“There is no problem that’s unsolvable (with the exception of very, very few). The question is what are you willing to do to solve it?”
– Fernando de Aguero, COO of Diversified Energy Supply
The energy industry is a complex space, with unique challenges and a constantly shifting regulatory landscape at the federal and state levels. From a business perspective, a company’s energy costs can be ‘make or break,’ determining if and when they need to approach customers for energy-based surcharges that can have ripple effects through the supply chain.
Allison Sheffield de Aguero and Fernando de Aguero are the team behind Diversified Energy Supply, a nationwide fuel supplier. They started this business, their second successful entrepreneurial effort, to help companies solve their energy problems through a combination of strategy and technology.
In this conversation, Allison and Fernando tell Supply Chain Now Host Scott Luton about:
· Why the fuel supply chain has historically been affected by a significant lack of controls
· What it takes to offer a market-leading and uniquely flexible solution to companies that all need something a little bit different
· Their advice for entrepreneurs with regard to debt, approach to sales, and positioning for long-term growth
It’s time for supply chain. Now broadcasting live from the supply chain capital of the country. Atlanta, Georgia heard around the world supply chain. Now spotlights the best in all things, supply chain, the people, the technologies, the best practices and the critical issues of the day. And now here are your hosts. Good morning, Scott. Ludin
Scott Luton (00:29):
What’s the blockchain now welcome to today’s show today’s episode. We’re talking with several business leaders that are helping companies manage their fuel supply chains, perhaps an overlooked element in industry, right? Certainly gonna be working hard to raise your supply chain leadership RQ, uh, more to come on that and just a moment, but Hey, quit programming it before we get started. If you liked today’s episode and I bet you will really enjoy the pre the pre-show warm up, Hey, make sure you check us out and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts from. All right. So with no further ado, let’s welcome in our guests here today. We’re going to be chatting with Alison Sheffield, the [inaudible] president and CEO of diversified energy supply and her colleague Fernando de Guerra chief operating officer also with diversified energy supply. Good morning, Alison and Fernando. Good morning, morning. So, you know, as we were chatting before we went live here, really, I I’ve come to really start appreciating your background, the journey you’re on all the growth you’ve had and an industry that unfortunately might get overlooked a bit, you know, we’ve, uh, as I shared with you, we’re Fastly approaching.
Scott Luton (01:35):
When this episode publishes, we’ll be right around 500 and shame on us. We have not focused on what powers global supply chain and the fuel supply chain. So I’m looking forward to, to, to raise my own IQ as we’ve worked through this conversation,
Allison Sheffield de Aguero (01:49):
I’m happy to be a part of that. Thank you so much for having a son.
Scott Luton (01:53):
All right. So let’s, before we talk, shop, so to speak and industry and get some of your thought leadership and experiences, let’s get to know you both of y’all a little bit better. So Alison for starters, and tell us about where you grew up and give us an anecdote or two about your upbringing.
Allison Sheffield de Aguero (02:07):
I was the daughter of a fuel logistics officer in the air force. So I was actually born overseas in Germany and spent most of my childhood moving from place to place wherever my father was stationed. Um, as we were growing up, ended up landing in South Alabama, where he then retired from the air force and went to work, uh, with the family business, which was also an oil company, Sheffield oil company. Once he retired from that particular company, he then moved on to work for, uh, a jobber, uh, in South Alabama, myself. Um, I came up, went to school, um, in Alabama, ended up moving over to Mexico for a few years, picked up the Spanish language and then came back and started my career working in inside sales for different companies in their Latin American divisions, just using, using some skills that I had loved. So let me
Scott Luton (03:00):
Ask a couple follow-up questions, going back to being the, the, um, the daughter of a, of a career air force veteran and the moving around. You know, we talked to a lot of folks like that and, and, you know, constantly meeting new people, immersing themselves, new communities. They, they have to, um, adapt more so than, than many others that might grow up and live in the same place for most of their formative years. That’s gotta be a great advantage, uh, now being, you know, leading a business and, and meeting and, and, you know, uh, new people all the time that do deals that
Allison Sheffield de Aguero (03:33):
The big advantage I have to agree that yes, it is a, it is a big advantage. Um, I have the benefit of meeting all different kinds of people from all different walks of life. Being able to understand, uh, just different cultures as you’re mixed in. Um, just as you’re brought up in, in, in the early years, there’s really not a, a chance to put down roots. So to say, so that was different for me. We’ve been here in Atlanta since the year 2000. So this is more of a new experience for me as I grew up. Um, just being in the mix with all different sorts of people. I do think it’s an advantage for me because as I meet people, I’m able to just be flexible and understand different points of view. Um, those things aren’t foreign to me because I’ve, I’ve, I’ve seen a lot, I’ve met a lot of different people. I’ve, I’ve had that advantage,
Scott Luton (04:21):
Love that Alison, I wish more people had those experiences. Cause I would think it would create a lot more dialogue and we could bust through some of the challenges that we face globally. Um, all right. So I don’t wanna put you on the spot. One final question. So growing up in Alabama, now, 20 years here in Atlanta, which is you get your native badge, uh, as I understand it, after 15 years when it comes to football or weird, or where your allegiances
Allison Sheffield de Aguero (04:48):
Watching closely. Oh my goodness. This is such a loaded question. Okay. Well, multiple times father, my father was a diehard Georgia fan, so I always have to cheer for the dogs. I mean, that’s just a loyalty thing for me. However, my husband is a Georgia tech grad, so we do have a little conflict there, you know, at least once a season, but we are also, um, we are also big fans of the Miami hurricanes. So we’re, we’re pretty broad. Again, there’s a lot of diversity in our football language, so
Scott Luton (05:24):
I love that. That’s a great place to be. All right. So Fernando and I also heard, you said you were watching it as she answered that question. So I love that
Allison Sheffield de Aguero (05:32):
We can relate. I think, you know why now? Right.
Scott Luton (05:37):
All right. So same question, Fernando, let’s get to know you a little better. So tell us, you know, where did you grow up? What were some of your experiences, you know, in your formative years and who knows, who might end up on football too?
Allison Sheffield de Aguero (05:47):
So I’m first generation in the U S my mother and father were born in Cuba and fled communism. Um, they came to the U S each of them were placed
Fernando de Aguero (05:58):
In orphanages here, and I met later in life. And, uh, my brother and I were the first generation, I was born up North, but I was there for a very short period of time. So I don’t claim to be a Yankee by any means. Uh, spent most of my youth in Atlanta. I moved here in 77, but I also spent some time in Miami each year, uh, with family down there. So I kind of claim both places. It’s my upbringing area. As I was growing up. I didn’t really connect right in either place because I, I would spend part of the year in each. So I connected at a certain level through sports and things you do as you’ve. But I really, because I claimed two different places as my home, they were so different. I got a little bit of that benefit of that diversity of views, cultures, languages, uh, between Miami and Atlanta.
Fernando de Aguero (06:46):
And, uh, and so that helped form, uh, I think this flexible nature slide into one group or slide into another group very easily. And then that really helped me, particularly when I, uh, when I got into the college years. And I started co-oping, uh, when I was in college with, uh, Georgia power year Southern company. Uh, and I, and I really started being able to connect in the professional environment with people from all different walks of life, because I could find something to connect with that particular person on. And so, uh, that part of my childhood actually translated nicely into early years of adulthood until I got really straightened out when I met Alison in my late twenties. And then, then I really, you know, I don’t really got straightened out, but, um, that’s a little bit about my childhood.
Scott Luton (07:30):
Let me ask you a question. I love, I appreciate you sharing that about your, your parents are trailblazers, that they were, you know, I can only imagine as they landed here in the States, and as you said, they both were put in orphanages, as you look back now, what have they shared? What’s one big lesson learned from your parents as they experienced that. And now, you know, the fruits of their efforts, you know, you and your brother, successful entrepreneurs and great businesses, what an awesome story, what, what’s one lesson that they really taught you that you, um, you know, maybe carry with you?
Fernando de Aguero (08:06):
Well, they’re telling me, my father is, um, very articulate in particular. Um, and there’s two things that he can’t have a conversation without getting some flavor of one of these or both of these things. One is there is no replacement for, and there is no shadow of freedom period. You’re either free or you’re not. And if you don’t have freedom, none of the rest matters. And I think that’s rooted in being ripped out of ripped out of your family, ripped out of everything, you know, at 10 years old and being sent to another country where you don’t speak the language, you know, in 1960 61, there was no internet. There wasn’t really even, uh, you know, there was no cable. There, there was really no visual auto audio information coming from other countries. So this was really like picking up and leaving and moving to another planet with no adults just come from a, from an experience perspective, that’s gotta be really traumatic for the child.
Fernando de Aguero (09:10):
And, and so that, that idea of, if you don’t have freedom, you have nothing is really number one. And number two, compromise, compromise. Everyone has to compromise in all things in life. Now, you don’t compromise the things that are important. You take a stand on those things, but when it comes to negotiations and, and a negotiation would be, what movie do you want to go see tonight? Not just talking business, right? Pick the things that matter and stand firm on those things. And for me, and for Alison it’s, everything that’s rooted in faith, uh, that is not it’s uncompromisable, but on everything else in the long picture, it’s compromisable, right? So work with people as you go. So those are, I think the two big things is freedom and compromise.
Scott Luton (09:56):
I love that, especially that first one, it makes things easier, right? When it, when it’s crystal clear and, and that simplicity. Um, and then, and then the second point, you know, it goes back to that dialogue that we were talking about with Alison second ago, you know, I believe that not enough dialogue is taking place, you’ve got hardened positions, and it really is part of the reason why I believe we are where we are. So at least here in the States, right. But nevertheless, Hey, we’re a big optimist we’re going to, we’re going to break through. And, and I love hearing these stories from business leaders, such as yourself. So to that end, let’s, let’s keep going down your journeys before, before diversified energy supply. Let’s talk about your professional journey. Both of y’all kind of alluded to it already, but let’s talk about what you did more before your current roles and in particular, was there a certain mentor or coach that you look back at, um, and that was, was critical to your development?
Allison Sheffield de Aguero (10:55):
So, um, I alluded to, yes, I, um, came back from Mexico, started working in inside sales, um, in the Latin American division for a couple of companies. One of them was, um, an engineering equipment company. The other one was, um, software security software. From there. I took the leap as a mother, took a few years off to start our family. We, um, we have four kids. I’m happy to say, we’re amazing. Kids did take some time to start that process, start the family, get them situated, and then came alongside of Fernando as we started our first company, which was a national guest, um, retail company here in Georgia, worked with him on the marketing efforts, uh, came alongside, particularly to the Hispanic communities using that skillset that I had previously been using from there, we started our electric retail company moving forward. We got into the wholesale to percent energy supply, um, starting this company, a, um, natural gas wholesale company. Um, so utilities out in California in 2014, I actually, uh, took over the company from Fernando. He was a primary on the Nat gas and we decided to take a shift over into petroleum. And we started growing the company with a focus on petroleum, um, wholesale, nationwide to customers that have just a larger nationwide footprint. And yet we’ve been going strong from there.
Scott Luton (12:21):
So we’ve got three kids here. And, and so, uh, any, any time we’re running some with more kids than me, it reminds me how small my problems might be. And it’s amazing to raise a family and, and to, to accomplish the feats that you are accomplishing and more, it’s a really, uh, what now? What are your four kids? You don’t have to share too much if you don’t like to, but what, uh, what are they up to, are they, are they really interested in the business or they have other interests? What are they, I’m a chip off the block, or
Allison Sheffield de Aguero (12:52):
I don’t mind talking about my kids at all. They’re amazing. So I have three boys and a girl, um, 16, 15, 10, and eight. Our daughters are, is our youngest one. All of them are hybrid homeschoolers. So we’ve got an additional challenge this season, um, as they’re in school a couple of days a week, and then out of school, you know, working from home. So definitely want to give a shout out to my mother. Who’s giving us a tremendous amount of support in that, in that area. Um, so we can go on and continue to do what we’re doing here with the company, but the kids are amazing. Um, my oldest is actually more interested in ministry than anything else. He’s wanting to be an evangelist and a preacher. So, um, he’s a 4.0 student and just loves the Lord. So that’s, that’s his primary focus next sundown, same, same type of thing. Not quite sure what he wants to do, but he’s more mechanically inclined, I think. Um, and then our younger two, just coming up, being kids, riding horses, and playing football and that sort of thing. And, um, yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s a busy, good life.
Scott Luton (13:55):
Love that. Gosh, love that. And it’s great. The kids can be kids and a challenging year, like 20, 20 historically challenging year. That’s great to hear. All right. One final question for you. Alison is, you know, given the journey you described both past and present and all points in between what’s one Eureka moment that really sticks out to you here today.
Allison Sheffield de Aguero (14:17):
I think my, my biggest Eureka moment, if I’m just going to be totally transparent, uh, was the moment that I realized it was okay for me not to have all the answers, but it wasn’t okay for me to, to stay that way. I don’t have to know everything, but it’s not okay to stay in a state of ignorance. It’s you have to broaden your scope. You have to continue to move forward and open your mind and, and seek the information and the knowledge and the skill sets, um, that are, that are ultimately going to help you be more successful, help you to be broader in, in your offerings as a person, as a wife, as a mother, as an employer in all areas. So I think, you know, taking the pressure off of myself to be perfect, or to have all of the answers and just surround myself with the people that can help me get there and just to continue to grow myself in all those areas. So I can, I can learn and, and ultimately be broader in what I have to offer
Scott Luton (15:18):
Love that, you know, there there’s that when you, when you want to say the word, I don’t know where the phrase, I don’t know, there there’s a, um, transparency. There is a, what’s the word I’m thinking of a certain place that leaders don’t always embrace, right? Because it shows a little bit of what is the worst insecurity. It is like a vulnerability vulnerability. Thank you, Alison. And that is such a powerful thing to embrace. And I think it, it, it really keeps conversations, honest and transparent and truthful and, and powerful with the team. So I really appreciate you sharing that with us. Alison, I’m a big believer, like kindred spirits there. Okay. Um, all right. So Fernando, let’s, uh, let’s talk about your journey as well. You know, feel free if, if you, um, you know, coaches, coaches, mentors, uh, gods, you know, that’s been really instrumental in my life, but if there’s one in your life that really comes to mind would love to learn more about that. And, you know, we’ve got to get a Eureka moment for you as well.
Fernando de Aguero (16:19):
Sure. And I’ll weave in kind of professional history journey as well. It’s all, it’s all, it’s all interrelated
Scott Luton (16:27):
Connected, right? It’s all interconnected. It
Fernando de Aguero (16:29):
Is. It is. I was not the most motivated high schooler. I, when it came to academics, um, the Lord did bless me with the ability to learn and retain and synthesize, uh, for more than just academia. But I didn’t really take advantage of it. There was one, the first mentor, and I wouldn’t really label him a mentor. I would call him a person across my life that pivoted me to see something more. It was a, a high school teacher and coincidentally, his name was mr. Sheffield. Okay. But this was a, uh, an older teacher. I had no relation Fernanda. It would have been yet. Um, but he, he, uh, was, uh, kind of, uh, a weird bird, but I connected with him and he helped me see things in myself that no one ever pointed out and no one ever showed me to look towards. Right. So I’d have to identify him early on when I didn’t really have a lot of direction. If someone had helped point me in the right direction, moving forward, I, I don’t want to use up our time talking about my detailed history, but I do want to say, I did end up at Georgia tech for my undergraduate degree. And I earned a bachelor’s in nuclear engineering while I was there. You’re going to pause
Scott Luton (17:50):
It for a second, a nuclear engineering degree from Georgia tech. I’ve just realized just how far out of my league I am in this conversation. Fernanda. Goodness gracious. How’d you get here? That’s amazing. Well, I mean, that’s fine.
Fernando de Aguero (18:03):
There’s no sleep. There was no sleep during the six, literally. And there’s another story around that, but there was literally no sleep. Particularly the last year we had a large class and there were 16 of us in my class. Okay. And I just had the unfortunate and in some ways fortunate, um, timing of being there with two national science foundation scholars at a school that curves that grades on a curve. So I didn’t, I never felt like the smartest guy in the room. My roommate, I think half of those folks ended up including my roommate, earning PhDs, becoming professors at schools, working at the national labs on the top secret projects, where they lock you underground, uh, those kinds of things. Uh, so I enjoyed my time there. I learned a tremendous amount on how to learn things you don’t know. And that’s really the big, the big takeaway. Uh, the map helped as well, but it was really how do I solve things? I have no idea how to solve. Right. Learn a process of a process.
Scott Luton (19:00):
Yeah. That marries so well, Fernando, with what Alison was just sharing, you know, it seems like that might be a common theme in our conversation Bay. You know, we all have those knowledge gaps. It’s just, some are more willing to, to, uh, acknowledge them and then tenaciously go after filling them. So I appreciate you sharing that, Fernando.
Fernando de Aguero (19:17):
Yeah. And there’s an extended concept there, which we may touch on later on. So I just want to say it now. There is no problem. That’s unsolvable with the exception of very, very few. The question is what are you willing to do to solve it? Right? And sometimes that means getting the right brains in the room. Sometimes that means making the right commitments. So there is no problem. That’s unsolvable with the exception of very few. I love that. So moving along, I got into the war and by the way, when I was at Georgia tech, I co-oped, uh, so I earned a five-year degree, but I also co-oped, which was a two year program where you’re not in the classroom, you’re actually at the workplace as an employee. It’s not an internship. Uh, and so it was a seven year process to get my undergraduate degree with the co-op designation. Most people would say, Hey, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. You could have gotten a master’s in another two years, but I, because of the co-op, I actually pivoted during college from what I thought I wanted to do when I graduated into what I actually wanted to do, I would have never learned that being in a classroom and reading books, I had to be in the field and see the folks doing that work to realize I better not do this. I’ll be miserable for the next 30 years.
Scott Luton (20:35):
And that’s more important that that lesson learned that in the opportunity to learn that lessons part more important than any advanced degrees out there.
Fernando de Aguero (20:42):
Yeah, absolutely. So maybe someone that’s listening to this podcast has a students that are at that age. Um, and I’m certainly as this with our kids, encourage cooperative programs, get in the workplace and actually see what the quote real world really looks like in your major before you commit long-term great direction. So, um, moving along, uh, I, I ended up with an offer before I graduated, uh, to go work for Georgia power in their nuclear group. So I was a Southern company guy as a co-op during college. And I became a Southern company guy. Uh, when I entered the workforce, I also, uh, again, night school, uh, weekends and nights to earn a master’s in business administration, um, while I was early in the workforce years. Um, so I have an undergrad in engineering and then a, uh, an MBA. After a few years, I took a train, a transfer position to a subsidiary Southern company in Atlanta called Southern company energy marketing, which IPO three months after I arrived and spun off.
Fernando de Aguero (21:48):
So all of a sudden I thought it was a life or in Southern company, I was doing my rotation. I’m no longer in the company, but it was a blessing. I got to learn a heck of a lot from a lot of smart folks. There was about a dozen people in the group I worked in, uh, myself and one, or there were the only two quote dumb guys that didn’t have a PhD in the group. So I got to learn a lot from a lot of smart folks during those years and just happened to be there during the energy boom in 2000, 2001 and the Enron and Ron initiated, uh, collapse. Uh, so I was one of the three architects of the plan of reorganization when the company I worked for filed for bankruptcy. Uh, and I learned even more during that time, then all of the other years when we were operating in the boom, I think, um, uh, you know, the Lord just put me in the right place at the right time to learn a lot during those years.
Fernando de Aguero (22:40):
So moving along, I really got to understand business at a much deeper level by putting my hands on it, not just reading the books and taking the tests. And when I transitioned, we were having our first son at the time, I transitioned to Atlanta Gaslight company for more stability when I got there. Um, I came in and did some things for them, but ultimately the board, I’m sorry, not the board, the CFO and the CEO asked me to analyze how to deploy a significant amount of capital. I had to report back on, in about six months to the board. And so they wanted some, some intelligence and some modeling around that. And in that process, I realized, Hey, asset light businesses that cashflow quickly are really the way to go in that process. I talked myself into getting out of corporate America and becoming an entrepreneur because it’s a heck of a lot easier to get into an asset light business than it is to build an asset heavy business in the energy industry.
Fernando de Aguero (23:38):
Right. That led me to the launch. Our first company, Alison alluded to it. It was a natural gas retailer, Georgia, and then moving along, we started an actual gas elect, I’m sorry, a retail electric company in Texas. Uh, then we built a, we started a company that built the first smart meter to have your, have you’ve heard of that, or had people on the program, uh, around smart infrastructure in the utility space, smart meters and so forth. We built the first piece of software that actually allowed utility companies, gas, water, and power to utilize that infrastructure and create a better product services, billing intelligence for consumers of those commodities. From there, we went ahead and transitioned and we started this company in 2011. And so that’s kind of the professional background, uh, the company, our company today. We’ll talk about it a little more. I’m sure. In a few questions is really centric around technology. You could call it field tech, similar to FinTech. We’re kind of,
Scott Luton (24:32):
I love it. Or logistics, tech, freight tech, love it. Fuel tech.
Fernando de Aguero (24:36):
That’s right. That’s right. So, and by the way, the mentors, the, the most influential person during those years in my life was not someone in business. It was someone who taught me what it is to be a man, what it is to be a husband, a father, a son, and just, just a human being, uh, which translates into every area of life. And he was a retired pastor. He’s still alive. He became a very close friend and I chose to take half a day a week. So I’m taking hours away from work half a day, a week, 52 weeks, a year to just sit with him and disciple with him and learn from him. And, uh, and that was transformational. And it did translate into the business world very quickly because it gave me my Eureka moment. Rica moment was, it’s not about the business. The business is a by-product. If you do things properly, the business will work properly is a big word that we could spend a half hour impacting. But that’s the Eureka moment is that it’s not about the business. Uh, the businesses is going to happen one way or the other based on actions that are taken in your life, the seeds that you plant, the people that connect and the people you choose not to connect with,
Scott Luton (25:52):
Right. All those choices. And that’s, that’s one of the better things I’ve learned about being an entrepreneur is you get, you get to seek out and elect to partner and collaborate with greatest people in the world, right? And, and to your point, you get choosing the partner with some of those folks that may be a bit more, a bit different, uh, challenging, or you fill in the blank. But regardless, I love that. I love that story. There’s so much there. We’re gonna have to bring you all back for a multi-part episode, because both of y’all’s journeys are so much more there. I’m sure you could write a couple of books, both of you, but let’s, let’s transition over to diversified energy supply and, and really quick, you know, what the company does. And then Alison, and we’ll start with you. If you could re in a nutshell, tell us about what the company does, and then tell us about some of the unique complexities dynamics that a lot of folks probably don’t appreciate about the industry you’re in
Allison Sheffield de Aguero (26:50):
The bottom line for our company is we’re going to provide you the fuel that you want, that you need when you want it, where you want it in the way that you want it. We focus on customers that have large footprints, nationwide foot prints. They have complex fuel needs. We’ve got folks that need anything from just straight bulk delivery, down to mobile refueling, where we actually come and we fill each individual tank in a fleet of vehicles. Um, we do consigned fuel. We do fuel cards. Just anything that you can imagine, we come to you and, and, and provide that service for you. One of the things that makes us different is we started this company with the idea that we wanted to, we really just wanted to solve problems. Um, we noticed that there, there are customers that are frustrated. They’re folks that are out there that have all of these complexities around their business.
Allison Sheffield de Aguero (27:46):
And they’re really looking for, they’re looking for an easy button. They, they do what they do, they manufacturer, or, you know, they distribute food or supplies or construction. Um, they’re not in the fuel business. They just need this to make sense. They need it to be simple. And when it comes time to pay the bill, they needed to be clear. So what we try to do is go in, we ask for your worst possible mess, whatever mess you’ve got, the worst location you have, where nobody else can get it, right. Give us that, give us an opportunity. This is how we, um, establish our, our relationship with our, with our largest customer that we have to give us, give us the worst thing you got, because you don’t exactly just show up first day on the job and say, Hey, I’m a fuel company. Give me your, give me your business.
Allison Sheffield de Aguero (28:29):
You know, you really need to prove yourself. So there is a, there’s a, a proving time, especially with these, these larger, more established companies, we’re looking at fortune 500 companies. They’re not going to sign anything over just Willy nilly. They, they want to vet you. And I can certainly appreciate that. So we come in, we find out what the pain points are and we work diligently to solve those problems. One of the things that we came to realize very early on is that in the fuel space, in particular, there was not a lot of technology that really supported the efforts, um, of, of the companies that are providing fuels. So we just figured, you know, we’ll just build it. So instead of just taking things and bolting pieces on to try and create a solution that we could then provide to the customers, we’ve worked from the very beginning, um, to create our own proprietary software, um, our own platform. And we can customize that. And that’s one of our major differentiators is that we can pivot on a dime. We have our own team of developers here in house, and we can, we can take that customer’s problem and generate a solution
Fernando de Aguero (29:42):
In real time. And that’s something that I know that a lot of them have, have come to really appreciate. We’ve got just an excellent team of developers, just first-class all the way. So that’s, that’s something we’re very proud of. And, you know, and we do offer the piece where we are a woman owned business. So that’s also very important to a lot of our customers are seeking to meet some supplier diversity goals. And, you know, we can do that as well.
Scott Luton (30:06):
Wow. So, so many elements there. I love that the technology piece in particular, because that’s, you know, having interacted, not interview, but interacted with some, some of the folks in the fuel business throughout my time in Atlanta, that’s certainly something that I under appreciated and I love y’all have developers. I mean, you can, you can build out programs that sounds and really be a customized solution provider. Fernando, piggyback on that. What, what else would you add, especially as it, as it relates to complexities in the industry from a supply chain?
Fernando de Aguero (30:36):
I think in order to transition to that more, uh, I guess the broader question of the supply chain is understanding there’s a severe lack of controls in the historical fuel supply chain, severe lack of controls. And the reason is it’s a fragmented supply chain where there’s, you know, if you’re, let’s, let’s take a very common sense example. If you’re selling electricity to someone, somebody owns a power plant and it’s got a big cable connected to it. They make the profits there, it comes down the cable and it goes through a couple of transformers and it’s measured along the way. And eventually it hits your business or your home. There’s no human touching it. Anything when it’s produced, it shows up over here instantaneously, right? It’s fungible, right? Well, in fuel, you’ve got physical gallons that are produced in a refinery. They’ve got to be inserted into a pipeline.
Fernando de Aguero (31:30):
It’s got to physically move down that pipeline. And then it comes off the pipeline and whatever market you’re in. Let’s say the Atlanta market that comes off. And then it’s stored at a local terminal here in the Atlanta market, where there are humans involved, valving product here and there, and blending and all kinds of activities, which we don’t need to get into. That’s complexity that won’t help buyers, you know, but at that point, you’ve got a truck that’s driven by a human that shows up and puts fuel in multiple compartments, in a truck. And then that’s started the distribution portion of the supply chain
Scott Luton (32:06):
Of how you’re painting the fuels, the end-to-end fuel supply chain. Cause that I’m sure folks don’t, that’s highly underappreciated. So I love that. We need an infographic that captures that next time we have y’all okay.
Fernando de Aguero (32:19):
We can certainly help you with that. It’d be like to do that. And that is true. It’s kind of like electricity. You just flip the switch and you expect it to work and you don’t care. What’s upstream. And if it doesn’t work, you scream. Well, the same thing with fuel, you just expect fuel to be in the tank. And when your fleet vehicle needs to get out on the road to deliver, you know, Coca-Cola products, it, it just needs to work. Right? So this guy shows up like human drives a truck loads at the terminal into multiple compartments, and that truck has to drive it to a location. Then it has to connect hoses, physically offload each compartment of that truck into whatever location the customer wants. It. There’s a lot of human touch in this process. How do you document how much is moving from point a to point B as title transfers, you know, is there a loss of temperature, you know, change in the fuel causes expansion can Trek, there’s all kinds of complexities in this thing. Uh, that creates slip scenes where lack of controls occur, right? Did the driver leave all the fuel that was on the paperwork? How do you know maybe he left one compartment for himself?
Scott Luton (33:28):
And by the way, it’s fuel, it’s, you know, you have all the safety and the, the control points that, that need to be factored in, you know, being that it’s a flammable product that you’re, you’re shipping and managing it. Holy cow.
Fernando de Aguero (33:40):
Yeah. Well, there’s, there’s, it’s, it’s technically EPA has met, right? So insurance is different. You know, we take lots of trucks onto airport properties around the country. It’s not easy taking an 8,000 gallon firebomb across a runway. So there there’s, there’s all kinds of stuff that the customers don’t really think about that then they shouldn’t think about it. That’s what we do. But understanding that complexity is, is key.
Scott Luton (34:10):
I love that, you know, through all the shows, we’ve had wonderful people from that ship and managed coffee, supply chains that ship and manage all kinds of products, right. And all of them have their unique challenges, right. And, and unique problems and issues to deal with, but what you’ve just described and just the, the regulation and the policy and the, the, you know, all the state and federal and all the different authorities and the levels you’ve got to go through. I can only imagine how that adds to the complexity of just the sheer management of the fuel supply chain. So we’ll have to dive in deeper, but now I understand why y’all, you got to have the backgrounds that both of y’all have to navigate through that and then grow the company, given what it does.
Fernando de Aguero (34:55):
Yeah. And that, that is the, the supply chain up to the customer location. We manage that, but there’s a heck of a lot more that buyers need to really understand once that fuel gets to their property around financial controls, how do they monitor for employee fraud? You know, there’s all kinds of other things that we do for them, or we assist them so that they have the right tools to manage that. Uh, and we can talk about that at some point here in the next few questions
Scott Luton (35:22):
Sounds very holistic in terms of, of, of the value prop. So let’s talk about your roles as we talked about and appreciate everyone makes a lot of assumptions, CEO and COO, and where you spend your time and, and whatnot. Alison, tell us about, you know, what you do day in, day out as presidency,
Allison Sheffield de Aguero (35:39):
Generally speaking, I oversee the treasury aspect of the company, the strategy, the direction we’re going in. I push a lot of paper. That’s the short answer. I oversee the people what’s, what’s happening inside this building. What’s happening on our team, making sure that everybody has the tools that they need here to be successful and to do their job, you know, looking for different ways to grow and, and asking the questions of the team to see, um, where the gaps are, where, where can we step in, where can be, where we can be more effective, where can we grow in ways that we hadn’t thought of? Where can we position ourselves, not just to sell a bunch of fuel, but to, but to market ourselves as a complete solution to folks that are better needing something more than just a low cost, a low cost, low to fuel, you know, that’s really my thing. And, and it’s just really my primary focus. My heart is, is for the people here for the company and just making sure that they can be successful, um, and do the things that they were built to do well here. And then they feel supported that they, that they have what they need, um, to do that well.
Scott Luton (36:51):
Mm love that. I love that. All right. Same question for you, Fernando, as CEO, COO at diversified energy supply, where do you spend your time? What’s your favorite w and what’s maybe one of your favorite activities.
Fernando de Aguero (37:02):
Oh, gee, my, my number one favorite activity is the creative part of the job. And that is solving problems internally that then our team uses to go solve problems externally. What does that mean? It seems very fluffy. It’s what it means is designing software solutions to real world problems. I work directly with our architect and our developers and our commercial teams to kind of the cross section between them all. And sometimes I have the opportunity to step in and mathematically, you know, come up with solutions for things that haven’t been done in the business. Sometimes it’s just understanding from our salesmen, for example, unique customer needs, uh, and figuring out a way to, to solve them commercially. And then translating that to, you know, our architects who then further translated and translates it into data models and Capote and whatnot. So it’s a ever-changing creative process because the world’s always changing technology in the world is evolving the way customers of our customers want their products is changing the level of visibility in our customer’s internal platforms, whether it’s their accounting systems, operating systems, data warehouses are constantly evolving. So, you know, it’s a, it’s a constant moving target and we want to be running the race in first place as we keep chasing the customer needs. So that’s the number one thing I enjoy doing and just being creative around solving the problems. I love it. And every problem,
Scott Luton (38:36):
As you said earlier, every problem, except just a small few can be solved if you’re really committed to solving it right. That’s right.
Fernando de Aguero (38:44):
And the re the rest of my time is spent doing the, the customary things that, that you do when you run a business, you know, accounting, operations, you know, new supply, contract negotiations, et cetera, negotiating with, you know, Microsoft on whatever it’s, it’s, it’s the things we all do in business. But, um, the, the best part is to me, it’s just being creative.
Scott Luton (39:06):
Love it. That drive truck drives a ton of value. All right. So let’s, uh, let’s shift gears a little bit here, and let’s talk about growth, you know, as we have uncovered, y’all have grown tremendously, especially in the last seven, eight years, you know, kind of reader’s digest. If y’all, if y’all are familiar with that magazine, let, let’s take a reader’s digest version to this answer. What’s a couple of things that you’d like to share, especially the other business leaders can either relate to, or, you know, bake into their growth recipe for success. What Ellis, what would you point?
Allison Sheffield de Aguero (39:36):
I think that the secret to our success really has to be the technology and our ability to, like I said, pivot on a dime. We aren’t just settling for what has been customary in the fuel space. What has been, um, the offerings that are available to pretty much anybody we’re looking for, the complexity, the, the complex challenges that are facing those customers. And we’re trying to find the unique cutting edge ways to solve those problems, to bring that to the table in a way that’s complete and comprehensive. So not just from the fuel delivery where they have the product, but down to the accounting side of things, where things are transparent, they can report on that. They don’t have any heartburn, six months, you know, down the road because something wasn’t clear, we’re looking for ways to make it very dynamic and relevant for the customer. And the only way to do that really is to stay as current as possible technologically speaking, which is why we have the developers in house, which is why we have folks like Fernando, who are extremely creative. And, um, they bring this broad skillset into the mix. And it’s, it’s more than just being smart. It’s, it’s applying that and bringing it into, um, into something tangible that we can then present to the market
Scott Luton (40:56):
So much goodness there. Alison, I appreciate, and I appreciate as succinct did you package all that in you’re a pro I’ll tell you, Fernando, she mentioned about not just how creative you are, but it’s gotta be a dangerous thing to pair your creativity with your highly technical background. And then of course, the technology and developing talent, you’ve got there quite a skunkworks. You’ve got
Fernando de Aguero (41:18):
Our, our architect. I have to really point to him and give him kudos. His name is William. He kind of C building missile guidance systems for the air force. Really? Yeah. He’s 30 years ago. He’s when he writes stuff, when he designed stuff, it just works. And now, you know why you can start there, you know, you’re not kind of working really long. Yeah. Yeah. So, but we are blessed with a tremendous group of professionals in all areas of the business. Um, I think that really is, and I can tell you when I speak with them, one-on-one, it’s almost exclusively an issue of, we just wanted to be part of this culture. You know, we, we, they like being respected and supported rather than being told, bring me a rock. Right. And I think, uh, you know, maybe we touch on that a little bit later in the discussion, as far as the growth goes, um, growth is the most difficult thing to manage in a business.
Fernando de Aguero (42:15):
And, you know, we were blessed to win, uh, last year, the, um, ACG fast 40 award, uh, we actually were number two in the upper middle market. Nice. So that, that was a nice recognition. We weren’t looking for any awards. They came to us and said, Hey, wait a minute. We were nominated by folks that knew our business and are plugged in with that organization and complete surprise to us. We’ve just been heads down, building, working, solving problems. And we were recognized for the results of that. And they CG is the association for corporate growth, I believe. Right. That’s correct. That’s correct. So it really is. Um, and that’s all industries, you know, healthcare, it, you know, so we were number two. Uh, really our growth has come, as Allison said, by solving problems and using technology. But it’s not just that piece because you can have a business that started on day one with that focus and it could collapse the calculator.
Fernando de Aguero (43:13):
The other component of that is a very disciplined approach in the building of the business. So I’d encourage you. If you have entrepreneurs listening that are maybe looking to build solutions in the supply chain to meet customer needs. You know, we did it with no debt. We never took a loan. We grew within the capital that we earned as we went, we invested everything that we earned for the first five years back into the business and took very little out very little. And, and that is a long view of the business. Uh, whenever I meet with people who are starting businesses, I seem to hear the same kinds of things, which are, are not consistent with a long view and with how much work it takes to actually get there. But if you can make that commitment, it does bear fruit. And our growth part of, part of it was fueled by the way we built the company.
Fernando de Aguero (44:02):
And part of it was fueled by what we did with that company in the marketplace. And the third part is we really invested in people and brought into sharp knives that I equal four or five Dell knives. Right. So, uh, I think that, you know, that’s the kind of secret sauce it’s really combination of those three easily stated kind of hard to rep to, to build and replicate in another business. Um, yeah, so hopefully that helps kind of it, right. And if you’re a corporate buyer, you know, our growth is from, from a buyer’s perspective and supply chain. We’re just, you know, we’re one of the suppliers that happens to come in and look to partner with a buyer versus just telling them how great we are and come buy our stuff. We really strive to know, to meet and know, and build relationships with responsible managers and buyers in organizations so that we can better understand their pain points and solve that this is not a new formula. Uh, this is a very, you know, explicit set sales style and that that’s been our approach
Scott Luton (45:06):
Void the transaction ality. I’m a makeup board here at transactionality that, that goes on so much across industry, but really drive relationships and really getting to know beyond just the transaction, what are their other needs, whether the other problems I love that let them revalue. All right. So for the sake of time, let’s, let’s shift gears. Let’s, let’s go broader, right? I’ll tell you why. I think one of the, one of the things we’re talking about here that the silver linings in this historically challenging year is all the innovation that’s taking place. The lessons, the business lessons learned in a variety of sectors across global supply chain. That’s going to make all the industry stronger. And it’s also going to allow us to handle the next curve ball. I hate to use this word resilience, but I mean that in a really meaningful way. So we’ll be able to handle that next curve ball in a more resilient manner. And right. And we’ll, we’ll, we’ll have less, hopefully knock on wood. We’ll have less blind spots that have been, that have surfaced here in the last eight to 12 months, especially here in the States, as you survey global supply chain beyond the fuel supply chain industry, uh, Alison what’s one thing that you’re tracking more than others here right now,
Allison Sheffield de Aguero (46:16):
For me, it’s, it’s just that it’s that ability to move quickly and pivot on a dime when you see that the needs, the needs of every company have, have seemed to change by and large, uh, where people are not traveling as much. They’re not putting as much of a focus on being out in the market and everything is, is just shifting back. The supplier has to pivot as well. So our focus has to go to, um, where can we best support the industries that are in need? How do we make sure that the food distribution companies are, are going to be able to deliver her food? You know, we’re just one of the things that I know about our company and in making those changes, we initiated this company to be able to be very flexible from the onset. So we can do our job, whether we are out on the road or if we are here in the office, in our home space. So for us, the transition was not difficult when things went on lockdown and everything changed. Just all of a sudden, we were able to tell our people, Hey, just keep doing what you’re doing. You’ve got the equipment, you’ve got the tools, you do your thing, and let’s look and see where the customers are hurting and we’ll meet them where they’re, Fernando’s
Scott Luton (47:30):
Got some really great stuff to share our list. I’m going to actually turn this over to sure, absolutely. So for Fernanda, you know, piggybacking what Alison just shared, what else would you add in terms of what you’re tracking globally?
Fernando de Aguero (47:42):
Before I jump into that, I just didn’t want to say, I think Alison hit on something that was important and it has a more global, uh, I think result. We were always built to be nimble. We were, you know, a Microsoft beta customer in the Azure. And so, you know, we’re on the front end, literally the cutting edge on technology. So when something like a COVID pandemic hit, where we had these inability to travel, to see customers and the ability to you can travel to an office or meet with suppliers, we didn’t miss a beat because we were already fully virtualized. Uh, we were already under a hardened infrastructure. In fact, we just had a staff meeting one day and said, all right, guys, everybody worked from home, nothing had to be purchased, nothing had to change. We just kept jobs. And the other component is because of the technology that we own.
Fernando de Aguero (48:30):
We can literally have our operations team on a, on a remote device, like a tablet or a phone supporting customers, right. Dealing with order processing and so forth. So it’s, and so that’s our experience. And I think what we’re seeing already and what we will continue to see for the next, you know, probably two years is lots of organizations making that transition rapidly. And even the largest organizations I’m already hearing from, you know, real estate professionals. They’re not going to be renewing the big towers. They’re going to cut their office spaces and start being more nimble. So the model we’ve flourished under is actually a model. I think everyone in the supply chain, whether you’re a buyer or a seller, you know, supplier, uh, is shifting towards now, as far as trends in the supply chain, I’ve been looking for one golden goose for years. And it, I don’t think we’re quite there yet. Just a lot of conferences and PowerPoints, but blockchain implementation in the fuel industry in particular would be a game changer. And if you think back to the commentary I made, when, when laying out the, uh, picture of what the supply chain looks at, we could eliminate a lot of, uh, inefficiencies in the supply chain
Scott Luton (49:48):
And bake more trust into the whole end to end supply chain.
Fernando de Aguero (49:51):
That’s right. It’s controls, right? Better controls, uh, rapid, rapid, it’s going to accelerate the exchange information. It’s just a game changer. And so that’s one of the big things that I’ve been looking for is it’s not that we don’t know how we could actually build blockchain into customer products today. The problem is there’s no unified standard in our space and there’s no. Uh, so by definition, because it’s not unified, you don’t have acceptance of it across the supply chain, whether you’re a buyer or a supplier. So, uh, that, that I think is one of the big transformational events that will occur eventually when I can’t predict that today, the other is I think, a refocus as a result of the pandemic on supply for resiliency. And historically, just look at that as a buyer from a financial perspective, but you can be a very large company and be ill-equipped for dealing with these disruptions and fail in your mission to serve that customer.
Fernando de Aguero (50:57):
So I think a renewed focus on infrastructure on supply, the suppliers own supply chain depth is key, particularly in a commodity business, like the one we’re in, where we don’t actually manufacture the, the refiners manufacturing them. Right. How many supply sources do you have in each market that you’re going to serve me in is a question I would ask to them a buyer, how many delivery assets do you have access to? How many trucks in our particular instance, can you bring us product on? Because we saw the trucking companies started becoming thinner and thinner during the process because of COVID, they would have to quarantine, they didn’t have enough drivers, they had the trucks, but not enough drivers, right? So these are details, but generally speaking, I think resiliency in the supply chain from suppliers and their supply chains and infrastructure should be a, a renewed focus and maybe a deeper focus than buyers typically, uh, you know, put in that area. I think those are the big ones, as far as traditional supply demand. Uh, it’s going to do what it’s going to do. OPEC is going to do what they do in our particular vertical. There’ll be consolidation across many industries that we’re already seeing. Uh, I think those are kind of normal shifts in the landscape. I don’t think they’re game changers. They’re just the S and flows of the cycles. Uh, the real game changers are technology-based blockchain and resiliency in the supply chain.
Scott Luton (52:20):
I really have enjoyed getting my fuel supply chain certification over the last hour and some change. And I really appreciate y’all sharing on the front end, you know, kind of allowing our listeners to connect with your, your journey and your point of view and, and, and the lens that you view, uh, not just business, but, but life through that. I always find that real fascinating. So let’s make sure our listeners know how to connect with each of you and, and learn more. So Alison, to start with you, how can folks connect with you?
Allison Sheffield de Aguero (52:48):
They can certainly connect with me on LinkedIn, Alison DIA Cuero. And, um, we have our website diversified energy supply.com.
Scott Luton (52:57):
It’s just that easy. I love that. And Fernanda,
Fernando de Aguero (52:59):
I would echo the same thing, Fernando, the [inaudible], uh, you can look up diversify the energy supply on LinkedIn and find, uh, most of us there please connect with us. And we would love to speak with you and understand, you know, be, have needs, how we can help. And if you just have questions on what we do, and some of the comments we’ve made, we expand on this with you, our contact us page, we get back to any contacts, you know, within 24 hours. Uh, so please feel free. That’s easier to just
Scott Luton (53:26):
Pass your information along and we’ll connect with you that way, love that. And speaking of easier, we’re going to make it the one-click rule. We’re going to have a LinkedIn profiles and the company site in the show notes to really make it easy for our listeners to connect and learn more. So really enjoyed this conversation. Thank you both. We’ve been chatting with Alison Sheffield, [inaudible] president CEO at diversified energy supply and her, her partner and husband, Fernanda de Guerra chief operating officer also with diversified energy supply. Thank you both wonderful conversation. And we look forward to reconnecting real soon. Thank you for the time you bet to our listeners. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this unique conversation as much as I have. I love both parts, both the, the journey, and then diving deeper into at least in my, in my purview of blind spot I had in my global supply chain experience. So if you enjoy this conversation, you can learn more and find more episodes of supply chain. now.com. Of course, you could find us and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts from, uh, on behalf of our entire team, Scott Luton signing off here today. Hey, challenge you like we challenge ourselves, do good, give forward and be the change that’s needed.
We’ll see you next time here on Supply Chain Now.
Allison Sheffield de Aguero is the president and CEO of Diversified Energy Supply. She is a third-generation petroleum fuel businesswoman. Upon completing her undergraduate education, she entered the workforce as an international sales representative selling engineering equipment and software in the Latin American market. She completed her graduate work in 2003. Beginning in 2004, Allison and her husband pursued entrepreneurial ventures in retail energy (both power and natural gas). During the period between 2011 and 2014, she focused on marketing efforts to build Diversified Energy Supply into a nationwide wholesale petroleum, electric power and natural gas supplier.
During 2014 she assumed the role of CEO and sole member and has further shaped the strategic direction of the company by expanding its fuel supply business line and scaling the operational platform into 40+ states. She is married and the proud mother of four children.
Fernando de Aguero is the Chief Operating Officer of Diversified Energy Supply. He possesses a broad energy industry experience ranging from petroleum commodity supply to regulated utilities to deregulated merchant and retail energy. He has launched six privately held energy ventures, was Chairman, CEO and President of a deregulated retail natural gas marketer, Manager and CEO of a deregulated retail electric provider, Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO of a leading smart grid-enabled prepaid utility solutions and software development company and held various leadership roles spanning strategic planning, finance, business development, commercial operations and trading at AGL Resources (Atlanta Gas Light, Virginia Natural Gas, City Gas of Florida, Elizabethtown Gas, Chattanooga Gas, Pivotal and Sequent Energy Management), Mirant Corporation and Southern Company (Southern Nuclear and Southern Company Services). Mr. de Aguero built and launched Mansfield Power and Gas, the power and natural gas company affiliate to Mansfield Oil Company. Mr. de Agüero previously led the team that designed and built the first prepaid retail natural gas billing platform in North America, the first smart-metered prepaid electric billing platform, as well as other software based solutions in the utility vertical. He has been involved in several power plant development projects and corporate acquisitions with negotiated valuations totalling over $10 Billion in both the natural gas and electric industries. Mr. de Agüero started his career with Southern Company in 1993, working in nuclear plant design engineering and safety as a nuclear engineer and mechanical engineer, as well as a health physicist. He earned a Bachelor in Nuclear Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He speaks Spanish fluently, has a history of political and community involvement, and invests most of his personal time with his wife, four children and church family in Roswell, Georgia.
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Adrian Purtill serves as Business Development Manager at Vector Global Logistics, where he consults with importers and exporters in various industries to match their specific shipping requirements with the most effective supply chain solutions. Vector Global Logistics is an asset-free, multi-modal logistics company that provides exceptional sea freight, air freight, truck, rail, general logistic services and consulting for our clients. Our highly trained and professional team is committed to providing creative and effective solutions, always exceeding our customer’s expectations and fostering long-term relationships. With more than 20+ years of experience in both strategy consulting and logistics, Vector Global Logistics is your best choice to proactively minimize costs while having an exceptional service level.
Joshua is a student from Institute of Technology and Higher Education of Monterrey Campus Guadalajara in Communication and Digital Media. His experience ranges from Plug and Play México, DearDoc, and Nissan México creating unique social media marketing campaigns and graphics design. Joshua helps to amplify the voice of supply chain here at Supply Chain Now by assisting in graphic design, content creation, asset logistics, and more. In his free time he likes to read and write short stories as well as watch movies and television series.
Director of Communications and Executive Producer
Donna Krache is a former CNN executive producer who has won several awards in journalism and communication, including three Peabodys. She has 30 years’ experience in broadcast and digital journalism. She led the first production team at CNN to convert its show to a digital platform. She has authored many articles for CNN and other media outlets. She taught digital journalism at Georgia State University and Arizona State University. Krache holds a bachelor’s degree in government from the College of William and Mary and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of New Orleans. She is a serious sports fan who loves the Braves. She is president of the Dave Krache Foundation. Named in honor of her late husband, this non-profit pays fees for kids who want to play sports but whose parents are facing economic challenges.
Vicki has a long history of rising to challenges and keeping things up and running. First, she supported her family’s multi-million dollar business as controller for 12 years, beginning at the age of 17. Then, she worked as an office manager and controller for a wholesale food broker. But her biggest feat? Serving as the chief executive officer of her household, while her entrepreneur husband travelled the world extensively. She fed, nurtured, chaperoned, and chauffeured three daughters all while running a newsletter publishing business and remaining active in her community as a Stephen’s Minister, Sunday school teacher, school volunteer, licensed realtor and POA Board president (a title she holds to this day). A force to be reckoned with in the office, you might think twice before you meet Vicki on the tennis court! When she’s not keeping the books balanced at Supply Chain Now or playing tennis matches, you can find Vicki spending time with her husband Greg, her 4 fur babies, gardening, cleaning (yes, she loves to clean!) and learning new things.
Founder, CEO, & Host
As the founder and CEO of Supply Chain Now, you might say Scott is the voice of supply chain – but he’s too much of a team player to ever claim such a title. One thing’s for sure: he’s a tried and true supply chain expert. With over 15 years of experience in the end-to-end supply chain, Scott’s insights have appeared in major publications including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and CNN. He has also been named a top industry influencer by Thinkers360, ISCEA and more.
From 2009-2011, Scott was president of APICS Atlanta, and he continues to lead initiatives that support both the local business community and global industry. A United States Air Force Veteran, Scott has also regularly led efforts to give back to his fellow veteran community since his departure from active duty in 2002.
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Allison Krache Giddens has been with Win-Tech, a veteran-owned small business and aerospace precision machine shop, for 15 years, recently buying the company from her mentor and Win-Tech’s Founder, Dennis Winslow. She and her business partner, John Hudson now serve as Co-Presidents, leading the 33-year old company through the pandemic.
She holds undergraduate degrees in psychology and criminal justice from the University of Georgia, a Masters in Conflict Management from Kennesaw State University, a Masters in Manufacturing from Georgia Institute of Technology, and a Certificate of Finance from the University of Georgia. She also holds certificates in Google Analytics, event planning, and Cybersecurity Risk Management from Harvard online. Allison founded the Georgia Chapter of Women in Manufacturing and currently serves as Treasurer. She serves on the Chattahoochee Technical College Foundation Board as its Secretary, the liveSAFE Resources Board of Directors as Resource Development Co-Chair, and on the Leadership Cobb Alumni Association Board as Membership Chair and is also a member of Cobb Executive Women. She is on the Board for the Cobb Chamber of Commerce’s Northwest Area Councils. Allison runs The Dave Krache Foundation, a non-profit that helps pay sports fees for local kids in need.
Principal, Supply Chain Now
Host of Supply Chain Now and TECHquila Sunrise
When rapid-growth technology companies, venture capital and private equity firms are looking for advisory, they call Greg – a founder, board director, advisor and catalyst of disruptive B2B technology and supply chain. An insightful visionary, Greg guides founders, investors and leadership teams in creating breakthroughs to gain market exposure and momentum – increasing overall company esteem and valuation.
Greg is a founder himself, creating Blue Ridge Solutions, a Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader in cloud-native supply chain applications, and bringing to market Curo, a field service management solution. He has also held leadership roles with Servigistics (PTC) and E3 Corporation (JDA/Blue Yonder). As a principal and host at Supply Chain Now, Greg helps guide the company’s strategic direction, hosts industry leader discussions, community livestreams, and all in addition to executive producing and hosting his original YouTube channel and podcast, TEChquila Sunrise.
Principal, Supply Chain Now
Host of Supply Chain is Boring
Talk about world-class: Chris is one of the few professionals in the world to hold CPIM-F, CLTD-F and CSCP-F designations from ASCM/APICS. He’s also the APICS coach – and our resident Supply Chain Doctor. When he’s not hosting programs with Supply Chain Now, he’s sharing supply chain knowledge on the APICS Coach Youtube channel or serving as a professional education instructor for the Georgia Tech Supply Chain & Logistic Institute’s Supply Chain Management (SCM) program and University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Center for Professional Education courses.
Chris earned a BS in Industrial Engineering from Bradley University, an MBA with emphasis in Industrial Psychology from the University of West Florida, and is a Doctoral in Supply Chain Management candidate.
Host of TEKTOK
If there’s one Supply Chain ‘Pro to Know,’ it’s Karin. She’s earned the title for three years and counting – culminating in her designation as the “2020 Supply Chain Pro to Know of the Year.” Karin is also an award-winning digital supply chain, business strategy and technology marketing executive. A sought-after speaker at industry conferences, you will find her quoted in a variety of supply chain publications – and active in forums like ASCM/APICS and CSCMP.
With more than 25 years of supply chain experience, Karin spearheaded strategy and marketing for Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader and IDC MarketScape Leader, Logility. Karin has the heart of a teacher and has helped nearly 1,000 customers transform their businesses and tell their success stories. Today, she is a sought-after advisor helping high-growth B2B technology companies with everything from defining their unique value propositions to introducing new products and capturing customer success. No matter their goals, she makes sure her clients have actionable marketing strategies that help grow global revenue, market share and profitability.
Host of Digital Transformers
Kevin L. Jackson is a globally recognized Thought Leader, Industry Influencer and Founder/Author of the award winning “Cloud Musings” blog. He has also been recognized as a “Top 5G Influencer” (Onalytica 2019, Radar 2020), a “Top 50 Global Digital Transformation Thought Leader” (Thinkers 360 2019) and provides strategic consulting and integrated social media services to AT&T, Intel, Broadcom, Ericsson and other leading companies. Mr. Jackson’s commercial experience includes Vice President J.P. Morgan Chase, Worldwide Sales Executive for IBM and SAIC (Engility) Director Cloud Solutions. He has served on teams that have supported digital transformation projects for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the US Intelligence Community. Kevin’s formal education includes a MS Computer Engineering from Naval Postgraduate School; MA National Security & Strategic Studies from Naval War College; and a BS Aerospace Engineering from the United States Naval Academy. Internationally recognizable firms that have sponsored articles authored by him include Cisco, Microsoft, Citrix and IBM. Books include “Click to Transform” (Leaders Press, 2020), “Architecting Cloud Computing Solutions” (Packt, 2018), and “Practical Cloud Security: A Cross Industry View” (Taylor & Francis, 2016). He also delivers online training through Tulane University, O’Reilly Media, LinkedIn Learning, and Pluralsight. Mr. Jackson retired from the U.S. Navy in 1994, earning specialties in Space Systems Engineering, Carrier Onboard Delivery Logistics and carrier-based Airborne Early Warning and Control. While active, he also served with the National Reconnaissance Office, Operational Support Office, providing tactical support to Navy and Marine Corps forces worldwide.
Host of Logistics with Purpose and Supply Chain Now en Español
Enrique serves as Managing Director at Vector Global Logistics and believes we all have a personal responsibility to change the world. He is hard working, relationship minded and pro-active. Enrique trusts that the key to logistics is having a good and responsible team that truly partners with the clients and does whatever is necessary to see them succeed. He is a proud sponsor of Vector’s unique results-based work environment and before venturing into logistics he worked for the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). During his time at BCG, he worked in different industries such as Telecommunications, Energy, Industrial Goods, Building Materials, and Private Banking. His main focus was always on the operations, sales, and supply chain processes, with case focus on, logistics, growth strategy, and cost reduction. Prior to joining BCG, Enrique worked for Grupo Vitro, a Mexican glass manufacturer, for five years holding different positions from sales and logistics manager to supply chain project leader in charge of five warehouses in Colombia.
He has an MBA from The Wharton School of Business and a BS, in Mechanical Engineer from the Technologico de Monterrey in Mexico. Enrique’s passions are soccer and the ocean, and he also enjoys traveling, getting to know new people, and spending time with his wife and two kids, Emma and Enrique.
Host of Dial P for Procurement
Kelly is the Owner and Managing Director of Buyers Meeting Point and MyPurchasingCenter. She has been in procurement since 2003, starting as a practitioner and then as the Associate Director of Consulting at Emptoris. She has covered procurement news, events, publications, solutions, trends, and relevant economics at Buyers Meeting Point since 2009. Kelly is also the General Manager at Art of Procurement and Business Survey Chair for the ISM-New York Report on Business. Kelly has her MBA from Babson College as well as an MS in Library and Information Science from Simmons College and she has co-authored three books: ‘Supply Market Intelligence for Procurement Professionals’, ‘Procurement at a Crossroads’, and ‘Finance Unleashed’.
Host, Veteran Voices
Mary Kate Soliva is transitioning from active duty in the US Army. She is currently in the Doctor of Criminal Justice program at Saint Leo University. She is passionate about combating human trafficking and has spent the last decade conducting training for military personnel and the local community.
Jeff Miller is the host of Supply Chain Now’s Supply Chain is the Business. Jeff is a digital business transformation and supply chain advisor with deep expertise in Industry 4.0, ERP, PLM, SCM, IoT, AR and related technologies. Through more than 25 years of industry and consulting experience, he has worked with many of the world’s leading product and service companies to achieve their strategic business and supply chain goals, creating durable business value for organizations at the forefront of technology and business practices. Jeff is the managing director for North America at Transition Technologies PSC, a global solution integrator, and the founder and managing principal of BTV Advisors, a firm that helps companies secure business transformation value from digital supply chain technologies and their breakthrough capabilities.
Chief Marketing Officer
Amanda is a marketing veteran and entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience across a variety of industries and organizations including Von Maur, Anthropologie, AmericasMart Atlanta, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. In 2016, Amanda founded and grew the Magnolia Marketing Group into a successful digital media firm, and now she develops modern marketing strategies, social campaigns, innovative operational processes, and implements creative content initiatives for Supply Chain Now. But that’s just the beginning of her supply chain impact. Amanda also served as the VP of Information Systems and Webmaster on the Board of Directors for APICS Savannah for several years, and is the face behind the scenes welcoming you to every Supply Chain Now livestream! She was also recently selected as one of the Top 100 Women in Supply Chain by Supply Chain Digest and IBM. When she’s not leading the Supply Chain Now marketing team, you can find Amanda with her and her husband Scott’s three kids, in the kitchen cooking, or reading.
Business Development Manager
Clay is passionate about two things: supply chain and the marketing that goes into it. Recently graduated with a degree in marketing at the University of Georgia, Clay got his start as a journalism major and inaugural member of the Owl’s football team at Kennesaw State University – but quickly saw tremendous opportunity in the Terry College of Business. He’s already putting his education to great use at Supply Chain Now, assisting with everything from sales and brand strategy to media production. Clay has contributed to initiatives such as our leap into video production, the guest blog series, and boosting social media presence, and after nearly two years in Supply Chain Now’s Marketing Department, Clay now heads up partnership and sales initiatives with the help of the rest of the Supply Chain Now sales team.
Trisha is new to the supply chain industry – but not to podcasting. She’s an experienced podcast manager and virtual assistant who also happens to have 20 years of experience as an elementary school teacher. It’s safe to say, she’s passionate about helping people, and she lives out that passion every day with the Supply Chain Now team, contributing to scheduling and podcast production.
Host of Dial P for Procurement
Billy Taylor is a Proven Business Excellence Practitioner and Leadership Guru with over 25 years leading operations for a Fortune 500 company, Goodyear. He is also the CEO of LinkedXL (Excellence), a Business Operating Systems Architecting Firm dedicated to implementing sustainable operating systems that drive sustainable results. Taylor’s achievements in the industry have made him a Next Generational Lean pacesetter with significant contributions.
An American business executive, Taylor has made a name for himself as an innovative and energetic industry professional with an indispensable passion for his craft of operational excellence. His journey started many years ago and has worked with renowned corporations such as The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (GT) leading multi-site operations. With over 3 decades of service leading North America operations, he is experienced in a deeply rooted process driven approach in customer service, process integrity for sustainability.
A disciple of continuous improvement, Taylor’s love for people inspires commitment to helping others achieve their full potential. He is a dynamic speaker and hosts "The Winning Link," a popular podcast centered on business and leadership excellence with the #1 rated Supply Chain Now Network. As a leadership guru, Taylor has earned several invitations to universities, international conferences, global publications, and the U.S. Army to demonstrate how to achieve and sustain effective results through cultural acceptance and employee ownership. Leveraging the wisdom of his business acumen, strong influence as a speaker and podcaster Taylor is set to release "The Winning Link" book under McGraw Hill publishing in 2022. The book is a how-to manual to help readers understand the management of business interactions while teaching them how to Deine, Align, and Execute Winning in Business.
A servant leader, Taylor, was named by The National Diversity Council as one of the Top 100 Diversity Officers in the country in 2021. He features among Oklahoma's Most Admired CEOs and maintains key leadership roles with the Executive Advisory Board for The Shingo Institute "The Nobel Prize of Operations" and The Association of Manufacturing Excellence (AME); two world-leading organizations for operational excellence, business development, and cultural learning. He is also an Independent Director for the M-D Building Products Board, a proud American manufacturer of quality products since 1920.
Social Media Manager
My name is Chantel King and I am the Social Media Specialist at Supply Chain Now. My job is to make sure our audience is engaged and educated on the abundant amount of information the supply chain industry has to offer.
Social Media and Communications has been my niche ever since I graduated from college at The Academy of Art University in San Francisco. No, I am not a West Coast girl. I was born and raised in New Jersey, but my travel experience goes way beyond the garden state. My true passion is in creating editorial and graphic content that influences others to be great in whatever industry they are in. I’ve done this by working with lifestyle, financial, and editorial companies by providing resources to enhance their businesses.
Another passion of mine is trying new things. Whether it’s food, an activity, or a sport. I would like to say that I am an adventurous Taurus that never shies away from a new quest or challenge.
Lori is currently completing a degree in marketing with an emphasis in digital marketing at the University of Georgia. When she’s not supporting the marketing efforts at Supply Chain Now, you can find her at music festivals – or working toward her dream goal of a fashion career. Lori is involved in many extracurricular activities and appreciates all the learning experiences UGA has brought her.
Sales and Marketing Coordinator
Katherine is a marketing professional and MBA candidate who strives to unite her love of people with a passion for positive experiences. Having a diverse background, which includes nonprofit work with digital marketing and start-ups, she serves as a leader who helps people live their most creative lives by cultivating community, order, collaboration, and respect. With equal parts creativity and analytics, she brings a unique skill set which fosters refining, problem solving, and connecting organizations with their true vision. In her free time, you can usually find her looking for her cup of coffee, playing with her puppy Charlie, and dreaming of her next road trip.
Ben Harris is the Director of Supply Chain Ecosystem Expansion for the Metro Atlanta Chamber. Ben comes to the Metro Atlanta Chamber after serving as Senior Manager, Market Development for Manhattan Associates. There, Ben was responsible for developing Manhattan’s sales pipeline and overall Americas supply chain marketing strategy. Ben oversaw market positioning, messaging and campaign execution to build awareness and drive new pipeline growth. Prior to joining Manhattan, Ben spent four years with the Georgia Department of Economic Development’s Center of Innovation for Logistics where he played a key role in establishing the Center as a go-to industry resource for information, support, partnership building, and investment development. Additionally, he became a key SME for all logistics and supply chain-focused projects. Ben began his career at Page International, Inc. where he drove continuous improvement in complex global supply chain operations for a wide variety of businesses and Fortune 500 companies. An APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP), Ben holds an Executive Master’s degree in Business Administration (EMBA) and bachelor’s degree in International Business (BBA) from the Terry College at the University of Georgia.
Host, The Freight Insider
Prior to joining TeamOne Logistics, Page Siplon served as the Executive Director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Logistics, the State’s leading consulting resource for fueling logistics industry growth and global competitiveness. For over a decade, he directly assisted hundreds of companies to overcome challenges and capitalize on opportunities related to the movement of freight. During this time, Siplon was also appointed to concurrently serve the State of Georgia as Director of the larger Centers of Innovation Program, in which he provided executive leadership and vision for all six strategic industry-focused Centers. As a frequently requested keynote speaker, Siplon is called upon to address a range of audiences on unique aspects of technology, workforce, and logistics. This often includes topics of global and domestic logistics trends, supply chain visibility, collaboration, and strategic planning. He has also been quoted as an industry expert in publications such as Forbes, Journal of Commerce, Fortune, NPR, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, American Express, DC Velocity, Area Development Magazine, Site Selection Magazine, Inbound Logistics, Modern Material Handling, and is frequently a live special guest on SiriusXM’s Road Dog Radio Show. Siplon is an active industry participant, recognized by DC Velocity Magazine as a “2012 Logistics Rainmaker” which annually identifies the top-ten logistics professionals in the Nation; and named a “Pro to Know” by Supply & Demand Executive Magazine in 2014. Siplon was also selected by Georgia Trend Magazine as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential Georgians” for 2013, 2014, and 2015. He also serves various industry leadership roles at both the State and Federal level. Governor Nathan Deal nominated Siplon to represent Georgia on a National Supply Chain Competitiveness Advisory Committee, where he was appointed to a two-year term by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce and was then appointed to serve as its vice-chairman. At the State level, he was selected by then-Governor Sonny Perdue to serve as lead consultant on the Commission for New Georgia’s Freight and Logistics Task Force. In this effort, Siplon led a Private Sector Advisory Committee with invited executives from a range of private sector stakeholders including UPS, Coca-Cola, The Home Depot, Delta Airlines, Georgia Pacific, CSX, and Norfolk Southern. Siplon honorably served a combined 12 years in the United States Marine Corps and the United States Air Force. During this time, he led the integration of encryption techniques and deployed cryptographic devices for tactically secure voice and data platforms in critical ground-to-air communication systems. This service included support for all branches of the Department of Defense, multiple federal security agencies, and aiding NASA with multiple Space Shuttle launches. Originally from New York, Siplon received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering with a focus on digital signal processing from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He earned an associate’s degree in advanced electronic systems from the Air Force College and completed multiple military leadership academies in both the Marines and Air Force. Siplon currently lives in Cumming, Georgia (north of Atlanta), with his wife Jan, and two children Thomas (19) and Lily (15).
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Kristi Porter is VP of Sales and Marketing at Vector Global Logistics, a company that is changing the world through supply chain. In her role, she oversees all marketing efforts and supports the sales team in doing what they do best. In addition to this role, she is the Chief Do-Gooder at Signify, which assists nonprofits and social impact companies through copywriting and marketing strategy consulting. She has almost 20 years of professional experience, and loves every opportunity to help people do more good.
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Kevin Brown is the Director of Business Development for Vector Global Logistics. He has a dedicated interest in Major Account Management, Enterprise Sales, and Corporate Leadership. He offers 25 years of exceptional experience and superior performance in the sales of Logistics, Supply Chain, and Transportation Management. Kevin is a dynamic, high-impact, sales executive and corporate leader who has consistently exceeded corporate goals. He effectively coordinates multiple resources to solution sell large complex opportunities while focusing on corporate level contacts across the enterprise. His specialties include targeting and securing key accounts by analyzing customer’s current business processes and developing solutions to meet their corporate goals. Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn.
Host, Supply Chain Now en Espanol
Sofia Rivas Herrera is a Mexican Industrial Engineer from Tecnologico de Monterrey class 2019. Upon graduation, she earned a scholarship to study MIT’s Graduate Certificate in Logistics and Supply Chain Management and graduated as one of the Top 3 performers of her class in 2020. She also has a multicultural background due to her international academic experiences at Singapore Management University and Kühne Logistics University in Hamburg. Sofia self-identifies as a Supply Chain enthusiast & ambassador sharing her passion for the field in her daily life.
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Jose Manuel Irarrazaval es parte del equipo de Vector Global Logistics Chile. José Manuel es un gerente experimentado con experiencia en finanzas corporativas, fusiones y adquisiciones, financiamiento y reestructuración, inversión directa y financiera, tanto en Chile como en el exterior. José Manuel tiene su MBA de la Universidad de Pennsylvania- The Wharton School. Conéctese con Jose Manuel en LinkedIn.
Host, Supply Chain Now en Espanol
Demo Perez started his career in 1997 in the industry by chance when a relative asked him for help for two just weeks putting together an operation for FedEx Express at the Colon Free Zone, an area where he was never been but accepted the challenge. Worked in all roles possible from a truck driver to currier to a sales representative, helped the brand introduction, market share growth and recognition in the Colon Free Zone, at the end of 1999 had the chance to meet and have a chat with Fred Smith ( FedEx CEO), joined another company in 2018 who took over the FedEx operations as Operations and sales manager, in 2004 accepted the challenge from his company to leave the FedEx operations and business to take over the operation and business of DHL Express, his major competitor and rival so couldn’t say no, by changing completely its operation model in the Free Zone. In 2005 started his first entrepreneurial journey by quitting his job and joining two friends to start a Freight Forwarding company. After 8 months was recruited back by his company LSP with the General Manager role with the challenge of growing the company and make it fully capable warehousing 3PL. By 2009 joined CSCMP and WERC and started his journey of learning and growing his international network and high-level learning. In 2012 for the first time joined a local association ( the Panama Maritime Chamber) and worked in the country’s first Logistics Strategy plan, joined and lead other associations ending as president of the Panama Logistics Council in 2017. By finishing his professional mission at LSP with a company that was 8 times the size it was when accepted the role as GM with so many jobs generated and several young professionals coached, having great financial results, took the decision to move forward and start his own business from scratch by the end of 2019. with a friend and colleague co-founded IPL Group a company that started as a boutique 3PL and now is gearing up for the post-Covid era by moving to the big leagues.
Host, Supply Chain Now
The founder of Logistics Executive Group, Kim Winter delivers 40 years of executive leadership experience spanning Executive Search & Recruitment, Leadership Development, Executive Coaching, Corporate Advisory, Motivational Speaking, Trade Facilitation and across the Supply Chain, Logistics, 3PL, E-commerce, Life Science, Cold Chain, FMCG, Retail, Maritime, Defence, Aviation, Resources, and Industrial sectors. Operating from the company’s global offices, he is a regular contributor of thought leadership to industry and media, is a professional Master of Ceremonies, and is frequently invited to chair international events.
He is a Board member of over a dozen companies throughout APAC, India, and the Middle East, a New Zealand citizen, he holds formal resident status in Australia and the UAE, and is the Australia & New Zealand representative for the UAE Government-owned Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZA), the Middle East’s largest Economic Free Zone.
A triathlete and ex-professional rugby player, Kim is a qualified (IECL Sydney) executive coach and the Founder / Chairman of the successful not for profit humanitarian organization, Oasis Africa (www. oasisafrica.org.au), which has provided freedom from poverty through education to over 8000 mainly orphaned children in East Africa’s slums. Kim holds an MBA and BA from Massey & Victoria Universities (NZ).
Host, Logistics with Purpose
Nick Roemer has had a very diverse and extensive career within design and sales over the last 15 years stretching from China, Dubai, Germany, Holland, UK, and the USA. In the last 5 years, Nick has developed a hawk's eye for sustainable tech and the human-centric marketing and sales procedures that come with it. With his far-reaching and strong network within the logistics industry, Nick has been able to open new avenues and routes to market within major industries in the USA and the UAE. Nick lives by the ethos, “Give more than you take." His professional mission is to make the logistics industry leaner, cleaner and greener.
Sales Support Intern
Alex is pursuing a Marketing degree and a Certificate in Legal Studies at the University of Georgia. As a dual citizen of both the US and UK; Alex has studied abroad at University College London and is passionate about travel and international business. Through her coursework at the Terry College of Business, Alex has gained valuable skills in digital marketing, analytics, and professional selling. She joined Supply Chain Now as a Sales Support Intern where she assists the team by prospecting and qualifying new business partners.