Ultimate Orange: Procurement and Supply Chain Lessons From Weight Lifting Supplements (Part 2)

Jason Busch and Richard Lee

Some people say weightlifting is not the sport for intellectuals. We’ve also heard the same thing said of procurement, mind you. But anyone who would dismiss either in such a manner has clearly not done their homework, or clearly has a chip on their shoulder. (Their atrophied, miniscule deltoids, that is.)

External criticisms aside, there are more commonalities between the activity and the profession than not. This includes how to “juice” performance at the expense of longer-term horizons. Yes, as economists like to say, we all die anyway, but how fast we accelerate the decline of our vital signs — let alone balance sheets — or harm P&L performance is really up to us.

As we embark on our highly rigorous holiday season analysis — yes, that was a joke — on how to juice performance of both the muscular and procurement sort with supplements, we will start our discussion with a true throwback enhancer: Ultimate Orange, from the 80’s and 90’s.

Used by powerlifters and gym rats alike, Ultimate Orange was Red Bull before Red Bull.  A serving had three to five times the caffeine of a cup of coffee, was chock full of various amino acids and the now banned ephedra. Back in the day, every professional and recreational athlete drank it like Kool-Aid until less physically inclined baseball pitchers started having heart-attacks during spring training.

I (Richard) drank this stuff — and it tasted nothing like an orange — before every workout, every match, and I remember it all like the clarity of zeroing in on a P&L cost savings line at quarter close. I could lift 10% to 20% more weights, play pissed-off (at the world) and didn’t feel pain. I loved it so much, when rumors of an FDA ban surfaced citing health concerns, I made the trek to my local pusher to go stock up. It turns out GNC sold out of its entire inventory in matter of hours following the announcement. (Kinda like Twinkies when the new of bankruptcy surfaced. Yes, we participated in that melee, too).

Ultimate Procurement

So what are the comparisons here and lessons for procurement to Ultimate Orange? It’s actually a simple one — arguably the easiest. Ultimate Orange is the ultimate short-term fix, regardless of how pumped (i.e., sophisticated, in purchasing terms) you are before quaffing it. Given this, it’s clearly the reverse auction of the supplement world.

Reverse auctions, as a procurement tool, can truly juice performance in the near-term and might actually be appropriate in certain cases. But they’re overused and can give an organization the equivalent of a P&L heart attack if forecast savings don’t actually materialize after it becomes clear that the top-three bids in a given event or lot lot will be costly or impossible to implement (and the incumbent supplier did not budge).
Smart lifters can get away with an Ultimate Orange-like drug on occasion — although we hope a legal one! The same is true of smart procurement organizations that apply reverse auctions to the right sets of categories and events — and understand the broader implications and messages sent in using them. For example, one appropriate use use would be in proving to a fat, incumbent supplier in a competitive market that its 50% net margin is not sustainable and that you will in fact switch 80% of the spend to another vendor.

In the meantime, given the fact Ultimate Orange is no longer available, you’ll have to take our word for it that such a supplement, like reverse auctions, is best used sparingly rather than before every trip to go pound iron — or your suppliers.

Procurement and Supply Chain Lessons From Weight Lifting Supplements (Part 1)

By Jason Busch and Richard Lee

I must admit I’m the accidental lifter. At almost 6 feet tall and roughly 165 pounds, I’m better suited to running moderately fast and evangelizing the virtues of a mostly vegan diet than benching or deadlifts. I don’t really look the part either. And that holds whether I’m hitting the dumbbells in my apartment building’s small weight room or fighting for space against grannies and teenagers or my local gym. (Note: not a health club — there is a difference!)

But regardless of personal appearances, I’ve got a newfound hobby: weightlifting. I haven’t not been able to run much the past couple of months thanks to leg injury brought on by a colleague — who will go, almost, unnamed — at Public Spend Forum, who espoused the virtues to me of ultra-high intensity interval training. (Hint: don’t put a treadmill on a 15% grade and run at a 10-12 pace for 20 seconds unless you’ve worked up to it and really, really know what you’re doing.)

So, thanks to Ash  — who is 10 times the health nut I am — I was forced to try something new. Which, of course, is not a bad thing. But lifting weights comes with a stigma of sorts. Even if, as I’m trying it, more Cross Fit-style than Arnold, the typical gym rat doesn’t necessarily know how to wax eloquent on the merits of lean operating models or Peter Kraljic.

This is a problem, as it turns out lots of lifters are actually quite the intellectuals in their respective fields. So to counter the typical anti-intellectual convention associated with lifting — and I must say, lifters tend not to be as social as runners, who often drink more beers than the miles they put in on the trails — I thought I’d work with and interview my colleague, Richard Lee, who has been lifting since his West Point days.

Richard is old school and well versed in the quasi-legal supplements that have been around gyms since the Carter and early Reagan years, back when Mr. Universe was not something President Obama aspired to be but rather a bodybuilding title built on the back of hard work and … well, we’ll leave it at that.

One conversation with Richard got me thinking: It turns out old school weight supplements like Ultimate Orange are a lot like many of the shortcuts that procurement organizations use to “juice” their results. (See also the real insider coverage on a site whose name I can’t even make up: steroidology.) These supplements pumped up the heart rate and the muscles — and did much more as well.

So, why not take this relaxed holiday season to let down our hair and write about some of these supplements and what they were purported to do, and compare them to a number of comparative techniques that procurement and supply chain teams often use to juice their results at the expense of, well, just about everything that truly matters (e.g., longevity, health, relationships, etc.).

Of course, some supplements aren’t necessarily dangerous — they’re just plain gross. Like Uni-Liver, a liver supplement (as in “eating liver”). There’s the procurement and supply chain equivalent of that, too, I’m sure.

I’ll also invite Richard to join in the conversation and share his thoughts as well — not that he will ever admit to taking these supplements, mind you — from the voice of experience. We’ll start with Ultimate Orange — the original formula, not the reissued wussy version — this week.

In the meantime, it’s time to get pumped up!

What really drives valuation for tech companies?

By Jason Busch and Richard Lee

Published in Spend Matters Pro – https://spendmatters.com/2014/06/11/what-really-drives-valuation-for-technology-companies-these-days/

We’ve always found the subject of valuation for technology companies a curious topic, one that we could probably bore too many people with during cocktail hour conversations. There are plenty of good authorities when it comes to tech valuation (some of the best research we’ve seen over the years comes from Pacific Crest) and nearly every sell-side analyst worth their salt has a theory or two on the topic. But ultimately, tech valuation is more art than science (remember the crazy theories during the last dot-com rush when eyeballs somehow served in place of real operating metrics?).

Autumn Brew, aka. Oktoberfest Beers

We had a great dinner last night with family and friends at Howells & Hood (which by the way boasts the largest draft been selection in Chicago).  But when the hostess brought out seasonal, autumn beer list, entire table let out a collective sigh.  Chicago summer is now officially over…  Much to our delight, the list did not contain too many hackneyed (not to mention over-played) pumpkin stout or any other pumpkin varietal.  A couple of my favorite darker ales of the fall –

  • Old Brown Dog by Smuttynose Brewing – it’s heavy in alcohol (almost 7%) so perfect for slightly frost-bitten evenings when you feel like ribs or other sauce-rich meat comfort dishes.  It’s deceptively creamy with light on bitterness and after-taste.
  • Indian Brown Ale by Dogfish Head – if you like dark, bitter brew with thick foam resulting from heavy does of molasses during the brewing process, this is the fall beer for you.  Great with rubbed / smoked meats and vegetables.

What are your favorites?

Jeter’s Retirement

I hate and love Olbermann.  Asides from Stuart Scott, Keith Olbermann is probably the most eloquent, poignant current / alumnus ESPN anchor there is.  And if you have not seen his latest tirade on Jeter’s hyped retirement, it’s a piece of art.

Now before Jeter faithful (Olbermann used the word apologist) try to hang me from the Brooklyn Bridge next to Olbermann, I am not necessarily saying that I agree with him (even if the stats and anecdotes Olbermann rants off are impossible to dispute…)  Is Jeter a Hall of Famers – absolutely.  Is he one of the greatest Yankees Captains ever – perhaps.   Did the modern media and Gatorade commercials help to “iconize” him – for sure (hey, I do love the Re2pect marketing).  Does God have a sense of humor for allowing the O’s to end the Yankees season all the while bestowing Jeter an opportunity to hit the game winner on his final at bat against the same team?  You know it.  Am I little jealous because Jeter is getting a rock star treatment while Chicago’s beloved Pauley (Konerko that is) is riding off into the sunset without much fanfare?  Of course…   Then again, it’s better than getting boo’d out of the city like Sosa did in his final year.  After watching one of those feel-good Gatorade commercials, my wife asked, “was he really that good?”  I don’t know…   Why don’t you decide?

That’s Why You Play the Game!

I have to admit, I am a football junkie…   College, pro, high school, Canadian, it does not matter.  Nothing better than plopping down for the weekend watching back-to-back-to-back games (of course, have not had that in a while since kids arrived but that’s another story).  There were a few surprises the past weekend, as there usually are every weekend.  First college – did BC really beat USC and South Carolina the same to Georgia (as close as it was)?  I love seeing / hearing so called experts predict how Texas will beat UCLA and conversely how the Bruins offense will finally wake up and trounce the Longhorns (UCLA beat Texas by 3 by the way which guarantees they’ll further drop in the ranking).  Well ladies and gentlemen, that’s why they play the game.  But what cracked me up the most…   How so called Chicago Tribune sports reporters (obviously not experts) all started the season with 0-2 in their resumes.  Yes, every one of them – Brad Biggs, Matt Bowen, Rich Campbell, David Haugh, Fred Mitchell, Mike Mulligan and Dan Wiederer – predicted that the Bears will beat the Bills and the Niners will trounce the Bears.  I especially loved David’s quote “Nobody expected the Bears to start 0-2 with a loss to the Bills, but a Bears defense that came to the Bay Area a day early will remain a step late in losing to the 49ers.”  Cute play on words, David…   That’s why you get paid to write, and I do not.  And that’s why you play the game!  Go Bears!

9-11: We Should Never Forget…

Has it been 13 years already?  I was in California at my parents house when the first plane hit.  It was an eerie feeling flying internationally a few days later (to visit my then girlfriend, now my wife) where crew members outnumbered passengers on a United flight from ORD to ICN.   The war is not over yet – it’s still raging…  Political / religious ideologies aside, we should never forget those innocent, first respondents who fell.  May God rest their souls…

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