Finalist Interviews for Sourcing Star Awards: David Bush, Simfoni
With nearly 30 years of experience in executive management, David Bush is a leading subject matter expert in the fields of procurement, enterprise contract management and supply management. As CEO of Spend Automation at Simfoni, Bush leads a team of experts helping businesses around the world streamline operations, reduce costs and transform their procurement processes. Bush previously served as Chief Revenue Officer of SpendHQ, and prior to that, he served as co-founder and CEO of IASTA, an industry-leading SaaS-based strategic sourcing and spend management solutions company.
How did you get into this field. Was it purposeful or by accident?
Accidental! I had just exited my first company, named EcoSearch, which was an environmental mapping company. We had a SaaS (Software as a Service) solution in the mid-nineties, a decade before that term was even coined! I was sent information by a friend about FreeMarkets, the original architects of eSourcing, and their full-service model for reverse auctions. It was clunky and expensive, so we put together a team to build a better auction tool. That launched my career in procurement solutions with IASTA. The goal was to make a live auction when none existed, which we achieved and then built out the suite across all strategic sourcing functions over the following years. As we grew, we listened to customers and learned a great deal from them. It was then that I started to earn credibility in the procurement profession.
In what ways do you feel your professional contributions have influenced or transformed the industry?
ScoutRFP became well known as the “easy to use” sourcing app. However, before Scout, there was IASTA, and the founders of Scout used to call me The Sourcing OG. IASTA was founded in 2000 and the mission was to make eSourcing powerful and easy. To this day, 37 companies in the world still use that product, even though there hasn’t been a line of code written on it since 2015. We totally revolutionized the way RFx technology worked with complex scoring and easy set up. Supplier adoption is critical to eSourcing and IASTA suppliers universally complimented the tool as being the best in the industry for submitting proposals.
As mentioned before, I founded and authored the blog eSourcing Forum. This was originally suggested by Jason Busch of Spend Matters to help branding for IASTA. I launched the blog, which became the largest vendor (and second largest overall) procurement blog for many years. I wrote thousands of posts on many topics, and it helped me establish my personal brand as a thought leader in procurement.
I think what differentiates my contribution is that I generate a lot of value around jobs, networks, csat, etc. Hundreds of people have worked for me, many of whom are now in Executive Leadership positions. I am very proud of the legacy established by my leadership at various organizations and grateful I was given the opportunity to influence and shape the careers of so many current industry leaders. I believe my management style and enthusiasm for procurement was instrumental in developing talent from entry level to star performers who are in turn making their own contributions. My network of procurement executives has always been a source of pride for me, as the industry is unforgiving of underperformers, so it validates my work.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing the industry today and what should be done to solve them?
The acute and obvious one right now is supply chain continuity and inflation. I believe companies should focus their talent on minimizing these impacts and use outside vendors for assistance on less critical issues in indirect procurement categories.
At a macro level of procurement in general, the same issues still exist and always will. Lack of internal stakeholder collaboration, credibility, and strategic alignment to the business are constant challenges. Additionally, poor data, poor contract compliance or visibility, lack of spend under management and inadequate supplier relationship management contribute to the previous issues. These are all very solvable but require a true vision and strategic plan to address them. Technology is a key asset but must be deployed correctly and become part of the ethos of the organization.
Looking at the whole of your career, what do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
I built IASTA with no outside capital or external board, and it eventually grew to 100 employees. Our growth was exclusive to having the best products and value proposition. We built a culture of team engagement, dedication and outperformed most of our peers for years. We had over 150 clients around the world who bought our solution because they believed in the company and product, not the marketing. The customers were just as loyal as the employees and the energy around it was an amazing experience.
During the years with IASTA, we experienced a natural decline due to scale and slow reaction times to growth issues. I launched a series of initiatives to diagnose and correct plateaus, which took about 2 years to complete. We came out of those strategies with a series of plans that led us back to sturdy growth and profitability—and being named the Top Employer in Indiana.
Since then, I helped grow SpendHQ 300% during my tenure and am now focused on making Simfoni the undisputed leader in tail spend management. I am equally proud of these achievements.
What three words do you feel your colleagues and peers would use to describe you?
What advice do you have for those who are new to the profession or considering entering the industry?
Be an honest and disruptive leader!
Procurement can get isolated inside organizations. I would recommend any person starting in the field to do their homework (data driven is always the best foundation), be collaborative and listen, and then take the initiative to get results. Being genuine, trustworthy, and high energy is infectious and gets noticed. If you are in an organization that doesn’t appreciate that, leave. Procurement can be exciting and make an enormous impact—do not settle for anything less.