Drasko Jelavic, CEO and Founder of Cirtuo, an automated category management solution.
During the conversation, Drasko shared his thoughts on Aristotle, AI engines, collective effort, credibility, guided strategy for all and pina coladas.
1. What’s Cirtuo’s mission?
The short answer is to make procurement more strategic.
Over the last 10 to 15 years, there has not been much development in procurement. Between 2010 and 2020, we saw the longest period of economic expansion, but
“procurement wasn’t seen as important as other departments were able to take advantage of it. Along came COVID and supply chain disruption and a sudden need for development in procurement and digitalisation!”
Now we are forced to change our attitudes, as evolution is driven by a scarcity of resources which we are seeing right now, so there is an great opportunity for procurement to get to that level.
Cirtuo’s mission is to develop procurement on a tactical and strategic level to help get its rightful seat at the table and encourage managers to focus more on business needs and wants, understand the challenges and address business requirements and the right category, supplier and risk strategies.
In terms of our USP, I know we are currently the only solution focused on category and supplier strategy. We have an AI engine supporting this activity which the market is finally starting to recognise.
2. What have been the most significant milestones on the Cirtuo journey so far?
In 2010, we launched the first version of Cirtuo’s software to support the strategy creation process. It took many years to create demand for digital solutions and Category strategy, but we achieved it.
Our second milestone was in 2018 when we positioned ourselves as a technology company. We recognised we couldn’t do consulting, coaching and develop software; you need a whole different set of skills to make each of them happen.
Another big milestone happened just before the pandemic when we launched guided strategy creation. We recognised that our software needed to support Category Management in an automated way to develop, validate and implement category strategy. It was perfect timing because after the first wave of solving supply chain disruption during COVID, large corporations recognised its value and wanted to digitise that process. Now they can update category strategies quicker and better address their business needs.
Our final milestone is the current company’s transformation. We are growing our team and improving each function, governance and compliance process. It’s tough to restructure and transform just 20 to 30 people, so imagine what it’s like for bigger companies with 100,000 people!
“We are in the product development cycle where we are integrating new principles, artificial and human intelligence, and becoming more agile and efficient in an unpredictable world.”
3. What do you look for in the perfect customer?
Our customer base has changed a lot. Originally, we operated on a regional level and then with mid-sized companies, but since 2021 it has significantly changed where we now attract larger corporations like Fortune 500s.
“For us, a perfect customer has a mature attitude towards strategy and procurement and they recognise the value of strategy and know how to develop and deliver strategy procurement.”
With our new product, we want to support less mature organisations and work faster together and not even think about the value of strategy, but to just do it.
4. What are the foundations of a great team?
I’m actually very lucky that I have great people around me. From the beginning when we were a small team, we decided to establish our values which were credibility, clarity and responsiveness.
We want to be a credible provider full of knowledgeable people who know what are they talking about and can talk strategy with a clear dialogue and clarity – there is no hidden agenda. It’s what we are known for.
We are very responsive, especially in our customer service.
I think the foundation of a great team is having clear values and a good culture: it’s obvious to us as no one has left us for many years! There must be something good as we are attracting the right people and customers … I’m happy about that.
The challenge now is growing the team and preserving these values. In the past, I was doing everything and speaking to each employee, but as we continue to expand, that just isn’t possible. I cannot reach everyone and give personal feedback. It’s a tough job.
5. As we emerge from COVID what will you be doing differently?
That’s a tough question. We changed as an organisation during COVID. We had just launched our GSC (Guided Strategy Creation) before COVID and attracted many new customers so it was necessary to change anyhow.
We just tried to make things more efficient like structure and making Cirtuo even better by listening to business and market needs: What are the needs of the market in terms of strategy? How do we address company needs? They weren’t too strategic in the past, because we noticed the gap between mature and less mature companies was getting bigger in terms of procurement, so that’s something that we try to address. Larger organisations tend to have larger teams in procurement and better understand how to attract the right talent – they have bigger budgets too.
“We are still a small organisation in comparison, but we find it easy to talk with highly developed procurement organisations. The smaller the organisation, the more difficult it is for us to approach, talk, explain, create demand and mobilise with them.”
6. What is the vision for Cirtuo in the future and what will be most important to achieve it?
Cirtuo wants to bring strategy and procurement to mass market. We want to become the number one solution, expand and maintain that position.
It will be difficult because there are other smart people who will deliver new services to providers. We are currently pioneering and striving to bring category and supplier strategy to as many organisations as possible. As part of our development, we will keep simplifying the product and make it a more integrated, seamless, agile solution.
7. How are you doing good for the planet?
To be honest, at the beginning, sustainability was not on my radar, but we are becoming more aware of it and integrating it into our strategic thinking. There will be more on sustainability in terms of strategy enhancement and delivery.
“The procurement community is made up of an army of individuals, where we are all understanding the impact of our decisions. It’s a collective effort and awareness is only increasing.”
INSTANT DRASKO INSPIRATION
1. What is your favourite book or blog?
A few years ago, I read Leading Change by John Kotter which I enjoyed and found it quite inspirational. My favourite non-business book is Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.
2. Who is your favourite inspirational leader?
He introduced its theory and focused on leadership. I’ve read some articles and books on it which fascinated me. He said if you want to be a leader, you have to intimately understand the wants and needs of the group you are leading. Every good leader has good followers. I can relate to that.
3. What is your favourite app or piece of technology?
I have to admit, I like LinkedIn a lot, I’m an avid user. I had my doubts when Microsoft took over, but they improved it and I’m enjoying it.
4. What is your favourite cocktail?
5. What’s your favourite way to celebrate a success?
That’s a difficult one as our team works what feels like 24/7, so when we do, there are a lot of us – about 60 to 70! For example, we’ve an event in a couple of weeks in Zagreb with our selected partners and clients, where we will bring ourselves together instead of being online in work mode all the time.
1. Consistency is key – product-market fit will come, if you are prepared.
2. Recognise that to do consulting, coaching and develop software, you need a whole different set of skills to make each of them happen.
3. The foundation of a great team is having clear values and a good culture that you all share and believe in.
4. Don’t even think about the value of strategy, but to just do it.
5. Embrace continuous development. It’s all part of the learning curve.
6. Sustainability is a collective effort, impacted significantly by the individual decisions of the procurement community.
7. If you want to be a leader, you have to intimately understand the wants and needs of the group you are leading.
Cirtuo’s mission is to empower your strategic breakthrough in procurement and make it easy, interactive, and highly effective. Trusted by industry leaders in telecom, manufacturing, brewing, pharmaceuticals, and others, Cirtuo is transforming the procurement function into a strategic champion that captures opportunities and faces risks head on. A strategic champion that is conscious of all the opportunity at its fingertips and risks that need to be managed. An integrated strategic software, Cirtuo helps you translate strategies into tangible initiatives that deliver accelerated savings, reduce risks and create value. Not only does it streamline collaboration across the procurement and stakeholders, it reduces errors, delivers measurable improvement, is backed up by reliable benchmarks, and enhanced with the AI platform Guided Strategy Creation™.
Our industry is moving forward faster and faster, empowered by innovative, progressive digital procurement solutions created and led by inspiring teams. ProcureTechSTARS are the digital procurement company CEOs and Founders that are leading the change, they are entrepreneurs, engineers and architects collaborating to transform procurement and the enterprise. In an open conversation with these leaders Lance Younger will be discussing the highs and lows of building the future now, the challenges they’ve faced, their perspective on accelerators and hot topics, and what keeps getting them up in the morning (and keeps them up at night).