Leaders Never Stop Learning with Kristian O'Meara 

Posted: 03/14/2018 - 01:32

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In this episode of the Sourcing Industry Landscape, Dawn Tiura interviews Kristian O’Meara. Kristian O'Meara is Vice President of Market Solutions at JAGGAER, a global provider of source-to-pay solutions. O'Meara's journey into sourcing and procurement began with an internship for a franchise that proved to be the foundation for his career.

Dawn Tiura: Folks, this is Dawn Tiura of from SIG, Sourcing Industry Group. Today, we are going to spend some time with Kristian O’Meara. Now, Kristian O’Meara is the SVP of Value Engineering, currently called Bravo Solutions, soon to be a JAGGAER company. But before we get into the Bravo Solutions and JAGGAER Company, I wanna welcome you Kristian.

Kristian O’Meara: Thank you, Dawn. I look forward to our conversation today.
Dawn Tiura: So, just as a little nugget for those of you who don't know what Kristian works and lives. He's in Ohio, and I'm just gonna give you a little tidbit—he can actually go outside on his deck at night and hear lions roar and elephants trumpet. Tell me just a—give me a reason why you can hear that. That can't be part of Bravo's home gig, is it?
Kristian O’Meara: (Laughs) No, I have the privilege of spending my weeks for the most part, on the road with our wonderful customers and our prospective customers. So, I have chosen a location that's close to family, which is incredibly important to me; I'm proud father and husband of five wonderful folks, other than myself. So, there's six of us that chose a location just north of Columbus in Powell, Ohio; that is essentially a budding. Our world-famous Columbus Zoo that goes back and forth with the great Santiago Zoo, for kind of best Zoo in the country year to year. It's kind of a fun little tidbit or side note that does provide for the occasional distraction or excitement. For sure.
Dawn Tiura: I love that. I love that. I actually went home, and my cat meowed, and I said, "Seriously, couldn't you be a lion?” This would be so much more exciting." Now we know, you're in Ohio and you went to Ohio State, is that correct?
Kristian O’Meara: I am a proud, alumni of the Ohio State University and not knowing that you are a[n] alumni of the great university of Michigan as well. Yes, that is an absolutely correct statement. I had the privilege of attending there and studying supply chains specifically, logistics and transportation and marketing.
Dawn Tiura: That's awesome, yeah. So we won't discuss football or anything like that. We'll just say, "Go Ohio State," and that was with all the vigor I can come up with. But it is a great school.
Kristian O’Meara: I'm proud of you for mustering that, thank you.
Dawn Tiura: I've been working on that. "I can say it, I can do this." I even wore a red and white scarf in honor of you today for this podcast.
Kristian O’Meara: Fantastic.
Dawn Tiura: Now, is it true your father was in logistics? And that was one of the reasons you were interested in it?
Kristian O’Meara: Yeah, he had a long career, with the civil service and 35 plus years of serving our government on the non-defense side, doing supply chain logistics, quality assurance labs, and a number of other things like that. As you're drifting through those late teen years and to early adult, it was a good as excuse as any for you to pick a major that I'd heard my father contemplate, discuss, dialogue with friends and colleagues over the years. And it seemed, particularly challenging, and as you know; many of the big ten schools share a proud heritage of great supply chain schools with a fantastic track record. So, that was important, consideration as well.
Dawn Tiura: And that's great. I just wanna talk, because, obviously; you're in a high tech company today. But you had an entrepreneurial spirit that you were able to display, while you were back in college and you told the most fascinating story about University of Painters. University of Painters, which is a franchise. Can you just tell us a little bit about that? Because that was way back in the early days and it just impressed me so much.
Kristian O’Meara: I agree. I think it was an incredibly formative time for myself, from a business acumen and a skill set perspective. Again, sort of having worked full time since I was 15 years old and balanced everything from athletics to academics, to job and school and things like that. I was finding myself, sort of as you get ready for your sophomore and junior summers, looking for an internship opportunity. You'd interviewed with the set of usual fortune 1000 suspects that come to campus in great force.
Kristian O’Meara: I happened to sort of indirectly stumbled on an opportunity with a franchise; that is available at many of the college campuses and it does essentially, teaches you the ins and outs of all working aspects of a franchise ownership structure. Whereby, I had, depending on the time of year and the sales volumes and things of that nature.
Kristian O’Meara: I had anywhere from three to a dozen employees that I was keeping gainfully employed, so I learned all things about HR and engagement and skill set building and sales and customer relationships. It was a good trial by fire for several years, and I actually was incredibly successful in doing that, and I think it really cut my teeth in some regards, as far as formulating a good, strong, general foundation, I think is applicable as I've had the opportunity to rise through the ranks of the technology company.
Dawn Tiura: Yeah, I think that's phenomenal. When you told me that story, I was like "Wow, what great, real, life experience to have under your belt, when you leave school."
Dawn Tiura: So, when you left, is it right that you went to E&Y and focused on supply chain there, is that correct?
Kristian O’Meara: I did, yes, immediately following graduation I transitioned straight into Ernst & Young. I was convinced, at the time, conventional wisdom would have suggested at the time period that was happening, that it was safe, and right, and the good thing to do, to find a good, strong backbone and at that time; the big six consulting. It was a great place to sort of learn, develop quickly, ascertain a tremendous wealth of information. But I was in their supply chain practice and spent a number of years on the road with many of their customers that were doing sort of, Y2K projects and racing to put ERP implementations in place. I actually got to apply my degree and did a transportation freight rating and optimization, I took small shipments and a built them into full truck loads and did milk runs.
Dawn Tiura: (Laughs)
Kristian O’Meara: Didn't think that would necessarily be the case, but it happened to work out that way.
Dawn Tiura: From broader supply chain logistics, where did you get your passion for sourcing?
Kristian O’Meara: Sourcing came upon my transition. Back, it'll be my 17th anniversary here, next week, that I've had the privilege of being involved with the now, soon to be JAGGAER, but, essentially started with, and was recruited by a headhunter, at a firm that was called AAtlas Commerce at the time. So that was AA Atlas, and they had just sold a small retailer, based in Ventonville, Arkansas, by the name of Walmart. And they had to have contractually, they had an obligation that was essentially, an on site resource, that was intended to be a liaison, sort of jack of all trades, and my field set happened to fit, and my interest in supply chain said, "How could I resist the opportunity to study at the time, 20 years ago?
Kristian O’Meara: One of my most admired supply chains from an execution perspective, so it happened to be; they got into heavily, the sourcing and contracting arena and that's what the tool in technology did and it was like cutting edge as far as reverse auctions were concerned. It was, the days of free markets and AAtlas commerce were two of the main providers of those technologies and so, I got the chance to learn and run anything from billion-dollar auctions for toilet paper and things of that nature.
Kristian O’Meara: I literally ran thousands of events in sort of 18 months tour on site there.
Dawn Tiura: Wow. Did that eventually become Bravo Solutions? Or did you leave and go into Bravo Solutions at that point? Can you tell me the transition?
Kristian O’Meara: Yeah, so it's a theme that continues in our space today, used to be called supply management transitioning into more the procurement vernacular. But, essentially, back then, AAtlas Commerce was acquired by Vertical Net. Vertical Net, was, subsequently did a series of acquisitions, of folks like, Tigress, which gave us optimization; BTE Markets, which gave us some great contact management capabilities and things of that nature and there was a heavy consolidation push going on at the time.
Kristian O’Meara: Then there was a group called Bravo Solutions, which back in, 2008, had a strong desire to enter the North American market, they were a European, Milan, Italy founded company, and they were keen to secure a beach head and a sort of largest, market potential would be North America for these types of solutions.
Kristian O’Meara: They acquired, was the legacy Vertical Net at the time, and until very recently, that was the case; we remained independently, wholly owned, operation.
Dawn Tiura: Wow, so Bravo Solutions actually got its start in Italy?
Kristian O’Meara: That's correct, yeah. It was founded within, of all things, an Italian cement company. It was intended to be, sort of the consultative procurement arm within a $5 billion plus construction, engineering, cement, vertical, essentially, company. They slowly, maturely built out technology that wasn't available in their SAP assets and encapsulated in parts and pieces of the—essentially, the supply chain and procurement processes. Then, over time, moved from a captive revenue type of situation and expanded in a very entrepreneurial spirit, flag planning concept, to dozen countries and had a great deal of success and growth.
Dawn Tiura: Wow, so I would say, your entrepreneurial experience in college obviously gave you a lot of strength, but also, you're a certified coach with I9 sports. Tell me about that? How did you get into coaching and do you see an analogy? And how does it help you in business today?
Kristian O’Meara: Yeah, so, great question [and] as I mentioned, I guess this is setting us back to the beginning of the conversation, but I am a proud father of 4 children; so three young boys and a teenage daughter. It provides me an opportunity when I'm not otherwise traveling and distracted, raising them; to coach them on the weekends. It's a fantastic program, that essentially starts at age three, prior to our local youth athletic association kind of being invoked. It's a franchise itself-
Dawn Tiura: Mm-hmm.
Kristian O’Meara: But they look for volunteer coaches; mothers and fathers that essentially wanna lean forward, lean in, however, you wanna say it, to participate in the growth and development of these young folks. I have the chance to coach little league and flag football, and it brings a great deal of challenge and excitement. From, I guess, how it's transitionable or leverageable within the workplace; I think, it's a furthering, in a reality, setting expectations, that not everybody performs the same, from birth on.
Kristian O’Meara: I think you need to be engaged, an active listener. You need to be—we teach these children so many wonderful characteristics and traits, that will ultimately make them successful in any endeavor. But having a chance to participate and create success and at that age, participation is the most significant thing that keeps them involved and the team work that they learn at that age, the sharing aspects of it, all translate very well.
Kristian O’Meara: Into everything from one on one meetings with customers where they need to listen and be attentive or in boardrooms where they need to follow leadership and structure and hit goals and obtain them and get better; faster; stronger. It's really, a great experience, it is very level setting. It's quickly humbling to try to coach 4 year olds, to even understand the concept of offense, defense, let alone running the football in the right direction when they're handling the ball.
Dawn Tiura: You know, but, I would say also, that it says a lot about you as a person. Because, obviously, you get to coach your own children but you're also taking responsibility to help develop and raise, in some ways, other people's children and instill the sportsmanship attitude and work ethic and everything else. I applaud you. It's something that I look at coaches and I think, what wonderful people they are. They have full time jobs, and yet they volunteer to help mold our children. I think that says a lot about you Kristian. So, "Kudos" to that.
Kristian O’Meara: Thanks, I think it's something that I honestly, they taught us at the leadership level and in sports as I was growing up and folks invested heavily in mentoring. Ohio State has a big program, it's very active called ‘Paying forward’ and ‘giving back’ and things of that nature. I do think it all starts there and we've heavily invested Bravo in career growth, development, mentoring programs that have benefited me. You know, for a long time, I was tucked under the arm of a lot of bright young women and men that, took an interest in me and took an interest in my capabilities. It's my job to sort of return that investment in everything from our little kids to those that are in the workroom with me.
Dawn Tiura: That's fantastic. So now we're gonna bring ourselves up to the present. So soon, Bravo Solutions will not be known as a JAGGAER company, but it'll actually be "JAGGAER"? Is that correct?
Kristian O’Meara: That's correct, yeah. The transaction itself, the acquisition; so both companies are owned by Excel KKR, which is essentially, KKR is the world's largest private equity company as I understand it. Excel KKR is, essentially, they're a subsidiary that deals largely with technology based, SAP-type companies, so there's a support system that will allow us to do the things that we want to accomplish for our customers, with our customers, and we're quite excited about it.
Kristian O’Meara: Back in the very end of the year, 12/28, the transaction closed and [we’re] looking forward to the continued interactions. It's been quite an aggressive turn of the year, to get the companies creating synergies and building a momentum that we both had a record-breaking year from a growth perspective, from a customer, new customers as well as, customer expansion perspectives. I think it's a validation of what was great laid plans from two separate leadership teams that are now sort of unifying forward for the benefit of our customers; which is the most exciting part, and which keeps me on the road any given day—just to make sure we're meeting our targets and obligations and goals that we set together with those customers.
Dawn Tiura: That's neat. Where does Cyquest fit into all this?
Kristian O’Meara: Yeah, so Cyquest is the legacy name of JAGGAER. Essentially, back at the turn of 2017, there was a rebranding effort, exercise that took place, because Cyquest had long outgrown its traditional higher education life sciences background. They had branched into a much broader portfolio of customers and enablement around the procurement lifecycle in general. They felt appropriate as I understand it, to go through that rebranding effort. I think that an important representation of that is one of our important go-forward strategies which is the industry verticals perspective, and being able to specifically support in a very deep, very rich, very robust way certain key industry verticals that will lead to creating and ensuring success. Essentially, that was the backbone, is Cyquest. It acquired a number of companies and had long outgrown the sort of higher-Ed and life sciences focus.
Dawn Tiura: Yeah, that's interesting. Because that's the only place you ever heard their name mentioned. It was a default, if you were in either of those two industries. So, it's exciting that through acquisition and through engagement they've been able to broaden into all these different industries. I think the rebranding was an excellent idea, for people like me who always default. Higher education, life sciences. So, it’s good.
Kristian O’Meara: Yeah, and they remain with a stronghold in a wonderful foundation in that market place. In fact, given some of the larger school systems like the one I lived in the state of Ohio, being the largest; now K through 12 has some multibillion-dollar budgets in some of the larger school districts throughout the country. So, it'll continue in expansion into, not just higher-ed, but even into the K through 12 arena so, exciting capabilities and specific investment will enable those customers to be successful will absolutely continue from an R&D perspective. But, just an acknowledgement that there's other key verticals that; we have 50 -100 plus customers now that we know how to do things to help them be successful.
Dawn Tiura: That's fantastic, but you know, one of the things that you're really known for and I think this is really neat; is, you're with a technology company, so I would expect you to be selling, selling, selling, and you are non-commercia—and yet, you're so successful. Where does that ability come together? Because most people think you need to be pushy to be successful, and you're not at all. You are just a thought leader, so, where does that come from?
Kristian O’Meara: You know, honestly, one of the things I absolutely adore about SIG, is I guess, tying back those conversations on the coaching and mentoring aspects, but education and; what I'll call, and you'll hear me say this, when I have the opportunity to speak at the various SIG conferences; I think we all have an obligation to each other, to maintain sort of a ‘lifetime insatiable curiosity’ is the term I use. To be eager to grow, to learn, to develop, to listen, to gather, to help others do the same. I think is an important societal obligation to one another.
Kristian O’Meara: In doing so, I think part of being successful—whether, you're commercially facing or not—is just knowing how to be a good, active listener. It doesn't mean you get talked to, but I think time and time again, customers have really valued one of the things that makes JAGGAER, Bravo combined so exciting, [which] is the practitioner heritage; where there's folks that sort of sat in their roles, challenged with the same objectives, goals and things of that nature.
Kristian O’Meara: We've been able to navigate those waters successfully, and I think it all starts with; one of my old mentors used to say "KO, or, Kristian, you got two ears and one mouth for a reason." So start by listening and make sure you get clarification, cause often times our mind tends to try to solution; sometimes on a fly. But it's important to seek clarity and clarification and understanding before we sort of jump to conclusions. I think that is probably one of the paradigms that's ultimately in many successful people, is that, starts with that ability to be level headed and listen before you assert yourself and your ideas and concepts to make sure they’re the right fit.
Dawn Tiura: That's great. So, folks, for all of you listening, if you hear the word, "KO", which is how I got to know Kristian; "KO" is Kristian O’Meara, and everybody who idolizes him it's, "KO this"; and "KO said that’, and "KO said that." And for the longest time, I thought they were saying K-A-L-E, like the vegetable, “Kale said.” I had no idea who Kale was and finally someone said, "Kristian O’Meara…hello" and I went, "Oh, so all this KO talk (laughs), was not Kale—it was KO. You are well-known by your initials, which is really neat. So, I should have been calling you "KO" since the start, since that's how a lot of people are gonna hear about you.
Kristian O’Meara: Proper credit to my parents for the naming invocation there.
Dawn Tiura: So, tell me. You've been in the industry for a while, you've studied, you've been a practitioner, you've been an entrepreneur, you've been a coach, you've been a dad; you are a dad. So tell me 5 years out from now, let's say you've got a teenage daughter and you're gonna tell her the industry is really changing. What advice are you...? How would you tell her it's changing? And what advice would you give to a young person today who wants to get into our arena?
Kristian O’Meara: I think if it's okay, I'd start with what I think won't change. I think the thing that'll be consistent is what we just finished talking about: the need to be a good active partner, a good listener is going to be consistent. The aspects of social media, whether it's LinkedIn or Instagram or Facebook or things of that nature, I think, has allowed us to drift apart from what I think is innate within us, [which] is our desire to interact.
Kristian O’Meara: I think it's really important to keep the human aspects of it, but then there is so much change going on; there's all these buzz words. Earlier this year, there was the robotics process automation, RPA, discussions at SIG, there were things about blockchain, you hear constantly, every day, and everybody's obsessed with cryptocurrencies and the playoff of that and things of that nature. I think we're in a constantly evolving thing.
Kristian O’Meara: I guess, the very first thing I'd tell my very own daughter to be mindful of is, you'd better be considerate and comfortable with change. We follow what's called a Pro-sci methodology for change called ADKAR; so, it's just a simple acronym that's: Awareness, Knowledge, Desire, Ability and Reinforcement, to help you remember. I think one of the keys to a successful career, especially in our day and age; especially with some of, the millennials and things, knowing though, probably in all likelihood, work at, unlike me, two places—they'll probably spend their career in, on average, 10 different places. They have to be prepared, ready and equipped to deal with change. To be able to navigate that, without—I guess keeping your emotions in check and things of that nature.
Kristian O’Meara: We're obviously, within JAGGAER, at one of those inflection points which provides for even more excitement. I have to live the mantra I speak of as we unfold, but, I think the things I'm excited about, really from a future perspective; one of the things I think you guys do, at SIG University and some of, the other folks do in their space, is that education aspect. I think, paramount to the success of any large company, or any growing company, is to keep an employee engaged skill set that's constantly honing and investing in their employees.
Kristian O’Meara: Through JAGGAER, through Bravo's legacy investment in me, as recently as last year, I had the chance to take executive education at Columbia with a number of my colleagues that were selected. And I looked at it as, well it wasn't a compensation or a pat on the back, which can be all very rewarding; it allowed me to continue to stretch my knowledge, my bounds of comfort, and learn and fresh new concepts and ideas from arguably, a great school, there in New York City, and really turn around and use those same lessons the very next day at customers; at prospective customers within our own office. We got to leverage those immediately, which is just absolutely exciting. The other things I think—go ahead-
Dawn Tiura: Oh no. I was saying that goes back to your insatiable curiosity too, that thirst for learning, and then applying it goes back to what you had said originally as well.
Kristian O’Meara: Yeah, absolutely, for sure. It's one of those things I think, specifically in the procurement or supply chain, supply management space, we're gonna see a continued consolidation of assets. We're gonna see a continued spread of both the depth of these types of solutions, as well as the breadth. While today, there's many mix solutions for dynamic discounting and supply chain financing, supplier networks are somewhat on the peripheral of many of the offerings.
Kristian O’Meara: I fully anticipate things like that. Things like block chain will be all five years from now, fully incorporated in a much smaller, I'll call it a handful of solutions. And in Jagger, will ideally be at the heart of leading that R&D, a surge and investment and both from an M&A perspective, but also from a pure internal R&D perspective.
Dawn Tiura: Well, if anyone's gonna know the direction you're taking, it'll be the Value Engineering Senior Vice President. So, that is fantastic to know that you're constantly evolving, and you're gonna be continuing to push and support both Bravo Solutions and eventually as it's known as JAGGAER, to continually evolve your own organization. I think that's fantastic news for the industry.
Kristian O’Meara: Yeah, I'm extremely excited about it. I've had a chance to work with the executive leadership team, and I know that we're tuning up to one of the most challenging things in the last 15 years in my career was—many of the solutions were highly focused on indirect type of solutions, and Bravo had a unique asset in sort of solving logistic problems, but depending on the org you engaged with, and the vertical, that could mean anywhere from 10 percent of spend, 80 percent depending on whether there was a financial company or a discreet manufacturer. With the asset portfolio, within the new, combined JAGGAER, we have, for the first time, ever I think, the industry space, the ability to address the 100 percent of the spend. To me that's extremely exciting for our customers, so that they can look to one place, one vendor, to approach them with a sort of platform as a service type of offering or concept and be able to leverage that to their success, and their outcomes that they commit to their stakeholder, shareholders. So-
Kristian O’Meara: Extremely excited about what the future has in store.
Dawn Tiura: I'm excited too. So, KO, could I invite you to come back, maybe six months to a year, and let us know how JAGGAER—how life under JAGGAER is? And what you've seen, and what you've experienced.
Kristian O’Meara: It would be my absolute honor to come back and hopefully, I'll see you a lot sooner in one of your wonderful industry events. I look forward to our continued conversation offline and online.
Dawn Tiura: Well, thank you. Folks, I'm gonna wrap it up right now, this is with KO, also known as Kristian O’Meara, Senior Vice President of Value Engineering, Bravo Solutions, soon to be JAGGAER. So, Folks, reach out. I know they're gonna be at or event in DC, they're gonna be at a lot of our other events. I want you to get to know these folks, they are cutting edge. And Kristian, KO, thank you so much for your time today. I really enjoyed talking to you.
Kristian O’Meara: Thank you Dawn for your time, I appreciate it, and everyone have a great rest of your day.
Dawn Tiura: And keep the conversation going. So with that, have a great day, thank you everybody. Bye-bye



About The Author

Kristian O'Meara is Vice President of Market Solutions at JAGGAER, a global provider of source-to-pay solutions. O'Meara's journey into sourcing and procurement began with an internship for a franchise that proved to be the foundation for his career. In an industry where the conversation is dominated by change, O'Meara notes that the ability to be a good listener and an active partner will always be a valued skill.