Climbing the career ladder is not always an easy pathway to navigate. We’ve spoken to experts in their fields to encourage them to share pearls of wisdom about how they’ve made it in their specialist sectors.
This month we put Mike Utting, Managing Director of SpringTide Consulting Ltd, in the hot seat to answer ten questions about his career.
What did you want to be when you were at school?
I was very capitalist, all I knew is that I wanted to make good money and retire by 50. I think this started from selling perfume made from rose petals, which was syphoned into Corona bottles around the village. I must have been about eight. One lady commented that “it smelt like drains”…that was an early set-back! I went on to have a pretty successful car cleaning round and other ventures.
When did you first start working in procurement?
6th Jan 1986 – my A-levels were a disaster so at the end of the first term my careers advisor found me a job as a Trainee Buyer with Hawker Siddeley Power Engineering. At age 16, I was too afraid to even answer the phone in the first few months, but, surprisingly quickly progressed and thoroughly enjoyed the cut and thrust of negotiations. In those days we would have 3-4 ‘cold’ sales calls a day, and I would go down to reception and listen to the countless pitches.
How did SpringTide come about?
I think it was a natural progression. I had done the corporate world for many years, then joined a niche procurement consultancy, realised that this too had its ‘glass ceiling’, bureaucracy and limitations. So, SpringTide was the big risk of going it alone initially and gave me the opportunity to shape and grow the business as I wanted to. From the outset I built the business upon sustainable platforms, knowing that some would progress more than others and to also ensure they would be complementary, i.e. workshop and strategic sourcing activity would naturally segway into broader transformation programmes.
The name SpringTide derived from living in a small Welsh coastal village with an estuary and a large tidal range – with SpringTide representing the notion of washing away the old and bringing in something new. An enriching experience.
What kind of sectors does SpringTide specialise in, and which areas do you cover?
If you had of asked me this a few years ago I would have provided a very broad answer! We have become known for our expertise in Transport Procurement, from performing deep and exhaustive data analytics and modelling through to leading and supporting complex tenders and supplier and relationship management. Our focus is very much on sectors that move products: FMCG; Food; Packaging; Retail; Construction; Engineering.
We help with the strategy and vision and how this shapes the type of relationship and commercial model with the supplier chain and then ensure that contracts are implemented effectively.
What sets SpringTide apart from your competitors?
I think it would be the strength of our process and business model. Our clients can and do engage us for project work, ongoing support and task driven work. The governance is in place to then meet and hopefully exceed expectations.
What has been the biggest challenge you and the company have faced in the eight years you have been operating?
Finding business! It’s always difficult to know which channel or avenue to take to market and how to create the awareness. We are still a niche provider, so there is a lot of trial and error in our approach. We continue to refine our approach and to listen to what the market is telling us
There can be no doubt that technological advancements have had a significant impact on the procurement industry. How has it changed the way you work at SpringTide?
It has influenced the structure and operating model of our business and our product mix. We have strategic sourcing experts who know the vast array of technology platforms intimately, so we provide clients with support to implement and achieve rapid adoption over their technology platform. They demystify the process.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given and what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs starting out?
Know yourself, your own strengths and limitations and always have a ‘back-up’ plan for when a curve ball is thrown at you.
For entrepreneurs, I’d say you need a strong vision of where you want to be and why. It’s important to understand the motivation: money; achievement; being the first; innovating; helping others – be clear, and put the small steps in place to get you there
What’s the latest news at SpringTide?
We have had a couple of wins in the transformation and strategic sourcing arena for which we are currently mobilising resources and aligning processes. Also, just last Friday we have been announced as a CILT Finalist within the Supply Chain Best Practice category, which is a really great testament to the hard work and dedication undertaken by the team.
What would you like SpringTide to look like five years from now?
From 2010, we have grown the business from virtually zero to +£3M. I would like to be in a position that we establish ourselves as a market leader in the Procurement of Transport and to have grown our client base considerably in the UK and overseas. To also have matured our outsourcing and transformation propositions which are a far broader solution with multiple competitors, and to be recognised as being a stable player in these markets with value to bring.