An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Generate cost savings. I learned that casting a wider net enabled us to build a supplier portfolio that included a broader range of supplier segments. This ultimately created a more competitive sourcing environment that enabled us to increase spend with diverse suppliers, generate higher savings and optimize overall supplier value.

As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rod Robinson.

Rod Robinson is a Senior Vice President at Insight Sourcing Group — the largest procurement consulting firm in the U.S. — where he leads the firm’s Supplier Diversity practice and Center of Excellence. Prior to ISG, Rod was Vice President of Supplier Inclusion & Sustainability at Coupa Software and was the founder and CEO of ConnXus, Inc. (acquired by Coupa), a cloud procurement platform that enables companies to achieve supply chain objectives related to transparency, diversity, sustainability and economic impact. Featured in Forbes, Black Enterprise, Conscious Company Magazine and Be The Change, Inc. for his success as an entrepreneur and business leader, Rod is considered somewhat of a unicorn in procurement and has witnessed the evolution of the industry first hand.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into the main part of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share a bit of your “backstory” with us?

After four years as a CPA and auditor with Deloitte & Touché, I left to pursue an MBA from Wharton. Upon graduation, I started my career in management consulting which began at Kearney and continued with stints at other large firms including Accenture and Diamond Technology Partners (acquired by PWC) where I eventually became recognized as a sourcing and procurement subject matter expert.

Ultimately, my consulting career path led to me being recruited by a client, Cincinnati Bell, to become their Chief Procurement Officer. It was during my tenure at Cincinnati Bell that my passion and interest in supplier diversity piqued. Industry regulations, customer contractual requirements and board commitments made diverse supplier spending goals a strategic imperative at the company. I am proud to note that our team was recognized for achieving our corporate supplier diversity goals and driving year-over-year cost savings simultaneously.

However, this success did not come without challenges associated with utilizing manual and outdated processes for measuring diversity within our supplier base, identifying new qualified diverse suppliers and second tier spend tracking and reporting. These challenges were the catalyst for me creating ConnXus, a software platform that enabled corporations to identify certified diverse suppliers within their supplier base, discover new validated diverse suppliers, collect second-tier diversity spend from designated prime suppliers and generate custom reports.

So, I went from management consulting in procurement to corporate procurement executive to a procurement software entrepreneur solving a big problem. Now, at ISG, I have pivoted back to consulting, bringing my past cumulative experience to the table to help our clients create world class supplier diversity programs.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

One of my most interesting stories happened early in my career. Upon graduation from college in 1989 with a degree in accounting, I was fortunate to have offers from several of the “Big Eight” accounting firms (now “Big Four”). Deloitte & Touche was one of the top contenders, all because of one woman — the late Ellen Gabriel.

At the time, Ellen was a partner in the firm’s Boston office overseeing recruiting efforts that year. During the recruiting process, Ellen showed a keen interest in my career and expressed how she believed the Deloitte culture would enable me to thrive. She made a lasting impression on me, but I decided to accept another offer. After expressing her disappointment in my decision, she told me she was going to leave the Deloitte & Touche offer open. She then suggested that we meet for lunch every month or so to see how things were going. She was genuinely concerned about me graduating from college, moving to Boston and starting a new job with a firm that she believed to be a cultural misfit for me. As it turns out, she was absolutely correct. I quit the other firm after six months and joined Deloitte & Touche the next week. As Ellen had predicted, I thrived at Deloitte until 1993 when I decided to pursue my MBA at Wharton.

Today, Ellen P. Gabriel (RIP) is remembered as the pioneering leader of Deloitte’s national initiative for the Retention and Advancement of Women. She was an amazing woman who played an integral part in my early career, whom I now think of often. I was extremely saddened to learn of her passing in 1999 from breast cancer. I’m unsure if Ellen realized the impact she had on my life and career, but I believe the best way to honor her is to pay it forward by mentoring young professionals who might become Ellen Gabriel’s of the next generation. She taught me that there are no limits to what you can achieve (in the right environment) and that your best mentor may not look like you.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you tell us a story about how that was relevant in your own life?

“You are a product of the company you keep.” In other words, if you spend your time with successful people, you too will be successful. This is something that was instilled in me early in life. Fortunately, I have always gravitated toward achievement-oriented people who have inspired me to continuously aim higher. This life lesson is very similar to the best business advice that I received from an old boss which is “hire people smarter than you and create an environment where they can do their best work.”

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

Wow! Too many to count. I owe debt of gratitude to many family members, mentors and friends who’ve provided tremendous support and encouragement to me through the years. However, I would have to say my wife, of nearly 30 years, has been my single most important source of support on my career journey. We were married three years after graduating from college. A year into our marriage, I decided to leave my job at Deloitte and pursue my MBA at Wharton full-time. Without hesitation, she threw her full support behind me. We packed up our apartment in Florida and moved to Philadelphia in 1993 and the rest is history. Since then, she has provided unwavering support of my professional and entrepreneurial pursuits. Along the way, we managed to raise four wonderful kids with several loving pets in the mix. It has been a great ride for sure.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

When Tom Beaty, CEO and founder of Insight Sourcing Group (ISG), reached out to discuss the prospect of me joining the leadership team, I already knew the firm had a sterling reputation as one of the preeminent procurement-focused consulting firms in the country. However, I was unaware of the sister businesses — GPO, SpendHQ and Insight Analytics — that were founded as a result of the innovative and entrepreneurial culture that forms the foundation of ISG. There is no resting on laurels here. At ISG, it is always about identifying the next generation opportunity for transforming the business while simultaneously creating growth opportunities for our people. This mindset is a testament to Tom’s vision, leadership and the team he has assembled to be stewards of that vision. I am thrilled to be a part of that team.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

We have several exciting supplier diversity client projects currently in process. These projects range from helping a Fortune 500 company start a program from scratch to helping a Fortune 50 company accelerate or revamp the strategy of an existing program. What’s truly rewarding about this work is that not only are we helping large organizations achieve their supplier diversity spending goals, but also helping minority-and women-owned businesses grow and prosper. This ultimately generates economic impact in the form of jobs creation and growth within local communities.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I realized long ago that “paying it forward” is core to who I am. I believe it’s because I had such great experiences with mentors who had a tremendous impact on my career trajectory. As such, I love mentoring young people along their growth journey. Whether it’s providing career coaching or advising on a new entrepreneurial venture, I get a thrill helping others avoid the mistakes I made along my growth journey.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line in many ways. Implementing a supplier diversity strategy enables companies to

  1. Drive supply chain competitiveness.
  2. Generate cost savings.
  3. Unlock innovation.
  4. Strengthen brand loyalty and,
  5. Gain access to new market opportunities.
  6. Drive supply chain competitiveness. As a former Chief Procurement Officer, I was always actively seeking out competitive, high-quality differentiated suppliers to bring into the supply chain. I realized that including a wider range of supplier types in our supply chain would yield higher savings, more innovation and enhanced value-added. I also knew that this would ultimately lead to a more resilient supplier mix.
  7. Generate cost savings. I learned that casting a wider net enabled us to build a supplier portfolio that included a broader range of supplier segments. This ultimately created a more competitive sourcing environment that enabled us to increase spend with diverse suppliers, generate higher savings and optimize overall supplier value.
  8. Unlock innovation. I have several examples of how increased diversity can drive innovation, but a favorite comes from one of my previous clients. As a part of its commitment to better serve the needs of African American women, this consumer products giant co-created a beauty care brand extension with a team of African American scientists, stylists and dermatologists. Today, it is one of the leading haircare brands globally.
  9. Strengthen brand loyalty. There have been many studies citing higher levels of loyalty among minority customers when compared to the general market. I saw this play out on a past client engagement for a billion dollar plus membership-based service company. We were working with the client to determine an appropriate supplier diversity spending goal. Interestingly, they had just completed a study revealing that minority customers were nearly 2X more loyal than non-minority members. It was also noted that revenue growth within this segment was significantly faster. Ultimately, our current state analysis showed that a mere 3% of total purchasing dollars were being spent with diverse suppliers while 13% of total revenue was generated from diverse customers. We all agreed that the spend goal should equal at least 13% with meaningful year-over-year increases. This formed the foundation of a value-based Supplier Diversity program where diverse supplier success stories were integrated with broader marketing efforts. This drove even higher levels of loyalty and revenue growth.
  10. Gain access to new markets. One of my favorite examples of supplier diversity providing access to new markets is from a client engagement with a large business services firm where our team was developing a supplier diversity strategy, vision and roadmap. As a result, the team delivered multimillion-dollar annual cost savings, coupled with a double-digit increase in diversity spend across numerous spend categories. Additionally, the team uncovered a significant new revenue opportunity for the client via a partnership with a diverse supplier that provided access to state and federal contracts that required more capacity than the diverse supplier could provide alone.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive?

Business leaders should strive to create an environment where employees can do their best work. A big part of creating this environment is building a culture where people feel valued, appreciated and purpose driven.

What advice would you give to other business leaders about how to manage a large team?

In my experience, I have found that the best way to manage large teams is to create smaller teams based on defined goals and objectives. Of course, each team consists of leaders with accountability for achieving established targets.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

I have been fortunate in that my career and life path has afforded me the opportunity to meet and spend time with some amazing titans in business, sports and entertainment. However, the one individual that I would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with is Denzel Washington. Aside from being one of my favorite actors, he is one of my favorite human beings. Based on my observations through the last 40 years, I see a humble individual who has enjoyed amazing success as an actor, husband, father, friend, mentor and philanthropist. These are traits that I strive to emulate.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Thank you for these excellent insights. We wish you continued success in your great work.

Rod Robinson Of Insight Sourcing Group On How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Recommended Posts