it makes it being about the person that you are telling the story to, and hopefully in your most possible effective way, rooted in what you are really trying to achieve.

Jonny Dunning:  54:12      I like that. And I liked the point you made about the fact that the story is not for you. It’s for your audience. And if you use the case of blur with a few 1000 people jumping up and down each person’s that the story for them is slightly different. But I think that’s... I think having those steps to take with it would make a big difference to a lot of people, where I know I have gone into plenty presentations, where it’s just plenty of pitches, etc. Where it’s just almost like a mechanical process, feels limited. Whereas actually, if you try and look at it from a more inspiration point of view, it’s like everyone wants to make their own day, feel more, they want to feel inspired. They want to feel it’s it, they don’t wanna be stuck in drudgery, they want to be doing things that really motivate them and make them want to be part of a cause and to achieve something. So, I think there are ways to make life more like that. But if we can easily miss out on the opportunity to do that, if we are not thinking in that way, you could put something across in a really boring and maybe quite logical way. But if you are missing out the aspirational elements of it, it’s not that you are making them up. It’s just that you are not considering them perhaps.

Simon Geale:       55:32      Yeah, and I think, when I sort of glossed over, but I think one of the most important things about all of this is, is thinking about your audience, and then thinking about the questions that they are going to ask, and the questions that you can ask, and I will take it back to that Dragon’s Den scenario where someone’s done a pitch, they probably rehearsed, rehearsed, it rehearsed it, and then they fall apart under the questioning. And all sort of confidence in the...

Jonny Dunning:  55:59      Finances don’t add up. 

Simon Geale:       56:01      Exactly, exactly that. Right? Or you haven’t thought about that? Or you are not on top... 

Jonny Dunning:  56:06      You haven’t thought it through.

Simon Geale:       56:08      Yeah. So just sit there and look at if it’s a slide deck, whatever, if it’s a spoken thing, whatever, every single facet of it, what are the questions that I am going to be asked, what are the questions are going to be asked? And what’s my response to them? And say it, read your presentation, say in front of a mirror or whatever, or speak it into your phone. Because there’s no substitution for having said it once before, to just make you feel at ease and at comfort when you go through it. But all these little things, I mean, I found them... I had some coaching on this few years back. And actually, I had coaching by fellows in Austin Powers. 

Jonny Dunning:  56:47      Really? 

Simon Geale:       56:47      Yeah. Oh, my goodness. What’s his name? I cannot remember.

Jonny Dunning:  56:55      What characters did he play?

Simon Geale:       56:56      I don’t know. I can’t remember films. But no, he’s a great friend of my wife. Does love show called, “Whose Line is it is anyway?” 

Jonny Dunning:  57:03      Alright.

Simon Geale:       57:05      [Unclear]? At the time I was pitching tech, and he said, “Right, time if for your pitch.” So, I did my pitch, and it took about 25 minutes. And he said, “I was great that.” He said, “I took away this, this and this.” I thought I was brilliant. That’s what I wanted him to take away. He said, “Well, you got a whiteboard, and you got half an hour. You are going to re-pitch it to me in half an hour’s time, and you can take 10 minutes off you go.” That’s difficult. So, I wrote all the things and what do I want them to focus on? What am I? WEN themes, kill shots, most important takeaways, etc. And then I re-pitched it to him. And it took me about 13 minutes, I didn’t hit the 10. He said, “You know what.” He said, “You just told me all the same things in a much more direct and effective way. And you took half the time. And now we have got half the time again, for questions and discussion, and all of that sort of stuff.” And there’s no substitute for sort of going through that process. And thinking about the conversation as independent to the presentation, if you like.

Jonny Dunning:  58:05      When you say the conversation, do you mean the Q&A?

Simon Geale:       58:07      Yeah. Or when you stand in the room? Or when you come on... Of I am talking to you. And you come on screen or we meet in the room? You thought about me as an individual? How am I going to do this interaction rather than saying, right, we look at the tech?
Jonny Dunning:  58:27      Well, the conversation is so much more important. And for us, we do demos all the time. And it’s, and it’s so hard to get it right. When friends say for example, you got on our call, to run through a demo, understand someone’s, you know, try and understand their problems in more detail, you know, lay out the proposition. And you can just try and fit too much in we are actually what you need to do is you need to understand the basic principle of where this person is coming from, give them a basic understanding of where you are coming from, and lay out the key points, and then have a conversation, because it’s a conversation that’s actually important. So, I think that’s a really interesting point in the sense of thinking about Q&A and thinking about that as the more involved part of the process, because people need to get the gist. But you can go into greater detail when people ask you to. Because otherwise, if you try and go into all of the detail, you are just basically just spilling out some information that maybe relevant, maybe not relevant. And it’s... I have made this mistake plenty of times where you get to the end of the call, and it’s like five minutes left for questions. And that’s actually the really interesting bit, where you have tried to give somebody all the information, where it’s actually given the top line, and let them delve into it more deeply. And I think that that becomes easier to do, the more secure you are about what you are talking about, in the sense that if you really understand the value, that top line benefit that you are bringing to an organization or to whatever it is you are proposing, you can just put that out there and go, “Well, let’s talk about that.” And then people can drive you in the directions you need to go and you know you have got the detail. And that’s certainly the way that we do things now and it turns into a comment somebody made at one of the procure tech founders circle events, the Lance Younger ones. And it was this whole idea of the Disney effect, if you go to Disney, what’s the thing you remember, it’s not the 20 hours spent waiting in queues, it’s the four minutes of being on amazingly interesting, exciting rides. So, yeah, I think that’s quite a powerful point. Because it’s always a something that’s just totally secondary, isn’t it? And you have got to understand your audience, you have got to understand what’s expected of you. But actually, that’s where you can really engage with people in a different way.

Simon Geale:       1:00:36   Yeah, and I think that’s probably. So, if someone like myself, so I am an introvert, I find it quite difficult to go into situations like that. I have done it quite a lot. But I never find it easy. That’s one thing, that’s definitely true and I think I had some coaching months, there was a time I remember I was in a pitch in Amsterdam, with two of our board members at the time. I remember coming back and thinking I made absolutely no impact, none at all. And I was really annoyed. And so, I tried this through with the person who was my coach at the time. And everything came down to preparation, really. And it was twofold, really. Preparation to be effective, but also preparation to sort of reduce anxiety before going into the room. But it wasn’t just preparing me it was preparing them, the people I was with, right? And so we sort of broke it all down. And we figured out well, what was the first thing that makes you anxious? Well, where am I going? What’s it going to look like, if I am presenting? What’s the room going to be like? How long do I need to get there? All these things. Who am I going to meet? Who I wonder what they will look like? What’s this all personality type and you can actually find all that stuff out. Or mostly you know, I have looked at YouTube videos of people speaking or presenting or figuring out who they are just to try and get a flavor of when I walk in the room, I am not going to be surprised or put off or something like that, or I will know how to cope, if I am. And then it was things like anchoring techniques, I have a pair of cufflinks I used to use, back in the days the people wore cufflinks. And as a little cartoon picture of me and my wife, and that would be my anchor, if I felt like something was going away. I just acknowledged it, acknowledges there, maybe look at it, maybe just touch it. And it’s like my, back in, remember why you are here, remember your purpose, remember your audience, remember what you are trying to get out of this, put yourself back, don’t let it run away. But then really, fundamentally, in this case, which I thought was really interesting was, you can be as prepared as you like, but if you are part of a team and the teams not drilled, you don’t know what the other people are going to do. You can see that in football and stuff like that. When it’s a superstar player, those people say he’s miles ahead of everyone else. Well, it’s because no one knows what he’s gonna do. And I remember, in this particular instance, we went back to that company a few weeks later, and I prepped like crazy. Prepped the people I was with, like crazy. And I knew exactly what I owned in that room and what I was going to do, and what I was going to talk about, and I was right on top of the questions, and it’s probably one of the best performances I have ever done in terms of in a pitch and it all comes down to are you putting in the effort? Like Novak Djokovic wherever or whomever it is? Are you doing your 10,000 hours or whatever it is? Are you putting in the effort to get out a successful outcome? Are you putting yourself in the best shape? Because everyone knows the story. Everyone knows that the presentation, what you are going to do in that.

Jonny Dunning:  1:03:59   It’s fascinating. I love that story. And I also think it’s interesting the fact that you are a self-professed introvert, but you put yourself in these uncomfortable positions, and you are going outside of your comfort zone and you are having coaching etc. to improve your ability. You are addressing the things that you find difficult, which I find... I really appreciate that and I find it really fascinating. But it also crosses over with some of the kind of sports psychology stuff around visualization and stuff like that, bit of a tangent but years ago, I was on a leadership training course. And it was with Backley Black. So, Roger Back, Steve Backley.

Simon Geale:       1:04:42   Super inspirational.

Jonny Dunning:  1:04:43   Super inspirational guys, both ex-Olympians, also really funny. And if I try to remember what the jokes the Backley always comes out with, it was important with the time and he’s like, “Oh, you are just a stone’s throw from the sea here.” Well, everywhere is a stone’s throw from the sea, to me. But one of the things I found really interesting was they started talking about... Steve Backley, talked about when he snapped his Achilles, 12 weeks before the Olympics. And basically, he was like, there’s literally no way, I have done all this training, all this effort are number one in the world moment. I can’t go to the Olympics; I have snapped my Achilles. And basically he was, that was it. Forget it. And basically, the team GB, sports psychologist said, “Let me sit down with you. Let’s have a chat about this. Don’t give up on it yet. Go and think about it. And let’s chat. Friday afternoon, whatever, let’s chat on Monday. And let’s see how you feel. Don’t completely give up hope yet.” So over the weekend he is thinking how pointless this is, disaster, I am so fed up. Monday went into the team GB psychologist. And basically, what they started on was a program of visualization. So, they had 12 weeks, and it takes something like 10 weeks to heal. However, they have done the operation or whatever it was around the Achilles tendon. So basically, that would leave like two weeks for physical preparation, which is almost impossible, you can’t really do much physical preparation. But for 10 weeks, all they did was visualize his best ever javelin throw, the one where he broke the world record. And they watched a video of it time and time and time again, visualized it to the point where he could close his eyes, and he could talk through it to the 100th of a second. Exactly his best-ever throw. And visualize the crowd. What would it be like in the stadium? Like saying, where was the building or the toilets there? Where would I get a coffee? How many people are going to be in the room? All these sorts of things, visualizing, visualizing, visualizing it, worked on it for all this time, basically had two weeks of gentle physical preparation and got bronze medal at the Olympics. Just absolutely unbelievable. The mad thing, the thing I found most interesting about it was that Team GB sports psychologist was Paul McKenna. And I was like, I grabbed them in the break. And I was like, is he legit, because at the time, he was doing a lot of stuff on TV and you like, he’s kind of seems like a bit of a circuit for him. And they were like, well, that’s the TV persona. But they were like, he is absolutely legit. And this was back in the day. So, this was quite forward thinking. But I found that a really inspirational story and really interesting, and just the way that they broke it down like that. How much of it is a performance is that mental side of it?

Simon Geale:       1:07:17   I think that’s right. And I think you probably gave up smoking and lost weight at the same time. And I think... 

Jonny Dunning:  1:07:25   I lost 20 pounds immediately, just by his book.

Simon Geale:       1:07:28   Well, I think there’s something really powerful about visualization in particular, I really believe that and it comes back to that point before you said about visualizing a successful outcome, know more successful outcome is, and that’s one of the things I have in my framework [Unclear] In that whole sphere of trying to reduce your anxiety, it helps if you understand what a successful outcome looks like, and what the next best thing is because you can come out of something, I haven’t been given an absolute mauling and feeling terrible about yourself, but got what you wanted. And so it’s really important to visualize success in that and figure out what does success look like in this instance? What is the next best outcome? What am I trying to achieve? Because if you are unclear on those things, you will never know if you have achieved it but I think super... I am gonna tell you a slightly different story which is similar but different but it’s about Mick Jagger and is the power of three words, we, can, if. So, I think it’s super powerful. I did some research on something called challenges thinking is stem from a book called The Challenger Sale. We all were given this book, the challenger sale, and I couldn’t be bothered to read it. We were gonna have like a big... It was 10 years going on, probably eight years ago, we were gonna have a big meeting and everyone’s gonna like talk about the book and all that, I am there taking my academic excellence into this thinking, how can I shortcut this? 

Jonny Dunning:  1:09:00   Yeah. 

Simon Geale:       1:09:01   And so I got some sort of cheat sheet and then I was like googling challenger sale but obviously put it in wrong and I was looking at the challenge and thinking. And challenges thinking is really interesting. It’s a bit like the Steve Buckley story, as far as you take your constraint and you try and turn it your advantage. So, in Steve Backley case, my constraint is, done my Achilles, I can’t put pressure on it, I can’t run blah, blah, blah. Well, how am I gonna do this? Well, I can if, if I did this, if I did that, and then you can focus on the positive things that you can do. Reinforce those, practice those and pull it out. Now Mick Jagger’s case, picture I have stolen this story from a guy called I think his name’s Mark Barden, a consultancy called, “Eat the big fish,” and he does an impression of Mick Jagger, great. I would encourage anyone’s going to look for it. Because it’s a really cool speech and I don’t know if it’s true or not, but essentially says the Rolling Stones, they are starting out as a band, playing pubs and Mick’s got his ambition to be the greatest rock and roll frontman, but he’s got no space because he’s on these tiny stages. So, what does he do? He develops a dancing style, which is unique to him, capitalizes on the fact that there’s a small space, and super stands out and therefore, becomes a performer that inspires emotion and people walk away thinking, “Wow, remember that or wasn’t that great?” Because he knows, I, can, if. He wasn’t constrained by the fact that he didn’t have space, he was inspired by the fact that he didn’t have space. And if you are pushing the boundaries in, whether it’s in sport, in life, and organizations, and your job, whatever, and you are asking people to do things, or you have got problems in front of you, like budget, whatever, or difficult stakeholders, just thinking we, can, if. I, can, if. You want to run a marathon, you wanna become a CEO, whatever. I, can, if and break it down into those little steps. You can turn those things to your advantage and succeed while others fail.

Jonny Dunning:  1:10:55   Yeah. And alongside that, I also think sometimes there’s power in the Word maybe, in the sense that you can put so much pressure on something, whatever it might be. And I really love surfing, I use this in surfing, if I go out surfing and the, the conditions are maybe a little bit more challenging, bit scary. I use the phrase maybe in my head, because you might be thinking, I have got to get X many waves, or I have got to do this or I have got to try and do that. Just kind of well, maybe. And I think if you are in a situation where you are presenting something, when you talked about it could be your second best outcome. I think it’s interesting to think about the fact that maybe, somebody is not going to say yes to everything that you want. But actually, you might still get a really good outcome. And it comes down to again, what is the objective. So for example, I am going surfing, the objective is to have fun, to have fun, enjoy, enjoy surfing, and just get a real adrenaline rush from it. That can look like various different things. So, in the same way that if somebody’s looking at their objectives within an organization, what they are pitching, transformation, or whatever parts of it, it may be and just understanding, looking at that overall objective and thinking, well, there are many different ways to skin a cat. As the old saying goes. There are many different ways that I can get to this endpoint. I think that is that is potentially a useful tool. But again, it ties into thinking about ultimate objectives. And I think that always has to tie in to, how does this match to the company’s objectives. Because if you are thinking about that, then you shouldn’t be thinking about it, it has to be directed towards that for it to be relevant for the company, but also other people within the organization and outside the organization, suppliers, stakeholders, C-suite, etc. should buy into that, because everybody should be working towards that ultimate company objective.

Simon Geale:       1:12:50   Bang on! Absolutely. I think not everybody always has that laser focus on how what they do relates to the company objective, but you would like to think that at the sort of levels where you are going in and pitching, they absolutely do. And I think that importance of that is a twofold thing, isn’t it? It’s the objectives of the company and the objectives of the individual. If you are going to appeal to both of those, that’s the magic and the logic. And I think, do it in a way which is memorable, etc. When you are on to it, that’s when you win.

Jonny Dunning:  1:13:29   Definitely. So, looking at what you are doing at the moment, in terms of the kind of projects you are working on at the moment, and the people you are working with in your business and the people you are working with within your clients. What are the kind of key areas that are particularly exciting for you at the moment?

Simon Geale:       1:13:49   Well, I am a bit of a magpie. So, I am always excited by the shiny things and the shiny things are obviously tech and climate and sort of things like that, that I am instantly drawn towards. I think you are going to look at it through a number of different lenses currently, because I think you have got the sort of mega trends that I alluded to earlier things like deglobalization, fragmentation, ageing population, climate industry 4.0, all those sorts of...

Jonny Dunning:  1:14:18   Geopolitical elements. 

Simon Geale:       1:14:20   And then they sort of shape boardroom trends, what the boardroom is interested in and that sort of flows into what procurements being asked to do. But fundamentally, I think that there is this sort of change appearing around us which generally speaking, you are dealing with one thing at a time, but we are dealing with everything all at once. The geopolitical change, the rebalancing, and setting up of new supply chains and the fact that industry 4.0 can now be deployed to help us to do that and impact other areas and the fact we have got this big Climate emergency coming down and hitting us. And those are all the things that that kind of excite me. And then the realism kicks in and you realize that we want to do all these things. But we can’t afford to do all these things. And we haven’t necessarily got the capability to do all of these things at the same time. And so the conversations that we have tend to be either, can you help me with these things? Or can you put me in a position to be able to do these things? And how were these things? And it’s a super exciting time. I mean, it’s probably in terms of the challenges, the scale of the challenge, and the number of organizations facing the challenge at the same time, probably the most exciting time my career.

Jonny Dunning:  1:15:46   It certainly is an exciting time. I mean, I would imagine that part of the time as well, you are advising organizations on which ones should I or can I focus on of all these really important points that I need to do or I need to address or want to address right now, because you can’t do everything all at once. It’s like that thing with startups, where it’s like, work out all of the things that you want to do that you are not going to do, and put them aside. And that’s something that I think he’s really interesting in procurement. You obviously have an entrepreneurial mindset having worked on some tech startups in the procurement sector. I am definitely have that mindset as well. But I am seeing that so much more in procurement leaders now where there is change possible. And to say, it’s a still a relatively young function, where there’s lots of room to grow and to change. It’s that entrepreneurial mindset, it’s something that feels coming into the industry for new people. But also, there’s some brilliant innovators in the industry and change makers and people that just get stuff done, that are already taking that mindset into what they are doing within procurement, which I think is really exciting. And nice to see.

Simon Geale:       1:16:46   Yeah, now’s the time. I mean, I think when businesses are under pressure, this is definitely something we have seen. Particularly under cost and risk pressure, that’s the time to take your case in, when actually, probably in terms of cost, at least it’s got the lowest probable chance of success. That’s the time to take it in. Because actually, you are gonna get focused attention. And if you have prepared and you have got the right storage, and you have got the right case, yours might be the one that does it because it addresses that risk challenge, that cost challenge, that innovation challenge, whatever it is. And now is the time. It’s not a time to sit back and say, “Oh, well, I will never get the budget.” It’s the time to go and say, “I am gonna go and make a difference.”

Jonny Dunning:  1:17:34   I like it. Brilliant. Well, listen, thank you so much for coming in. I really appreciate it. 

Simon Geale:       1:17:38   Thank you. 

Jonny Dunning:  1:17:38   And yeah, such an enjoyable conversation. I am sure we could talk about plenty more other topics, and maybe we will have to do a bit of a round two at some point. 


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