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Visibility & Opportunity: Inside Our Supply Chain Mentorship Program

It’s not enough to be a leader in an industry. If you truly embrace the enterprising nature of the human spirit, you must also make space for your partners to unleash their potential. This is the operating goal of the AGS Supply Chain Mentorship Program. Steven Livingston, AGS supply chain manager for North America, guest hosts this month’s Subject to Talent podcast for a conversation with BravoTECH Vice President of Strategic Accounts Kristen Lindner. Together, they discuss BravoTECH’s experience and successes in the program.

Transcript:

Bruce Morton: Hi, I'm Bruce Morton, the host of Allegis Global Solutions' Subject to Talent Podcast. Today I'm handing over the microphone to my good friend and colleague, Steven Livingston. Steven is the supply chain manager for AGS’s North America supplier partnerships and strategy. Steven has a passion for increasing supplier performance and mentoring them with best-in-class engagement and recruiting strategies. He'll be joined today by BravoTECH’s VP of Strategic Accounts, Kristen Lindner. Kristen is a leader in the IT recruitment space and was part of the pilot of the AGS Supply Chain Mentorship Program. Together they're going to discuss the mentorship program, the benefits, lessons learned and potential impact on the future for managed service provider (MSP) and supplier partnerships. Let's listen in.

Steven Livingston: Hi, I'm Steven Livingston, the supply chain manager for North America at Allegis Global Solutions. And I'm excited today to guest-host this episode of the Subject to Talent podcast with my colleague and friend Kristen Lindner. She's the vice president of strategic accounts at BravoTECH.

BravoTECH is an IT staffing leader with a proven record of helping companies build highly skilled IT teams. And Kristen's been with BravoTECH for 19 years and leads the MSP and enterprise account strategy. She has a consummate knowledge of the staffing industry and the importance of building client and recruiter relationships.

Kristen, welcome, and thank you for joining us.

Kristen Lindner: Thank you for having me.

Steven Livingston: Absolutely. So, at AGS's Subject to Talent podcast, we always ask our guests the same first question, how did you get into the workforce industry and what was your journey to where you are today?

Kristen Lindner: Let's see here. I'm one of the rare ones that have been in the industry for 19 years, and I've also been with the same company for 19 years. So I started right out of college and like most people in our industry, they start off in some type of recruiting role and function. And so that's what I did for about a year. Moved into business development pretty quickly after, and my role has really just kind of morphed and changed over the past several years at Bravo. And now, I lead the MSP and account strategy for our team.

Steven Livingston: Yeah, fantastic. Well, I'm excited to get into today's topic because it's something that I'm very passionate about. Obviously at AGS, our supply chain team oversees our partnerships and strategies to drive value to our clients and our suppliers. And back in 2021, we recognized that we could do more to invest in our amazing DEI suppliers. So, we created the AGS Supply Chain Mentorship Program.

Our goal with the program is to provide business insights into the suppliers’ current performance within our AGS programs, but also to really provide them with subject matter expertise and allow them to succeed and really match with our customers’ evolving strategic needs in areas such as diverse candidate pools, certified diverse spend and upskilling programs. And we have had great success for year one. Overall, our starts have increased by 64% on average, suppliers saw an average increase in spend of 27%, and we had a new success in increasing activity assignments by an average of 180%. And Kristen, BravoTECH is now working successfully within with two new AGS programs.

So, Kristen, the BravoTECH team was one of the suppliers to go through the pilot of our mentorship program. Can you tell us a bit about BravoTECH and what interested you in participating in this mentorship program?

Kristen Lindner: Yeah, absolutely. So, first of all, BravoTECH is a certified women business enterprise (WBE). Currently, we do business across the United States, so we're domestic-only, and we really specialize in IT, but within a lot of our programs that we support today, we also do professional and engineering. Our core business team sits predominantly in Dallas, but we've got people on East Coast, West Coast and central as well. And we've been working with AGS now for about five-ish years.

For us, it was a really awesome opportunity to be invited. So number one, thank you for doing that because it really gave us an opportunity to have a seat at the table and to really learn how AGS number one works with their clients, how they work with their suppliers, and what BravoTECH was missing out on and potential opportunities because we really just didn't understand the process.

Steven Livingston: Well, let me tell you, your strong ability to attract diverse candidates and your amazing partnership made BravoTECH a great fit for the program. That's exactly the kind of company we're looking to uplift in our supply chain. Can you tell us about BravoTECH's experience with the mentorship program?

Kristen Lindner: Yeah, absolutely. And this is where I get really excited because I feel like being a part of the first generation, gen-one, that we were really able to help mold and shape it as it went too since we all were doing this together. And so for us, it was really again, visibility. We were able to start really meeting with the supply chain team under yours and Britney's team members. And as a staffing partner, being able to get in front of those individuals takes a long time. It could take months; it could potentially take years. And so when the mentorship program was formed and the relationships really were starting with the supply chain team, it really helped us learn, number one, what clients are in your portfolio that AGS supports.

And then really allow us to sell BravoTECH's strengths and what we bring to the table to each of those individuals. So then in return they could partner with their end customer to see, okay, are there gaps, are there areas where we could really come in and make an impact, is there really maybe no value today.

And so the last 12 months were really spent from my standpoint of building those relationships with the supply chain team and having an opportunity at times as well to meet with the end customer. So for us, some statistics that I think are really important to note are of the AGS North America accounts specifically, we were pitched to 32 of them, and some of them we were pitched multiple times, which is great. So on our side, and Steven you know this as well, usually you're not added to a program immediately. There is a lot that goes into getting added into a program, most of its timing. So really understanding again, what those dynamics are.

And so with that, like I said, we are pitched to 32 different accounts. We are brought into one. So we went live into one program middle of last year, and that's going exceptional. We actually did such a great job. That same client brought us into the direct hire side as well. So really for us, the mentorship program, the way it was set up and designed, really allowed us to gain a bit better footprint within AGS.

Steven Livingston: Yeah, we really enjoyed working with you all and I will continue to enjoy working with you all to build a great partnership. And again, I think one of the things that you guys have done extremely well is really accentuate your strengths and make it so that when we bring you to a client, we know what sets you apart in the marketplace and we know we've got now a proven track record of your success. So congratulations on the extra business that you've earned on your own. That's fantastic. And we'll continue to build on that in the years to come, we're really excited.

Kristen Lindner: Exactly.

Steven Livingston: So, as you know, the mentorship program is set for one year, however, that's not really the end. As I just mentioned, we're still working with you this year during our alumni program and looking to add additional resources and insights for you. Can you talk to a little bit about your understanding of the alumni program and what you've thought of it so far?

Kristen Lindner: Yeah, absolutely. So for us, year one was really learning the AGS way, how to be successful, building those baseline relationships. And so for year two, we're just building on that. So being able to take the relationships that I built from year one and other people that were a part of the mentorship program as well. But then now take it a step further. Again, we talked about timing earlier, understanding what those timing dynamics look like for 2023, being able to provide some key data points that's going on in the market today since we've all seen that shift that's happened from Q4 last year into Q1 this year.

And then also starting to build those relationships with some of the program managers. So what I've heard from some of your supply chain team is they like to partner with their program managers and the program executives are tied to the clients. And so now that they have an opportunity to meet with me as well, ask some similar questions, talk about what's going on with their customers, and really being able to again, understand if certain accounts are a better fit for us or not. And being able to partner and help the program team and the supply chain team help with whatever their initiatives are for 2023.

Steven Livingston: Yeah, that's fantastic. And we'll continue to look for opportunities to leverage your strengths to ultimately become real key pillars in the success of our clients and as a result, AGS as well.

Kristen Lindner: Yeah, we're really excited. Within the mentorship program, we were invited to the supplier forum that's coming up next month. And for Bravo, it's our first time being a part of that. So same thing with the mentorship program. There were a lot of things that came out of it that we didn't know. You think being in the business for 19 years, you kind of understand everything and how everything works, but you really don't-- things change all the time. And so having an opportunity to be able to be a part of that summit and just sit in, listen, learn, meet new people is also exciting. But I think one thing to note too, I think that we haven't touched on yet that I think is really important for the mentorship program is the information that you're able to gain by using the Acumen system.

So, I was able to use that several times in trying to help some of the supply chain team uncover if there's some niche skillsets that are needing to be supported or markets. Instead of having to ask them all those questions, I could do a lot of the legwork myself. And then when we were meeting, I could’ve already pulled those data points for them.

So that was also super helpful and insightful, just to be able to not only run numbers for the current programs that I'm in, but also the ones that I'm interested in to really see again, if there's going to be a fit or a complement there.

Steven Livingston: Yeah, I really do love that portal. And I think, again, your ability to have access to that and to really drive your own performance day-to-day, right? It's not something that updates every month or you have to wait for us to pull a report for you, you're really able to go in and dial in and understand from moment to moment how you're performing, where the opportunities are in the programs. I think that's a great tool, and I'm very glad we could provide that for you to help drive your success. So I'm glad you'll remain having access to that. So that's fantastic.

All right. So in addition to Acumen and the access you received there, we've also had a chance now to go through and look at some scorecards. So Kristen, can you talk a little bit about how the scorecarding process went and how that looked?

Kristen Lindner: Absolutely. So the new program that we were brought into through the mentorship program, we actually went live in the middle of a quarter. So when we first received our first full scorecarding from the new program that we were brought into through the mentorship program, it was really great because we could look at the data that was coming from the program, our actual numbers. So positions we received, responded to interviews, offers, starts, all those things. And then we could also take that data and then go back into the Acumen system and then look at the missed opportunities. So if we didn't get a hire on one position, we could see, okay, what were the hires that were captured for that quarter, where did we miss, are those repeatable skillsets, is it something that we need to start pipelining for.

So, we were able to really use that data that shared with us on a quarterly basis and then turn around and go into the Acumen system and then apply it. So our recruiting team had a better strategy going into the next quarter. Again, those repeatable skill sets are really crucial. For this client in particular, they have a lot of those. So just gaining that insight to further help and support our recruiting team to be successful on the next round of roles that are coming out.

Steven Livingston: And I know it's certainly that the data's important and I'm very glad your scorecard data looked great overall, but I love being able to go back in and really understand, hey, what's the story behind the numbers? Having that visibility and extra insight to take the extra layers can peel them off and understand what's driving this and what actions can you as a supplier change or even provide feedback to us as an MSP and AGS to really help us understand how we can form a better partnership and really drive success moving forward and continue to evolve our program to meet your success and obviously the success of our clients. That's fantastic.

Kristen Lindner: Exactly. Well, and two, when you're new into a program, you've got a pretty big learning curve already unless you've supported them back in a different company or whatever. So you're really trying to gain as much knowledge as you can, as fast as you can so you can be successful. So that's why they brought you into the program so you can start adding value. So being able to look at both sides, again, equip our recruiting team, ask questions where we might not fully understand. It just gives a more even level playing field quicker for new people that are coming on board.

Steven Livingston: Kristen, how would you say those who have been a part of this program will help shape the future of staffing compared to today?

Kristen Lindner: From a staffing partner perspective, it allows you to keep your client base diverse. So if you have visibility to the supply chain team covering all verticals, the energy sector, the finance and accounting sector, all those things, and there there's new opportunity that's created from those relationships and it keeps your client base diverse as well. But I think too, the goal of the mentorship program, I think from AGS's standpoint is to create opportunity, new and future opportunity for suppliers you really want to work with. So if you're talking about the future, the future would be year one, year two, year three recipients that were part of the mentorship program, you can look back and see, wow, look how much business that we are able to bring into our own company by the mentorship program, you could trace that easily.

Like I said at the beginning, we were pitched to 32 accounts in one year, 32 brand new accounts that Bravo has never had experience or exposure to, which is crucial to our business to continue to grow. And for us to look back and see all the relationships over year one, year two, year three, start to really get some momentum and opportunity created is super valuable for our organization as well. I really jumped on board when we went live last January. I was really excited because it's so hard to build these relationships. It takes so much time and even to understand the complexities of a lot of these accounts. And again, it just takes time. So having opportunity to really ask questions to the right people is invaluable. It's helped us so much. And really for Bravo, we've really changed the ways we have done things.

One thing we haven't talked about, is how AGS actually captures new business. So when y'all go through RFPs and all of that, we learned all of that through the mentorship program as well. Like, where we could come in and actually partner with AGS during the RFP process and identify some key things that Bravo brings to the table, like diversity talent and talking about diversity in different ways than everyone else is discussing it and really be able to add value on the frontend before AGS even has a brand-new client.

Steven Livingston: More and more we're finding that suppliers play a real big role in determining and recommending companies like AGS to our clients. So to be able to partner with you all and really bring in your perspective and your expertise and have that recommendation be on our behalf is very welcome and it's something we really value and appreciate. 

All right. We'd like to end every episode with a ... look into the future. If you had a crystal ball, where do you see the graduates of the mentorship program in five years?

Kristen Lindner: I think looking into the future, BravoTECH continues to expand and grow their business within AGS and our portfolio, it continues to be diverse, and ultimately that we become a strategic supplier for AGS.

Steven Livingston: Yeah, that'd be outstanding. I look forward to that day. I'm sure it will come. And we can't wait to see you continue to prosper in this program and with AGS and our clients for years to come.
Thank you so much for joining me today. What should listeners do if they want to learn more about BravoTECH?

Kristen Lindner: If you are wanting to gain more information about BravoTECH, you can visit any of the platforms that we have on social media, LinkedIn, bravotech.com, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and you can also reach out to me directly.

Steven Livingston: Great. Thank you so much for joining me, and we'll see you next time.