Ryan Wicklum, Manager of Business Development at Owl Solutions shares his story of switching from supply chain management to sales, and how to capitalize on the chaos of switching careers.
Ryan Wicklum, Manager Of Business Development At The Owl Solutions On Switching From Supply Chain Management To Sales!
Joseph Fung: Hi, everyone. I’m Joseph Fung, and I am here with Ryan Wicklum. He’s the head of business development at The Owl Solutions. Ryan, thank you so much for joining us today.
Ryan Wicklum: The pleasure’s mine. I definitely appreciate the time.
Joseph Fung: Ryan, I’m so excited to share your journey. I love how you spoke about you spending 20 years in supply chain management wanting to get into sales having that opportunity. But maybe we could start off at the beginning. Can you share? Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school? Where does the story start?
Ryan Wicklum: It’s funny. I grew up in a small town North Of Barrie called Felton in Ontario, Canada, and only 1230 people are in my hometown. So, it was an interesting upbringing of, you know, speed the intersection of a small town and my dad was in the military. So, I had both kinds of influences in life. But, I attended The University of Guelph for one year before heading home to take care of my father, who’d become ill. And then, after he passed, I was kind of deeply immersed in the automotive industry. So, the operations world was my playground for a good long while.
Joseph Fung: Nice, and you’re at The Owl Solutions. Is that right?
Ryan Wicklum: I am so yes.
Joseph Fung: Now, I know we spoke; this isn’t a show about pitching, but you know, for our audience who might not know The Owl Solutions, what’s the one-sentence elevator pitch?
Ryan Wicklum: Absolutely. So, at our, The Owl Solutions, we have a data analytics platform called True Owl. And it, kind of lives at the intersection of supply chain knowledge and innovation. Basically, we are the supply chain analyst of the future.
Joseph Fung: So, those 20 years in the supply chain definitely help out there.
Ryan Wicklum: It was a natural transition. And it was funny; I must point it out that it was my friend Christine McDougal, who brought up the idea of wanting, when I was new, I wanted to transition into sales. So, she brought up the idea of using a company that sells and operations supply chain service. And that spurred on the idea, and I had some conversations, and then luckily, The Owl Solutions was rendered up.
Joseph Fung: Nice. Now, 20 years in the supply chain. Did you get into the supply chain right out of school? Was that your first job post graduation?
Ryan Wicklum: Yes, it’s funny because I spent one year at The University of Guelph, and I didn’t, unfortunately, graduate because the family situation was taken care of. You know, I worked my way from a temp on the midnight shift at a magnet factory to being a shift supervisor in the four years. So, I kind of had a good transition. I was making decent money. Always want to go back to get that education that I didn’t pick up, you know, a formal education, so to speak. But, I learned so much in my time at Magnet in my time since that, you know, I like to think that I’ve gone to college and have gone to a post-secondary education every day.
Joseph Fung: That’s, that’s incredible. And that drive and that passion, I could see how that’s going to serve you really well in the sales arena as well.
Ryan Wicklum: Absolutely. Well, Fingers crossed.
Joseph Fung: So, let’s think about that journey. So, 20 years in the supply chain. You shared a little titbit when we were first speaking about how you’ve always wanted to be in sales, but that provides you of reasons or hesitation you had, and the thing that struck me was you spoke about how even when you share that excitement, that interest in being in sales, you sometimes received some hesitation or some uncertainty or some, you know, assumptions. Can you share a little bit about that?
Ryan Wicklum: Absolutely. Yeah, I think that there was by no means; it is my perception only. I’m not saying that it’s, you know, gospel or set in stone, but I think there was a stigma attached to the fact that I had, I was kind of, you know, what you might call a backroom employee because I’d been in the supply chain operations realm for so long. I think that there is definitely a bit of a stigma attached to the fact that I was a, you know, quote-unquote, operations guy. And that I might not be as refined, I might not have the softer skills necessary to deal with people on a more interpersonal basis on the regular, which is what salespeople ultimately do, they have conversations, they deal with people, they deal with situations they negotiate. And so yeah, it was a little bit frustrating because as a supply chain professional, you are having these same conversations, but almost in reverse. You know, I used to be on the other side of the negotiation table. I look across at the salesperson. I think to myself like I would love to be in that situation because I’ve built up this, almost this repertoire or this repository of, you know, supply chain tricks that I could use to almost capitalize on in a sales role.
Joseph Fung: So, let’s kind of unbox this a little bit. We speak to sales reps all the time, we often hear their stories, and people hear these words purchasing, operations, supply chain, maybe you can help our audience, you know, in a nutshell, kind of running or managing the supply chain. What’s that involved? What’s that day to day work?
Ryan Wicklum: Absolutely. So, I guess I would deem supply chain is, you know, the movement of goods from customer wants to the customer have, and so I say goods, goods or services because that’s often what is brought upon. So in the case of your typical supply chain day, you kind of need to, you know, unwrap the two boxes as strategic and tactical. So, on a tactical basis, yes, you are actually purchasing things or services, or you are shipping, you know, items from A to B, you might be in a warehouse where you’re picking, you know, arranging inventory, etc. But on the other side, there’s a lot of strategic aspects that I think sometimes are unseen or just ignored, regarding building relationships, you know, having strategic suppliers that you can almost consider as supply partners because when crap hits the fan, you need that supplier to back you up into and to be there in your corner and you need them to believe in the company story. And I think one of the things that were so good about my time at a clear path was the fact that we had a very, very compelling story to tell. I think a lot of supplies, suppliers that we dealt with, believed in this story, and they want to be a part of that kind of scrappy robotic startup that became this, you know, thriving company.
Joseph Fung: There are some remarkable parallels between the way you speak about those strategic relationships and, you know, the way we hear sales reps speak about their strategic customers that buy into the story and all of that. That’s quite a remarkable parallel Ryan Wicklum: 100%.
Joseph Fung: So, I want to come back to something you dropped in earlier, you said you had all these little tricks that you do use on the supply chain, and now you’re thinking about them when you’re on the other side.
Ryan Wicklum: Yes.
Joseph Fung: Maybe you could share a few of those. What’s that like?
Ryan Wicklum: Well, to not to, you know, uncover all my purchasing brethren tricks. But, but yeah, there are things that a supply chain person will do, to kind of almost create a sense of Mystique, or a sense of or almost like a proverbial, you know, an org chart that is above them when in essence, you know, I’d say my estimate would be 97% decisions that are brought to the table can be made by that supply chain person, and then the other 3% would be, yeah, I genuinely need to bring this to finance or bring this to, you know, the VP of operations or a director. Because, I think the perception that the supply chain people sometimes try to put forth is that there’s a lot of levels of approval that are above so, I can make a decision. Now, let’s narrow it down to the best, the best price, or the best arrangement, the best negotiation. And, oftentimes, you know, when a salesperson that I’ve looked across the salesperson, I would think to myself, you know what; they don’t really want to deal with more levels than me. So they would just get right to the point. Here’s the best I can do. You know, let’s make a deal now.
Joseph Fung: So they’re going through kind of these actions to help them massage what that selling experience is like, and now that you’re on the other side, how do you see those? And how do you handle them?
Ryan Wicklum: Oh, it’s funny, because now being on the sales side, I recognize that it wasn’t a lack of want to deal with more people than the person across the table. It was just a lack of time. There are so many more opportunities; there’s the pipeline so full that you don’t want to spend any extra hours or extra days or weeks dealing with, you know, being introduced to more people and kind of making that relationship as well. You need to be you, have more brevity involved and more limiting of the interaction and almost like an instant deepening. That’s a skill you can pick up to meet that relationship quick. Let’s get this. Let’s get this price down, and then let’s move on.
Joseph Fung: Those kind of new perspectives and realizations are always such delight, aren’t they?
Ryan Wicklum: Absolutely. It’s absolutely fantastic.
Joseph Fung: So I’m curious now that you’re kind of more focused on the sales side. Is there anything about that, you know, sales role, sale side that has really surprised you, that’s really kind of changed your perspective?
Ryan Wicklum: You know what; I’ve always known that there was a definite science to sales. But I’ve been amazed by the amount of sales processes and operational aspects of this, and then the theory behind the practice is very astounding. I’ve also noticed there are a lot of acronyms that I didn’t know before going to entering into the sales realm I’ve done. It’s been a big learning curve in the past few months just to understand how the infrastructure of sales operations supports the actual, like the front-facing sales.
Joseph Fung: That’s such a great realization because it is so true, and no longer that we’re in it, the easier it is to lose track of that. So, it’s a great reminder as well.
Ryan Wicklum: Hundred percent.
Joseph Fung: Now, your journey is this kind of a remarkable tale of the patience of drive of determination and incredible domain expertise. I love how you spoke about how you’d always wanted to get into sales, and now you’ve had that chance. How did it come to be? How did you get into this role?
Ryan Wicklum: It’s funny. My stay at a clear path was like I said; I was employee number seven, I clearpass. I came in really early; help establish a supply chain there. And then, six years later, there was a layoff, and I was as a part of that, and then I transitioned into almost doing my own thing. So I was out, I was kind of supporting; I was building my own infrastructure to success. And then one of my clients was Hugo. Hugo is the CEO of The Owl Solutions. I was doing some consulting for him, and then as the consulting get kind of slowed down, it became evident that there was a connection between the two of us, and we both had commonalities in that we were supply chain people, and we identify with that. But then we also were kind of thrust upon we both had a want to learn more about sales to build our sales repertoire. And yeah, so that he brought me on as employee number one, which is, you know, an honor of any company to be like the first full-time hire. And in this case, it was great. It was; definitely, there was a connection. And there’s a synergy involved because I wanted to break into the sales world. And like Christina before, it was great to have that opportunity that I could kind of combine my supply chain expertise with this newfound, you know, opportunity and role that I was passionate about.
Joseph Fung: That’s such a great, great experience. So you’re on the other side, now. You’re in the midst of it. Looking back at that journey, you know, what’s one thing that you would have told yourself ten years ago?
Ryan Wicklum: 10 years ago, I would have told myself to buy that Shopify stock. But, other than that, yeah, I think that I would tell myself to learn about new technologies. I think that’s the one aspect that I had, to this point, had kind of put aside thing. Well, let’s learn about this stuff later, etc. I’ll be frank; I’m the world’s worst operator of Excel. It scares me to death to this day. And it’s good because what we do at The Owl Solutions is kind of an Excel augmentation. Or, in some cases, actually replacing Excel, which is fantastic. Because it’s almost like a personal vendetta against Excel and heartache and the amount of hours I’ve spent trying to figure out what if you look up was.
Joseph Fung: I love a speaker who felt the pain that the end-user feels. Because doing that right is such an important part of sales, and you’ve got that, you’ve got that down pat.
Ryan Wicklum: Fingers crossed that that continues.
Joseph Fung: Well, this has been awesome. Before we wrap up, I wanted to quickly flip over and ask a couple of rapid-fire questions. So you came to that?
Ryan Wicklum: Yep, absolutely.
Joseph Fung: Awesome. Okay, cool. So let’s do this quickly and get people to know Rick a little bit more. Sorry. I knew that I was going to say you’ve passed that joke people say, Ryan Wicklum, and they call you Rick, and I knew it is going to come up. I’m sorry, Ryan?Joseph Fung: Awesome. Okay, cool. So let’s do this quickly and get people to know Rick a little bit more. Sorry. I knew that I was going to say you’ve passed that joke people say, Ryan Wicklum, and they call you Rick, and I knew it is going to come up. I’m sorry, Ryan?
Ryan Wicklum: Don’t apologize. It’s having more than I would think.
Joseph Fung: What was it that you had said to happen when people made a mistake, your colleague would stick something so long?
Ryan Wicklum: Yeah. So we clear paths. We had a famous Rick counter. So every time someone would write “Hi Rick,” and we would post a picture of a famous Rick on the wall and we had a massive, it was a huge collection of the mat of famous Rick’s.
Joseph Fung: Well, there we go. I’m going to find a picture of a famous Ricks and send over to you for that.
Ryan Wicklum: I would look forward to it.
Joseph Fung: But, rapid-fire questions let me jump right in. What’s your favorite sales tool?
Ryan Wicklum: Navigator. I love it.
Joseph Fung: Nice, and what’s your favorite movie?
Ryan Wicklum: A tie between Shawshank Redemption and Scent Of A Woman, Shawshank for the story, and Scent Of A Woman for alpha chinos suits?
Joseph Fung: Great choices. And when you were a kid, what did you want to grow up to be?
Ryan Wicklum: I want to be a sports commentator.
Joseph Fung: Wow. There we go. I, Rick, Ryan, thank you so much. This has been such a great conversation. Thank you so much for the time today.
Ryan Wicklum: No, I’ve enjoyed it, and I appreciate you having me on.
Joseph Fung: I am looking forward to our next conversation, and we will chat again soon.
Ryan Wicklum: I would look forward too.