MarPro - The Marketing Procurement Podcast

Tom Bebrin | BioMarin Pharmaceutical

August 26, 2021 Rusty Pepper & Dana Small & Tom Bebrin Episode 7
Tom Bebrin | BioMarin Pharmaceutical
MarPro - The Marketing Procurement Podcast
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MarPro - The Marketing Procurement Podcast
Tom Bebrin | BioMarin Pharmaceutical
Aug 26, 2021 Episode 7
Rusty Pepper & Dana Small & Tom Bebrin

On this weeks episode of MarPro we talk with Dana's former boss, Tom Bebrin of BioMarin. So besides prodding him about what is what to work with Dana for all those years, we also tackled the following topics...

  • Career Growth
  • Personality Traits between Marketing Procurement & Direct Procurement
  • When You Find the Right Person - Hire Them
  • Lessons Learned of Setting Up a Marketing Procurement Team
  • Leveraging Past Success to Change Perceptions


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Show Notes Transcript

On this weeks episode of MarPro we talk with Dana's former boss, Tom Bebrin of BioMarin. So besides prodding him about what is what to work with Dana for all those years, we also tackled the following topics...

  • Career Growth
  • Personality Traits between Marketing Procurement & Direct Procurement
  • When You Find the Right Person - Hire Them
  • Lessons Learned of Setting Up a Marketing Procurement Team
  • Leveraging Past Success to Change Perceptions


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Dana:

Hey everybody. This is Dana small, and this

Tom:

is

Rusty:

rusty

Dana:

pepper. We're here to bring you another fabulous edition of

Rusty:

Mart pro the marketing procurement podcast. How's it going today? Rusty. Good. I'm excited. This one should be actually, I'm excited for this next podcast. I know. Uh, we've been away for a few weeks kind of wrapping up the summer and everything else, taking care of personal things, you got moved into your new role and position, all that. We've got the new studio set up and it makes for fun. So it's gonna be a really good conversation that we're going to have actually with somebody, uh, you know,

Dana:

Yeah, I'm, I'm super excited. I think, you know, one of the people who I've worked with for the past five years, uh, although we moved on to a different role is one of my favorite former bosses. So I'm super stoked that he decided to be on the show and give us a little bit of his time and insight and in a sense of managing marketing procurement professionals, without really having that deep of understanding and knowledge of marketing.

Rusty:

Yeah. I think what I found interesting was when we talked to Tom, it was, and we'll get him introduced here in a minute was the fact that, you know, he's set up that marketing procurement group within BioMarin. And that was really interesting because getting to understand the hiring practices, lessons learned and really what traits they were looking for, uh, when he was setting up that group within the organization. So it was, I think anybody that's out there, that's going to be going through something similar or preparing to do that. We'll get a lot out of this. Yeah. Agreed. So without that, why don't we go ahead and cut into that episode? This was actually, I think we're going to cut in where I asked them the question. Why did you decide to hire Dana? And so let's hear where

Tom:

he at. Yeah, sounds good. As soon as I talked to Dana and he did a phone screen, and I think at that point I had made up my mind that I was going to hire her she's I had great experience had, was really focused on building relationships with the stakeholders. And I think in the marketing space, that's really important to build those relationships. Find other ways in costs to deliver value to marketing. I think, I think it's true across all marketing, but particularly in biotech, money's not really that important. And they're more concerned about service and getting the deliverables that they need to. Dana had a wealth of stories about that. And I think bringing her in for the face to face when we were still doing that stuff five years ago was a formality at that point in the whole interview team, pretty much felt the same. So, do you have regrets? No, not at all. Wow. We always used to joke. I used to joke with Dan roast today is a roast. I always used to joke with Dana that when always have my office at any time and we could trade places. So what made you

Rusty:

decide to go over to the dark side is Dana likes to call.

Tom:

I suppose it was a number of issues, but I think the main one was, I was just ready for change, looking back over my career and where. I suppose I really enjoyed what I was doing the most was when I was closer to operations, right. Where I could walk out on the floor and see how stuff was being made and work with the operations people. This gives me the opportunity to do that. So it's, it's new, it's different. Certainly going to be challenging. I have a lot to learn. It's in a category that I really don't have much knowledge or experience. But I'm hopeful a lot of the skills that I have, I can transfer over it and pick it up quick and make an impact pretty soon. So I thought you did

Dana:

some direct stuff though, when you were at Callaway.

Tom:

Yeah. I've done direct stuff, you know, prior to coming into the, into the indirects procurement space in 2005. 15 years before that was all in direct materials, supply chain, things like that. So this gets me a bit closer to that. Although it's one of the, one of the nice things about being on the, on the indirect side was the fact that you didn't get calls on it. Eight o'clock on a Saturday night saying, oh, where the hell is it what's going on? I haven't had a call like that in probably since I've been on. So this is in between, between direct materials and the indirect stuff.

Rusty:

I assume there's a different personality makeup of somebody that's going to work direct versus indirect or marketing procurement, or is that just in my head that I think that

Tom:

there might be some of that, frankly, I've always thought. Being on a direct side was easier because you have a formal supply chain group and their mandate is to manage materials, the right materials at the right time and the right price. So, um, whereas on the indirect side, it's more of, Hey, help, let me help you spend your money better. And there's a lot of you have to sell. First couple of meetings. When I met with stakeholders at BioMarin, the response was less than enthusiastic. Their response was, oh, we're already doing that. We don't want your help. We don't need your help. Go play somewhere else. Dana. I'm sure you ran up against that. It's not just unique to BioMarin it. It happened in a lot of other companies is. So I, I think on the indirect side, you certainly have to be a lot more persistent and you have to have a lot thicker skin and you have to be able to take no for an answer a lot, but then come back and just keep on hammering away and keep chipping away at added and ultimately even getting a small opportunity and then executing and being successful with that. And then building off of it. Pretty much the way we built out GSS to add BioMarin was doing that.

Dana:

Yeah, Tom was really the beginning of the group foundation.

Tom:

Yeah. Employee number one for GSS. And then he hired number two. Dan was my first hire and it was funny. I remember going around and just setting up meetings with some of the key stakeholders over in marketing and introducing Dana. And as soon as she started talking about her backup, And where she came from, what she did and all that stuff. I could just see in the body language, the resistance going away, because they're like, Hey, she gets it, she's done it. She's speaking our language. She's just not going to come in and make us go to the lowest bidder that she understands what we do in marketing. And as soon as that, it was a completely different ball game. So marketing are good people for the most part. Ultimately they want to do. And actually a similar story in when I was in a sporting goods company, one of the areas that we wanted to hire a category manager in was marketing and advertising. So I approached the VP and he was like, you said, less than receptive. Go away, go play somewhere else. We're already doing it. And if we did it, wouldn't be a full-time person and mobilize the snap. So after a couple of months finally got them to agree to be on the interview. And one of the people that we interviewed came from general motors and in a strategic sourcing and marketing. And I think he was managing 800 million, almost a billion in spend on one of the, one of the franchise. And he interviewed grade. He, we decided to make them an offer. And about a week later, or two weeks later, bill calls me up and says, Hey, do you have Juan Carlos, his contact information? I want to talk to him about some things that we're thinking about doing. And before I get too far down the road, I want his input on it. And this is before we even started. I think if you find the right person with the right background, it makes all the difference in the world. I assume y'all hired him. Yeah. Yeah. He's, I'm not sure what he's doing now, but yeah, he's he did a good job as well. So I've been fortunate to be able to find some good people in the marketing space. And frankly, they're hard to find, to be honest with you.

Rusty:

I was going to ask, well, what are some of the lessons learned from having to hire folks on that marketing procurement side? Because I imagine is a different,

Tom:

yeah, I, yeah, you're right. I think someone who has experience in this space that has, you know, been successful in, in delivering results and building relationships with the marketing stakeholders. But I also think in general, one of the things that. It's really important to me is how that person is going to fit with the culture of the group of the department, with, of the company as well. I think by the time you get to a face-to-face interview, everybody has the skills to do the job for the most part, or they really haven't done a good job for that. So I think it's really important that they fit in with the culture of the company, because otherwise it's just not going to work. It's not going to work out.

Dana:

I had some interesting hires in our team. Haven't we? Tom?

Tom:

Good, good, and

Dana:

bad. We've had some interesting people come and leave. We've had multiple people.

Tom:

Yeah, I think right now you guys have a really good chain. They've got a good peop, you've got real good people over there, but yeah, it's pretty imprecise at best. And then you're going to be hiring somebody. So I think you'll, you'll find out that sometimes you just have to go with your gut and that this person is it's going to be a good fit for us. So.

Dana:

Yeah. And rusty always talks about cultural and how that can really affect like even like the agency relationships and all of that. So even internally though, too, right?

Tom:

Yeah. Yeah. I am thinking of one person in particular that, and this goes back 20 plus years ago. This guy had a great background. Came from a big company. He interviewed, everybody loved him. He came in and he failed miserably because he was used to being in a, a larger company that was very structured when his responsibility began here and ended here and he couldn't come, he couldn't function well, and he didn't fit in a company that was less structured and he was probably gone within six months. So it was crazy. Yeah. It is crazy. What happens. I'm sure you both have seen it. Yeah.

Rusty:

And it's hard to quantify that interview process because everybody thinks they can change or I can adapt. And really a lot of people are creatures of habit and, and understanding that is really important, but the problem is until you really get into it, sometimes you'll have no clue, probably pretty apparent fairly quickly for y'all as

Tom:

well. Yeah, I think it was, yeah, there, there was one, one thing in particular, we had to do a. Plans presentations and it went his chance. It was his opportunity to get up there. He couldn't even, he was so nervous. He couldn't read off of this is when you used to do the slides on the projector and change them. I hate to date myself, but he just, he couldn't even talk. He was just so nervous and apparently he had never been in that situation before. So it was just very bizarre.

Rusty:

Yeah. And you would think coming from a big organization, they would have had more exposure to that, but

Tom:

maybe not, but like you said, it's, it's an imprecise at best.

Rusty:

So you set the GSS at BioMarin. And what were some of the lessons learned from that? If you were at somebody else's out there right now, they're looking to stand up marking procurement within their organization. What are some of the lessons learned that you

Tom:

can tell? I think the big one is stakeholder engagement and listening to your stakeholders, finding out what they're working on. What's important to them. What's working, what's not working because ultimately they, they all have some experience with procurement, even if it's just placing purchase orders. But then I, I mentioned earlier just getting a small opportunity to work together with. And then just demonstrate the value that you can bring through that opportunity. And then use that as a foundation to reach out to other stakeholders, to expand and to take on more and more. I think Dana, that's what we did at BioMarin. We started small and we didn't have much engagement at all with marketing at that point. And I remember that, I think the first week I came on board, we were negotiating a rear end. Final stages of selecting a supplier for our exhibits, for all of our trade shows and Dana on day one comes into it right out of new hire orientation. I dragged her into a meeting and introduce her to everybody. And she immediately said, what about this? And we need to think about this and how you guys going to do this. She just. I was able to bring value. And then from there that was one of her strongest stakeholders that the relationship evolved over time. And she did a lot of good things in that space just by starting small with that. So building

Rusty:

off of successes and leveraging them to create more.

Tom:

Yeah. Yeah. So when you look at

Rusty:

the ever changing and vast landscape of marketing, Where do you see for the future of it and where it's going and problems that needs to be still be resolved and areas that those success.

Tom:

You know, it has to move more away from, from costs, from procurement and sourcing perspective to really delivering value in partnering with stakeholders and become a partner of choice. So when, whenever someone in, in marketing thinks about anything sourcing or procurement related, the first thing they do is they get on the phone and call us right. Say. Tom. Hey, Dana, I have something I'm thinking about. I'd like your advice. I'd like your opinion on how we should approach this. I think that's the state that we need to get to in procurement with marketing is have that partnership where we're equals that we're not just following their lead that we can bring. Best practices. We can bring market intelligence. We can bring news of consolidations of agencies and things like that. That there's other value that we can bring just besides negotiating agreements and beating suppliers up on price. What do you look

Rusty:

at? Your counterparts are marketing. What's keeping them from

Tom:

engaging more. I feel, I still think there's the perception that. Can do what we can do. It's travel, or we have a corporate travel program and people are always go into Expedia and to a Travelocity or whatever, and saying, oh, look, I can save 25 bucks by taking this flight. Not realizing that there's a lot of other things that go into the travel program and in the price that they're paying through that there's insurance, there's the ability to, to trace if there's any kind of disaster. So I, I think there's their perception that, or we've been doing this for such a long time that we're doing a great job of it. And so we don't need any help from sourcing and procurement. And what do you know about marketing, right? Yeah, that's right. Yeah. You're just gonna, you're just focused on price. You're a typical procurement person and you're going to make, you're going to try to push us to the low cost bitter. It changed. Your

Rusty:

mindset is always difficult. And hiring marketing people from the background in marketing is probably a great way to help break that and to help bridge that gap and make it less intrusive into their world where there is actually more of a respect of, Hey, we get what you're going through. This is why we see it this way, but there's also a bunch of operational efficiencies and best practices that we bring from a procurement standpoint. To the marketing game. And I'm very jaded based off of past experiences, working with true buyers where it was just basically trying to drive out costs and didn't care about the relationships and what the value that they brought in. Given the returns that they're bringing back to us, it was all about bottom line. It was like, you can't base it off that. And so I'm very gun shy. Every time I talked to procurement.

Tom:

Yeah. Rusty's

Dana:

not a big fan of ours, but Tom, I have to say, you say you're not knowledgeable of marketing procurement, but you manage me for five years. And I feel like every time I'd come to you with an issue or problem, you understood what I was talking about.

Tom:

Each function likes to think they're different. There's a lot of similarities and I've always looked. Marketing as. Complex professional services with, you know, a real focus on relationship between BioMarin and the agency, the company, whatever the particular service was. I think though, it's just. Changing the focus in the discussion around costs. So all the benefits that we can bring the improved service, hopefully better supplier selection and negotiate contracts. And, oh, by the way, if we do our job correctly, we might see some improvement in the cost model that you're going to get that's in selling and approaching the stakeholders in that space. Cost is the last. Element that I would ever talk about. And I know Dana, you were the same way. You didn't, you focused on everything but costs, but a lot of times, if it comes down to, if we do our job, we'll get cost just as a byproduct of doing everything else correctly. That's

Rusty:

what we were talking about in our last office hours. And we were breaking down the CPOs survey that Deloitte put out, and we were talking about the fact that there's so much of the innovation, all, everything that, that were in the top five or six. We have a cost was two, but everything else basically rolled up to creating more efficiencies. But at the end of the day, Savings indirectly or directly just based on the simple processes that they praying. And it's, I think more folks need to

Dana:

which scarily enough. I said almost the same exact thing here, where I was like, if you do your job well, if you do digital transformation, if you do process efficiencies, if you do these things, the savings will come. You just got to do your job. Well, you don't need to focus on it. So it's one of those times again, what are you creeping out? Cause we have the same. So

Tom:

great minds, great minds. And I think you, you hit on a real key point is how do we tap into the innovation that suppliers can bring to the table? Right. And because they're the experts in their space and we really need to figure out a way and not just within marketing, but I think in general, we have, we had used to have this discussion all the time with our stakeholders in it. The supplier will bring 50 different ideas. And if we don't act on them or guess what, they're going to stop bringing us ideas. So how do you, what's the word incorporate? How do you listen to those suggestions? Some of them are going to be maybe not good ideas, or they're not practical for us. How do we just tap into that innovation engine that they have and take advantage of that? Cause I think that's one of the real benefits that we get in any space, but maybe even marketing as well.

Rusty:

And it's just, it's not your existing suppliers, it's new suppliers. And the problem is there's just so much noise out there. And the overload of trying to sift through it all is it's daunting. And I know it's in it from the marketing and sales side. It's even, we have there's other challenges too. Right? How do you stand out in a sea of sameness? When really there is a differentiation, but they're not looking at it that way because they're just overwhelmed with inbound. Being able to sit through it. I think it's there because there's a lot of great tools out there that I hear about third, second, third hand. And then I find out later that, oh, what it came across. I've seen it. I just didn't know it because I just automatically tuned it out because it was just one more, Hey, we're the best at this. And it didn't stand out enough, but in hindsight, had we taken the time, it could have really saved us some time and energy.

Dana:

So Tom, I have the most important question for you. How has your life drastically improved in the past five years since hiring me? Don't hold back. Don't hold that.

Tom:

No, I think Dana, you were a good team. I know we did. We, and I think we did a lot of good things over in the marketing space, in the commercial space. Mainly driven by you. I think I was smart enough to just recognized his talent and ability and stand back and stand out of her way. So hire good people and do the job that's right. Yeah, exactly. In the. There was no need to look over his shoulder, but she would pop in my office and say, Hey, I've got a problem. I'm having, I need your advice. What do you think I should do about this? I need your help. And we would talk through it and do whatever we had to. But for the most part, we said, I was smart enough to recognize I didn't need to do much. I actually

Dana:

looked up because you're no longer. What are the top things not to say here, so I can say them all to you, but funny enough, some of them I've already said, so it's scary. Rolling. 10 of things of, oh, this is terrible. This is not, it's just so funny. The different things you're not supposed to say, but yeah. I came into your office, plenty of times, cussing or upset or whatever it is. And I think having that openness and relationship makes it so much easier when you're working with somebody to know that they're not going to be like, oh, I'm telling HR, you just said the S word. It makes a huge difference that you can have that trust and respect from the

Tom:

yeah. Yeah. HR probably would have shuttered fired us both. If they look more a fly on the wall on some of our conversations. But I, from a manager's perspective, I certainly appreciate the transparency and the honesty and not pulling any punches and you're east

Dana:

coast.

Tom:

So there's probably nothing that you can say that would offend me. I realized today, that's probably not that politically correct to say, but as well, That's probably

Dana:

why I've been employed with me. Cause I couldn't offend you. I say the same thing too, though. It's hard to really get under my skin, although it

Tom:

does happen. Dana and I had a good relationship from that. And. We'll continue into the future as well, even though we're in different groups, in different organizations

Dana:

now. Interesting. You think the direct side's easier. Like I get, because they have the buy-in right. And they have the buyers and the whole supply chain and they're really running the show. But to me, I think it's a little bit easier on this side because I'm not buying widgets and I'm not, you don't have all the compliance issues and certifications like that takes a lot of effort to get a new supplier on the direct side.

Tom:

It does. Yeah, it definitely does. Oh yeah. It's a big deal to change suppliers or anything like that. Each, each, each side has its own particular set of challenges. And there are a lot of similar skills between the two, the category managers for raw materials. They put together category plans. They have QPRs with suppliers and they talk about innovation. They talk about. Technology trends and roadmaps and stuff like that. So th there's a lot of similarities between the two, but there are some differences as well, which I think are pretty important, particularly in a lot of companies where you don't have a mandate to engage with sourcing or procurement, if they go outside and do their own thing, there's no. There's no downside to it. There's no repercussions. There's an old slap some on the wrist or anything

Dana:

like that. Not to look for are things red flags when hiring marketing procurement professionals that you would say, if this person does X don't do it, don't

Tom:

hire them. Yeah. Yeah. I would. Maybe it's just a common in general, but I've always been turned off by people that don't listen very well. I think then in sourcing and procurement, you have to listen. I don't think you have all the answers. And so, yeah, when people come in and everything's III me, I tend to shy away from those people. Like I said, I think it's really important. It's always been important from my perspective that the person you're bringing on board is going to fit in with the culture of the team and the personality of the team and the company. And if you don't get a sense, that's going to be the case. I would run in the opposite direction as, as hard as I can, as fast as.

Dana:

That's music to Rusty's ears. He's the, the culture in the right place.

Tom:

There's

Rusty:

nothing worse than you working with somebody that just does not align with what you believe or how you operate or delivering a great experience. It's just, it's not fun. Why w why life is

Tom:

too short? Yeah. Sorry. Work should be fun. Right? And granted, there are some things that are mundane and repetitive and. You do them cause you have to do them, but in general work should be fun. So if you're not having fun, then it's time to make a change. Yeah, you want to work with people

Rusty:

that you truly enjoy. And what's fun is to watch you and Dana who obviously have a very good relationship banner back and forth that shows that there is a not only level of respect, but trust and it's mutual. That's refreshing and fun to see.

Tom:

Yeah. Got it. We had

Dana:

been told Tom left a really nice team. I think of a lot of people who. We all had that kind of band or when we bring somebody in new to interview for the director level position, they'd always say how comments on our team and how we'd banter back and forth. You can feel comfortable and relaxed. And even if it was like terrible, when she was in R and D coming to you and say, Hey, what do you think about this? We all have a level of respect, I think, and trust for each other. That it's nice that even if it's not in mine, it's an it, I can go to somebody else in the group and that you can support us. So it's nice to have. Team environment, which is hard to me, I feel like that's really hard to get. This is one of the few times, I think in my career where I had a bunch of people who I've really felt good about working for or with, or what work again with, we've talked about that in the past. Like how many people would you say you'd work again for? And you're one of very few, one of them I do. Yeah. Then I've worked for again. So it's nice to have that because I think you can end up at the wrong place. Be gone, like you said, be gone in six months running in the opposite direction because you just didn't fit in. So to feel like you fit in and you're doing a good job.

Tom:

And I, I, I think he just mentioned something that you would go and ask someone their opinion or for advice on something. And I think it's feeling comfortable enough that they're not going to look at that as a sign of weakness that painted is, and know what she's talking about. There's that level of trust and respect that that certainly important, um, as part of the team. So, yeah, we were fortunate that we had that. Dana,

Rusty:

what did you learn from Tom? Some of the different surprises or nuggets that you've taken away?

Dana:

How long has always been very level-headed. We do think the same, but he's are always, I think a little bit calmer. Sometimes think I am and

Tom:

maybe most people are complicated. Yeah. That's really a stretch. No,

Dana:

but I think he always has a good logical approach and I value that. And when I go to him, I bounce ideas off him and he, he never shut things down or do anything. All right. What about this? What do you think about that? And so he was always open. He was always supportive. He's one of those bosses that you want to have because they are supportive of everything you do. And like the rest of your life too. It's not like just this is work. And end of the day, he was like, oh, how's the family. How the kids, oh my God, your kid it's having that level of respect. And then that personal relationship too, I think was key, but just being open and trying his best to help us out and figure things out and being supportive. Any crazy ideas I came, but I definitely think his level of calmness helped me to chill the beans,

Tom:

I think counterbalance. Yeah.

Dana:

Yeah. Yeah. I definitely get fired up over some people in somethings and he knew how to kind of bring it down a notch with me. So it's nice to have that, which I don't know that I would be able to do for somebody else, but it was nice to have that. And the

Tom:

boss I get. So I used to work for, he was a senior VP of manufacturing and he had a lot of experience in the indirect space and he always used to say, keep any discussion you have. Data-driven discussion. Try to remove the emotion from the discussion and focus on the data. And that's easy to say. It's hard to do a lot of times, but whenever people go off on a tangent, try to bring them back to the data, pull that emotion out of it. And I don't know, maybe it's I'm low-key and I think you hit it on the head. Dana, I've always found that getting upset and angry and yelling doesn't work very well with most people. So they just pushed back. Hey,

Rusty:

that's a wrap for another edition of Mar pro the marketing procurement podcast. We sincerely appreciate you stopping by and listening to the show. If you got a lot of value on, if you did, please make sure to leave us a five star rating and share with your friends and colleagues. I will really work, working hard to expand our audience and your help and support would be greatly appreciated until the next time stay well, Alba I to left adios Sianora.

Tom:

That's all I've got.