Nick Trout of Sourcewell joins host Matt Starnes to discuss cooperative purchasing.
This podcast covers:
- What is cooperative purchasing?
- Who is Sourcewell?
- What are the advantages of using Sourcewell?
- What makes Sourcewell different from other coops?
- How do you purchase, sign up, or learn more about Sourcewell?
Learn more about cooperative purchasing with Nick Trout!
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Read the full transcript of the podcast on cooperative purchasing
Matt Starnes: Thanks for joining us. This episode of the Sweepers and Tankers podcast dives into cooperative purchasing. Our special guest is Nick Trout of Sourcewell. In this episode we cover what is cooperative purchasing, who is Sourcewell, what does Sourcewell do, what are the advantages of using Sourcewell, what is covered under the Sourcewell contract, what makes Sourcewell different from other co-ops? And how do you purchase? And learn more about Sourcewell. All these topics and more I think you’ll find it really educational and informative. Thanks for joining us.
Announcer: Welcome to the sweepers and tankers podcast, sponsored by Johnston Sweepers, a Bucher company providing Endless Sweeping Solutions and by Bucher Municipal North America Powered by Innovation and specializing in the development and manufacturer of world-class recycling sewer cleaners for over 30 years. This podcast covers topics on the street, sweeper, and sewer cleaning equipment market. Now let’s welcome our host Matt Starnes.
Matt Starnes: Nick Trout, thank you so much for joining us today. Nick Trout: Yeah, thanks for having me, Matt, I’m very excited. Matt: You’re with Sourcewell and I think this is a part that sometimes can honestly sometimes confuse people if they’re not good with financing or really understanding how to buy a sweeper, a street sweeper or a sewer tanker or cleaning unit. Sometimes I think they’ve got to have all that cash or something lined up. But I think that the co-op purchasing is we’ve talked before but as kind of a unique approach to it, you kind of give like a one on one of what co-op purchasing is for folks.
Nick Trout: Yeah. And actually Matt, there’s kind of two parts of your question there and I’ll hit on both of them. The first is co-op purchasing. So in the public sector for cities, counties, schools these government education agencies, when they’re going out to make a purchase of certain dollar value or a certain quantity, quite often they run into that bid threshold where they can’t just go out and buy what they want outright.
Nick Trout: They have to go through and satisfy that competitive solicitation process to keep the auditors happy. And here at Sourcewell we like to say when a city is going out to buy when school is going out to buy, they have to actually ask two questions, what are they going to buy and how are they going to buy it? And quite often that how is, well we go out and do the bid, however, cooperative purchasing contracts, like what Sourcewell does is a way for those agencies to purchase through the contract. And in doing so they can potentially satisfy their bid requirements, their solicitation requirements so they don’t have to go out and do their own bid. And that can save potentially months of time, thousands of dollars in bid related costs. So it really is a considerable value to these agencies to have cooperative purchasing contracts available.
Nick Trout: And Bucher Municipal North America, Johnson Sweepers, you guys do have a contract with Sourcewell that our member agencies again, these, these government education agencies could purchase through. So that’s the cooperative contracts side on the leasing side. One of the other nice values we have here at Sourcewell, we actually do have some leasing vendors, leasing companies available through Sourcewell contracts. So not only could a city a county school what have you, not only could you purchase this sweeper through the Sourcewell contract and again satisfy those public bid requirements. You know, if you need to look at a lease situation, you need to get something set up that way. We have some other vendors you could partner with through that purchase too.
Matt Starnes: That’s really powerful. Honestly, I didn’t know about the leasing portion of it. And then the first part you mentioned, yeah, it’s, I can tell you from I’ve done sales before, I’m in marketing now, but I still interact with a lot of our, our sales support staff and the dealers on the dealer network. And those bids sometimes can be so challenging. Everybody has a little different nuances. So any help, I know the sales guys can get where that is really beneficial.
Nick Trout: No, absolutely. And we hear that. We hear both from our members again, who are those, those government education agencies about how much they like being able to get the products they want and need through Sourcewell contracts and from the sales reps of the vendors we have under contract, how much they like being able to present the contract to their customers as that value add on top of the products and services.
Matt Starnes: When you think about Sourcewell how would you describe it to folks? That’s always challenging sometimes when speaking with folks, but what exactly is Sourcewell and give a little bit about the history. I think that would be beneficial for our listeners.
Nick Trout: Absolutely. Sourcewell we are, we are acting, we are serving as a national level cooperative purchasing agency, again for Government Education and actually nonprofit organizations as well. So we are establishing cooperative purchasing contracts. The Sourcewell contracts for those agencies to purchase through. And we have over 300 plus awarded contracts at this time with nationally recognized brands, nationally recognized companies, for our 50,000 plus members to utilize. We have members across the entire United States and into Canada. Last year there was nearly $3 billion in sales that went through Sourcewell contracts. So we are seeing considerable use by our members again across the United States and into Canada. Matt: Wow, 3 billion. Oh my gosh, it’s a billion with a B. That’s amazing. Obviously, you’re attracting people and helping folks out and they see the value in this, which is the proof is in the pudding if you will.
Nick Trout: No, absolutely. You know, we like to say, for our members they’re deciding, they’re voting with the pocketbook, right? And so we, we really look at the sales going through the Sourcewell contracts as just the affirmation that we are providing value to our members. That this is a program they want to use, that we are legitimately helping them get the solutions that they need and want.
Matt Starnes: What would you say when you’re talking to people are the biggest advantages of using Sourcewell?
Nick Trout: There’s a number of advantages. Both if you are a city procurement officer looking to buy things you need or if you’re a sales rep out working with customers and trying to make sure you’re presenting the best value to them, you can, I would say a lot of it comes back to the ability to save time and money by purchasing through the Sourcewell contract.
Nick Trout: Not Having to go back out and duplicate a public bid process, but there’s also value in being able to choose the awarded vendor you want to purchase from and be able to assure that you’re working with a company and trust. Again, if you’re a city official making a purchase. Let me give you, I’ll tell you a recent story to kind of illustrate this. Not too long ago, one of our awarded, um, artificial turf vendors we have a range of products and services through our contracts. But one of our artificial turf vendors was working with the City of O’Fallon, Missouri and the city wanted to expand, uh, sports park. They were actually looking to, to purchase and bring in seven turf soccer fields, which is quite a large purchase if you can imagine. And the city was working with, with our vendor, the city liked working with our vendor and they, of course, we’re at the point where they were looking to complete the purchase.
Nick Trout: Now if the city had gone out and done their own public bid, then the city would have had to have gone out and done all of the necessary steps that are in the competitive solicitation process. That public bid process, they would have to do the public advertising, they’d have to get in all the responses. They’d have to go through and evaluate all the responses, do the award process. Then even after that, they’d have to sit through a protest period for everyone who wasn’t Awarded to say their peace, it takes considerable time months of time, typically six months or more than the city would have had to sit and wait. And then on top of that especially when you’re talking a large purchase like seven turf soccer fields, every Tom, Dick and Harry company responds to bids like that because everyone wants part of that sale potentially.
Nick Trout: And that’s going to include quite often a bunch of low-quality inferior competitor companies. But when you’re out doing your own public bid, there’s a good chance that this city would have been required to award the lowest bidder who could have easily been, again, one of these low costs, low-quality competitor companies. So at the end of the day, if they’d gone out and done their own bid, it would have taken the city a ton of time and they could have wound up with products, with services that they weren’t really happy with. Not to mention our Sourcewell vendor would have lost the sale, even though the city said we want to work with you. Yeah. So instead of, instead of that, what our vendor did is they presented their Sourcewell contract to the city. They said, hey we know you like this product you like working with us, we can continue to provide you these great services.
Nick Trout: We have a Sourcewell contract that you could purchase through to satisfy your bid requirements and be able to ensure you get these products and services and get them sooner. Now at that point, of course, there was some education that needed to happen. The city had some questions for the vendor. The city came back to us at Sourcewell with some questions and we’re always more than happy to answer questions, so no issues there. But ultimately we were all able to work with the city and got them to the point where they were comfortable and they said, absolutely let’s get this done through the contract. So they cut the PO and the city actually had that project done for them in 90 days, which is, I mean it’s an amazing turnaround when you’re talking a public purchase like that.
Matt Starnes: That’s fantastic, a true case story. And to just champion something I really love, which is free enterprise and cutting down on the unnecessary laborious tasks that are involved with some of these processes.
Nick Trout: Compliance is big for our members. We know that we hear that all the time. One of the phrases that keep coming up with government purchasing is no one wants to be first because no one wants to make it in the tabloids or anything like that. So we are striving to make sure we’re offering a compliant quality purchasing platform, purchasing option for our members.
Matt Starnes: With Sourcewell, what is exactly covered? I know you might not be able to go into too much detail because every situation’s a little bit different, I would imagine.
Nick Trout: Yeah. Under the Bucher Municipal North America, Johnson Sweepers Sourcewell contract. Currently it includes a range of Johnston branded sweepers, basically, the entire lineup of Johnston sweepers and some of the other Bucher branded sewer vacuums. You know, if you’re a sales rep and, and you are kind of curious at this point like, okay, if I’m presenting this to a customer how am I verifying what’s under the contract? How am I, sure that what I’m presenting here is all included in Sourcewell? My recommendation at that point is Todd Parsons at Bucher Municipal North America oversees, the Sourcewell contract and he’s a great resource there to help you kind of verify what all is through the contract with the processes selling through the contracts, pricing through the contract, those sorts of things. So don’t hesitate to get in touch with Todd and his team there too, to get those things verified.
Matt Starnes: Excellent. And for folks needing to contact us, of course, our website is a Johnstonsweepers.us and the phone number, 704-658-1333. And that’ll be in the show notes as well. So when you think about cooperative purchasing, I know there are other companies that offer this as well. What would you say is the Sourcewell differentiation or how is it different from other cooperative purchasing companies?
Nick Trout: That’s a great question and let me kind of lead their Matt by saying at Sourcewell we certainly want to help agencies feel comfortable utilizing our contracts, but we are also just big promoters in general of cooperative purchasing at large and making sure agencies are comfortable going out and looking for opportunities through cooperative purchasing contracts.
Nick Trout: But some of the things that make Sourcewell unique. I would say one of the big things is that we are actually a government agency here at Sourcewell, which is not particularly common in other large national level cooperative purchasing agencies. We are directed by a board of publicly elected officials. We even have a.gov website at this point. And those don’t just get handed out. You have to be pretty buttoned up to have a.gov website. And so as a government agency, there’s a couple of advantages we bring to the table. The first is we have the authority to actually go out and do our own competitive solicitations, our own public bids. That’s not something you can do outside of being a government agency. So most of the large national level cooperative purchasing agencies are relying on a sponsoring agency to actually go out and do the bid.
Nick Trout: We can do it ourselves. The other thing is we hear from our members quite a bit that they appreciate when they call us if they’ve got questions about the contract, questions about say a quote, they just got that they’re talking to another government employee. Someone who at the end of the day is just as worried as they are about compliant purchasing through these contracts. So they’re just, they’re comfortable, they’re comfortable giving me a ring saying, hey Nick, what can you tell me about this? This is what I heard from a sales rep, can you assure me here? So definitely some benefit there. And then lastly, what I would say is that as a government agency now any sort of profit that we would get through the use of contracts, well we can’t really make a profit, right?
Nick Trout: We’re the government. So any of the income we might receive, it’s going to go to cover our operating expenses. And then it gets funneled right back into our member communities across the United States. We support a number of different programs. We support communities in just a wide variety of ways and certainly, there are opportunities if anyone wants to see some of the specific things we’ve done on our website. There’s certainly new stories and whatnot about that.
Matt Starnes: I noticed the other day when we getting this all organized, the podcast recording and I was like, .gov I didn’t really notice that before. But from my experience, that is very difficult to come by. And I think that going back to people that might be concerned, we’re making sure they’re going into the due diligence and the process and in the fairness that you can really rest assured that you guys have those things in place. And that’s really powerful too about being able to bid yourselves, which is, which is really good. So if you’re interested in this, obviously the folks might learn about it at johnsonsweepers.us or buchermunicipal.us about Sourcewell how do they go about actually purchasing, signing up or learning more about Sourcewell?
Nick Trout: Yes, so for any cities, counties, schools, anyone out there looking for opportunities to utilize Sourcewell a resource Sourcewell contracts. You would want to sign up to become a Sourcewell member. And we have our membership signup is right on our website, which is www.sourcewell-mn.gov the very first thing you’ll see on the page, there is a link that says become a member. The membership registration form itself is very simple. It takes just a couple minutes to complete and once you complete that you’ll get followup communication from our membership department to help show you the different things that we are able to offer you.
Nick Trout: If you want to purchase through one of our contracts, utilizing our resources. If you are listening in today and you are a sales rep, a dealer for Johnson Sweepers, something like that, you actually have access and the ability to use the Bucher Municipal North America Johnson sweepers Sourcewell contract already. There is no additional sort of signup that you need to do or anything like that. I would just encourage you to reach out to myself here at Sourcewell and my contact information would be just Nicholas.Trout@sourcewell-mn.gov. Reach out to me and I can help get you additional information and resources on the Sourcewell contract and help you feel comfortable going out and presenting it as that value add to your customers or again, you could certainly get in contact with Todd Parsons and his team there at Bucher Municipal with the contact information Matt provided earlier.
Matt Starnes: Excellent. Nick, thank you so much for the time today and I think it’s a really good overview and especially, I love the case study story, the turf story as well. Something real in action, that was beneficial. I appreciate it very much and we hope to have you back on to talk about other developments as things are released at Sourcewell.
Nick Trout: Yeah, absolutely. Hopefully, we have some opportunities in the future. Matt, I really appreciate you made the time today and uh, again for anyone out there looking to learn more about Sourcewell again, our website is www.sourcewell-mn.gov.
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