Founders & Friends with Scott Orn

A Startup Podcast by Kruze Consulting

Startup Podcast by Scott Orn

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Posted on: 10/02/2019

Aman Mann, Procurify Founder and CEO, explains how visibility into a company's spend drives success

Aman Mann

Aman Mann

Founder and CEO - Procurify


Aman Mann of Procurify - Podcast Summary

Aman Mann, Procurify Founder and CEO, dives into how strategically managing a team’s spend can drive purpose, mastery, and autonomy inside organizations.

Aman Mann of Procurify - Podcast Transcript

Scott: Welcome to Founders and Friends Podcast with Scott Orn of Kruze Consulting. Before an excellent podcast, quick shout out to our sponsor, Brex. Brex is a credit card for startups. The first one ever. It’s fantastic. They don’t require a personal guarantee by the founder. That is a huge, huge deal. Also, has great integration with QuickBooks, which makes life easy for your accountant. Finally, they have really good rewards. They do startup-centric rewards, so like bonuses on ride sharing and travel and eating out and things like that, all things that appeal to the whole team at a startup. Check out Brex. If you go through their signup and type in Kruze, you get a discount. Hopefully you enjoy Brex. Thanks so much, guys, for sponsoring the podcast. Thanks. Welcome to Founders and Friends podcast with Scott Orn of Kruze Consulting and my very special guest is Aman Mann from Procurify. Welcome, Aman.
Aman: Thank you very much, Scott. Very happy to be here and excited to get into a conversation.
Scott: Awesome. So, we have… Procurify popped onto Kruze Consulting’s map probably a year ago, but we’re seeing actually you guys get a lot of penetration in our client base and we actually just did a joint event together. So, I wanted to have you on the podcast and hear the story straight from the founding CEO. So, thanks for coming on.
Aman: Yeah, definitely. I appreciate it. We haven’t secretly been trying to tackle your customer base so you guys pay attention to us. Don’t worry.
Scott: It’s working. It’s working. Well, maybe you could start off by telling everyone how you had that amazing… The idea for Procurify like how would you get there?
Aman: Sure. Obviously for, not trying to sound on the sake of salesy, but it’s actually been a true passion of mine to just look at problem solving in life and ended up really finding a fascinating realm around operations and operation management. Really taken back from the time of like Toyota where they developed the Lean systems and Lean Six Sigma. As we were starting to go into organizations and to look at the… I actually found a passion… Like this puzzle solving problem within organizations and I realized I needed to go hone my skills and principles and go pick up what they call the black belt of Lean Six Sigma is just, it’s a crazy idea. I don’t know why they chose the karate terms, but they did. And…
Scott: Were you working at GE back in the day or something? How did Six Sigma… I remember that from business school, but it’s-
Aman: It’s so funny. I grew up with technology in my life and I started to work for these different organizations and it was just crazy to see kind of the rigor and effect of negative processes that people were trying to implement. Without technology, it’s like, “Okay, we want to make a change in our processes, but yeah, there was no technology to support the efficiency.” We’re at the stage in society where technology is a tool to take us to that next stage and a lot of these organizations weren’t leveraging these new tools to scale up into the next stage of their background. And so, I found it very challenging and I was always coming from a technology standpoint in organizations and I realized there’s these amazing principles around operations. And, so I went back to school to actually go hone my skills there. And that’s where I actually met my two co-founders. And, something that was a theme for us was really around this digital transformation that organizations we’re going for. And, it was happening right in front of us. We started to go into more and more organizations and found that this realm of back office, or this idea of process in the organization, these underlying processes that nobody was paying attention weren’t really getting the ability to transform. And so, when we started to look at it, there was really no technology systems built for kind of what they now have buzzwords, consumerization of enterprise, right? And so, that’s really where the fundamental piece came from and on kind of like the vision of where we were headed with technology and organizations, but then, what was really kind of mind boggling to us was that everyone was so focused on money coming into organizations, but there was like nothing around money going out of organizations except for like this traditional mindset around let’s be very reactive and push it all to finance and they’re going to look at this information in which comes to them in really, really latency kind of methods. And then it’s also ad hoc at that and they’re supposed to come up with a strategy for something that’s already happened.
Scott: You’re hitting all my talking points. I always like to say that the tools, or the software we use like Procurify gives us inner clients really good processes like business processes because it’s clearly defined, it’s best of breed. It’s amazing. And then, you also are bringing transparency. And that’s really what you’re talking about in that last example. Half the time when money’s getting spent, people don’t know it’s getting spent. I have these conversations with the CEOs, the startup CEOs all the time. I’m like, “What? We spent how much on web services, or how much was our Amazon… “ Or, “Why did we buy all that apparel?” Or whatever it is. And, you guys making it more transparent is really powerful.
Aman: I appreciate that. It’s been a very interesting journey on that because we initially started with digital transformation, the idea of taking organizations processes and getting them more efficient and effective. And that was a leverage of technology for that state. And then we found, okay, on the next stage, we need to build for end users, get that consumerization phase going. And then we started to see two other trends pop up, which was the changing role of the back office. With data, with real time insights coming to them, they were now kind of… It was a different mindset developing in, right? The CFO was more of a strategic player, operations could be… Each role was now more strategic because information wasn’t delivered post action. It was real time sync, right?
Scott: You say that beautifully in a very simple way, but it’s incredibly powerful. I’m kind of older, I’m 42, so I’ve worked in companies where pre-tools like Procurify and so people didn’t know what was happening and then, it’s three months later, you start seeing what the decisions were made three months ago.
Aman: Right? And I don’t like to use scare tactics, but the reality of times that are turbulent like recessions and those things, it’s usually when everything is uncovered and it’s uncovered too late. So, you’re dealing with… And even today’s realm of time, we try to move so fast and break things… The Facebook methodology and building these companies and staying competitive. And, the technology is disrupting, but we make really quick decisions now, but we’re not necessarily thinking about things other than sometimes in a reactive state. And that’s where I find layoffs, project cuts, companies shutting down, just because they over leverage that speed, but aren’t really also thinking about kind of how to manage scale.
Scott: Your point about the recession and that’s when people start digging, what’s the old saying? Like the tide goes out and you see who’s swimming naked?
Aman: I’m never heard of it. I like it.
Scott: I’ve been through two monster recessions, the 2001 one and the 2008-9. And, I’ve worked in investment banking and venture capital and those different ones. And I can’t, for the audience, think about this stuff now because there’s been so many conversations I’ve had with management teams where an extra million, or $2 million is literally the difference between a successful company and not. And if you can adjust… We’ll be going through, especially in the ‘08, ‘09, 2010 recession going through past spend decisions and just being like, “Oh, if we only would have caught that and only would’ve made a better decision here, we’d have another million dollars, or two million,” whatever it is. And you look back in hindsight and you’re like, “Oh my God.” And then the other thing for venture capital backed startups is that money you spent is… Actually, technically a loan. If there’s a preferred liquidation preference on your company. And so, that wasn’t free money. That was a million dollars, or $2 million that you have to sell your company for more to eclipse that liquidation preference. And so, there’s been many times where I’ve seen companies that were just on the verge of eclipsing their liquidation preference in… This is a tough market selling in a recession kind of thing, but couldn’t get there and they wasted a couple… If they just would have had a couple more million dollars and been a little smarter, it’d be a different story.
Aman: Just a little extra leverage that you have.
Scott: Yeah. Oh gosh. You’re going to end… The awesome thing for you is starting a company that performs really well in recessions. You’re going to be like the guy driving a Cadillac and you’re feeling good, but hopefully we don’t go there.
Aman: I know.
Scott: Keep going.
Aman: But that was kind of… The idea for us just back on the recession was I looked out at the trends and the patterns. You can see them in the different forms and I was like, “Why did the society act so reactive?” Right? What was the reactive state of all this economy and you realize you don’t pay attention to what matters until it’s after the fact. Right? Everyone loves money coming in, which is a variable and actually money going out can be managed as a fixed kind of state, but we manage them in different terms, right? Money coming in to us is always like, “Oh, it’s just going to happen. It’s always going to happen and it’s fixed.” And we’re never thinking about money going out because it’s like, “Oh yeah, whatever. It’ll go in and out, it’ll be fine,” but the leverage and the smart way is actually flipping it back, right?
Scott: It’s so true. Yesterday, I had this… Because part of our role for our Kruze clients is to be a little bit of like the hey, you might be spending too much money right now. One of my favorite founders, we worked for her for like three years, she’s an amazing entrepreneur and I kind of had to get her on the phone yesterday and be like, “Hey, I think you could probably tighten this up $100,000. I’m serious. And, she was like, “Well, we’re ramping for our raise, “ and I’m like, “Your burn is a little high. You may not be able to raise the money you think you can because you’re burning so high. That’s like an actual input.” And so, she was so appreciative and gracious. It’s kind of a tough message to deliver, but you need to deliver it. But, I think coming back to your guys’ software tools, you’re making this available for CEOs so that they don’t need… obviously this is a role we play where we’re bringing this stuff up with them, but they’re also seeing it more in real time. So, it’s less of a shock to them, or it’s less of a come to Jesus conversation. It’s like they know what’s going on.
Aman: Yeah, exactly. And, so after that CFO layer where they… Or giving this back-office more strategic position to play, there was one final realm that connected that all together for us. And that’s where we’ve been developing into spend culture what we’d like to package it up as. And it’s basically allowing, can you have three purpose mastery, autonomy, and purpose inside organizations. You have to spend money inside companies. This is the reality, you have to, but if you’re able to do it in a way that gives the autonomy to the end user so they can make the decisions they need to because what I find on the other side of that is with ad hoc processes, you’re just putting in a significant amount of policies inside your organization, which constraints the actual company from making smart quick decisions. So, if you’re removing policies and you’re putting a system in place that allows you to get real time tangible information and so that end users can quickly achieve their goals they need, but at the same time, the organization as a aggregate is managed, then you’ve got best of both worlds. You don’t need fundamental control and you don’t give away the relaxed idea of do whatever you want. It’s bringing those together from the end users getting what they need done and that comes from change management, right? Build something, give tips on something that allows them to get the change management side of their organization quickly, but still allows everyone to do what’s necessary.
Scott: Well, you’re unbottle-necking a lot of people. Think about how many people are sitting around needing some type of approval for something every day and you’re making that so much faster. So, I really do believe that your tools make companies move faster. It’s pretty cool.
Aman: I appreciate that. And that’s the ultimate goal coming from the understanding of money and how sticky it is and it’s an icky topic, right? I use this silly word like icky, but it is. It’s like, man, who wants to talk about money? Who wants to talk about the money that you’re spending, right? Nobody wants to talk about that. Nobody wants to deal with that.
Scott: Well, for different reasons.
Aman: For different reasons, right? So how do you bring all of that together in a way that doesn’t make it uncomfortable conversation? And so, making companies move faster is just around removing that idea of what money is and it should be a positive vessel for organizations to leverage, not reactive and terrifying conversations that ends up happening.
Scott: The funny thing is we’re used to talking about money, but you’re right, sometimes people they don’t want to talk about it, or they don’t want to talk about it because they don’t know, they’re kind of uninformed. And so, having that conversation, having the tools to see this stuff is huge. So you brought all these trends together and then were like, I got it. Procurify. Is that how it happened?
Aman: I wish it was that easy. It’s been an interesting journey just to see this landscape and this whole idea of what it’s like to deal with this back end sticky process and it’s been a journey to build a product and value more so to organizations around this space because you start to realize what it is at the different stages and scales and how people are thinking about money and how they manage it inside their organizations and developing through that systematically and progressing as a product and as a company to help organizations around that, it’s a journey, right? We’re trying every day to get better at it and improve from where we started around how we can actually create value. And like you said, to help companies move faster and smarter in the way they’re managing their money.
Scott: I love it. I love it. Good for you. Well, maybe you could talk about some of the features, or what Procurify does as a business software.
Aman: Absolutely. It’s funny, we’re not an analytics tool. We don’t just come and sit on top of your platform. We actually deliver you a product that’s not just based on technology, but actually simplifying a process within your organization, or adapting a process within your organization. So, we give every user in the company the ability to request and through that request phase, or capturing span, we look at whether you’re making requests, or an expense, or a proactive expense, which we’re moving into. However, you’re deciding to spend money, we have an app that you can do that. And then through the process in which your company operates, we have different approval processes that allows your team lead, or the higher ups, wherever you are, the side-ups, whatever you call them, to kind of take a look and make the right decision with the data that’s been provided. And then either it’s sent to a centralized purchasing team, or you have a decentralized purchasing team, or you have a decentralized end user that’s making their own spend and spend decisions. We really just give you the software that allows you to manage your organization the most strategic way possible. And so that’s approval processes, requisitions, expense, receiving, AP. So, we handle some invoices and we’re moving into the payments processing phase of this. So, our goal is to really automate and be the background in people’s lives so that you just spend the least amount of time possible on us. We don’t want you to be spending more time on our system. We want you to spend the least amount of time on our system and just get out of your way so you focus on the things that matter to you.
Scott: Do some of the quick clicks. What’s like a hypothetical flow? Is that like someone needs to buy a piece of software, or a piece of equipment and they’re entering in the Procurify system and then it’s moving up for approval flow? Help people visualize what the software does.
Aman: It’s a different form. So, either internally you could have an ad hoc flow of like you need this item and so you can fill in the…
Scott: So, it’s a request?
Aman: Yeah. So, a request, or so there’s a few different flows, right? So, there’s the request. I might have a catalog built out for the company. So, you might just go in and pick an item that’s already in the catalog. We might have an integration into one of your suppliers. So, you just go on Amazon and click like, “Hey, I need these five things.” And it shoots it over into Procurify. And so, then somebody will get a notification based on the structure you have to say whether it’s to approve this, check the budget in real time, and once approved it’s either automatically purchased, or it’s sent to a team to purchase, or you go buy it yourself. So. it’s really those different forms. And then we also have that layer of expense, which we call reactive spending, or just quick, individual, synced items that you need to buy. Like maybe I’m going to go to Starbucks, I still need to file a receipt and an expense so I can go do that.
Scott: Maybe talk about who your target market is. Are you SMB? Are you an enterprise? Who are you going after?
Aman: Our goal has always been mid-market companies actually. I really… So, when you’re a very small business, you don’t really necessarily have processes in place. You’re still kind of figuring that out and they’re ever changing processes. But I find that in mid-market companies, they’re typically solidifying their processes at their stage, but they’re not at the stage of enterprise where I find they don’t really necessarily care what their processes, whether good or bad. They just want you to like their way. I’m just being very honest, right? Change management is very difficult the larger you get. And so, I really want to support these companies that haven’t been able to afford these massive ERP systems that are best in breed and massive costs. We want to build a simplified product that gets into as many people’s hands that love best practice and it’s cost effective for them to use, right? And I find that mid-market stage is really exciting.
Scott: Well also as a SAS tool, it’s so easy to get up and running. And that mid-market… In our client base, we’re all venture capital backed startups. So we maybe, we’re a specific type of small business, or we’re small business that are scaling very quickly so they tend to have kind of the spend traits of a mid-market company. So that’s why we’re using you guys, but you said it there very well. Again, by implementing Procurify, you’re actually building an actual business process and it’s easy for people to follow along and understand how it works. They can visualize it through the app. It’s actually a really nice tool, not just for software but actually it affects the business user which is pretty cool.
Aman: Yeah, I really like what you said, which is like, that scaling up really fast and I implore anybody to start thinking about putting good processes in place early on because the later stages you grow and you start to think about these processes, the more difficult it is to implement something that can actually help you because it just becomes way too clustered inside these organizations for change management to occur.
Scott: I agree with you on that. That makes total sense. Or, you had made a colossal mistake on something. A crazy amount of money got spent, or something, and then your reaction. So, it’s kind of like having a good CFO firm, or a good HR person. Procurify is the same thing. Get ahead of it, get it in early, so you don’t have that crazy expense that would’ve paid for three years of Procurify if you just would’ve caught that on one thing. That’s literally… We’re in similar businesses in a sense that people when their financials are messed up because they’re working somewhere not great and they can’t raise their rent, or something weird is happening. Your MNA is going sideways. They’ll call us and you’re the same way probably like, “Oh my gosh, Bob spent $25,000 without any approval and we can’t let that happen again.” We need your system, right? And so…
Aman: The [crosstalk] into some high six figures we’ve seen.
Scott: Oh, I believe it. I believe it. There’s actually a good case study. You should… Right now, like right this moment, we’re recording, September 18th, Jason Lumpkin from SaaS, who I love. One of his team members bought Cvent, who wasn’t authorized to buy it. This is a classic situation you could have solved for them. And I think it was like a $37,000 annual subscription.
Aman: He’s going at them right now on Twitter, which is [inaudible 00:21:00].
Scott: Which I don’t necessarily agree with, but I think he’s saying it’s a learning moment, but my point actually is classic example of someone spending $37,000 that shouldn’t have spent it. And if they were using your tool, that wouldn’t have happened. So, I think there’s examples everywhere when you just start to look for it. And I think kind of circling back, don’t be the company that waits until there’s a recession, or funding is tight to start looking at this stuff. Be proactive, put it in place, it’ll pay for itself. That’s the great thing about it.
Aman: Yeah, I agree. And I appreciate that. And it’s very true. And I love Jason Lumpkin and I think he’s just amazing in SaaS and I love his tweets. But yeah, you’re right. It’s just getting ahead of the curve. That’s it, right? As fast as possible.
Scott: It pays for itself. Pays for itself. Well, what about… You guys are working on some new product launch stuff. Do you want to kind of share that with the audience, or your new features?
Aman: Yeah, I appreciate that. We’ve been very much focused on process driven mindset inside organizations and building a product we’re in process. But we’re also now really focusing on the technology layer and one of those areas is really taking expense from the reactive state to proactive state. And so, we’re launching our virtual cards and debit credit cards, which allows organizations to manage kind of that idea of if I have to make a quick decision, at least I’m aware of it before it’s actually done. So, if I have somebody… If I need to go spend 20 bucks, or 25 bucks at Starbucks, which probably now it’s like $50 for two drinks, I don’t even know anymore. It’s just like ridiculous. Everyone in the organization will have a physical card as well as the ability for virtual cards. And so yeah, if I request that money and it gets approved, it’s immediately launched onto the card. What’s exciting is if I go and swipe it at Best Buy or something, or if the idea of fraud, it doesn’t actually go there, but if I go to Starbucks and I swipe the card, boom, it’s spent, it’s done. But I don’t have to reconcile that. I don’t have to do any… Get a way for my money to come back to me. The company will have all the digital information. So, let’s be more proactive around that expense. We still will allow for reactive, or like the quick need for expense that people do. But we’re actually adding that other layer of technology which allows you to have that corporate card idea and then we’ll just have the fundamental need as an organization around spending.
Scott: That’s awesome. And how does the corporate card, we’re financial dorks, so does that sink in through Procurify, or does it come into QuickBooks, or how does the integration of that card work?
Aman: Yeah, so it actually goes through Procurify and then the reconciliation is just in like… it’s instant. It just can enter that information and goes to your back office like an accounting system that you have and then it’s just all brought together so you don’t have to do anything.
Scott: That’s kind of one of the… Our little secret is we love tools like yours because it makes our reconciliations so much faster and more accurate and no accountant likes doing that and so, and Vanessa, our founder, Vanessa Kruze is the one who found the original cloud tools like Gusto and build.com and some of these, QuickBooks online. But, we’ve been able to start serving super early seed stage companies at incredibly low-price points because of tools like Procurify because we actually can do less manual work and it’s more about setting things up correctly. And so, it’s great because earlier stage companies are getting great accounting via us and via the innovations that people like you are bringing to the market. And it’s not like the bang your head against the wall kind of work that most accountants hate doing. So, you’ve made our life better as an accounting firm, which is awesome.
Aman: I appreciate that and likewise on that side, the biggest thing I find that organizations for change management, they need people they trust. And what I appreciate about what you guys do is you guys go in there with the right thought knowledge and the thought process for organizations to think about how to best impact themselves. Not just for today but for the days to come. And helping them get ahead of that curve and bringing in the right mindset, not just the right tools, but the right mindset around those tools actually make a massive difference because a tool is only a tool. How you implement it and how you use it on a regular basis, that is the fundamental, right?
Scott: We train a lot. We train a lot of CEOs and a lot of operations managers and we’ll even train the rank and file at companies to use this stuff because we just believe in it so much. So it’s a nice combo. And then, you guys have also made a pretty big initiative into community building lately, which I think is super smart. I’m a big fan of that, but maybe talk about… And I think is Dani your community and PR person leading that, or who’s leading that initiative?
Aman: Yeah, I mean she has been through and through the heart for us around really getting connected with the community, the CFOs, the operations leaders and bringing them together and with working with Kruze Consultants like you guys have… It’s great to connect everyone because listen, all of us want to be happy in life. There’s no question, right? We’re all looking for happiness. Nobody can deny that. Nobody wants to wake up and be unhappy, right? And so, how we fundamentally take our lives into work and what we do matters to us. It matters to the people around us and in organizations, it’s proven, it’s scientifically proven. If you’re happier at work, you’re doing better, you’re doing better for the people around you. How do we connect these communities and allow them to really leverage each other’s knowledge through, and for us, we call it culture chats and bringing these leaders together and to know that they’re more valuable than they even think. That their happiness does matter. If they’re able to remove some of these non-value-added tasks and automate some of their life, they can really push themselves to think about what is their purpose and what does that proactive actual value that they can add to themselves and to the company.
Scott: Also, I’ll tell you what makes people happy is not waking up and having seen someone’s spent $37,000 unapproved, right? There’s a comfort your company brings to people and knowing that things are on the rails and things aren’t going to happen. And so that’s part of it. And also, as like a CFO firm, an accounting firm, being able to trust your software and put our clients on it is actually comforting us. I don’t have to wake up worrying if Procurify is going to work or not, or if I’m going to look really bad in front of the clients. We actually love when we find an awesome tool like you guys, we get behind it because it makes our life easier. And it, as you said, it brings comfort to everyone involved and the manager team sleeps easy knowing they’re using the best software.
Aman: Yeah. No, I really appreciate that. And I don’t take that lightly. I genuinely want to make sure, like our entire life is based around making sure we create value for other, right? And our customers, our team, everyone wants to create this deep-rooted value so that we make people’s lives better, right? That’s the intent. And that’s what we’re going to try.
Scott: I totally agree. We have the same philosophy. If you look on our website, or Cora, or Twitter, Vanessa especially is just a monster, right? We basically share every best practice we can think of and then we’ve kind of found is… And I think we’ve probably written something about you, or we need to write something… Part of this is the podcast of getting this going to promote you guys, but we just find that, I think you probably share the same belief, when you give, it also comes back around in unforeseen ways and so, that’s how we live life too.
Aman: I really appreciate that and that’s what I love actually, I was looking at your guys’ materials and I love that you guys are actually on the forefront of all this sharing of that information and I think that’s what makes you guys special. The ability, you guys are some of the first core relationship we built actually with and done an event with. I think it’s because we connect on the similar values, which is really exciting for me.
Scott: Thank you. Well, thank you for the kind words. Well, this has been a great interview. I would love to wrap it up, but let you kind of just articulate one more time what Procurify does and how it can make people’s lives easier.
Aman: Oh man, that’s always the pressure. Listen, if you want… All I think about is empowering your organization to work smarter and simpler around spend and not make it a reactive state. We really want to just focus on people doing the best they can in their day. And, I personally would want people to see Procurify in action for themselves so that it walks the walk and come take a look at the website and if they want to have a conversation about us, I feel like my pitching is terrible for this and that I like for it to speak for itself.
Scott: You’ve done a good job and I’m sure you have a very good VP of sales who can pick up the pitch for you, but we’ve seen I think, unsolicited testimony here, but we’ve seen Procurify in action at a bunch of companies and we’re implementing it across a lot, so we believe we like it. I really recommend people check it out and it all comes back to those unhappy surprises you can get and also don’t be the kind of company that waits for the recession before you start focusing on spend. I’m serious. I’ve seen it. I’ve been through two bad recessions. Be the people who are doing it before. It’ll really help you and Procurify can help you do that. Aman, thank you so much for coming on podcast. Appreciate it.
Aman: Thank you very much, Scott. Really appreciate it.
Scott: Hope you enjoyed that episode of Founders and Friends Podcast. Quick shout out to Brex. The first startup credit card, Brex is our sponsor and really appreciate their support. Brex has no personal guarantee for founders. That’s a really big deal. It integrates really nicely with QuickBooks, great rewards that are startup-centric. It’s a really nice little tool and we are seeing it all across the Kruze portfolio of clients. So, check it out. And again, if you go through the signup flow and type in Kruze, you get a discount. So hopefully you’ll check out Brex. Thanks again for the support on the podcast, guys. Take care.

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