By Ronald Hedley
“I’m loud. I am from Boston. I grew up on the waterfront. Occasionally, I offend people. I am sorry about that,” states S. Michael Cadieux, the managing partner of the SpendLogic Group LLC. He started the company in February of this year. SpendLogic Group, is a full service, Indirect Sourcing professional services company. Cadieux exudes confidence and competence when he speaks about his startup: “We do one thing, and we do it very well. We save clients money.”
Essential Question: Why would someone leave a “fantastic job” and plunge into the
uncertainties of launching a startup? Getting to know Michael Cadieux might provide some answers. If you are contemplating leaving the security of your job to start your own company, this article may just help you make your decision, with confidence.
Do you have the business experience to launch a startup?
My first question to Cadieux turned out to be a stupid one: “Why did you start your own consulting firm?” I asked.
“I don’t consider SpendLogic Group a consulting firm,” answered Cadieux. Like I said, it was a stupid question.
Cadieux continued, “I’m not a big fan of consulting models. For me, a consulting model is someone comes in who has some level of business intelligence and an idea about how to operate or manage a business or division. He gives you an opinion on how to run your business. He gets paid and leaves. A consultant would say, ‘Hey, we really think if you can get your tailspin under control, you could save 15%.’ Whereas we know that, and we provide a service on an ongoing basis. We’re not the kind to set it up and walk away. We’re there to set it up, operate it, augment and compliment your existing operation.”
Cadieux speaks from experience.
“What I’m trying to build at SpendLogic Group is something I couldn’t find in the marketplace when I was a chief procurement officer. I couldn’t find a consulting firm or a professional services firm that had a couple decades of experience who would put some ‘skin the game’.”
What does Cadieux mean exactly by ‘skin in the game’?
“They get paid; we get paid. Or there is a value proposition where, as they save money, we make money. I call it a shared value proposition model. No one had been able to provide me with a good manage tail spend solution, and now I’ve gone out and built one. No one has really helped me navigate sales and use tax as a technology purchasing division, and so I’ve gone out and built it,” he explains.
Cadieux has successfully built procurement solutions for small and medium-sized businesses but launching a startup must have presented some real challenges for him. Was he successful from his company’s inception? I ask him about just that:
“What are the challenges of starting anew business?”
“Challenges have been typical of any small organization: building the proper pipeline, understanding exactly what you’re coming to market with, making sure you’re solving a problem for your clients, and being able to balance all that against the potential client’s schedules,” answers Cadieux. “I am probably a victim of what everyone else says about their startups. It takes longer than you expect, and people’s schedules get beat up, and things change daily. The key is patience, and knowing your value proposition, and being able to clearly discuss and prove that to your clients.”
“Do you have startup remorse?” I ask.
“Absolutely no regrets. I had an amazing career at Publicis Groupe as the chief procurement officer for the Americas. It was a fantastic learning opportunity. Not very many people get the opportunity to manage 2.4 billion dollars’ worth of spend in the third largest global advertising marketing and communications company. It was an extremely wonderful experience. People were great, business was dynamic,” Cadieux shares.
“Why did you decide to leave Publicis Groupe?”
“I decided to leave because there is really a tipping point now in the sourcing and procurement industry. I thought, ‘Now is a really good time for me to take my 17-18 years of experience in enterprise class sourcing and procurement and help other organizations with my knowledge, and the knowledge my colleagues have, at SpendLogic Group,’” he explains.
“What advice would you offer our readers who might be contemplating a startup?”
Cadieux chuckles a bit before answering: “Take a long, hard look at the commitment levels. And when you think you’ve got them down, double it. The reality is that you can’t estimate what the commitment levels are and, if you under commit, you are just fooling yourself. If you’re not waking up in the middle of the night thinking about your company and what your product offering is, and who your clients are, and running down stairs to jot down notes, then you probably
shouldn’t think about a startup. If you’re not in it 24 hours, then it is probably not for you.”
”Go out and own it. You gotta own it. Talk it and walk it, every day.Cadieux(with a thick Boston accent)
Cadieux offers this final advice: “Take advantage of the new technologies and social media systems. If you are not prepared to spend 10-24 months staring no paycheck in the face and building up your company’s brand and your own personal brand, then you’re going to have a tough go. I’ve learned along the way that, not only do I have to build my own company’s brand and the awareness of the goods and services, but I must build my own brand as an industry expert and as the head of the company. I’ve learned that my company has more credibility behind it with me driving the ship. You’re almost building two companies at the same time.”
Cadieux then revisits his ambivalence: “It’s both the scariest and most exciting time in my life that I can remember.”
Have you gained the wisdom to launch a startup? Have you learned from life experiences, grown from adversity, or been inspired by your family?
Cadieux seems to know and appreciate, his roots: “I grew up in Massachusetts. My dad raised me as a single parent. My dad was a great role model. He was a juvenile probation officer. I can remember asking him one day when I was old enough to understand what he did for a living… I asked, ‘How do you deal with the fact that everyday these kids come in that are broken. And you’re trying to fix things?’
“My father contemplated my question for a moment, and then responded, saying, ‘If I can help one kid out of the 500 that I see get off their current path, then I have done my job.’ And that’s what helps me. I get that sense of trying to help people from my dad. And I still strive for it today. If I can help one, I am not only helping that individual, but all the individuals that that person is going to touch. I’m 20 years into my career now. How can I help the next generation of kids that are coming into supply chain?”
Cadieux is a self-made person. Nothing was handed to him. He appreciates, and has learned from, the hard work he had to do prior to his sourcing and procurement career. “I had to start work when I was 14. I finished high school and put myself through college working on the waterfront in summers and winters. I was an offshore fisherman for a while. I worked on the docks, which wasn’t a nice place to work. That’s where I get a lot of the work ethic from, and that’s where I get the idea that waste is a really bad thing. I have an opportunity to improve sourcing strategy, and I, naturally, just like to help others. If I can help others save money, then
that’s a dollar that a company can potentially save and spend on an employee that they don’t have to let go, on an investment in R ‘n D, or they can use it somewhere else in the enterprise for a lot of good. That’s what I try to do.”
His son has influenced him too.
“My 15-year-old son had three friends over the last weekend. These 15-year-olds now travel with their PlayStations on their television sets, and they all come together to play these online games together in one house. I asked my son, ‘What are you guys doing up there?’ “‘We’re squading up,’ he responded. ‘Squading up’ is the new teenage slang term for getting together and working as one unit on a video game. I thought, I want to build a squad. Our procurement organizations need to ‘squad up’ like that.” The seed was planted for Cadieux. The rest is history…very recent history.
“Yesterday, we released an idea to build Squads, where junior and senior associates in the procurement space build Squads of 10-12 people who act (role play) as a ‘study group’ against their category,” Cadieux says. He believes that a lot of organizations don’t compete in sourcing, so playing the adversary against one’s category gives his associates a valuable perspective.
Cadieux uses Squads for other purposes as well: “The expectation is that they come to the table to talk about projects they are working on, negotiations they are working on, sourcing strategies that they need, ideas on looking for a business solution. It cuts down the learning cycle because study groups (Squads) attack a course load in chunks. It could be a cost attack Squad, or it could be a mini think tank.”
Cadieux continues, “I’m thinking this is about people that are in the business. I’m about to close off this first Squad that I just built. It took less than 24 hours to get the seats filled. It’s 12 different people from 12 different companies. They are all either managers, senior buyers, or associate directors of IT software purchasing. They need to talk to each other, more than just at a networking event or at a conference. They don’t get a lot of opportunities to do that, so I am hoping I can offer them that opportunity.” And, to think, it was all inspired by Cadieux’s son.
Are you a reader? Do you seek professional development?
Two writers have had an impact on Cadieux: Tom Peters and Gary Vaynerchuk. Cadieux shares how, “Years ago, when I was around 30-31 years old, someone introduced me to Tom Peters. He is one of the original business management authors, a searching-for-excellence McKenzie guy. He wrote three small books in an interesting writing style. One of them was called Reinventing Work, The Professional Service Firm 50. It was a list of 50 ideas about how to think of yourself as a professional service firm. At the time, I was running a service desk in IT. The book helped me to think very entrepreneurially about how I could run my service desk. It put me in a great mindset to think about goals and responsibilities and [about] how to care for customers.”
“Client service is the name of the game. The reality: you exist to serve clients.” –Tom Peters
Peters, explains Cadieux, helped him to think like a CEO: “You need to be the CEO of support desk incorporated. You’re providing a service to the companies. You must really think about [it], as if it’s your own. So, to leave and start my own practice really isn’t a big shift for me because I’ve had that entrepreneurial thought process based a lot on Tom Peters’ writing.”
Gary Vaynerchuk, author of Crush It, has also influenced Cadieux: “He’s kind of doing the same thing, talking about entrepreneurship and really working hard. He’s got a spin on it where he is now introducing the social media elements and how to attack the new technologies and create this entrepreneurial spirit.”
”Social Media=Business. Period.Gary Vaynerchuk
Do you have the character, the personality to launch a startup?
Cadieux does not lack self-confidence. “I can talk positively about myself all day long. I’m enthusiastic. I love what I do. We all have bad days. You’ve got to love what you do. If you don’t, go find something else. I love negotiating contracts. I love sourcing things. I love buying things. I love shopping. That’s basically what this job is. I am a giant shopper. I’m trying to help people shop more intelligently for the things they like. I love a bargain. I grew up looking for bargains. I like to have fun. I’m loud. I enjoy telling stories and meeting new people, finding out if I can help them. If I’m having fun, it’s infectious, especially in the back-office operations like procurement. I love what I do. You gotta love what you do.”
So, are you still considering a startup? Do you want to be responsible for your own business? Do you have the courage to risk everything? It is not for the timid. Michael Cadieux risked everything and launched his own startup company. For him, there was simply no other alternative. It is in his blood to take risks, to help others, and, ultimately, to be successful.
”There no longer has to be a difference between who you are and what you do.Gary Vaynerchuk