Leaders in Tech and Ecommerce

Robert Garrison CEO of Mercado Labs

December 15, 2020 Alcott Global Season 1 Episode 47
Leaders in Tech and Ecommerce
Robert Garrison CEO of Mercado Labs
Chapters
Leaders in Tech and Ecommerce
Robert Garrison CEO of Mercado Labs
Dec 15, 2020 Season 1 Episode 47
Alcott Global

Robert Garrison is now the founder and CEO of Mercado, an Import Management System that connects the end-to-end supply chain. A highly accomplished Global Supply Chain executive with 25 years of experience, Rob Garrison has provided strategic vision and leadership to Fortune 500 companies. Rob has an impressive history of building agile, technology-enabled supply chains, and he has an established track record of forging high-growth partnerships, positioning organizations for success, and launching innovative technology solutions that significantly improve end-to-end supply chain efficiencies.

Recognized as a respected thought leader, Rob is a featured industry speaker and published author offering expertise on Supply Chain challenges, trends, and best practices. In addition, he is award-winning — notably a two-time recipient of the coveted Five Star Award, FedEx’s highest honor presented by the CEO to recognize innovation, collaboration, service excellence, profitable business contributions, and exemplifying the spirit of teamwork.

Created and executed lean retail supply chains for major shippers such as AutoZone, Michaels, and Five Below, and has earned service awards from Walmart, Hewlett Packard, and Apple for excellence in global operations management, quality assurance, and continuous improvement.

Discover more details here.

Some of the highlights of the episode:

  • [01:26] Main career milestones – from working in the logistics space to starting Mercado
  • [14:23] Solving challenges for importers and suppliers – automation & technology
  • [22:50] Defining  Friction – from First Mile to Final Mile – case studies. 
  • [30:12] Building  Mercado Marketplace and partnering with different tech companies like project44
  • [35:27] Building a strong culture based on PSP – People, Service, Profit


Follow us on:
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Show Notes Transcript

Robert Garrison is now the founder and CEO of Mercado, an Import Management System that connects the end-to-end supply chain. A highly accomplished Global Supply Chain executive with 25 years of experience, Rob Garrison has provided strategic vision and leadership to Fortune 500 companies. Rob has an impressive history of building agile, technology-enabled supply chains, and he has an established track record of forging high-growth partnerships, positioning organizations for success, and launching innovative technology solutions that significantly improve end-to-end supply chain efficiencies.

Recognized as a respected thought leader, Rob is a featured industry speaker and published author offering expertise on Supply Chain challenges, trends, and best practices. In addition, he is award-winning — notably a two-time recipient of the coveted Five Star Award, FedEx’s highest honor presented by the CEO to recognize innovation, collaboration, service excellence, profitable business contributions, and exemplifying the spirit of teamwork.

Created and executed lean retail supply chains for major shippers such as AutoZone, Michaels, and Five Below, and has earned service awards from Walmart, Hewlett Packard, and Apple for excellence in global operations management, quality assurance, and continuous improvement.

Discover more details here.

Some of the highlights of the episode:

  • [01:26] Main career milestones – from working in the logistics space to starting Mercado
  • [14:23] Solving challenges for importers and suppliers – automation & technology
  • [22:50] Defining  Friction – from First Mile to Final Mile – case studies. 
  • [30:12] Building  Mercado Marketplace and partnering with different tech companies like project44
  • [35:27] Building a strong culture based on PSP – People, Service, Profit


Follow us on:
Instagram: http://bit.ly/2Wba8v7
Twitter: http://bit.ly/2WeulzX
Linkedin: http://bit.ly/2w9YSQX
Facebook: http://bit.ly/2HtryLd

Speaker 1:

Hello, and welcome to the leaders in tech and e-commerce podcast. I'm your host, Andrew Polamalu . And I am the APEC director for ELCA global executive search. Our mission is to connect the tech in supply chain and e-commerce ecosystem in Asia and globally by bringing forward some of the most interesting stories about success and failure from leaders in the industry. It is my pleasure to have with us today, Rob Garrison, he's the founder and CEO of Mercado, an import management system that connects the end to end supply chain robberies and highly accomplished global supply chain executive. With over 25 years of experience, he has provided strategic vision and leadership for fortune 500 companies. He has an impressive history of building agile technology enabled supply chains, and he has an established track record of forging high growth partnerships, positioning organizations for success and launching innovative technology solutions that significantly improve end to end supply chain . Hello, Robert is great to have you on the podcast today.

Speaker 2:

Hey Andre . Great to great to be here. Thanks very much for having me.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. So , um, as we were talking just beforehand, it would be great just to set the scene and therapy , the short introduction of yourself. You have a great career, and it's always interesting to see people with the huge corporate career step into the startup world. So I'm curious to hear about your perspective on, on the main milestones of your career.

Speaker 2:

I , I don't know if it's great or the definition of insanity Andre. So I guess you'll be the judge of that in terms of my career. I , you know, I , I can say the same thing. Almost everybody that I know in supply chain said is I didn't grow up saying I really want to be a supply chain guy. I probably wanted to be a fireman or a football player. So I got into the business by accident. Like most people I'll start there. I was a construction worker, actually I'm from Chicago, Illinois, and I had kids early. And so construction work in Chicago is not very stable. The wintertime , it doesn't produce many results. And so I was looking for a job in industry and I had a friend who worked for an ocean carrier who happened to be American president lines. And , uh , at that time you could still get in on the ground floor, which I did. I didn't have a college education and I got in and sort of an inside sales role and spent the next eight years there. And it was a , it was an amazing time to work for American president lines. They were a very progressive company. Believe it or not. We had cell phones back in 1988. Yeah. So I, I loved it when my kids tell me I'm behind on technology. I said, you know, I , I , cell phones when you guys were born , uh , they had cell phones, they had tracking, you know, we had 45 foot containers that very innovative company. And also they invested a lot in their employees. I got a lot of good training and a lot of good grounding and really didn't appreciate that because that's the only company I'd really worked for. And it was only until later when I left APL that I appreciated how much grounding I got, but it was a great start to a career. And when I worked for that ocean carrier, they moved me around a bit. And then they promoted me into their logistics division. Their supply chain division was called American consolidation at the time. It's not called American president lines logistics. And so that was a real big eye-opener for me because suddenly I wasn't surrounded by the assets. I was surrounded by the possibilities and all of the different things that we could do for customers. And so that really opened up my eyes to this whole world of supply chain and where things really started in our primary sale, even back then was order management or order visibility. And so I got really deep into customer supply chains, most notably with JC penny. I was able to travel the world with JC penny and help them improve their supply chain. And at some point I got curious about that other side of the desk. And so I decided to move over and become one of my customers. And so I worked for Michael stores and arts and crafts store chain, big chain in, based in Dallas, Texas. And there I was the director of international logistics and sourcing. So again, kind of my head exploded a little bit because I got to go tour factories and find out how products were, were actually found by companies and the , and that whole process really enjoyed it. And I then got recruited. I was pretty happy at Michael's , but I got recruited to go to Troy, Michigan to work for Kmart in their headquarters and expanded again a little bit there. I still had international sourcing and logistics, but there, I also had domestic transportation. So that was an eye-opener was a huge network. We had a billion dollar spend, 300,000 trailers, 80,000 containers, customs, the whole shebang, and really a great experience for me. And that's really where I believe it or not way back then. This is almost 20 years ago. That's really when I had the idea for the company that I've built. So it , it sort of set me off in the trajectory cause it was the first time I realized that the supply chain was not logistics. My whole world had been logistics and suddenly by being there, I thought, wow, you know, it's not really logistics at all. It's, it's, you know, we're customer service to the rest of the organization. What we're really trying to do is get products and we're trying to sell products. And so , uh, that was the epiphany for me to sort of learn it from the business side and what was really important to those corporations. Kmart unfortunately went bankrupt and I was given a great opportunity by them through a severance package to take a little bit of time and think about what I wanted to do next. And I love the supply chain. I didn't love retail. It was interesting, but I love retail. I love the supply chain. And so I decided to go back and join my tribe. And I went to work for a ups when they were forming the supply chain division early on. They had just bought Fritz when I joined and they were soon to buy Menlo. So I got to be there at the ground floor. I've seen them build a supply chain division, which was super interesting, very creative, very innovative, melding cultures, bringing all kinds of business together, had a great time there. And , uh, after about year seven there, I guess I got recruited by FedEx who was trying to do the same thing. They had just bought a customs broker called Auer and they wanted to see if they could expand it so soon after I got hired, I got put in charge of a project to see if we could grow into an international freight forwarder and super interesting. I got to report directly to the executive team and give them the ideas and how we could expand this business. And suddenly they approved it. And their goal was to be a billion dollar freight forwarder in a five-year period of time. And it , to me that seems so audacious, but of course from a FedEx perspective, a billion dollars is just table stakes. If you couldn't be in the top 20 in the business, they didn't even want to do it. You know? And so fortunately the project got approved and I got a chance to sort of spearhead that met lots and lots of great people. We opened up operations in 27 countries and sure enough, you know, good , good plans and good people. We hit our goal and I don't know where their revenue stands today, but before I left there, we had hit the billion dollar Mark. So that was a really exciting time. And suddenly I found myself looking to do something different once again, that was exciting, but we did it. And I got recruited to join a domestic transportation company, mostly trucking and warehousing. And they asked me if I would come and build them a global forwarder. And so it was just arrogant enough or foolish enough, maybe, maybe the FedEx thing was the brand. It probably was the brand. Let's see if I can actually do this without a brand behind me without tremendous amount of resources. And so I took that position and it was really an eye-opener for me in that it was a privately held business run by three brothers who were very much entrepreneurs. And so suddenly going from these big corporate moves into a business that was, you know , really self-propelled and powered by the people and the owners. And didn't have all the trappings of a big corporation, sort of taught me to be a lot more entrepreneurial and use my resources more effectively. So we built a global freight forwarding division for them. And that was super interesting too , to try to build something international inside a domestic organization. And during that process, this is the end of the story. During that process, I really then solidified this notion that I got way back when at Kmart , that now was the right time to build a different kind of technology for the international supply chain. And the last piece of the puzzle was a stepping out on that more entrepreneurial space with NFI was, which was privately held run by a family. But also because I didn't have many resources, I had to get very scrappy and I started to employ a lot of technology to build that division. And I went, wow, the technology has improved so much Andre, that this is the time. This is the time when finally this idea can meet this new technology and we can do this. And so I left there and that's how I came to start my current business, which is Mercado.

Speaker 3:

Wow. If I can see a theme or numbers in all , um , in , in the stories that you are in a lot of shape and forms a builder and , uh , yeah, yeah . From, from , um, the beginning to building a global for freight forwarding and now building a startup,

Speaker 2:

It's funny when you say that, it, it just reminded me of a thought, the other epiphany I had when I was leaving Kmart , what I wanted to do next was supply chain. I wanted to join my tribe. I want to do in supply chain, but I did have that epiphany. And I hope everybody does at some point in their career, hopefully earlier than I did that when I looked back on the first part of my career, the first, you know , Kmart , Michael's , all that stuff. I did have a lot of time to think about what made me happiest and to your point, building things and, or fixing things was when I was the , had the most energy when I was the happiest. And so I did gravitate, continued to gravitate towards things that were, were new and building things. And I just loved that experience. Not so much when it became big and it was turning dials, right? Yeah,

Speaker 3:

Yeah . Yeah. I understand. And let's talk about the current global or regional situation in supply chain, right? There are a lot of trends happening. It's an interesting year. Hopefully it's coming to an end and hopefully next year will be much, much better, but I'm just trying to get your perspective of the trends, right? So we have this global pandemic, it has impacted supply chains in a lot of ways. What do you see the biggest trends happening in the next couple of months next year as well? Or what's , what's your perspective on that?

Speaker 2:

Well, let me start with the perspective that, you know, I think if you look back through time, a lot of the , the biggest innovations came from some type of crisis, right? And so if you want to look at the bright side of this pandemic and it's awfully hard to do, but if you want to look at this pandemic, it's really forced everybody to rethink the way they were doing things previously, good, bad or indifferently. And so, you know, that's, it's , it's really an impetus to push people over the edge to do something new. But the trend had started in my mind before pandemic, at least in my space, international supply chain. And I D I just looked back at this industry not too long ago and thought about the big trends that have occurred in my time in it, my 25 years or almost 30 years now in this business. And the first big trend obviously came just before I got in, which was containerization. And that really made global trade possible. If you think about it, really, it just made it so you could scale the entire business part of that. It wasn't scalable. And so that was the first big innovation. And then I didn't really see much innovation until maybe the nineties, when all of a sudden this thing called a freight forwarder started to emerge in a big way. And they took all the, the relationships away from carriers and put them into Forter sands and they became one-stop shop. And they filled in all the gaps. And so I liken the forwarder to either a Swiss army knife or a Sherpa. You know, they help customers climb these big international mountains, or they have all these different tools that they can use to fix things. And so that became the trend for a long time, this emergence of these big global fours going to Nagaland, DHL, and expediters , and so forth, and then lots and lots of ones, there's , there's tens of thousands of freight forwarders, and then not much else happened. And I have to say I was disappointed because to me, supply chain is incredibly exciting, but it wasn't much in the news as you know. And so now I fast forward and in the last three, there's been so many different events for international trade that have continued to propel it forward. And I think probably the root cause for so much of what's happening today, you know, first in our country, right , Andres , you know, president Trump picked a fight, was he almost done a second trade Wars, all that kind of stuff, right? When then we have sourcing shifts and just one thing after another. And then of course now the pandemic, but what I see in terms of a trend is that people's response to all of those events has been to migrate to what I see the next big trend, the next big innovation, which is all of this tech, you know, there are dozens of logistics, tech startups happening right now before your face . I just went through an exercise to evaluate them. And some of them are just absolutely amazing that the concepts were amazing. The technologies are amazing. The entrepreneurs are amazing. And then there's also a big, a big willingness on the importer side at the same time. So as these companies are emerging, these importers are also feeling the same thing that they'd been under siege for in their case for 10 years, with Amazon coming in and e-commerce and fulfillment and customers wanting stuff. So that whole convergence is now happening now. And so that'll be the next trend for the next couple months. And for the next few years is the adoption of technology in a business that's sorely needed it. This business is just so outdated and so heavily dependent on email and Excel and people. And you want the people, you just want the people doing smart things and , and not laborious things. And so this technology that's coming in is amazing. And I think it's going to reshape every aspect of this business from, you know, how we think about , uh , acquiring suppliers to how we think about doing business to the, to the advanced looks that we can get in things with the artificial intelligence. So I'm just super excited. And I'm just so fortunate that I got to be here in this time, that technology is now here, it's being propelled by the pandemic is being propelled by venture capital. And so just amazing things are happening and sparks are flying all over the place.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. I really liked that analogy with the SharePoint and I think it can be applied to everything that's happening with technology and with start up that are coming up in the space. Right? So now let's unpack and one thing that's a bit and talk about Mercado, and maybe we can start with what are the main problems that you're trying to address and solve with Oracle , right? What , what are the fixes that you need to do and you're focusing on.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So I'll take it back to Kmart and the discovery that I had there that sort of led to this business and that statement that as a logistics guy, I didn't, you know, I wanted to make more of a contribution. I wanted to understand what business was like. And so the business people, the CEO at the time was Chuck Conaway . He wasn't talking to me about [inaudible] or bills of lading or any of those things. He was asking me about inventory and products and that type of stuff. So while at Kmart , we hired a company that did border management. And so I was able to, as a logistics guy and I ran into a big, huge problem, I caused a massive Kmart with a Christmas program. I didn't plan it well enough. And so I was on the hot seat with the CEO and a number of other executives, but fortunately I was able to explain it in business terms. So I could say, you know what we are behind, but 83% of our Christmas merchandise for week one is on track that 17%, that's not his ornaments. I've already talked to the ornament buyer. And he said he can reset it for the next week. And so, because I could talk to the business people in business terms, because I had ordered and product data, that was the epiphany. I thought, you know , really, this is how we should talk. Generally. We certainly, we need to know where the ship's at and be able to track stuff. But to the extent that we can translate our expertise into solving the problems of the business, that's the real hot for me. And so that's been sort of the track that I've been on ever since is, is how do we get into solving the challenges of the business? So that same epiphany was it's not going far enough because I could get visibility to the order once it was booked with the freight forwarder and then through to delivery. But what we don't think about is the life cycle of an international order is only 25% logistics. It's one month from origin to destination 75% of the order is purchasing. And there's no system at all to control that. So the real problem that we solve at Mercado is going forward when an importer sends out a purchase order, they send it to Mercado and we present that order in its raw form to the supplier over the web. And suddenly now the supplier has a digital purchase order, not a hard copy, not a PDF, not an EDI feed. That's going to computer somewhere. They're actually looking live at the purchase order. The supplier is, and the, and the customer is, and from that point forward, they can do all their work together on the purchase order. It's collaborative and it's got workflows and it's got automation. And so for example, there's production control. So I can monitor the production as the suppliers , making it, I can keep track of when and how it's being made. And has it been inspected and has the sample been sent if we're making this , that you or I can make the changes right on the order. So now for that first 75%, for the first time I'm giving the buyer a Sherpa. Yeah . Logistics guy had a Sherpa, the forwarder, but the buyer guy didn't have a or so they were Sherpas . They were going back and forth on email. So now we've given them automation and technology. And then the end result of that is we can take all of that data and make everything downstream happen better. We create the documents so we can pass those documents to the broker for clearance, or we can pass those documents to the accounting teams that don't have to do a three way audit. And we create the packing list. So we can send that to the distribution center for automated receiving. So automating all those things in the first mile, what I call the first mile, the first 90 days improves every single thing downstream. So we continue to track the order all the way through delivery. But the real opportunity for changes for improvements are in the first mile. And I'll just give you a quick analogy. Let's everybody in the world knows McDonald's. So I'm going to use McDonald's. So Andre, you walk into a McDonald's and you order a cheeseburger, fries, and a Coke, and they take your order, but they don't put it in the computer and it doesn't go back on the machines. They just write it down and they hand it to the people, making the food, and the people ask a couple of questions back and forth. They're just yelling at each other like 20 feet apart. Exhale . They make your food. You hope it's okay, but here's what happens. They put it into a bag, they stapled the bag shut, and they tell you, Andre , you can't open this bag until you get home. Yeah . That's the world of supply chain today, once it's in a container and the container sealed, shut, whatever arrives arrives. And so the notion was similar to McDonald's. We put the order into the computer, we connect the order to the people that are making the hamburgers and fries and a Coke, or in this case, the suppliers that are making the chairs and the furniture and bikes and all that stuff. And we track it while it's being produced. And at the end, we make it visible. We put it on a tray, you can see it before you take it back to your table. So that's what we built. That's Marcato in a nutshell is connecting the supply chain, connecting the buyer to their supplier and products and connecting the products to the demand on the other side, to sales and connecting that old team, connecting the supplier, the logistics guy, the sourcing guy, the purchasing guy, the freight forwarder , connecting everyone that links . So they've all got exactly the same information, the same set of criteria with which to evaluate, and they can all improve together. They're not all doing their little pieces, you know , off, off individually. Does that make sense?

Speaker 3:

Well , that makes a lot of sense. I mean, that's a great white space that you've identified, and of course it comes with , uh , with your long career , uh , that 75% of unknown, you don't know what's happening. You don't know what's in the box, is the catalog or not, you know, the analogy of the shredding is experiments , but yeah, I really appreciate that , uh , analogy with McDonald's, you know, and you open the bag and sometimes you have pickers and you order without, because and on . Hm .

Speaker 2:

Yeah. You can, you can imagine. And you know , if you , if you want some case studies, I can talk about just pleasant it . Yeah. Yeah. So , so one of our buyers was talking about a scenario where she ordered a ton of umbrellas and halfway through the production process, or a quarter of the way the supplier said to her, you know, listen, and this was pre Mercato , but listen, we , we, we're not gonna be able to make enough umbrellas for you in time. However, we do have a lower quality umbrella that we can substitute for 25% of this order. She agreed to it, but she also agreed to attend cent per umbrella reduction because it was a lower quality umbrella. All those arrive , all the umbrellas were there. That was the good news. And 25% of them were subpar in umbrellas. But once you got the invoice, there was no 10 cent per umbrella discount. It's paying full price. So she reaches back out via email to the supplier and says, Hey, where's the discount. And he said, what discount? Maybe talking about it . There's no discount. And the , the punchline of this, it's a long story, really long story and frustrating story with the punchline is it took her two and a half hours to find the one sentence in the one email that mentioned that 10 cent reduction, right? Because if you think about it as email correspondence, you , you're not categorizing this in any way. So post Mercado now, of course, if she's making a change, she makes the change in our system on the order for the 10 cent reduction, the supplier accepts it on the order. And then the order is changed to the new price. So we're not waiting until after we received it to go back and find out that the invoice was wrong. And then I have to fight for two months and then track, email down. And then, you know, a similar story was, you know, a whole container load of patio furniture. And the instructions were clear, do not load this on top of that, you know , load this on top of that. Well, when they unloaded it, of course the supplier had done it backwards. And the consequence was all of the patio's furniture was ripped. It was woven and it was all ripped. And so they went back to inspire and say , Hey , listen, what are we going to do? This is for patio. And spring is here and they couldn't come up with a solution. And it took a lot of management attention, cause this was a really hot set. And it was , uh , you know, they had an , a promotion and so forth. The, the end result I get another long story short was that the supplier wound up flying, flying five of their workers from Shanghai to Dallas, Texas. And they sat in that distribution center for five days and re stitched that patio furniture. But can you imagine the expense and the chaos that that caused because the things were upside down. And so this is these two examples of you don't know what's inside that bag. When it got stapled shut, you can't read the receipt to know if they charged you the right price for your cheeseburger fry and your Coke. You can't look at it to make sure you didn't get a filet of fish sandwich and an onion ring and a Sprite. You just have to open up the container or the documents and hope it's right. So in Mercado , now you have the ability, you know, we have on-premise video, so you can film the product and you can have live video chats on it. You can embed your instructions into the purchase order. We've got live instructions with testing. So there's all kinds of new technological ways that you can interface more cleanly and more appropriately with your supplier to make sure things happen. Right? And so just a whole different ball game . Again, more to that McDonald's approach, use technology and automation as your friend to make sure that the results are what you expect them to be.

Speaker 3:

And I think you already touched upon is then this is pretty much how you define friction, because you were saying you are using technology to remote, to remove friction. And that's the biggest focus, right? The more you reduce the, the more adoption you get, are there other definitions or other terms that get into the theme of friction other than, of course, all the processes that you explained so far,

Speaker 2:

What'd you just think about this tremendous amount of friction that occurs? So let's just, let's just walk through a lifecycle . Let's just say I'm back in Michael stores . When I worked at Michael's and I'm working with a buyer who orders red yarn. So her friction point number one is how does she find a supplier of red yarn? You know, in this industry, there's no good source data for how to find a reliable red yarn supplier. And so you're kind of left to, I got a guy and then the guy's got a guy, right? And so that's your methodology for finding something really important to your business? Because Michael sells a lot of red yarn, right? Especially around Valentine's day. So there's a lot of friction just around locating that supplier. And then you have to vet them and you have to vet them pretty heavily because it's not just can they make red yarn, can they make my quantity of grand yard and in the time and at the price point, but as importantly, can they meet California supply chain, transparency act and do they do anything harmful to humans and all kinds of other things I want to know about the supplier? Who else did they ship to? If they ever export in United States, it's just tons of friction finding, and then vetting a supplier. But now I finally found a supplier and I placed an order. And Holy cow, guess what? Lots more friction, because the supplier doesn't have a CRM. So they're receiving it via PDF. And so I'm spending just the first couple of weeks going back and forth, answering questions about that order. Still not sure if they've got it right, because they're on , you know, you don't understand the four , so you get it . I'm in Dallas or 12 hours away. That's done a different language, different culture, tons of lost in translation. So, so friction there. And then, because it's all custom manufacturing, everything is custom manufactured. People don't think about that, but they're not pulling anything off the shelf. They're getting your purchase order. They're ordering the raw materials. Then they're making your goods and it takes three months. So for that three months, while your goods are being custom manufactured, any number of issues can come up. We ran out of umbrellas. We don't have enough blue ink. We don't have this. Can we substitute this? Or they could change on my side. I need more red yarn, or I need some pink , red yarn. So all that friction going back and forth by email and XL . And you're not done yet, because then you've got to book, your supplier has to book with a freight forwarder and you help their forwarder understands now your logistics requirements. So now it's moving from the buyers. They went from the sourcing person to the buyer. There's all this friction with the purchase. Now you sort of throw it over the fence to the logistics person who doesn't have any of the benefit of those previous conversations or what's changed, or any of that stuff. He's just telling us forward. Or when you received this booking , here's my routing guide. So book would Mariska do whatever you're gonna do and there's friction there. And then there's friction with the carrier. Now you've got to get it into us. Customs. You're managing all of that with PayPal. And you've got to customs brokers got piles of paperwork up on their desk, trying to match up the commercial invoice, the bill of lading, to the, whatever friction with the government. So, so friction with sourcing friction, with purchasing, fixing with logistics, friction, with customs, and none of those people are connected. And none of those people have a tool. So they can't even look at what happened the step before them to make educated decisions on what should happen next. And so that last person, that process , gosh, forbid if you're in the distribution center or the customs person, anything that's gone wrong is suddenly showing up in your lap. And if you're the customs person you're matching paper like crazy and inputting stuff. And if a distribution service, you have an account and make sure there's no defects, no discrepancies, all kinds of things. And so all of that is friction. Every piece of that is friction. And we believe that none of it should be friction. It should be frictionless and you still have to run a business. There's still going to be questions, but now you have tools to allow you to see and touch and connect all of the disparate parts and then start to weave those through. So that it's one seamless pipe. It's not all these different this over here, throw it over the wall to this person over here with no instruction , sort of the wall of that person. Why, why isn't that just one continuous stream? Why can't I just go from planning my order to placing my order to moving my order? And so that was our notion. That's what we've we saw this friction. And we said, boy, if we could remove that friction, so many great things could come. And so , so we talk about, you know , adoption, but I'm really saying if we can move that refrain friction, could we improve your time to market? Because in theory, we could probably get it produced faster. If we can answer those questions faster and see those potential problems faster, maybe we could reduce expenses because we don't have to do so much to recover, to fix that patio furniture or to put all those people on this. And so maybe we could reduce our expenses. Maybe we could improve our sales because now suddenly we know exactly the status of that red yarn, every step of the way. And so I can be assured that I'm going to make it in time to the store, which is around, and it's gotta be the store around February 1st for Valentine's day that every store is going to get enough red yarn because I've tracked it. And I've got complete visibility from the minute I placed the order. Instead of by the time it was booked with the carrier. If it's already late being produced, nothing I can do to make it up. You know, I can check it , air , freight it, but then I lose all my margin.

Speaker 3:

And then of course, customer satisfaction based on higher quality because the instructions have been followed. And it makes sense, like everybody looking at the same set of instructions from the point on point a to Z, it makes a lot of sense and it doesn't happen. So, yeah, that's a , that's a great, it's a great tool that you're building right there. The Robert what's next for the company. I'm curious. I mean, it sounds like you have a great product. I'm sure the team is also great. I'm just wondering what are the main milestones you're looking at? What's what's up ahead .

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So the , the , the, the thing for us right now is our primary mission, which is we want to help people connect their supply chains to make them more efficient. And so that's the primary mission, and we've got a ways to go there, but what we see happening next in sort of our next phase of our, our vision is something we call marketplace. And it ties into this trend that we talked about earlier. There's all these amazing technology companies popping up, but some of them are just point specific solutions. And some of them, the customers don't have the ability to adopt because they don't have the technology themselves to take advantage of it or the resources. And so we're, we're taught , we're building something called marketplace where we're partnering with other tech companies that don't compete with us directly, but could provide great value to customers, either our customers or any customers. And we can be the facilitator of those relationships. And so I'll just give you some examples. Hopefully your audience will know some of these companies, but there's a great company called project 44 in United States. And, you know , I've always watched them in the domestic space. That is some great things to connect to all of the domestic links and they are , they're killing it. But recently now they've added international to their portfolio. There's a lot of customers that would like to have all their tracking done for international and domestic in the same place. So through a partnership with project 44, we could now offer in , in theory or potentially if a customer wants it, multimodal visibility, ocean and domestic, all ocean air , and domestic for the first time, any modeling . So that's sort of interesting, right? Yeah . Uh, another partnership we have is with a company called chain IO. That's doing the integrations for companies building all those APIs and interfaces. And so companies struggle with getting all these connections, cause they've sometimes on their side either have limited it resources or old technology. So can we offer the customers the ability to interface and connect their businesses through our partnership with Jane IO? So our next phase is to sort of build this marketplace to make all of international trade easier, not just the piece that we're solving, but really all are solved . And it doesn't even have to be through our platform. We can still facilitate that connection, whether it's via Mercado or not. I just want to make international trade better and then longer term I , what I see, it's not quite here yet. Some of it's still hype, but it's going to happen. There's such a big opportunity, Andre, I think with , uh , machine learning and eventually AI. And when you think about what we're doing, certainly we're taking, you know, a very old antiquated process and making it more efficient and more modern. But when it really gets modern is when the computer can absorb all that data and start helping those customers think through what their next move is. So, you know, I looked at it like we were, we were playing some kind of a game in the dirt before and we brought it up to checkers, you know, thought has made it up the checkers, but eventually you're going to want chess. And I think that the machines can play chess quite well, because they're going to know how many times you placed an order that you exceeded the time you allocated on the purchase order. And so we should probably change your lead times. And if I could save, you know, two weeks in my lead time, because the computer's told me based on their algorithms that reliably and predictably, I could cut that order by two weeks, that's massive. And so they can sort through all of this customs data, production, data, logistics data, and start to give us really good predictive recommendations and how we can do things more efficiently. So I, so all the journey is connect the international supply chain because it's disconnected and make it more efficient and then connect it to the broader ecosystem of potential technologies out there, and then leverage that data to help customers manage their businesses wildly more efficiently than they can do today.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. I mean, the keyword there is connecting . I think another keyword is partnerships and working together with other companies that offer solutions that just work together and we want your offering and we actually know project 44, and they're also a great company and product. Now, Robert wanted to ask you a few things about leadership and in teams, right? Because this is, I'm thinking as a CEO, you have to keep the sun on your agenda in mind a lot of times. And when you think about culture and your building now, a startup is definitely an interesting challenge. I'm sure it's a lot of ups and downs, but what does a good company culture mean for you and how would you define Mercado's culture in that sense?

Speaker 2:

So , yeah, so I've , I've had the really good fortune Andrea working for some really great companies . So, so my, my management philosophy has been shaped and honed and formed from learning from just really great leaders. I just had so much good fortune and also really great companies. And I've distilled it down at Mercado to two things. I, I created a document called what it takes and for every new employee that comes in within the first two days of them being here, I schedule a one hour call with each employee and I spend the first 10 minutes in silence or 15 minutes, whatever it takes them to read that document. It's six pages. I borrowed the six pages from Jeff Bezos. He has all these presentations have to be six pages, no PowerPoints. So it's six pages long, but it defines for , for the new employee. What is our vision? What is our culture? Like, what is our mission? What is their role? What does it take to be an employee at Mercado , sort of the attributes that we've seen that help people be successful here. And so they read it and then we talk about it. We spend the next 45 minutes and we go through, you know, what do you think about our strategy? You know, we, we lay out where we think we're going to be two years from now. What do you think about that? Does that make sense to you? Or are you on board with that? And what do you think about how we think about your role are, you know, are you resourceful and, and are you a team player? Because those are the things that we, we aspire to and that we admire. And so that's how I start them. And then , uh , the way I manage them is something that I call PSP and it's PR people, service and profit, and the basic notion is take great care of your people. They'll deliver service and profit will follow. So profits last in that. And then I , I define for them, it's in my, what it takes document what that means. So what does it mean to treat people well? So it means to treat people with dignity and respect and to treat everybody and , uh , you know , I tell them, and they're what it takes session. That the one thing that you really will get in trouble for here fast and may no longer be an employee of Mercado, is if you don't celebrate diversity, because we treat everybody with dignity , respect, not certain people didn't respect. And that includes me. And so I talk about me as I'm a servant leader. And so what that means is I actually report to you. And so I have to follow your lead and make sure you have what you need to be successful. And then we get into service either . We just talk about the notions of what it means for service and for us to be customer obsessed and how important that is to us and profit is self-explanatory. But what I talked to them about profit in terms of why it's important to us, what we're going to do with it, what are those fundamentals ? Not just profit profits sake . We're not just sitting there going, Oh, I want to make a trillion dollars. It's what that money does to propel our mission and, you know, sort of our, our underlying, or my underlying why of this. And I communicate this to the employees is , is as great of a career that I've had as much as I've loved traveling around the world. I've been to 49 countries. I've also seen a lot of bad things. And so I said, if we can give back, and if we can create some things in our product that sort of put some, some bright lights on some dark spaces, that would really be amazing. So let's use some of our profit for good, let's reinvest it into our products and invest it into solutions that will help people shine, brighter lights into darker corners. And so that's how we think about it. We think about it in terms of our vision and what it takes, and then explaining that to the employees and then everybody following those principles of PSP and so far so good, it's a work, we've got an incredible team and

Speaker 3:

I would go a bit deeper. Right. Then think about when you're interviewing, because you already mentioned a few things about collaboration and working in a team, but I assume this is what it takes document and philosophy stands at the foundation of all the processes, including interviewing recruiting. But when you interview for maybe your team or direct reporting team or the leaders, what do you look?

Speaker 2:

Yeah . So I , I , um, I don't do, I think in, in , uh , HR world , they would call it behavioral interviewing. But , but frankly, I spend very little time on , uh , sort of functional questions or technical questions. I, you know, I'm well-read , so I read their bios, I know where they've worked. I know what they said they can do. I have all that information already in my head. And so I don't need to spend any time on that because I'm gonna assume that they're telling the truth where I spend my time instead is just getting to know them because you can get the best assessment on character ever, just by asking some basic questions, just by caring about somebody where'd you grow up, where'd you come from? What kind of family do you have what's most important to? So ask a lot of questions about them to really understand them. And then through that, I've been doing this for a long time. I pick up a lot of cues in terms of what's it , what do they think about what's first and foremost? And if, if you can hear just simple things, like if the whole interview is IHI . Yeah. I know

Speaker 3:

That's not

Speaker 2:

Who I want. And , but if I, if I hear stories about , um, you know, why people want to make a change or why they're crazy enough to join a startup, or what's inspired them the most in their career to date or where they love to do the most outside of work, just amazing what they'll tell you. And that's how I can determine whether or not they're going to match our culture and be willing to participate in PSP. And so I do it that way. I just do it basically through getting to know someone. So I usually schedule an hour for an interview and I spent almost the whole hour just in a conversation like we're having right now, just to just an informal conversation, getting to know them and asking them as many questions or just sometimes shutting up and letting them talk, which is great too. And then seeing their body language and seeing when their eyes light up and seeing when they get kind of reserved and when they're leaning forward. And that tells you all kinds of stuff too. So, so that's what I love to do. I do. Of course, there are other people in the organization that are concerned with very specific technical applications. And so if necessary, there are other people who will vet something very discreet that we might need in engineering, for example, but in terms of the leadership team, and in terms of the general administration positions, we have, that's basically 100% of the interview process.

Speaker 3:

I like what this data . Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Because I got to say, but , uh , for the most part, we've got a really good track record.

Speaker 3:

And like you said, most interesting things come from basic questions, you know, and just asking the root questions about somebody's life. That's something that people are interesting . We're over it for the last question, right? We are getting close to the end of the podcast. I just wanted to ask you, because you have such a long career in so many perspectives from the corporate life. Now with the startup life in our audience, we have a lot of people that are thinking either to make a change in their career either to start a new road. Um, what would be the best advice or , um , some of the best pieces of advice that you could give you may be received throughout your career when it comes to a successful career?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. I thought you were going a different direction overall career. You know, if I, if I look back on mine, the one thing I told you at the top of this thing that I wish I would have done sooner is to spend more time evaluating what truly made me happy, because I spent a good number of years in my career doing things that I didn't enjoy doing. And I loved the business that I was in. I loved the people I worked with, but the work I was doing was the wrong work. Right. I'm clearly not an administrator. And so that's one thing is sort of evaluate what makes you the happiest, because what I've found is when I'm the happiest I produced the best results, you know, I, when I'm building something or facing , I'm so energized and I'm so positive and I can't wait to get to, I jump out of bed. Conversely, when I'm doing things I don't like, it's tough to get out of bed and I'm not happy. And so I'm not a joy to be around that. I'm not joyful when I'm there. So that's, that's the piece of advice that I would give. And everybody talks about, you know, find something that you're passionate about and your love. I always question that advice a little bit, because I didn't know. I love supply chain and I didn't know, I loved international supply chain. I just got so lucky. And my first real epiphany in this business was when I was with APL and they sent me first to New York and then to London. And I grew up in a small suburb outside of Chicago. So both those trips made my head explode because I hadn't met people from other countries and I hadn't traveled anywhere besides Wisconsin. And so I thought, wow, if I could get into this business and I can meet all these different people from all these different cultures and I could travel the world and I could do, that's really what I want to do. And so that propelled me forward because just those first experience set my intention. I said, I want to be in any kind of role where I can meet lots of different kinds of people and travel and do all that stuff. And , and so all of that kind of self-propelled. So I wish I would have learned earlier to think about the work that I was doing and what I love the most. And I'm glad that even though I didn't choose this industry or something I was passionate about, I was able to find something within this industry that I did love and I was passionate about, and I followed that trail. And so that's what I would say in the long arc of your career, or even the short arc. And the one thing I tell people that want to do a startup, cause I always get asked to us , seems so hard and it's , and it just depends on your definition of hard . It is. It's, there's no doubt building something from nothing is not for the faint of heart. The flip side of that though, is what, what I found for me anyway, is that because this is what I'd love to do. I already knew that at this point I knew this is what I love to do. This wasn't my first career. And I was trying to figure it out. I knew this because I love what I do. It doesn't really feel mostly, it doesn't feel like work if I'm honest with you. And then the second thing is because I started this company, I could create whatever kind of culture I wanted to. And so I got to get rid of all the baggage of the things that I didn't like in the other company. So I don't have bureaucracy. I don't have politics. I don't have , you don't have that stuff. And so in many ways, this is much easier than what I had in the past in many ways. And so that's the way I look at it. Yes, of course there are hard things. I don't want to tell anybody that's listening to this, that doing a startup as hardest. I was going to swear. I won't do that . Yeah . Sorry about that. It's brutally hard, but, but it's hard in a meaningful and significant way. So that makes it worth it. And also it's easy because hopefully you're choosing something that you love to do and you can create the type of company that you want to work for. So in balance, it's the best and easiest job. You've got so many hard parts, different way of looking at it , but people , people doing it because they think that , you know , don't do it because you don't want something, do it because do want something. That's the last piece of advice I could give. Cause I , I, you know , I can tell you that if you say, I want to do this because I don't like this or that, that's not a good enough reason. You gotta be driven and propelled to this thing. It's gotta be your , your life's mission or your passion, or it won't work on that note. Thank you very much,

Speaker 1:

Much for the time and sharing. And I think what you're building is , is a great tool. And I think what you're building is a great team as well. So I wish you all the best and success. Andrea too . Pleasure. Thanks very much for having me always. Thank you. Talk soon. Thank you for listening to our podcast for all the show notes and information discussed in this episode, please follow ELCA global.com/podcast. Also, if you found this interesting, please subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or Stitcher, or one of the podcast platforms we are looking forward to your feedback.