Women in Global Sourcing: Sarah Scudder
Future of Sourcing Digital continues our popular series, “Women in Global Sourcing", with Sarah Scudder entering the spotlight. This series strives to highlight, celebrate and acknowledge women who are pioneers and leaders in the industry and who have been influential in moving the industry forward.
Sarah is the youngest executive to ever serve on the board for the Print Services and Distribution Association (PSDA). Sarah is the CEO and founder of the Young Innovators Group. Sarah leads the annual Young Innovators National Conference. Sarah writes a monthly column on print and marketing services procurement for the Sourcing Industry Group (SIG) and Print+Promo.
Tell us about your career path. How did you get into this field? Was it purposeful or by accident?
I was involved in several organizations in college. My sorority put on an annual fundraising event that I chaired. I hired a local company to source and produce all the print, promotional items and apparel. They offered me a job. They wanted to infuse the company with younger people and setup an internship program.
I started in sales and marketing. I did marketing and print procurement until my company was acquired by The Sourcing Group (TSG) in 2013. I served as the Chief Growth Officer for TSG, an outsourced print management firm, until taking on the position of President at Real Sourcing Network (RSN) in August 2018.
When doing print and marketing services procurement, I saw a need in the market for a print category specific e-sourcing tool that automated competitive bidding, monitored supplier performance and captured savings and spend data. This motivated me to transition into software and start a company that has a niche print and marketing services software sourcing tool that add values to procurement and marketing stakeholders.
Would you follow that same path again if you had the choice?
No, I would have transitioned to the software side of procurement sooner. I saw a need in the market on the buy side while doing print and marketing services procurement, but I was afraid to leave my “stable corporate” job.
I wish I would have taken the entrepreneurial risk sooner and found the right investors to back my company the first time. I hit a snag in getting my business going by being associated with investors that did not have my morals and values. Luckily, a mentor introduced me to the owners of Real Sourcing Network who are aligned with my goals, values and vision.
What has been the single most significant development to impact your profession or area of business during your career and why?
Making the shift from traditional sales to content driven marketing. I learned that adding value and providing helpful information is a much better way to build a brand than making cold outreaches. Procurement people don’t want to be sold to – they want to learn and are looking for new ways to be more efficient and drive change.
What’s the biggest challenge facing your industry today - and how do you plan to solve it?
The biggest challenge facing the print category is the lack of procurement’s control and influence on the marketing print spend. Companies need to hire procurement professionals with good interpersonal skills who can build relationships, sell and drive change. These people skills are much more important than technical sourcing skills which can be learned.
What three words do you think your colleagues and peers would use to describe you?
Finally, what piece of advice would you give to young women starting their careers in the field of sourcing, outsourcing and procurement?
1) Size matters: Think about the size of the company you want to work for. I chose to work at a small company. Instead of being one of thousands of employees fighting to stand out, I wanted regular face time with the CEO, CFO and COO. I had constant interaction with them. They were able to witness my work ethic and strategic thinking first hand. I learned a lot and got hands-on experience in all facets of business from customer service to marketing to sales.
2) Have clear and consistent communication: We are all busy and get caught up in assignments. It’s easy to forget to spend time with team members, let alone focus on their growth areas and leadership development. Make it easy for your boss and your boss’s boss to know what you are working on by sending a weekly or monthly email. Recap what you accomplished, what you are working on, your upcoming priorities and education/leadership experiences.
3) Take on key assignments: Even though you are busy and have a lot on your plate, take on key assignments. Ask to take on projects that give you high visibility to the executive team and that focus on new and innovative ideas. Once the team sees how well you handle the project, you will become their “go-to” for future high-stakes projects. If projects are not presented to you, ask your CEO and boss what projects you can take on to help out with key initiatives.
4) Build your personal brand: Make yourself known for something. Don’t be like the group of everyone else you work with. Get speaking gigs. Write a blog. Become a columnist and get published. Be known for something that adds value to the company that not everyone else in the company can do.
5) Don’t sweat the small stuff: It’s easy to get wrapped up in little details and fail to see the big picture. Focus on the end goal.