Why Effective Supply Chain Management is Essential for Small Business — Jennifer Barbosa

Effective supply chain management has been thrust to the forefront of business owners’ minds since the onset of the 2020 pandemic. Savvy business owners are seeking reliable partners for their supply chain needs. On this week’s episode of The Playbook, host Mark Collier, area director for the UGA Small Business Development Center, is joined by Jennifer Barbosa, CEO of International Supply Partners, who discusses what it takes to be a leading provider of goods and services in today’s challenging environment.

Transcription:

Mark Collier:
Welcome to The Playbook, Jennifer.

Jennifer Barbosa:
Thank you, Mark.

Mark Collier:
All right. Listen, I’m excited to have you here. Supply chain has been at the front of the news lately, especially with the supply chain constraints, other businesses have not been able to get products on the shelves, and that’s creating some angst amongst consumers.

Jennifer Barbosa:
Absolutely.

Mark Collier:
But before we launch into any of that, I’d like you tell me a little bit about your background. And I don’t know much about you, so tell me a little bit more.

Jennifer Barbosa:
So I’m a single mom of three. I like to consider myself as a serial entrepreneur. I’ve started multiple businesses, failed multiple times, but any successful entrepreneur would note that.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely.

Jennifer Barbosa:
But I don’t necessarily think of them as full failures, because there’s always something to learn and grow from.

Mark Collier:
Lessons to be learned.

Jennifer Barbosa:
Always.

Mark Collier:
And failure is a precursor to success.

Jennifer Barbosa:
It sure is.

Mark Collier:
People have got to understand that.

Jennifer Barbosa:
Absolutely. And you have to be willing to take a risk and understand what those potential failures could be.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely.

Jennifer Barbosa:
And be prepared for them as much as you can.

Mark Collier:
Well, very good. So all entrepreneurs, they have a vision and a story behind their brand, so what motivated you to start your business? What was your vision behind starting your business?

Jennifer Barbosa:
Well, first of all, I love the excitement of starting a business, owning a business, serving my customers, and being able to manage and design something where I would feel like I would want to be served, or just the type of product I would like to have, and the full experience. But really the most important thing to me, and reason why I do what I do is my children. Being able to have the flexibility and the command to be available for them when they need me, to be there when I want to be there is the really drive for me to do what I do.

Mark Collier:
Well, you know what? If you look at those three angels faces every morning, and if that’s your motivation to get out of bed, then, hey, I can’t see any greater motivation than that.

Jennifer Barbosa:
It definitely is.

Mark Collier:
All right. So every business has challenges, every entrepreneur has challenges, I once heard an old saying, “Success and entrepreneurship is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing any of your enthusiasm.”

Jennifer Barbosa:
That is a very good statement.

Mark Collier:
So let’s talk about challenges. Obviously, there are numerous ones that face every entrepreneur, but what have been some of your biggest challenges in business?

Jennifer Barbosa:
One of my biggest challenges, and I faced it especially during the pandemic, the pandemic became a trajectory for my business.

Mark Collier:
In a good way, I hope.

Jennifer Barbosa:
In a good way.

Mark Collier:
Good.

Jennifer Barbosa:
And I think I got a really big intensive crash course in supply chain. It was way more than I thought I knew, or was even looking to know, but it allowed me to be able to transfer that knowledge to my customers. But the biggest challenge was having the accessibility and trying to transfer that to potential customers, and getting a listening ear, getting in front of the right person who makes the decision.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely.

Jennifer Barbosa:
It’s really difficult, especially when you’re looking to work with large corporations, the government, to get them to believe and trust that you are capable. And first of all, you have to get through all the gatekeepers.

Mark Collier:
Yes, you do.

Jennifer Barbosa:
You have to show them what you can do, you have to exhibit a lot of patience, a lot of tenacity, and a whole lot of don’t give up.

Mark Collier:
That makes perfect sense. And I’ll tell you what, when you’re talking about all those discussions, endless phone calls, lunches, the most important part is getting to that key decision maker. I don’t know how many stories I’ve heard from entrepreneurs who have wasted so much time talking and convincing folks who can’t even give them a yes, they’re not in the position to do that. So you made a very great point early on, is getting to that key decision maker and then focusing the majority of your attention on them.

Jennifer Barbosa:
Absolutely.

Mark Collier:
All right. So differentiation is the holy grail of all business models, so what sets your company apart from your competitors? What is your competitive advantage out here?

Jennifer Barbosa:
My competitive advantage is my drive to serve my customers, including the personal service within it, supply chain, selling products, there is nothing exciting or sexy about it. Most companies are just used to going online, clicking, and sometimes you place an order and then you find out maybe a few days later that it’s out of stock, so now you’ve got to wait to get a refund on your money, or you needed it when you just found out it was out of stock, or you can’t get a hold of someone that actually cares enough to hear what your challenges, what your pain is, and how urgent it is. And so I position myself in my customer’s place, trying to understand what their greatest needs are, why they need what it is that they’re looking for, and trying to understand how can I get this product to them in their warehouse or in their hand as quickly as possible, most effectively, most affordable, and make sure that we don’t lose in quality at the same time.

Mark Collier:
Another great point you raised. I think more entrepreneurs need to actually step into the shoes of their perspective customer and take a look at their product or service from that customer’s shoes, because when you’re able to do that, you’re better able to feel the needs and the desires of what those customers want and need from you.

Jennifer Barbosa:
Absolutely. And I think if you look at who are they serving and who are their customers, and you can put yourself in a customers position, that plays a big role.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely. Walk a mile in those shoes.

Jennifer Barbosa:
Absolutely.

Mark Collier:
All right. So you mentioned the pandemic year of 2020 that affected everyone, so let’s talk about customers in general. How do you feel the pandemic of 2020 changed the way that customers managed their supply chains?

Jennifer Barbosa:
Well, during the pandemic, it was a panic, I think, all around for both US citizens, the world in general, and businesses, the government, hospitals, first responding organizations, everyone needed these essential products. It was not business as usual anymore.

Mark Collier:
No, it wasn’t. It changed forever.

Jennifer Barbosa:
It changed forever. A lot of relationships were built, a lot of relationships were burned as well.

Mark Collier:
That’s true.

Jennifer Barbosa:
And so I think just trying to understand what the new model is, understanding a lot of purchasing directors and managers learned about supply chain that they didn’t understand or know before, learning about what processes are necessary, what’s available, paying more attention to what’s going on around the world, as opposed to being just focused in your small environment, all of those things people become more aware of.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely. There were words that were not ordinarily used in our lexicon, words like digital, virtual, contactless. Those became everyday words now that everyone understood, and companies had to not only understand those words, but they had to engage them in terms of how they adjusted their delivery of products, and services.

Jennifer Barbosa:
Absolutely.

Mark Collier:
We talked about the past, 2020, but let’s talk about the future now. What challenges do you see on the horizon for supply chains as we move forward in our now post-pandemic economy?

Jennifer Barbosa:
The challenges that I see is just the way the world is operating now. A lot of individuals have left the workforce.

Mark Collier:
Yes, the Great Resignation.

Jennifer Barbosa:
The Great Resignation.

Mark Collier:
Well, I must say, I’ve looked at it, about resigning, I don’t see anything great about it, but that’s another discussion for another day.

Jennifer Barbosa:
No, but what it’s done is make people realize and understand what they can do, and some people were able to birth their passions as a result of it.

Mark Collier:
A lot of businesses were started during those pandemic years.

Jennifer Barbosa:
Absolutely.

Mark Collier:
But supply chains are going to change, and they’re going to continue to evolve, and that’s what I’m hoping that companies like yours who are forward thinking will be able to forecast what those new changes are, and the ones who are able to best do that are the ones who are going to be able to gain the most market share.

Jennifer Barbosa:
Most definitely. And as a result, what we’ve done is we’ve expanded our capabilities and services.

Mark Collier:
Excellent.

Jennifer Barbosa:
We just secured a warehouse so that we can store more of the products for our customers. We have access to over 50 distribution centers around a country. We deal direct with manufacturers, both international as well as domestically, but now we’re going to be looking at warehousing more products for our customers, for those that are in high demand, and at this time right now I’m actually studying to become a customs broker as well.

Mark Collier:
Very good.

Jennifer Barbosa:
So that I can control and minimize those expenses and transfer those savings to my customers.

Mark Collier:
Excellent. All right. So you’ve been an entrepreneur for some time now, right?

Jennifer Barbosa:
Yes.

Mark Collier:
I just want to ask you one question. If you had some advice that you’d give to your younger self with just starting out entrepreneur, what would that advice be?

Jennifer Barbosa:
It’s a good question. I would say have more patience and also learn a little more discernment.

Mark Collier:
Okay. All right. I like it.

Jennifer Barbosa:
Not everyone has the same care and intention that you do.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely.

Jennifer Barbosa:
And I know, and I’m sure a lot of entrepreneurs have experienced this, we have to fall to be able to understand, well, I’m not going to do that again. And sometimes that’s in partnership with people that you may not be the best partner for you in business. It can also be managing things properly so that you can execute most efficiently.

Mark Collier:
That makes perfect sense. All right. Let’s shift gears for a minute. Work life balance, talked a lot about out here, right?

Jennifer Barbosa:
I’m still trying to figure out who’s managed to accomplish the full work-life balance.

Mark Collier:
Got it. Well, let’s talk about Jennifer Barbosa, as a single mom, you told me earlier, how do you manage the personal and business demands in just the same 24 hours that everyone has in each day?

Jennifer Barbosa:
Well, I’ve learned that I definitely need to get rest so that I can operate more effectively.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely.

Jennifer Barbosa:
I’ve learned, especially during the pandemic, that there’s a difference between amount of time and quality time spent, so becoming more present with the people that I care when I’m with them. And also organizing my time so that I am focused on specific tasks and prioritizing those tasks so that I can accomplish the things that I need for my business as well as my personal life. My children have very busy lives themselves, they have very busy schedules, and I work my schedule around their schedule so that I’m able to be able to give them the experiences that I wasn’t able to have in my childhood, but also be able to manage, to accomplish the things that I want to do with my business so that I can continue to provide them those experiences.

Mark Collier:
I like that. All right. So now I’m going to ask you to gaze into your crystal ball, look forward here, what are some of the long-term goals you have for your company over the next, say, three to five years?

Jennifer Barbosa:
In three to five years, we will implement a full warehouse and logistics, including transportation, to our customers.

Mark Collier:
I like it.

Jennifer Barbosa:
And that will be accompanied with our other partnerships in transportation, through the major delivery companies. We will also be expanding our reach, becoming even more global than we already are now, and hopefully be working towards a opportunity to be recognized as one of the most effective supply companies, and potentially maybe either going public or partnering up with one of the major suppliers.

Mark Collier:
I like the way you worded that. You didn’t say, “My goal is.” You said, “We will be.”

Jennifer Barbosa:
Yes.

Mark Collier:
I like that. Intentional.

Jennifer Barbosa:
Absolutely.

Mark Collier:
Intentional. So Jennifer Barbosa, CEO of International Supply Partners, I want to thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to come and share a little bit about your journey, your company, and you’ve been imparted some great wisdom that I think all entrepreneurs can learn from.

Jennifer Barbosa:
Thank you so much for the opportunity, Mark.

Mark Collier:
All right.


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