Supply Chain Now
Episode 1219

Having a partner to help guide you along the way, whether it's a strategic advisor consultant or a software technology partner, is fundamental to growing your business or at least feeling like you've got some confidence and a good foundation to continue to grow.

-Shawn Oleson

Episode Summary

Amazon Vendor Central is a cloud-based inventory management system that allows third-party sellers to upload their products directly to Amazon. Using technology and smart planning is crucial for businesses to expand and connect with more people, and Shawn Oleson, a Retail Insights Manager for Amazon at SupplyPike and former Amazon employee, suggests that before jumping into it, businesses should focus on creating solid plans, organizing data, and using technology to make their operations smoother.

In today’s episode, hosts Scott Luton and Greg White welcome Shawn to the show and discuss:

  • The significance of data-driven approaches and understanding retailer-vendor dynamics
  • The challenges businesses face with Amazon Vendor Central, and the need for strategic planning, compliance adherence, and effectively managing claims and fines
  • The evolving nature of e-commerce, the necessity of streamlined processes, and the pivotal role technology plays in adapting to changes in Amazon’s policies
  • The complexity of Amazon’s ecosystem and the importance of having an intermediary or partner with expertise to navigate it successfully
  • SupplyPike’s role in providing software solutions for brands, manufacturers, and consumer packaged goods

Listen in and learn more about the various challenges and best practices in managing Amazon Vendor Central, and take away key insights into optimizing operations, adapting to policy changes, and leveraging technology for efficient supply chain management in the e-commerce landscape.

Episode Transcript

Intro/Outro (00:03):

Welcome to Supply Chain Now, the voice of global supply chain. Supply Chain Now focuses on the best in the business for our worldwide audience, the people, the technologies, the best practices, and today’s critical issues, the challenges and opportunities. Stay tuned to hear from those making global business happen right here on Supply Chain Now.

Scott Luton (00:32):

Hey, good morning, good afternoon, good evening, wherever you may be. Scott Luton and Greg White with you here on Supply Chain Now. Welcome to today’s show. Greg, how are we doing today?

Greg White (00:42):

Very good as always.

Scott Luton (00:44):

As always, you’re like just Steady Eddy.

 

Greg White (00:46):

Even better than now.

 

Scott Luton (00:48):

It’s like that Jerry Seinfeld episode where he’s always even. He’s always even.

Greg White (00:50):

Right.

Scott Luton (00:51):

Always breaks even.

 

Greg White (00:53):

This could be.

 

Scott Luton (00:54):

Jerry Seinfeld and Greg White. All right. Looking forward to this conversation here today. We’re going to be talking, Greg, with a business leader that is with an organization helping out hundreds of companies work a lot better and more profitably with some of the biggest retailers out there. And today, we’re also going to be talking a lot about Amazon, and I promise you it’s going to be a fascinating conversation. Greg, are you ready for this one?

Greg White (01:15):

Always. But, yes, I can’t wait.

 

Scott Luton (01:18):

So —

 

Greg White (01:18):

I love it when we get to talk retail, right, so.

Scott Luton (01:21):

One of our favorite topics Indeed. OK. So, I want to introduce our featured guests here today. Our guest is an ex-Amazonian, I think I said that right. And a well experienced Amazon vendor, especially on the software, on the agency side. In fact, Greg, you could say he’s a true expert in Amazon vendor central operational compliance, as well as a supply chain sleuth, which seems to make for quite the one-two punch. But get this, Greg, there’s more, as our guest has leveraged his recovery expertise to reclaim some $100 million for vendors out in industry.

 

Scott Luton (01:57):

So, with that said, I want to welcome in Shawn Oleson, the Retail Insights Manager for Amazon at SupplyPike. Shawn, how you doing?

Shawn Oleson (02:05):

Doing great. Thank you, Scott. Thank you, Greg. Great to be here.

Greg White (02:08):

Yes, good to have you.

Scott Luton (02:10):

Man, we have — we’re going to dive into a lot of what we just shared in terms of your background, so great to have you here. But first, Greg.

 

Greg White (02:16):

Yes.

 

Scott Luton (02:16):

But first we love talking beyond supply chain, music, sports, and food. And we’ve got an interesting warm-up question here because as we learn pre-show Greg, Shawn loves music and he is also a D.J. in his free time. So, Shawn, what’s some of your favorite genres?

Shawn Oleson (02:34):

Oh, man. I will admit that I’ve got quite the eclectic taste, but anything that’s funky and groovy, and gets you moving and dancing is stuff that I like. So, you can go from electronic dance music, all the way to ’80s synth pop, even back into some jazz and funk music. All that kind of stuff is up my alley.

Scott Luton (02:53):

Man, OK. So, Greg, when you heard that — not to put you on the spot, is there one or one song or one concert that might come to your mind, Greg? And let’s see if he likes it.

Greg White (03:05):

Well, I mean, I think of — I immediately went to ’70s funk because that’s what I was raised on by my parents. So, yes, I would have to say Kool & The Gang, some of their old stuff is really good. “Jungle Boogie” is one of my faves.

Shawn Oleson (03:19):

I’m pretty sure I’ve got “Jungle Boogie” on vinyl, i0t’s a classic.

Greg White (03:22):

Let do it. Let’s roll it right now.

Shawn Oleson (03:25):

You might have to fold it out and start dancing.

Scott Luton (03:27):

Oh, so right. All right. So, Greg and Shawn, I know there’s going to be lots of musical references and analogies throughout the conversation now that we’ve identified that is another one of your passion, Shawn, so just keep them coming, you and Greg both.

 

Scott Luton (03:42):

All right. Well, we had a great show with some of your colleagues at SupplyPike not too long ago. We got a lot of great feedback around that. But what we want to do for any of our new audiences members around the globe, let’s just level set. Tell us briefly, Shawn, what SupplyPike does.

Shawn Oleson (03:57):

Yes, absolutely. Well, just to start, our motto is get paid, get better. And what we do essentially is build software tools and applications for brands, manufacturers, CPGs alike to help manage deductions and provide root cause analysis. So, this is done for a number of different retailers, primarily Walmart, Kroger, Target, and of course Amazon.

Scott Luton (04:24):

All right. So, Greg, that phrase, get paid and get better, that we had a lot of fun with that and it resonated a ton on the previous show. But, Greg, what — when you hear what SupplyPike does, your thoughts.

Greg White (04:34):

Yes, you had me at get paid. I mean — so, this is a challenge that a lot of retailers on these platforms face is the reconciliation of their payment and that sort of thing. So, I — just to clarify, Shawn, are you capturing, they call it spillage or something like that that — where Amazon may lose track of it and the retailer doesn’t get — or the brand or whatever does not get paid, is that what it is?

 

Shawn Oleson (05:02):

Yes, I think that is one of the things that we help manage is essentially shortages or shortage claims whenever —

 

Greg White (05:10):

Yes, that’s it.

 

Shawn Oleson (05:10):

— the retailer claims that they haven’t identified or received the inventory that the brand or the manufacturers ship them in that process. Yes, so that is one of the things that we manage in the number of different deductions that can happen with these retailers.

 

Greg White (05:25):

So, these are compliance-based deductions, late delivery or whatever, right? Or even damaged goods as well?

 

Shawn Oleson (05:32):

Yes. So, there’s a number of different ways to look at it. I think those are a couple of great examples. Really, there’s a difference between the trade and the non-trade. So, things that are agreed upon contractual deductions. But the other side of the coin to that is, as you mentioned, things like compliance, fines, shortages, damages, things like that.

Scott Luton (05:51):

Great clarifying questions, Greg. I think a lot of our listeners are with us now in terms of what SupplyPike does. And one other thing I was going to share is as much as we love to get paid, we love to get better too, and so do the retailers because they want strongly performing suppliers. So, everyone wins here.

 

Scott Luton (06:07):

All right. So, you know, Greg and I talk about Amazon as the big A all the time. And this is interesting because with your background having spent time at Amazon, I want to ask you, what’s one thing that might surprise folks about working at the big A?

Shawn Oleson (06:23):

Yes, that’s a great question. I feel like there’s lots of interesting, like, rumors and buzzwords and things that people talk about the culture. And I think one of the things for me is just the empirical nature of the culture. I think its very process focused, it’s very data-driven, and I think sometimes maybe seemingly to a fault. But it’s a — it’s an interesting place to operate as far as even in conversations with your manager, if you’re not coming to the table with data to underscore your point and kind of drive what you’re feeling home, you’re going to have a bad time. So, I think that’s just one of those really interesting things that is very different than a lot of places people looked previously.

 

Scott Luton (07:02):

Yes, that’s a great call out. And, Greg, I tell you as he was describing, that reminds me a lot of your M.O., right? Data driven, give me examples what’s going on out there. Greg, speak to what that culture he just described at Amazon.

Greg White (07:16):

Be right, often, right? Isn’t that one of the core principles?

 

Shawn Oleson (07:19):

Yes.

 

Greg White (07:20):

Yes, and at the same time move fast, et cetera, et cetera. But I think it’s a really important part of the culture. So, I have worked with Amazon, not at Amazon, and seen it firsthand. And it is ingrained and it has a lot to do with the fact that Jeff Bezos is a very financially minded founder and leader and basically required that kind. It doesn’t seem like it, right? When you think about a company that lost billions and billions of dollars for a neigh on 20 years, but it was all part of the plan as we now see, right? And yet they had always had really solid eyes on the key financial metrics for a sound company and then they just sent that throughout the rest of the organization for every bit of operation. And it is clinical at times, but I think when you’re a big operation like that, it has to be.

Scott Luton (08:10):

Well said, Greg. And I love the word, that word — actually that clinical word that really kind of paints a picture.

 

Scott Luton (08:17):

All right. Good stuff. Let’s switch over here. And I love clarifying these conversations because we want our audience come with us. And to that extent, some of our listeners may not be familiar with this, what we call Amazon Vendor Central. So, describe to us what that is.

Shawn Oleson (08:31):

Yes, absolutely. Well, I would say just to frame it up for everyone as well, every retailer, including Amazon, has got their own unique portal or set of portals that their suppliers or vendors use in order to manage their business with that retailer. So, this really can include just a full spectrum of different things, whether that’s your item setup, catalog management, your P.O. confirmation. All the way to the fun stuff that we manage, like your invoicing, your payments, deduction management and things like that.

 

Shawn Oleson (09:03):

Vendor Central is just Amazon’s specific portal for managing business with them. Another way that I could frame it up is this is the one-piece side on the first party side of Amazon’s business where they’re operating more as the traditional retailer as opposed to the 3P side where that’s the sell marketplace.

Scott Luton (09:22):

Right, I think that’s helpful. And, Greg, you’re nodding your head a lot through that. Any additional thoughts there you think folks should understand?

Greg White (09:27):

Yes — no, I think what’s important to understand is it is very common. It’s just Amazon at — in their identity as a retailer is adopting a lot of the same principles that every retailer doesn’t. And, Shawn, you mentioned Walmart and someone else, but it’s very similar. It goes back to when to my old retail days, right? You know, the true fact here, this is sort of how you whip your suppliers into shape, right, is you understand the motivations and the various offenses that they have bestowed upon you and then you build boundaries and whatnot to make sure that they perform up snuff. Because it does cost the retailer money when they’re late or shipped short or products are damaged, whatever.

Scott Luton (10:14):

Right. And Shawn, with you and the SupplyPike team, you’re a bit of an equalizer, right, to help maybe make that process a little less painful and certainly more profitable. We’re going to get to more of that in just a second. Let’s talk about setting the table a bit with some current trends, especially those that you’ve observed in the vendor landscape related to Amazon. And speak to us about how these trends influence operational compliance in Amazon Vendor Central. Let’s take this one by one, what’s the first one, Shawn?

Shawn Oleson (10:40):

Yes, I think, kind of, taking everything from the hundred-thousand-foot view high level, there’s a couple of things that I’m seeing. And the first one is just, in general, maturity and understanding of e-commerce, and this includes compliance. So, I think that’s the first one that I’ve observed.

Scott Luton (10:56):

And, Greg, we talk about the maturity curve all the time as it relates to all types of things, your thoughts.

Greg White (11:03):

It’s the Wild West out there. I mean, I’m sure Shawn sees it every day. I mean, there are people who just throw a side up and are drop shipping. I mean, you can see it all over everywhere, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok. Be a drop shipper and they think that some sort of magic occurs when they put a side up and pick a few items from Ally Express or whatever that they’re going to sell to people.

 

Scott Luton (11:26):

Right.

 

Greg White (11:27):

And it’s not very sophisticated. I actually have a young man that is in a program that I support that he really thought he could do that. It was kind of cute and funny at the same time, but he came around really quick. And so, when you’re in that environment where so many people are becoming so entrepreneurial, some of them don’t have a really sound business plan or aren’t driven by metrics or even really anything other than they think it’s as easy as it sounds when whoever tells them to start drop shipping, right, or whatever they’re telling them,

Scott Luton (12:03):

Right. They’re infatuated maybe with the art of the possible and all the potential out there, perhaps. I don’t know.

Greg White (12:08):

That’s not everybody out there, but that’s the extreme example that he talks about when he talks about maturity. I mean, there are all the way up to the biggest brands in the world on Amazon as well. So — and even they have varying levels of maturity because they may or may not have been in direct commerce before, right? They’re used to shipping to stores, not shipping to the consumer or how to market to the consumer to motivate them to buy.

Scott Luton (12:35):

So, Shawn, before we move on to your second trend, anything you want to add to what Greg was sharing in — as you laid out the first trend here?

Shawn Oleson (12:43):

Yes, I think really over time I’ve seen an increase in maturity even though — I completely agree with Greg. There is a vast disparity with a lot of customers that we work with in this space. And you’d be surprised with even big-name brands that are seemingly pretty green in the e-commerce space. But really, the past few years, and given everything with the pandemic and kind of having that as a forcing function for a lot of folks that if they weren’t already getting educated in the space, they’re already behind. So, it really is a thing where past few years for a select few or for a larger number, rather, it’s been a forcing function to get on board where you need to learn e-commerce, you need to understand compliance.

Scott Luton (13:27):

Excellent point there. All right. So, let’s move to your second trend and if you would share what it is and unpack it a little bit more and then we’ll keep commenting on the conversation.

Shawn Oleson (13:35):

Yes, I think the next big thing, and it ties into the first point a little bit, but it’s — shifts in the organization and it’s both in their structure, like their teams and how they’re organized, as well as just their goals and priorities. And I think, again, this is to adapt with the shift and trends and getting a little bit more in line in order to manage that e-commerce business more streamlined and effectively.

Scott Luton (14:01):

Greg, speaking of all those shifts out in the industry, I think we’re seeing a lot of that as well. Your thoughts there?

 

Greg White (14:06):

Yes, I mean I’m curious. A lot of organizations built their e-comm business as essentially as separate business. Are they starting to reconcile that with their bricks and mortar business or when you say shift, are they —

Shawn Oleson (14:19):

Yes, I think a little bit of both. And I think it’s for teams before that had a dedicated e-comm team, it might actually be breaking that down and integrating it into a broader part of their sales strategy in general. So, less silos, less division between brick and mortar versus e-comm and having everything be more of a combined business.

 

Shawn Oleson (14:40):

I think I’ve also seen the exact opposite where everything’s been very siloed within brick-and-mortar words and they said, hey, we basically need to build a specialty team that’s organized differently in order to be able to manage our e-commerce business. So, it’s kind of dependent on organizations that I’ve seen, but it is interesting that it’s been kind of the either or split. Whether it’s, again, getting a specific e-comm team or breaking down some of those traditional silos in order to be more effective on e-comm.

Greg White (15:08):

I think a lot of that in the early days stemmed from — because I experienced this, Staples was a great example. It used to be the second most popular website on the web way back when, right behind ESPN. And what they did was largely because of organizational structure. So, the store ops people didn’t want their bonus impacted by this new experiment called e-commerce. So, they created a whole separate entity which created a ton of inefficiency in the organization.

 

Greg White (15:40):

And I think what a lot of companies are realizing is that there is actually more synergy than inefficiency and sure give them different metrics, but let’s use same or similar or adapted infrastructure because it’s better. And it also creates more opportunities if you have a vast network of stores like Staples does. It creates a great delivery network. I mean, Amazon is spending billions to be within eight miles of every house in the world, basically. And Staples is already there and dozens of other bricks and mortar retailers are already there.

 

Greg White (16:13):

And I think we forgot a little bit about during Covid, but now that people are back in stores, and as Shawn talked about, this maturity level has increased so substantially, I think people are starting to realize that their retail outlets are really, really valuable in terms of a delivery station what Amazon called, kind of, their Last Mile.

Scott Luton (16:35):

Excellent point. Excellent point. Several there.

 

Scott Luton (16:38):

All right. So, Shawn, keeping track at home. Trend number one was a wild, wild west, but you’re seeing increased maturity. Number two was all the shifts and some of the silo busting that Greg and I would talk a lot about, right?

Shawn Oleson (16:48):

Yes.

Scott Luton (16:49):

With good reason. And now what’s the third trend?

Shawn Oleson (16:52):

Yes, I think the other one is just an advancement of technology that’s kind of happened over time as well. And then it seems like an arms race between both the retailers as well as these brands and manufacturers to either adopt or to adapt. And it’s saying, like, we’re either adapting to what the retailer’s doing or we’re adopting some of it to combat it. And it’s really interesting to see this arms race that’s happening, whether that’s across the retailers, Amazon, Walmart, Target for example, or just what some of these brands are starting to arm themselves with in order with some of these issues that the retailers might be causing, or just to work with them more efficiently.

Scott Luton (17:30):

Going back to music because there’s a great country song in the early ’90s, and I cannot remember the artist, but it was “Time Marches On”. But to your third trend there, it is tech marches on. This arms race that you’re describing. Greg, I know you’re ready to jump in on this third trend.

Greg White (17:46):

Well, I have to confess, I was a retailer in ’90s. And so, I’m very familiar with why it became an arms race because it was a very adversarial relationship. We spent, as a retailer, a lot of energy trying to make sure that our suppliers didn’t know who our customers were so they wouldn’t go direct to them and steal them. Which I always thought — meant we didn’t add enough value as retailers and we were afraid of the fact that we didn’t add enough value.

 

Greg White (18:16):

What I think we’ve come to learn is that retailers added a ton of value in the supply chain, and now and only now are manufacturers and brands starting to get a flavor for that. Yes, it does cost money to — that. It does cost money to take products off a pallet and sell a case or out of a case and sell on each and all of that. And there are significant inventory commitments to that as well because when you’re at the consumer level, you have to consider that consumer is very fickle and that you have to provision for that with things like safety stock or in a store presentation stock because as I was taught as a young retailer, if you look out of business, you are out of business.

 

Greg White (18:57):

So, sometimes you have inventory in a retail store just for viewing pleasure as a great retail master once told. So, there are all kinds of dynamics that I think these brands are coming to understand and it’s similar, the reliability of being able to ship quickly and in the right quantity is a similar discussion even in e-commerce, because retailers have been doing it for far longer than brands have. And some brands, as Shawn has talked about, they’ve caught up faster. Some have lagged, right? Some use outside parties to help them bridge that gap. But anyway, it’s interesting the dynamic because it has been such an adversarial relationship and I think it really depends on it. I think Nike has a decent model. If you want super customized shoes come to Nike, but you can still go to Academy or Dick’s Sporting Goods or wherever else and get Nike.

Scott Luton (19:51):

I go back — and, Shawn, I’m going to give you last word on these trends. But I love Greg White-ism. If you look out business, you are out of business. So, you all mark that down if you’re listening from home, that’s a good one. And also, Tracy Lawrence —

Greg White (20:03):

Greg Gorley [phonetic], actually, if we’re going to —

 

Scott Luton (20:05):

That was —

 

Scott Luton (20:05):

appropriate. If we’re going to — yes, if we’re going to.

 

Scott Luton (20:07):

  1. Greg Gorley [phonetic].

 

Greg White (20:07):

If we’re going to credit that we should appropriately accredit to —

 

Scott Luton (20:09):

All right.

 

Greg White (20:10):

— greatest retailers I ever knew, Greg Gorley. Yes.

Scott Luton (20:12):

So, Greg, if you’re out there listening, thank you for your contributions industry in retail.

 

Greg White (20:16):

Indeed.

 

Scott Luton (20:17):

And big thanks to Catherine behind the scenes. Tracy Lawrence was the country singer that wrote and sung “Time Marches On”. So, Shawn, your last word on these three trends, because that third one was that advancement of tech and the arms race. Your final thought there.

Shawn Oleson (20:30):

Yes, and I — this will come up a little bit later I think as well, but really just leaning into technology, now that it’s here, it’s not going anywhere. And I think just to keep base, it’s something that you need to learn how to leverage for your business as opposed to something that — it’s — we’ll get to it later. It’s something for down the road, it’s something to embrace and to get on board, but sooner rather than later from my point of view. And it’s just going to help with all of those things and trends that I mentioned.

 

Scott Luton (20:56):

Well then, Shawn —

Greg White (20:56):

I swear we talked about that earlier today.

 

Scott Luton (20:58):

Yes.

 

Greg White (20:58):

Didn’t we just talk about — being — I think that’s a great point of view.

 

Scott Luton (21:03):

Agreed.

 

Greg White (21:03):

I mean, it’s an absolute necessity with the pace at which retail — actually, all business operates today and the wealth of data that helps you be better, get paid and get better. I think you have to take advantage of that. Embrace the data, right?

Scott Luton (21:21):

Yes, yes. It’s like Groundhog data around here while we’re making ’90s references. We talk a lot about these themes quite a bit. So, Shawn, great point. Great way to kind of cap off that trend section of our conversation. I want to move to best practices, right. And I’m really looking forward to hearing.

 

Scott Luton (21:37):

I think you’ve got three established best practices. There’s plenty of others, but three you’re going to share here today when it comes to adapting to changes in Amazon’s policies and procedures, particularly in deductions and compliance. So, give us all three, Shawn, then we’re going to weigh in with some comments.

Shawn Oleson (21:53):

Yes, this is really interesting, and I think from my perspective, this is based on some experience and a good amount of trial and error, trust me. But really the three main things here, it all comes down to having a plan and having a strategy, right? You need to have something in place that you can rinse and repeat so that you’re just not rebuilding the wheel from scratch every time a problem comes up or something new changes, for example.

 

Shawn Oleson (22:20):

So, like, the underlying sentiment in all of this is, is have a plan, have a strategy, have some goals that you can measure. And then as far as the three things that I would include as those best practices, the first one is just validation, right? And it seems arbitrary right now. I’ll get into some more details about that. There’s validation and then there’s going to be a root cause analysis for deduction management, right?

 

Shawn Oleson (22:44):

These are kind of the three things that I would say are in the tool belt. And we’re framing this around deductions and managing changes with Amazon’s policies. It’s absolutely crucial that you understand the rules of engagement with Amazon and their terms and conditions. And I think this is one of the missteps I see often is just that people don’t do their due diligence in reading that long vendor manual that Amazon provides as far as what are all of the things that I need to abide by and comply with.

 

Shawn Oleson (23:15):

And that leads into the first point with validation is that anytime there’s a fine or an infraction or something, it’s a challenge or an opportunity to determine, like, who’s at fault? Who done it, right? And based on those terms and conditions, we have some information that’ll help us make that determination. And then from there, that decision gets to the next two points, which is kind of like a decision tree, a split in the road that says, based on our assessment or based on our analysis, we either have root cause. We have the fix. We have to go find it and fix it, or we have to go hold that retail partner accountable because they’re the ones that goofed. And we need to have a sophisticated streamlined process in order to efficiently manage all of these things, especially at scale.

 

Shawn Oleson (24:03):

So, we’re talking about again, this end-to-end strategy. These best practices just have a plan, but ideally that plan should include a way to validate all of these claims that are coming in. And then from there, either fix the problems that could be on your side that you’re causing, whether that’s in the process and of a one-time thing or a recurring systematic issue, or hold your resale counter partners accountable by going through the dispute process and doing that also as efficiently and as effectively as possible.

Scott Luton (24:34):

All right. So, Shawn, to recap the TikTok version maybe. Plan, have a plan, validate, solve for root cause. And Greg, what the other big important call out there is, the T’s and C’s. You better know those terms and conditions or you’re going to be getting in trouble in a hurry. Greg, your thoughts?

Greg White (24:52):

Do your due diligence. Yes, absolutely. I mean, don’t set yourself up for failure. I ran a company that set themselves up for failure with Amazon right from the get go and it was unrecoverable because they are ruthless defenders of their rights, which every company should be, right? But, yes, I mean that’s part of being in business is understanding the T’s and C’s. That’s not all of it though. I mean, I think what Shawn has described is a critical part of working with any company, but especially Amazon.

Scott Luton (25:24):

Yes, great point there, Greg.

 

Scott Luton (25:26):

All right. So, Shawn, we’re going to keep driving because I want to talk about, you know, we’ve all referenced not just the dynamic nature of e-commerce, but as Greg called it out, this is the dynamic nature of business in general right now. So, what challenges do vendors commonly face when navigating Amazon Vendor Central? And if you can speak to how you’ve seen these challenges evolve over time, I think we’re going to speak to three of them, so go ahead and lay those out for us.

Shawn Oleson (25:51):

Sure. Yes, and there’s just a litany of different challenges that anyone faces with dealing with Amazon, but really, kind of, bucketing it all together in three main things. I think the first one’s just going to be data management and consolidated reporting, right? Just how do we get data out of here? How do we find meaning? How do we communicate that effectively and consistently?

 

Shawn Oleson (26:14):

I think the second point’s going to be difficulty with processes, whether that’s dispute processes or et cetera, that being challenging, tedious, convoluted, confusing, et cetera. That’s just another big one that we hear in base all the time. The last one might be a little specific or a little nuance to Amazon. It really is just very little or lack of support from folks like vendor managers or other internal teams. So, especially when we’re about the traditional relationship based, you know, selling into your brick and mortar with your buyer. That type of relationship just doesn’t exist with Amazon.

 

Shawn Oleson (26:52):

So, those are the three main things that I would say, like real high-level buckets of where folks struggle in working with Amazon and specifically on Vendor Central.

 

Scott Luton (27:02):

So, before we weigh in with some comments, speak to a little bit more — give us a little bit more in terms of how those three have evolved over time. And if you had to pick one in terms of the one, and then there’s plenty of other challenges as you mentioned, but if you had to pick one that trips up organizations time and time again, speak to that if you would.

Shawn Oleson (27:20):

Yes, I think really a lot of what I was mentioning earlier too with just the forcing function of the pandemic and I think the explosion of e-comm growth, like, in one year, it was like five X what was projected previously. That, again, if you didn’t have a plan in place and if you didn’t have a strategy in place, you basically just got overwhelmed with volume. So, when I’m thinking about the data and reporting, it really is just a thing. If you don’t understand, like, your baseline that you can track, like, how big is the problem, then it’s really tough to manage all of those other things downstream.

 

Shawn Oleson (27:54):

So again, just the volume and stuff this is coming in. Maybe the lack of tech savvy, considering Amazon’s a lot more data-driven and focused than working with some of these other retail partners, for example. Where if you don’t have the accessibility and visibility to the data, it makes it extraordinarily challenging to even work with Amazon in a way that’s effective, right? If you don’t have the data to speak to them in a way that they understand, then again, you’re going to have a bad time.

 

Shawn Oleson (28:23):

So, I think that’s one of the main things that I would say is just understanding the data, getting it out of Vendor Central into something that’s uniform outside of just Excel pivot tables and pulling data endlessly. That would be probably one of the biggest fundamental challenges I feel like I hear consistently with vendors and dealing with Amazon.

Scott Luton (28:42):

So, Greg, for the record, we don’t want any of our listeners having a bad time. So, we’re glad to have Shawn and Greg offering up some expertise here. So, Greg, when you hear those challenges, but — what comes to your mind there?

Greg White (28:54):

Well first, when he said having a bad day, Dweezil Zappa immediately came to mind. Great song if he were alive in the ’80s, but thanks to his father for beginning him with all that talent. But I think the thing that just struck me squarely between the eyes as Shawn was talking about this latest point was you need an intermediary. With Amazon, you need an intermediary because as I think about this, they are impatient and they don’t really want to coach you and they’re not really equipped to coach you through your learning curve, right?

 

Greg White (29:32):

They just want you to know what you need to do and do it. And I thought about during question before this, what Shawn and his organization really bring is the credibility with Amazon and the knowledge — and as he said just recently, the knowledge of how to work with Amazon, and that’s so incredibly valuable.

 

Greg White (29:54):

It saves the vendor time and it saves Amazon time. It makes the relationship that much stronger because those little strains makes Amazon especially — I mean depending on the size or the profitability of it for Amazon, those strains become decision points when they go, is this vendor really worth continuing to work with, right? Is this retailer really worth continuing to carry on the marketplace? All of those things, right?

 

Greg White (30:23):

So, if you can eliminate all of those little annoyances in the interaction and the relationship, you can get a lot bigger pass depending on the other aspects of your relationship with Amazon regarding gross margin or volume or whatever else.

Scott Luton (30:39):

Right. That’s a great call out, Greg. And going back to how we introduced Shawn’s background, clearly lots of organizations have been leveraging his know-how of having know how it works and what they expect and shorten that learning curve. As we mentioned, hundred million dollars that you’ve been able to help organizations reclaim for folks out in the industry.

Greg White (31:00):

Skip that small piece of that for yourself.

Scott Luton (31:02):

All right. That’s right, Shawn, hopefully so you got a nest egg piled away, but hey —

Greg White (31:06):

No, I didn’t mean for Shawn. I mean if you — your business wants a little piece of that call, Shawn.

Scott Luton (31:12):

Oh, that’s — well, you know, I was thinking —

Greg White (31:14):

I’m not saying Shawn’s cutting people, right? Like —

Scott Luton (31:18):

I was thinking even —

Greg White (31:19):

It’s not point shaving or 10 points off of big or anything like that.

Scott Luton (31:24):

Shawn, I guess I was giving you too much credit my friend, but that’s a big track record you’ve had out there. So, I know we’re talking a lot about you and some folks don’t like talking about themselves but you know, speak to you would — if you would to that point Greg has made. Organizations want to lean on folks that know how this stuff works, right?

Shawn Oleson (31:40):

Yes, absolutely. I feel like as far as specialists in the space, there are even far between, especially when we start into the nitty gritty of, kind of, deduction management in particular. But yes, I feel like it is something in the retailer space, whether that’s specific to Amazon and how they operate. Again, very process oriented, data-driven. I think Greg made a fantastic point, and this is having been on the other side myself, like, they just expect you to know what to do. And if you don’t, figure it out. So, it —

Greg White (32:13):

And don’t mess up in the meantime, right?

Shawn Oleson (32:15):

Yes. And they are very unforgiving. There’s no Mulligans, right? So, having a partner there to help guide you along the way, whether or not someone that’s more of a strategic advisor consultant or someone who’s more of, like, a software technology partner, I think it is fundamental to growing your business or at least feeling like you’ve got some confidence and a good foundation to continue to grow.

Scott Luton (32:37):

Well said there. No Mulligans, that’s an excellent —

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

Scott Luton (32:43):

So, now we’re going to get a couple anecdotes as we’ve talked about time and time throughout the conversation, it’s ever evolving technology landscape, the arms race as Shawn, as you kind of put it out there. So, with that in mind, if you could give us some real examples that we can all kind of even picture of some successful strategies you’ve seen vendors utilize to optimize their operations with Amazon Vendor Central.

Shawn Oleson (33:06):

Yes. So, there’s a couple of things that I’ll give you, and one of them is going to be a little bit more of an overarching theme, and it ties into what I was saying earlier, it’s just embracing technology. Amazon’s got their own specific approach that they call hands off the wheel. So, this is something that I would also recommend. Like, if that’s Amazon’s approach, match that approach too. Like try and lean into that and managing your business hands off the wheel with Amazon as well.

 

Shawn Oleson (33:32):

And then more specifically, the way that I would recommend it, it’s kind of more buzzwords, catchphrases and stuff but it’s consolidate and automate, right? So, this is the one that I’ll say, like, it’s just a general strategy, but this is consolidating your data, your reporting, and then automating as many of those menial mundane tasks as possible. And, you know, I’m again focused very specifically in the deduction management space. But on Amazon, there’s just so many different processes that are involved in managing that business that don’t necessarily deliver a ton of value.

 

Shawn Oleson (34:07):

So, there’s opportunity out there again to consolidate, streamline and automate large portions of your business, with all of this time and resources that you’re saving, this is where I’ll get into more of the specifics about actually optimizing things, right. And there’s a number of different things that folks can do and that I’ve seen. And a lot of them just have to do with process improvements, still along the lines of automation. But some of the things in particular have to do with the order processing and order management and essentially connecting that with a live inventory feed. So, no one has to go and check a system to make sure that we’ve got stock and inventory in order to confirm an order. It just happens automatically. Same thing with communicating with Amazon via EDI, for example, might be an archaic form of data communication, but still something that Amazon as well as other retailers rely on heavily.

 

Shawn Oleson (35:03):

So, finding ways to streamline processes there. Again, how do we make EDI work for us as opposed to against us? And using that as something as automated to where instead of someone having to click submit or to process something in order to get it out the door, just having something that looks more streamlined with that day-to-day system. I think there are a couple of other things too, but has to do with relabeling or repackaging.

 

Shawn Oleson (35:29):

So, if we think about e-commerce, it’s how do we get things as quickly as possible from A to B? And if we’ve got issues with packaging or with labeling for example, that just means it’s got to go sidelined. The sad path in the fulfillment center where someone’s got to manually receive it. So, there’s smart labeling, you know, carton labeling that helps go through that automated receipt process, or just redesigning and repacking things to blow a little bit more streamlined through that receive process is also helpful.

Scott Luton (36:02):

Right. Eliminate touches, and retouches, and re-retouches. Greg, weigh in on some of those examples, those practical examples that Shawn shared.

Greg White (36:11):

Yes. I mean, I think — look, you’ve got to make it easy for them, right? And all of these things, especially as we’ve said, embrace the technology, all these things can be facilitated by the incredibly advanced technology that Amazon has. I mean, they have 2 million square foot warehouses with 12 people working in them and eight of those people are maintenance. So, they are leaning heavily into automation.

 

Greg White (36:37):

And if you want to — I think it’s a great, Shawn, you’ve said this many times, forcing function. I think it’s a great forcing function to cause brands and other retailers to come into the ’90s of this automation because some of this stuff has been being done for decades, let’s face it. And if you’re still that far behind catch up.

 

Scott Luton (37:01):

Right.

 

Greg White (37:01):

And when you have a platform opportunity like Amazon, it is to your benefit to do it. If you don’t do it, they’re going to charge you to do it or they’re going to reject you for not doing it. So, you’re better off to enable it. It’s not as costly as it used to be. And it — and there are all kinds of tools that can work. And then of course there are people like Shawn who can guide you through these processes and help you understand what you need to do to avoid all — avoid, frankly, having to do all the reconciliation that SupplyPike does, right?

 

Scott Luton (37:34):

Right.

 

Greg White (37:34):

I mean, that’s not the goal. It’s going to happen, but it doesn’t have to happen on the scale that it’s happening for your business today. I’m sure, Shawn, the folks at SupplyPike would still be glad to take your money if they weren’t doing a million dollars a month on your behalf, right? It was only $500K, they’d probably still take their money.

Scott Luton (37:53):

Just to the middle part of your point there, Greg, just do it. Just do it. You know, going back to what Greg Gorley [phonetic] said, if you don’t do it, you might look like you’re out of business. And if you look like you’re out of business —

Greg White (38:04):

You are out of business, right.

Scott Luton (38:06):

And just like we’ve enjoyed this little chat with Shawn. Not only are you going to be able to get paid and get better which wins for everybody, but you can talk really cool music with Shawn as well —

 

Greg White (38:18):

That’s right.

 

Scott Luton (38:18):

— which I think will make it worth your time.

Greg White (38:20):

Right. We just introduced him — or Catherine just introduced him to a new artist. So, maybe he’ll share his perceptions on that.

Shawn Oleson (38:27):

Absolutely, yes. I always love hearing new stuff. So, happy to share, obviously talk shop, but hope you guys want to chat music too. I’m all ears.

Greg White (38:36):

There you go.

Scott Luton (38:37):

That is awesome. All right. So, Shawn, I really wish we had a couple more hours with you. I think you’re a cool — I told you on the front end, I felt good vibes and kindred spirits with kind of how you viewed things and just how your general disposition. And I think the last — this conversation kind of bears that out. So, if folks want to tap into what you know, your expertise, the cool things you’re doing at SupplyPike or talk music, let’s face it, or New Mexico maybe, how can they connect with you —

 

Greg White (39:04):

Or Tulsa.

 

Scott Luton (39:05):

Or Tulsa, that’s right.

 

Shawn Oleson (39:07):

Yes.

 

Scott Luton (39:08):

How can they connect with you, Shawn?

Shawn Oleson (39:09):

Yes, absolutely. Well, I’ll say I’m not the biggest person on social media, but you can find me on LinkedIn. And of course, you can reach out to me via e-mail. I think we’ll share all of my contact information. So, if folks do want to talk shop or get the latest music recommendations, again, more than happy to have folks connect and reach out.

Scott Luton (39:28):

Love that, Shawn. I really have enjoyed our time and really appreciate your journey and your point of view and expertise and how you’re leveraging out there in industry. And I bet all those big retailers we’ve talked about are very appreciative as well.

 

Scott Luton (39:41):

All right. So, Greg, we’re going to get your final takeaway hat knit [phonetic] favorite takeaway in just a second. But thanks to Shawn Oleson, the Retail Insights manager for Amazon at SupplyPike, who’s on the mood doing some really cool things. Of course, connect with Shawn on social or you can learn more at SupplyPike, that’s SupplyPike, P-I-K-E,.com.

 

Scott Luton (40:02):

All right. Greg.

 

Greg White (40:03):

Yep.

 

Scott Luton (40:03):

We covered a lot of ground here. Really great chat with Shawn. Appreciate his point of view and what he’s been doing. What was your favorite part of today’s discussion?

Greg White (40:12):

The realization that so many, whether they are advanced brands or new brands who are challenged by, let’s just pick just the Amazon environment, they have — I mean, they have hope because it’s a very complex and confusing environment. And you go into it all at once. You don’t get to dip your toe in the water. When you’re in business with Amazon, everything that comes with Amazon eventually comes immediately.

 

Greg White (40:38):

So, knowing that there’s someone who’s weighted these waters before and can help you navigate them more effectively and also can help you connect with the natives when you land on Amazonian shores and make sure that you’re speaking the same language that they are, and giving them what they need and getting from them what you deserve. I mean, I just think that is bodes for a lot of hope for a lot of these newer entrepreneurs or some of these nascent brands or even some advanced brands that are still dipping their toe in the water, or even brands that have done this but aren’t very good at it yet. It feels — I can’t believe I’m going to say this, it’s almost like a shortcut to success to do this and make sure that you get paid and get better, but mostly paid. Almost all paid.

Scott Luton (41:26):

That’s right. Almost all paid. So, if — I’m cherry picking here. So, because there’s no toe dips, and because there’s no Mulligans, connect with Shawn and the SupplyPike team so there’s no bad days, right? There’s no bad days.

 

Scott Luton (41:39):

All right. So, Shawn, really appreciate you being with us here today. We hope to see you again soon.

 

Shawn Oleson (41:43):

Yes, thank you. And likewise, really enjoyed it. Scott, Greg, thank you again so much.

 

Greg White (41:48):

Yes, a pleasure.

Scott Luton (41:48):

We will have you back. Greg, always a pleasure. I really enjoyed — anytime talk of retail with you, I enjoy your expertise as well.

Greg White (41:55):

Yes. Well, thank you. Shawn brought it strong. So, you know, I did have that sort of realization, kind of, throughout the show. I hope more people do and realize that it could be easier. I mean, that it’s as simple as that is there, right?

 

Scott Luton (42:10):

Right. That’s right.

 

Greg White (42:11):

I love having these discoveries. Great.

Scott Luton (42:12):

I do too. So, on behalf the whole team here at Supply Chain Now, hey, take something you heard here. I mean there’s a ton. There’s a truckload of stuff, right? Take at least just one thing. Put it in action. Share with your team. Share it with your organization, but put it into action. There’s a better way, as Greg and Shawn both are preaching out there in the wilderness. There’s a better way and your people will appreciate it.

 

Scott Luton (42:36):

So — all right. With that said, hey, on behalf of our entire team here at Supply Chain Now, Scott Luton challenging you to do good, to give forward, and to be the change that’s needed. And with that said, we’ll see you next time right back here at Supply Chain Now. Thanks everybody.

Intro/Outro (42:51):

Thanks for being a part of our Supply Chain Now community. Check out all of our programming at supplychainnow.com and make sure you subscribe to Supply Chain Now anywhere you listen to podcasts. And follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. See you next time on Supply Chain Now.

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Featured Guests

Shawn Oleson is the Retail Insights Manager for Amazon at SupplyPike. He is an Ex-Amazonian and experienced Amazon vendor on the software and agency side, Shawn is an expert in Amazon Vendor Central operational compliance, supply chain sleuth, and resident recovery specialist with over $100MM successfully reclaimed for vendors. Connect with Shawn on LinkedIn.

Hosts

Scott W. Luton

Founder, CEO, & Host

Greg White

Principal & Host

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Demo Perez

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.

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Mary Kate Love

VP, Marketing

Mary Kate Love is currently the VP of marketing at Supply Chain Now focused on brand strategy and audience + revenue growth. Mary Kate’s career is a testament to her versatility and innovative spirit: she has experience in start-ups, venture capital, and building innovation initiatives from the ground up: she previously helped lead the build-out of the Supply Chain Innovation Center at Georgia-Pacific and before that, MxD (Manufacturing times Digital): the Department of Defense’s digital manufacturing innovation center. Mary Kate has a passion for taking complicated ideas and turning them into reality: she was one of the first team members at MxD and the first team member at the Supply Chain Innovation Center at Georgia-Pacific.

Mary Kate dedicates her extra time to education and mentorship: she was one of the founding Board Members for Women Influence Chicago and led an initiative for a city-wide job shadow day for young women across Chicago tech companies and was previously on the Board of Directors at St. Laurence High School in Chicago, Young Irish Fellowship Board and the UN Committee for Women. Mary Kate is the founder of National Supply Chain Day and enjoys co-hosting podcasts at Supply Chain Now. Mary Kate is from the south side of Chicago, a mom of two baby boys, and an avid 16-inch softball player. She holds a BS in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Joshua Miranda

Marketing Specialist

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.

Donna Krache

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.

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Vicki White

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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.

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Ben Harris

Host

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.

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Page Siplon

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).

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Kristi Porter

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.

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Sofia Rivas Herrera

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.

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Katherine Hintz

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.

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Kim Winter

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).

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Adrian Purtill

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.

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Kevin Brown

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.

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Jose Miguel Irarrazaval

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.

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Nick Roemer

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.

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Allison Giddens

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.

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Billy Taylor

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.

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Lori Sofian

Marketing Coordinator

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.

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Chantel King

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.

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Trisha Cordes

Administrative Assistant

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.

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Clay Phillips

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.

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Amanda Luton

Vice President, Production

Amanda is a production and marketing veteran and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience across a variety of industries and organizations including Von Maur, Anthropologie, AmericasMart Atlanta, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Amanda currently manages, produces, and develops modern digital content for Supply Chain Now and their clients. Amanda has previously served as the VP of Information Systems and Webmaster on the Board of Directors for APICS Savannah, and founded and managed her own successful digital marketing firm, Magnolia Marketing Group. When she’s not leading the Supply Chain Now production team, you can find Amanda in the kitchen, reading, listening to podcasts, or enjoying time with family.

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Constantine Limberakis

Host

Constantine Limberakis is a thought leader in the area of procurement and supply management. He has over 20 years of international experience, playing strategic roles in a wide spectrum of organizations related to analyst advisory, consulting, product marketing, product development, and market research.Throughout his career, he's been passionate about engaging global business leaders and the broader analyst and technology community with strategic content, speaking engagements, podcasts, research, webinars, and industry articles.Constantine holds a BA in History from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and an MBA in Finance & Marketing / Masters in Public & International Affairs from the University of Pittsburgh.

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Mary Kate Soliva

Host, Veteran Voices

Mary Kate Soliva is a veteran of the US Army and cofounder of the Guam Human Rights Initiative. 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.

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Kelly Barner

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’.

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Enrique Alvarez

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.

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Kevin L. Jackson

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 CiscoMicrosoft, 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 UniversityO’Reilly MediaLinkedIn Learning, and Pluralsight.  Mr. Jackson retired from the U.S. Navy in 1994, earning specialties in Space Systems EngineeringCarrier 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.

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Tyler Ward

Director of Sales

Tyler Ward serves as Supply Chain Now's Director of Sales. Born and raised in Mid-Atlantic, Tyler is a proud graduate of Shippensburg University where he earned his degree in Communications. After college, he made his way to the beautiful state of Oregon, where he now lives with his wife and daughter.

With over a decade of experience in sales, Tyler has a proven track record of exceeding targets and leading high-performing teams. He credits his success to his ability to communicate effectively with customers and team members alike, as well as his strategic thinking and problem-solving skills.

When he's not closing deals, you can find Tyler on the links or cheering on his favorite football and basketball teams. He also enjoys spending time with his family, playing pick-up basketball, and traveling back to Ocean City, Maryland, his favorite place!

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Chris Barnes

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.

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Greg White

Principal & CMO, 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.

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Scott W. Luton

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.

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