Naseem Malik is the Managing Partner of MRA Global Sourcing, a supply management firm that helps world-class companies build successful teams by finding the right leaders. Additionally, he is the Partner and Co-Founder of Vitalize Talent, a capability development firm that is putting the “human” back into the hiring process.
Naseem has worked with companies of all sizes, from startups to Fortune 500 companies, to source goods, reduce costs, and curate supply chain improvements. However, he believes the most valuable asset has been the opportunity to source human capital. Naseem loves leveraging his network to connect the dots and find the BEST talent in the supply chain management world.
Naseem benefited from the generosity of his former peers, colleagues, and bosses in a way that led to his entrepreneurial pursuit of serving the supply chain function by creating innovative technology and providing executive recruiting services. Companies rely on Naseem and his businesses to be unwavering in the pursuit of bringing highly qualified candidates that will dare to surpass all their expectations. He stands for those with crazy ambitions and strive to outperform, and is courageous enough to take unknown paths to reach success.
Bryan Wish: Naseem, welcome to the One Away Show.
Naseem Malik: Thank you, Bryan. Glad to be here.
Bryan Wish: Yeah, I’m vividly remembering our first chat and I was walking around my old apartment complexes, like this loop and we had such an engaging first conversation. I was like I like this guy. He made me laugh a bunch of times. It’s been fun to watch our relationship unfold the last six months. Where I want to start today is I want to know-
Naseem Malik: And just on that real quick, Bryan, I knew you were cool right off the bat because I asked you, I’m like, “Hey, do you mind if we don’t do a Zoom because I want to walk around.” Do you remember of that? And then I also went outside and I was walking and talking on the phone and as were you. It was great.
Bryan Wish: Yes, I don’t remember you asking me that, but I do remember walking around the circle. That was a good decision for us both, for sure.
Naseem Malik: Right.
Bryan Wish: Well, thank you for that. Glad we both got some exercise and got the steps in. All right, let’s get started. Naseem, what is the one away moment that you want to share with us today?
Naseem Malik: My one away moment, Bryan, would be when I decided after almost 15 years of walking away from corporate America and taking a leap, the leap into the great unknown of entrepreneurship. It was a pivotal moment. It required a lot of thought, a lot of prep. But despite all of that, once you actually do it, once you realize you’re not going to get a paycheck anymore every two weeks, once you realize the you eat what you hunt now, it’s hard to describe until you’ve actually ventured into it. That was a little over nine years ago.
Bryan Wish: All right. Well, coming up on the 10 year anniversary, you’ve been going at it. Good for you. What do they say, 90% of the businesses don’t make it after two years? You’re in the upper echelon here. Naseem, I want to know what were you doing prior to starting the business? What were you doing, involved with, interested in, and ultimately, I want to understand what made you say, “I got to go at it on my own.”
Naseem Malik: I was in the supply management world for my time in corporate. I had worked in a lot of different companies, some startups, some fortune 500 companies, always in the strategic sourcing supply chain world. Basically, we hear all about it in the news now. It’s procuring goods and services, sourcing goods and services, to I made the move on the side of going on my own business. It’s okay, “How do I still stay closer to function, stay engaged, able to leverage my network, my perceived expertise, but just how do I put all that together and use it in a way where I can continue to serve the function and help other people, but with a little bit more independence and a little bit more on my terms?” That’s how it all came about for me.
Bryan Wish: Yeah. Let’s dive even deeper. What got you into supply chain and procurement in the first place?
Naseem Malik: After grad school, that was one of the areas I just landed in. Back then when I started this in the late 90s, supply management programs were not as well defined as they are now. Supply chain career paths weren’t as laid out as they are now. Now there’s so much different opportunities. I was fortunate. My first company was a truck maker. They make a heavy duty, medium duty trucks, school buses, company called Navistar International. It was great for me, a couple years foundation. Learned a lot over there and that really helped me then move and grow my career.
But, once I got into it, I loved it. It was a right feel for me. You’re building relationships, you’re collaborating, you’re working with both internal and external stakeholders. It was an exciting time. Then as I advanced in my career and had the opportunity to global exposure, that’s where I could then, especially going to Asia, right? My background, having lived in Pakistan for a few years, understanding some of the cultures there were able to take that into effect as I went to China and India. It all came together nicely, so it felt like perfect career choice for me as I was in it.
Bryan Wish: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I love the progression and it was neat that what you said about the industry being a bit undefined in a way, maybe not to the level it is today. Then you could see the opportunities and maybe pave your own way a little easier. I think your global background expanding your experiences and bringing from where you grew up to different parts of the world. Are you able to approach it from a worldly perspective, just with the name of your business, which we’ll get to. Naseem, something I want to touch on too on the personal side is I’ve gotten to know you over the last six months, since that walk in the park. What I’ve noticed about you is you have this extreme, I think, work ethic that’s extremely noticeable and very creative and very driven. Yet, you have this balanced sense of humor to you that just is very fluid in conversation. I’m just curious, have you always been funny? Is it something you’ve developed over time? Any childhood experiences contribute to that? It’s a unique blend.
Naseem Malik: No, I appreciate that, though I should challenge your notion of what you think is funny about me, but that’s a different conversation. No, I’ve always believed in levity as being an important component. Always take your work seriously, which I have, but not myself so much. What I mean by that is, yeah as you mentioned, the work ethic, the people you work it’s important. But then also as you begin the EQ part, and that’s one of the things that I’ve always been fascinated with early on in my career, even before I started. Stumbled on Daniel Goldman’s book, Emotional Intelligence, and I’ve been a fan ever since, of how important EQ is along with IQ when it comes to being successful and dealing with folks.
Over the years, I’ve discovered that having the ability to bring some levity, to break the ice, to have some humorous comments, has served me well, even in my career. Whether I’m sitting with Europeans, I’m sitting with Asian, I’m sitting with Americans, I’m in a negotiation, I’m in a heated discussion. You could be in a multitude of settings, but sometimes to be able to pierce through that and relieve some of the tension and stress by engaging with people and getting them to laugh, has always been something I’ve found to be helpful. First and foremost, laugh at yourself, and then you can help others laugh as well.
Bryan Wish: I love it. No, I mean, I think the insight that I’m picking up is no matter who you’re with, your ability to be at ease with yourself, maybe make others at ease with themselves, can just really break the ice a little bit, especially in a global setting where there’s different cultures and perspectives involved. Is that fair?
Naseem Malik: Yeah, it is. It is. Just sometimes comes easy to me, just natural, just observation. I’ll see something and just, you can make a connection and say something humorous about it and put people at ease.
Bryan Wish: Great. Well, I just, I wanted the audience to know in case you crack any jokes along the way, where it comes from.
Naseem Malik: No pressure now, right?
Bryan Wish: No pressure. Let’s go back to where we started. You had this, sounds like a like very dynamic career working for the man, so to speak, in supply chain and procurement. What led you up to the point where you said, “I really need to go after it on my own.” How did you know it was time?
Naseem Malik: Yeah, no good question. Several years prior to getting into my own business, I had a lot of friends, a lot of contacts, and we’re always talking, as most people do as earlier on in their career about career paths, what you want to do, what do you want to be when you grow up. The opportunity to get into a business, to start your business is something I was a part of with many conversations, with many friends, colleagues, acquaintances. But when you get into it, you realize, and you’re one of them, on how few people actually take the plunge and actually do it. In fact, one of the things that has always served me, Bryan, is whenever I took on a new job, a new role, like before I was going to China, I started traveling to China, I must have read over a dozen books on how to do business in China. Learned a lot. Anything else, I would try to learn as much. Same here.
And one of the things I learned is a big one, 99% of the people that say they’re going to do it, don’t actually end up doing it. The 1% that do take the plunge are usually the crazy ones, like us. So that was something which, hey, if I do this you’ve got to weigh the pros and the cons and understand what you’re getting into. But I was like, “Okay, there’s never going to be the perfect opportunity.” That’s a trap I found a lot of my friends falling into, the right gig, the right business opportunity, the right time. One thing you learn is there is no such thing as the right time, the right opportunity. It’s calculated, but once you’ve decided, and you’ve stumbled on something that you think you can make a go, just take the plunge and do it.
I did it at a time where I had three kids, three young kids under the age of six. I had traveled over a million miles and that was tiresome, to say the least, and I didn’t want to be out 45 weeks of the year. That’s what the supply chain role entailed. That’s where I got into this business, started my due diligence and took the leap. And you’ll be surprised even today, as I tell people, as we talk to new people all the time, or even some of my friends they’re like, “We just don’t know how you did it.” We would never have the guts to do this. You’re just really brave. I’m like, “No, I don’t know if it’s brave or just stupidity, but I just did it.”
You do it with confidence in yourself as well. That look, if the worst-case scenario doesn’t work out, you can always go back. You can always go back and get a job in the field, for the most part. I’m probably getting too old now. But at some point, you know that there should be a backup plan. There should be something that you can, a plan B and a plan Z as I’m fond of saying, a plan, A, B, and Z. Have that contingency in place, and then you can make do. I didn’t come up with that A, B and Z. It’s from that Reid Hoffman’s book, “The Start-Up of You” great book by the way.
Bryan Wish: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I mean, one, I have a lot of respect for you for starting the business with three kids and traveling 45 weeks out of the year will take a toll on anyone. I’m sure you’re like the risk of the stress of my body and time away from family, versus going out on my own, that’s a pretty interesting scenario. But I also think that risk of income and all those things, you said, “I got to bet on myself.” I’m just curious, I grew up in a family where the parents worked a lot and then a divorce happened and all the things. For me, it was always like build the business first and then have the family. That came with its pros and cons as well, which I’ve learned in the last six months. But my question for you is, how’d your wife respond at the time? How’d that go over with the family? Were you scared? I’m just so intrigued because to do that with kids so young, needing that financial stability to support and provide, what did it feel like for you maybe from a pressure perspective?
Naseem Malik: Yeah, no, absolutely. That’s something which without a supportive wife, this wouldn’t have happened. Even though she worked, and she does work, has a good career as well. But yeah, if I didn’t have her unconditional support and understanding, it’d be a lot harder to do it. But, she also felt that yeah, that time away from kids and the family was taking a toll on not just kids, family, but even my own health too. It was a trade off. Without that, yeah, I would contend today that I wouldn’t have been able to do it if there was any hesitation or if there was any fear on the financial part, or stability. Because yeah, you do have ups and downs in businesses, but thankfully I’ve been able to even that out.
Then even taking a step back from the family part, Bryan, one thing I forgot to mention is, I guess at some point this was latent in me. I didn’t realize it, maybe from a DNA perspective. But I was 37 when I jumped into this on my own. My dad left his career at the age of 35. He was a banker and got into the world of entrepreneurship. At some point maybe it was my DNA, growing up seeing an entrepreneurial dad, maybe also planted a seed in me that maybe this is something at some point I want to get into my own business too.
Bryan Wish: Yeah. Well, just for those listening Naseem, that means it puts you at 46 if you’re nine years into it. Naseem looks like he’s 35. Whatever miracle products you’re using, or supplements, we’ll share those at the end of the show because-
Naseem Malik: Hey, just good lighting and camera, that’s all it is.
Bryan Wish: Right, right, right. Nothing, totally. Well, no, it’s interesting that your father, you saw your dad maybe take that plunge and set the example for you as a young kid and maybe showed you, “Hey, there’s no perfect path for this, but the path is possible for you to go down and also maybe make it happen for you and your family.” I mean, it’s inspiring and it’s neat that your wife was also beyond supportive of this decision and how you realize that it wouldn’t have been possible without her.
Naseem Malik: Yeah, and the other from a career perspective, one thing I should probably mention from a context is I actually had, in 15 years, I had 10 jobs. I worked for 10 different companies. I don’t even think I told you this, have I, Bryan?
Bryan Wish: No. Tell me more.
Naseem Malik: Yeah, I was like a pre-millennial and every single of those jobs was me leaving and firing my employer. I was like, “Yeah, okay. I’m done. See ya.” Yeah, fortunately I’ve never been laid off. Never was asked to leave. It was me always moving on from my … now some are obviously really short stints that I don’t even acknowledge anywhere on my resume or LinkedIn, have buried them into dark recesses of my mind somewhere. But, the ability for me to change jobs and that risk averse approach that I had, was probably what also helped propel me to start my own business. The ability to move, to find new careers, take the plunge was probably also contributing to when I did decide to take the plunge as part of the whole, my risk aversion wasn’t as strong, which goes back to me not being probably as sharp as some other people that would question my sanity for doing what I did in corporate America, and then why I left corporate America. But yeah, I think that may have had something to do with it as well, too.
Bryan Wish: Totally. I mean, when you’re going from making those hard decisions year after year, almost every year. Two-thirds of 15 years track, you learn a lot, I’m sure. But you also, with that experience, you probably saw a lot of frameworks and processes and met a lot of people. You’re able to take all that knowledge with you. I worked, I mean, technically three jobs out of college and before I started getting this off the ground. But all those applications have gone into what I’ve done now and without those experiences, probably wouldn’t have been as successful this early in the game. I mean, long, long, long way to go, but it’s neat that you had 10 experiences that you could pull from to build what you have today. So very, very admirable.
Naseem Malik: Yeah, that’s a good point. Yeah, my last job was five years, by the way. I was at my last year for five years. That goes back to another topic, just on leadership. I had such a good, strong leader I worked for, learned so much from him. He was such an influence on me, and even helped me subsequently end my business, so yeah.
Bryan Wish: Well, let’s just, before we get to taking that leap and going in, we played the backstory. I’m actually curious, I think that master teacher, mentor leader is so important to be able to take that plunge. What about him? Who was he by this [inaudible 00:18:04]? Who was he and what do you think you learned the most from him that you’ve brought into your next chapter of what you’re doing today?”
Naseem Malik: Yeah, absolutely. I was very fortunate. My very first job and my 10th job, I had two of the best leaders and mentors that are, even today, friends, mentors, clients. Over the years, I’ve been able to sustain. The very first one is Howard Levy, chief procurement officer now at a med device company. That’s where I learned everything I could about procurement. He was an inspiration, smart guy and I told people then, “This guy’s going to be our next vice president,” because we were getting a new VP. He was internal. People would laugh at me like, “Shut up kid. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You’ve only been here a year. There’s all these other people ahead of him.”
Sure enough when the VP left, Howard got the job. Maybe I knew something about this whole search thing before I even knew it, talent thing, right? Then fast forward later, 10 years later, look at the power of network, those two guys, my first boss I’m talking about and then the last one I mentioned where I was at five years, his name was Tim Fury. They were part of the same network, knew each other. When Tim was looking to build his team and was looking for directors, he asked for names and Howard gave him my name. I ended up working for Tim. They both knew each other as well. They were my two pillars, as I think about my career. Yeah, my last five years was with him and just the ability to learn about the function about leadership, integrity that he had and everything that he did just left an indelible impression.
Bryan Wish: Wow, that’s awesome. It’s neat that you saw that. I mean, some people go a whole career without finding a Naseem, or you said Tim, right? Tim?
Naseem Malik: Yeah. Yeah, Howard. Yeah.
Bryan Wish: Sorry, sorry, Howard. It’s great that you were able to identify that, but also probably identify some bad leaders along the way. Let’s transition here to okay, you spent five years there and you’re ready to take the plunge and go for it. What were your first steps? Did you know exactly what you were going to do? I mean, was it still a lot of unknowns? I mean, or did you have this vision and it just needed executing? I’m just curious how you started?
Naseem Malik: The seeds were being planted, probably I would say the second half of my career on what I would eventually end up doing. What I mean by that, is that a lot of times recruiters and search people would call me for leads. “Hey, we’re working on this search, do you know anybody good?” And they always knew that when they called me, I always had people in my network, by virtue of having had so many opportunities. I was able to develop a network. I was one of the first million people on LinkedIn actually. When they went public, they sent you an email saying, “Oh, congratulations, you’re one of the first million people.” So, give me some stock, man. Don’t just tell me I’m the first million. Sure enough, didn’t get any of that. But, now it’s what 700 million people on LinkedIn?
I was an early adopter there and always built my networks because of that, and always wanted to help folks that I knew were looking for opportunities. As I was made aware of opportunities, I was always connecting these folks. That started to the point where, okay, when I was ready to go on my own, a lot of these search folks were telling me, “You need to get into this world. You’ve got a network. You know people, you’re well connected, you know the function.” I was always like, “No, not yet. Not yet. This is something I will do later in my career.” But sure enough when things had changed at my last employer, my boss had left. They were undoing a lot of what we did. I started looking seriously, started talking to a lot of these search firms over the years I’ve worked with that have been encouraging me to get into the business. Did my due diligence. It was almost about nine, 10 months of diligence before I took the plunge.
I went with a company called MRA Network. They’re a franchiser in which they provide you the back office support, tools, technology, training for your people. All the things you need to get your business off the ground, so you can focus on growing your business, well they help from that perspective. But you’re still responsible for getting your own business and developing, building, running. I mean, you’re your own PNL of course, but the franchise helps you from that perspective. The stars had aligned. Everything fell in place. I had initially a partner I worked with, but then we finished that up in about six months. I was solo after that.
It came to that point, Bryan, where once the stars had aligned, everything as I mentioned had fell into place, had I not done it, I would’ve always had that regret that, “Hey, what if I had done it at that time?” And everything was there for me to do it. I didn’t want to have that regret and I didn’t want to say, “Oh, I just couldn’t risk it.” So I was like, “You know what? I will do this and if it doesn’t work out, doesn’t work out. I have confidence that if I work as hard as I have in corporate America,” like you said for the man and you do the right thing. You have integrity. Your work ethic is there. You do that, all of that, why won’t you be successful? That’s how I was able to take it and here we are.
Bryan Wish: Yeah. No, I mean ballsy. But it seems like, what I admire, what I didn’t do on the first startup, which you did, is you say you took nine months of diligence. You really thoughtfully map out, it sounds like, how you were going to enter and what you were going to do and the partner you were going to help get you off the ground. I don’t think, at least the millennials of the world as you were the pre-millennial, but the millennials of today, not all of them map out hose steps prior to maybe jumping off the cliff. Seems like you were really intentional though. Say, if I’m going to give this a go, I might as well give myself the best chance at succeeding at it, so you can keep doing it and make it sustainable.
Naseem Malik: Right. No, and it was at that point, you don’t really think about all of that. In retrospect, yeah, it did fall into place and all that homework helped. But then, I tell people now I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve had a good team. I’ve had a couple of key people that if I hadn’t had, I wouldn’t have been successful. But then from a business perspective, I was really lucky that a lot of my former bosses, a lot of my former colleagues and a lot of people that actually used to work for me, that still like me, they all gave me business. They all opened doors for me and that really helped me continue to grow the business. That and being in my space, being in the supply chain world, were the two accelerants that helped me get off the ground successfully.
Bryan Wish: Yeah, absolutely. You built, it sounds like a very strong reputation for yourself and preceding roles and built relationships and took care of those relationships, where they paid that door forward for you, for getting started on your own. Just curious, for you and maybe the personal development or professional development side of things, when you did take that plunge. As you look back, maybe on the first two to three years, if you were to advise the younger Naseem on things that maybe you would’ve done over again in those first few years. Some of the hard lessons you learned that maybe experience taught you, that you could have avoided or not avoided. I’m just curious what you would tell the next Naseem coming up, who wants to emulate the path that you’ve taken?
Naseem Malik: Yeah, good question. The first three years were a bit of a seesaw, right? As I mentioned, I was part of the MRI Network. I got the rookie of the year award in my first year because we had a great year, so that was good. Year two was good. Then we had a couple of tough years. Looking back, and one of the things I’ve always been accused of is that I’m always in a hurry. Having that sense of urgency and I guess it came from being in corporate, or just part of my personality. But what I would say is don’t be so hard on myself, or yourself the first few years as you’re getting things going. Because there will be the natural ups and downs, I mean, in this business, especially. Overall, the economic cycle I’ve been improving. We were coming out of the great recession and things were on the uptake.
I would say even continue to be a little bit more patient. Don’t start thinking that it has to go at a certain level. That would be one. The other thing would be, is from a growth perspective, seek out one of the things I should have done more was there’s even within my MRA Network, there are a lot of search firms, a lot of folks that I could have worked with a little bit more closely. Learned from them and helped grow even quicker. Just using some of the things that are available and not thinking you have to do everything yourself.
Bryan Wish: Yeah. I think that’s a common mistake, I think a lot of people who start off they say, “I got to take it all on my own. I made this decision and I’m going to put my head in the corner and just beat it away,” without saying, hey, other people can help. It’s a good lesson to … It’s interesting, because I feel like relationships always been so top of mind for you. However, it sounds like you were just saying I could have gone probably deeper and explored opportunities and new ways. Really turning over every rock possible within a friendship, or whatever that might be. Very, very strong advice. One of the things I wanted to ask you is, for the average listener who doesn’t know much about supply chain and procurement, I would love for you to just share what’s a day in the life look like for you? How is that different, maybe than when you were doing this more as rising the corporate ranks?
Naseem Malik: Yeah, so good point. As a practitioner, versus now on the other side, helping companies find those very practitioners that I used to be. It’s an interesting thing as we’re talking to folks here. Back in that world, you’re responsible for negotiating, qualifying, finding world class suppliers in order to be able to make their products. Whatever goods or services they’re making, so you’re expanding the globe, finding and dealing with the cost, quality, delivery. All those things you need to do to be able to manufacture or provide your services. Ultimately, one of the things that procurement folks are also, their biggest benchmark, is also to be able to help their companies save money, because you’ve got the biggest checkbook in the company. You’re spending the money. In my last job, I had a spend, meaning checkbook, of over a billion dollars that I was responsible for.
Everything from, it was a heavy equipment manufacturing company, right? Everything that went into from electrical equipment. Then I moved over to some other categories and commodities. You’re finding suppliers. You’re striking deals and getting to long term agreements, signing contracts and you’re a steward of billions of dollars of your company’s money. You’re responsible in making sure that you do the right thing there from a fiduciary perspective. Then you find the right suppliers, making sure your facilities are up and running, never shut down a facility, and then helping them save money.
Now what I do juxtapose that to the world of search, the commonality is, is that, yeah, we’re still saving money for companies, but now we’re providing talent. We’re providing human capital that will save you money. Because all these things I described that I did as a practitioner, for the most part now, robots haven’t come in quite yet. There isn’t that much automation in yet, but you still need humans to do this. Now I’ve gone from to doing it myself, to now helping companies find the right people that can come in and do this and help their companies be more competitive and save money and help their companies win in the marketplace.
Bryan Wish: Fascinating. No, it’s really great to hear the perspective on both sides, because one has lent itself to the other, also giving you ways in which you do it different, or ways in which you do it the same. Having that experience without just jumping into something entirely new. You had insights and a decade plus of experience to bring to the table when you went out on your own. Something that’s so interesting to me is what you were talking about in saving money and helping companies find the right people in this space. My question to you, the idea of building community, the idea of building let’s just call it talent pools, has always been just language and interest that I’ve really just thought about and value. My question for you is, what does it take, and feel free to answer it differently in your own terminology. But what does it take to build a really strong talent pool, and how have you been able to do that throughout your career to really help these companies that you work with?
Naseem Malik: Yeah, no, that’s a very good question because not all companies get the value of people, talent, let alone the value of somebody that has access to a community, or a database. Even a simple list or their own circle of contacts. It’s been fascinating, one of the biggest learnings I’ve had is now that I’m on this side, is how everything is getting commoditized in the business world. You know this, you run a business. You’ve got to be able to differentiate yourself. Services, people, product, everything is getting commoditized. It was amazing for me to see now companies saying, “Yeah, we need a supply chain director, procurement person. Yeah, we’re not going to pay anymore than this and they’ve got to have this, this, this, this,” and completely discounting the value that that person brings.
It’s like, “Hey, this person is going to save you. You’re getting an ROI of 10, 15, 20X of what you’re going to spend on this person.” Multiply that by another 10, by what you’re going to pay us to find you that person. The fee, if they’re not haggling you on your fee to find the people, they’re then haggling over saving a few thousand dollars on securing the right person. A lot of it’s been that education to say, “Look, to find good talent, it’s always been a challenge. Increasingly now, more so, than ever before.” But good talent trusts people. They trust folks that they know have been in their shoes. That was for me, the biggest advantage was that for both sides, candidates and clients, is that, “Hey, I’ve been in these shoes. I’ve built teams. I’ve hired and built teams. I’ve done this role, so I know what it takes.”
But again, I had to be careful that I’m not putting myself too much in their shoes and saying, “Hey, you know what? I would’ve hired this person for this role. Why wouldn’t you?” They’re the client, it’s about them. They ultimately make the decision. Same way when they ask us, “Who would you pick between two people?” We’re like, “Yeah, we can’t do that. That’s your decision. We give you the great talent, give you all the pros and cons. You’ve done your vetting, interviewing. Your teams have talked to these folks. You have to decide, not us. Our job is to bring you great talent and give you everything we can about them.”
It’s been interesting that those companies that see that this is our space, this is what we do, our company, what I do. I’m not in finance. I’m not in marketing. I’m not in IT. This is all we do is supply chain and procurement. Yeah, I have a network. I have people. I have trusted A players out there that will come to me when they’re looking for opportunities. Then we can steer them towards the right role. You want to work with a specialist that has understanding of the function and has a good access, and has a pulse of the talent out there, versus other folks that are doing 10 other functions and supply chain. But, our biggest challenge again is, “We’re just going to find somebody that’s going to be the cheapest one out there, or we’re going to have multiple people do it because we’re so desperate.” No, you’re diluting your brand. That doesn’t help to have multiple people out there looking for the same person that you want. Some people see the value and some people don’t. It’s been an eye opening experience.
Bryan Wish: Absolutely. I’m sure for you, building and nurturing, I mean, these relationships is so important on both sides. Especially on, you said the A players who come to you and say, “Naseem, help me find my next step.” Something as you were talking that came to me, was you’re playing such a significant role in people’s lives, because you’re putting them in environments that will impact their families, that will impact their wellbeing. How do you think about, one, building a trusting relationship with these people who are putting your life in their hands and saying, “Naseem and your team, guide me into my next role.” How do you think about that process and how do you cultivate a long-term relationship with these individuals over the test of time?
Naseem Malik: Yeah, no, it’s a tricky balance. One of the other misconceptions, Bryan, one of the biggest misconceptions a lot of people have, even a lot of my former peers is they think that recruiters search people, help candidates find jobs. No, it’s the other way around, actually. It’s we help companies find people, because the companies pay us, not the candidates. That’s always a distinction we have to help people understand is that, “Yeah, we can coach you, guide you, help you with your resume or steer you towards people that can do coaching and all that stuff, career coaching, resume writing.” And of course, for a select few that are really good and are confidentially seeking opportunities, we can use our network and we do, reaching out to executives and making them aware of somebody that is now going to be active in the marketplace, but for the most part companies come to us.
Usually it’s candidates are so thankful when they have found an opportunity, they come to us and be like, “Thank you so much. We would’ve never known about this, let alone been hired for this, if you hadn’t reached out to us, if you hadn’t told us about it.” But, to your point, we make sure that we are completely transparent. Transparency is key, and that’s something which as we work with clients, we want to make sure, now it’s so much of them are referraled and people have sent us folks they’ve worked with, or candidates that have grown in their careers and are now in positions to hire people. That makes a big difference as well, too, because we’re very particular on who we want to work with. If somebody’s got a bad reputation or as a leader, as a company, we’re not going to, in good faith, I would not want to put good talent in that place, knowing that this is a burn churn culture.
We take that very seriously and we let companies know that, “Yeah, if we’re going to give you people, we’re going to give you A players. If you want B or C players, then we’re probably not the right firm for you.” The same thing with the candidates. We tell them, “Look, we’re going to be transparent. We’re going to be open. We want you to do the same. If you’ve got other opportunities, or if you are not interested, or if competition is going to stand in the way, just let us know, just so we can work with you.” That’s our biggest thing. I just tell people my procurement experience, that candor and confidentiality is really important. Communication and then transparency is one of the most important things.
Bryan Wish: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it seems like you take a lot of active care with these people that you’re guiding. You tell them the flag’s in place and let them come to their own decision. But, give it to them straight so that they can make the best decision for themselves. I’m sure they appreciate that. It’s probably why they come back to you when they’re searching again. So, very cool. One question that I want to close on before we let people figure out where to find you, connect with you, all the things, is take us 10, 15 years out. Where is the business that you have today? Where are you in your life personally? What does Naseem look like as you come into the winding chapters of career? I mean you worked your whole life, I’m just curious where you see yourself and your life going from here?
Naseem Malik: The 10 years from now, I look like the way I’m looking now, that should be priority number one, right?
Bryan Wish: Yeah.
Naseem Malik: A little less gray, keep the gray away.
Bryan Wish: No one can see that here. I mean, it looks pretty black to me.
Naseem Malik: Exactly. Exactly. No, it’s good. It’s a good thought provoking. I see, and something that I’ve always been an avid fan of is learning. I mean, there’s so much to learn and something that always keeps me going is that there is no such thing as a finish line. There’s no finishing point, just more challenges and opportunities to be had. That’s something which a lot of it comes from continuing to evolve and learn. I see this industry about to get disrupted, and it’s going to happen at some point. What’s the joke? We’re all just one software code away from being obsolete. Every industry, every company, right? If you think you’re not a software company, there’s some software company out there that’s probably thinking, “We want to be in this business.” I see that happening now. I see more and more tools coming into place.
This is a $15 billion industry, this executive recruiting world that I’m in. It is about, slowly there tools coming out, changes are happening. I want to stay at the forefront of being able to adapt to those, to grow, maybe get into some other verticals in this world. But also by the same token, we created a job board last year for supply management professional. We want to continue to grow that and then I’m working with this great company called BW Missions to help us. You may have heard of them Bryan, to help me just to further, from a branding perspective and from the things I want to do from an educational perspective, on whether it’s newsletters. Whether it’s on the website. Maybe some more on the media side as well, too, because more and more, even this field is becoming more of a media-like, than it is your traditional search.
It used to be that this was considered more of a sales function, but now it’s how do you get people’s attention, companies, clients? How do you sell them on the opportunity? How do you get all that together and how do you contact them? There’s a big media focus, social media, multimedia when it comes to even this field. I just want to continue to be able to stay at a place where I can synthesize all of this. And at that point, either have somebody running this and doing something different, but within these two, three areas of my expertise, or continue to grow this. What is it that Lincoln said, one of my favorite sayings, right? The best thing about the future is it happens one day at a time. That’s the way to take a look at it.
Bryan Wish: Love it. I appreciate the thoughtful answers. I appreciate the sharing of your learnings and your experience and you’re wise for some of the things you’ve said. I’ve really enjoyed, just conversation and yeah, thanks for doing this. Naseem, where can people find you, subscribe to your newsletter, find you on LinkedIn? Tell us all the places.
Naseem Malik: Yeah, no, thank you for that. It’s been fun. Always good to discuss this with you, Bryan. Our company is at MRA Global Sourcing. That’s MRAgs.com. You can find me on LinkedIn, from Naseem Malik. And then, yeah, we just got a new newsletter out The Supply Times, and that’s an area that you’ve been very helpful with, Bryan. Would encourage everybody to take a read and subscribe to that.
Bryan Wish: Well, thanks for the kind words. Everyone check out Naseem. Lucky that I have a team that [inaudible 00:44:16] your stuff because I couldn’t do it justice the way they could. Glad you chose us to help you with some of the key components of your message. Stay in touch. Excited to watch you grow in the future.
Naseem Malik: Thank you, Bryan.