Marvin Motley is a senior executive leader driving Fortune 100 value through procurement, cost savings and operational process improvements across $10B global sourcing.
Marvin draws on his legal and organizational leadership to optimize analytics and spend, while creating improvements across a wide variety of functions and commodities. His strong leadership has improved prices across 38k global vendors and multiple internal departments in telecommunications and manufacturing. He lowers the total cost of ownership by driving better contract terms, reducing cycle time for vendor selection and applying new sourcing technologies. His negotiation, contracting, sourcing and vendor management leadership has consistently resulted in millions saved on an annual basis and, at one point, he achieved a single-year savings of $1B.
- What sort of activities typically fill your free time?
I’m a little more active in music – I play the guitar. Well, that’s an overstatement – I have a lot of guitars and sometimes I play them. My wife will tell you I have too many guitars that I never play. My children are all pretty good at music – I have a tuba player and a daughter that plays piano and sings. My oldest son does play the guitar; he really is a guitar player. So, when I started first playing and collecting guitars, he was the beneficiary of all my activity because he got to play all the things that I bought.
- How long have you lived in Kansas City? What is your favorite part about living here?
I have lived in Kansas City probably since 1981. I was in a big law firm for a while and then moved to in-house at KC P&L and then went to Sprint, where I spent the bulk of my career. I think what I like the best about Kansas City is that it’s sort of a big-small town, if you know what I mean. It has a lot of the advantages of a larger city but avoids a lot of the disadvantages in [that] traffic isn’t nearly as bad [and] you can get around to places. The universities in Kansas City are also nearby, so you get a lot of the academic and cultural benefits of that. I do like Kansas City in [those regards]. I think being a Midwestern city is really a lot friendlier than some places you might go.
- What led you to pursue a role as an Executive On Demand?
I have all this great experience. One of the things I tell people about working with Sprint was I got “developed.” And that means that for some people who might have the kind of background I have in terms of the many different things I have done, you usually have to jump companies or move around a lot. I have a lot of expertise in supply chain, and I have a lot of expertise in contract negotiation. Those are really transferrable skills to almost any environment. That’s what I see as the real benefit of the Executive on Demand program. You spend time learning the company; you don’t spend a lot of time learning the expertise. So, you can apply your expertise pretty much immediately. That’s the big advantage because usually [an executive] can walk into most situations and figure out by asking a few questions what the critical need is.
- What type of clients do you typically enjoy working with?
I enjoy people who will let you use your expertise but will also tell you what [their] primary, most important issue is so that you can help them address that issue. I mean, the reason people will hire you or keep you is [because] you can address critical needs they have in the business. If they’re honest about what that is and the challenges they’re facing, then it really does help you as the person coming in. You can help resolve that problem. I think what I probably enjoy the most is I always consider myself a problem solver and someone who enjoys figuring out how we can get from point A to point B and get it done.
- How has your unique background prepared you to impact clients?
In the short-term, I’m really good about trying to get to the bottom line of what [clients] need to do. I’m honest with them about what they need to address this problem. I don’t think I’d be doing any favors by not being straightforward and honest with them about what they’re going to need to do. And [then I] let them make a choice about how they want to approach it. [Clients] deserve the value of your expertise and knowledge, and you need to share that with them in a way that they understand what you’re telling them. I don’t think there’s a lot of value in not [giving clients] your opinion straight. If [clients] ask the question then [they] deserve an answer.
- What do you think are some of the most pressing challenges that organizations are facing today?
There’s a number of [challenges.] I would say one of the things that surfaced early, if you think about the Pandemic situation, is people became acutely aware of how their supply chains were impacted by relatively small disruptions. It’s really hard to do business if you don’t have the supplies you need to operate. You can’t manufacture, you can’t do a lot of things unless you have your supply chain in line. There are strategies that can be put in place to address all of the things that happen or have happened as a result of the Pandemic.
These things make a difference. And it’s not just the supplies themselves but you need to think about the transportation about getting those supplies to you because transportation is going to be disrupted as well. So there’s a lot of things that can be done around the supply chain space to help mitigate [risks], and many of those things need to be thought of and addressed before the problem exists. There’s a lot of planning that should be taking place. We call it risk analysis: knowing where the risk is in your supply chain and then the chance to mitigate them. If you don’t have a clue or don’t know [risks] until they begin to disrupt your business, then you have a little bit more of a challenge.
- What are some of the key principles that have guided how you navigate business?
In terms of supply chain, it’s all about total cost of ownership. You really want to understand the value proposition for everything that you buy and what tolerances you need. If it costs an extra nickel to make sure your product isn’t going to fail, then you pay the extra nickel. You’re looking for total cost of ownership and for value, but you also need to discipline yourself that you shouldn’t be paying more than market price for anything unless there’s a good reason. The market price is driven by supply and demand. If you’re paying more than the market rate for something, you ought to be getting something that you really need that’s critical to your business. An example of that is you might be paying a little bit of a premium for a higher quality on an ingredient or something. [Quality] might be what’s really important to your customers.
- What’s some of the best advice you have received?
Never act like you know something you don’t, and be honest and willing to ask people questions. I found that most of the time, if you ask people a question and they trust you, they’ll tell you the truth. That’s really valuable when you’re dealing with companies and you’re trying to get up to speed quicky. If you come in and say, “I know everything and you don’t know anything,” you will find out very quickly that people won’t share information with you. And nobody knows everything; everybody can be helped through additional information. So my approach to every job I have had is to come in and I talk to all the people up and down the organization. I talk to people at the top; I talk to people at the middle; I talk to people at the bottom of the organization. Now, often if they trust you, they will tell you what the problems are. Unfortunately, [most people] never get asked what they think the problems are, and when they are asked, you’d be surprised with how much insight they have about what’s happening. There’s value in that insight, and it’s always useful to gain as much information as you can. So [I recommend] talking to all levels of the organization. Don’t pretend you know something that you don’t and ask questions—lots of questions. Keep asking until you get an answer.