Supplier Solutions: Adding Value to Buyer-Supplier Relationship

Nik Brisbin, Founder & CEO "If it can be done, I can do it,” is the philosophy driving Nik Brisbin to engage in tasks he finds very intimidating such as skydiving, scuba diving, rock climbing. Skydiving—that people perceive as flying—Brisbin describes as falling ‘really really’ fast. Though scared every time he gets ready to jump out of a plane, he does it anyway because the experience is worth it. He likens skydiving to PunchOut—both induce fear, invite misconceptions, and are difficult but doable. Brisbin explains how suppliers often fear and risk losing existing or new clients unless they leverage PunchOut. However, upon trying to build the PunchOut functionality themselves, suppliers face uncertainties as standards (cXML, OCI, and oagXML) that once applied to multiple procurement systems, now vary from system to system. With the explosion of B2B eProcurement systems in recent years, navigating those differences is more difficult than ever. But the business that comes along with offering PunchOut is so big that a supplier has to try it and this is where Supplier Solutions, the company Brisbin founded, comes into the picture. “We understand that PunchOut is scary, but we’re going to help suppliers do it anyway because it’s worth it,” quips Brisbin, who also heads the company as its CEO.

Supplier Solutions' products and solutions execute four main functions concerning PunchOuts. They provide a B2B transaction gateway for PO, invoice, and other trading documents. Following which they provide a one-to-many PunchOut integration for a supplier's existing catalog/storefront application. Then they provide PunchOut Ready storefronts that can be up and running in days. Finally, they deliver customizable transaction flows that can add third-party or custom features into any solution.

Unlike their competitors, Supplier Solutions offers a full-service integration wherein they do not provide the tools and leave the suppliers to figure out how to build the PunchOuts. Their implementation managers understand the full B2B ecosystem and will guide the suppliers through the whole process and actually perform the integrations.

"Currently our biggest footprint is with the mid-size companies that provide specialty parts and services to their niche business. They focus on what they are best at, and we provide the PunchOut connections"

The company's eStore-Connect product offers a powerful turn-key PunchOut solution that can get connected—fast and easy. It provides a full-featured hosted B2B storefront, back office integrations, and other advanced features such as seamlessly receiving POs, routing ship notices, and delivering invoices. The solution also provides buyers with custom catalogs, pricing, and bulk discounts while empowering them to find PunchOut Ready-certified suppliers for a seamless integration. “We manage the PunchOut Ready certification program to ensure suppliers' compatibility with eProcurement systems,” says Brisbin. eStore-Connect also ensures smooth supplier enablement and brings new suppliers for ERP providers.

The company’s other PunchOut products include enterprise-Connect that adds the PunchOut to the existing supplier stores, and e-Store-Connect-Express that helps suppliers to setup PunchOuts from the ground up. All of the Supplier Solutions’ PunchOut products can integrate with e-Procurement systems including Ariba and Oracle PunchOut Catalogs, Basware, PunchOut Marketplaces, Level2 PunchOut, B2B eCommerce, and others.

Supplier Solutions' applications are accessible and advantageous for Fortune 500 companies as well as small and medium sized suppliers thanks to their scalable pricing and out of the box thinking.

We understand that PunchOut is intimidating, but we’ll help suppliers through the process because the results are so lucrative

"Currently our biggest footprint is with the mid-size companies that provide specialty parts and services to their niche business. They focus on what they are best at, and we provide the PunchOut connections," explains Brisbin.

Supplier Solutions support many industries like MRO (Home Depot, Ferguson), healthCare (Cardinal Health, GE Healthcare), communication (Sprint), and more. The company proved its mettle when Amazon approached them at an Ariba conference for help with a difficult integration with Google. With engineers on six continents who required to purchase books from a restricted catalog set, Google's requirements proved too complex for Amazon. Undaunted by the big players involved, Supplier Solutions got to work, solved the problem, and orders started flowing in from all over the world.

What Sets Supplier Solutions Apart from the Rest?

As their name implies, Supplier Solutions provides solutions for suppliers. What truly differentiates Supplier Solutions is their focus on understanding the needs of the buyers in order to deliver PunchOut solutions to suppliers that can achieve the suppliers' mission to satisfy their buyers."We listen to buyers and they tell us what they need to make their eProcurement system work and what will help their overall processes," explains Brisbin and adds, "Most of our new business comes from buyers recommending us to their suppliers." The buyers comprise large organizations, corporations, government agencies, and higher educational institutes.

Partnering with and delving into the supplier’s current business processes, and working with their buyers, Supplier Solutions determines where the gaps are. Supplier Solutions then fills the gaps with functionality (eliminates manual processes and reduces effort duplication to save suppliers' time and money.) that completes the B2B ecosystem. With the Buyer-Supplier relationship morphing from the simple Collaboration model, to the new Partnership model, Supplier Solutions' integrations and automated processes promote focus on what makes these relationships better: service, product support, focused product catalogs.

Over the years, some of Supplier Solutions' competitors have declined in business because they built tools that no one used or took investor capital to grow too quickly. Some compeers migrated their focus to the buyer side applications, looking for bigger payouts. Others have unsuccessfully tried to address the needs of both suppliers and buyers. Supplier Solutions banks on their rich knowledge base and experience garnered over the years, investing 25 percent of revenue in R&D and building connections to new eProcurement systems. Brisbin himself has been a part of the B2B eCommerce space for over two decades including 2000 PunchOut integration projects.

Speed, scalability, service, and affordability are the benefits that Supplier Solutions' customers enjoy. "The company can get PunchOut sites up and running in days; we've got it down to a science," quips Brisbin. They can immediately scale up new suppliers, or buyers, enabling multiple integrations and offer unrivaled scalability. And, much to the clients' delight, they offer solutions up and down the price spectrum, backed by expert service.

Holistic Problem Solving

Quoting a line from a movie, “Do you listen or want to talk?” Brisbin notes how many of their competitors seem to want to “talk”, focusing on advertising and promoting what their applications can do.
On the other hand, "We listen to both the buyer and the supplier, learn about what they are trying to accomplish or solve, and come up with a holistic solution," remarks Brisbin.

For instance, Supplier Solutions recently solved a problem for the United Parcel Service of America, Inc. (UPS)— buyers wanted to include the purchase of the shipping services in their eProcurement process, like they purchased other supplies. Supplier Solutions developed a tool allowing procurement professionals at a national health organization to order UPS shipping from their desktop via PunchOut. This tool enables buyers to order their shipping via the same process as they order their office supplies and the user can print their shipping label from their desktop and even order pickup service. This allows buying organizations to match the summary invoices they receive from UPS to the requisitions and orders created in the PunchOut process and the UPS purchases can be tracked by the user. Supplier Solutions has made this revolutionary tool available via all eProcurement systems.

Workforce with a Heart to Help

Supplier Solutions takes pride in its employees who have a natural inclination and desire to help their customers. For instance, two of the company's employees are in a band that won the grand prize in a Corporate Battle of the Bands recently in Oklahoma City. They donated the proceeds to their favorite charity, Heartline and Supplier Solutions matched the donation. The company hires people who want to help others, and anybody who deals with customers are all naturally helpful and cooperative because they help such a diverse audience across the world, regardless of their background or their human nature. "This isn’t just work to us, this is who we are," says Brisbin.

Supplier Solutions: Genesis, Growth, and Goals

After the dot com bust, Brisbin had turned to consulting work and started working at an ecommerce storefront company in the new and growing eProcurement space. He was part of the first PunchOut integration in the state of Virginia whereafter he realized the burgeoning importance of such integrations in the B2B space, and he founded Supplier Solutions in 2002 to help suppliers connect to their buyers. The company offers not just a software package, but a one-to-many solution that connects a supplier to all of their buyers with expert guidance from integration consultants. Supplier Solutions started with just two small clients with a big customer that needed a PunchOut service. Leveraging the knowledge of PunchOut and supplier integrations, Supplier Solutions efficiently connected the clients to their buyer, and the buyer surprisingly turned out to be General Electric (GE). The multinational conglomerate was so impressed with the ease of successful integration achieved that they began referring suppliers to Brisbin's company, including Home Depot.

In the last 17 years Supplier Solutions has grown into one of the leading procurement solution providers today, helping clients control costs, save time, and minimize frustration both on the supplier and buyer side. With over 3000 integrations under their belt, Supplier Solutions is now compatible with upto 104 eProcurement systems.

The company's robust R&D department will continue to focus on new connection modules, adding to the backend integration and buyer system modules. Having seen outside financing change the focus of their competitors, Supplier Solutions continues to grow organically without outside financing. The company endeavors to help suppliers understand the complexities and meet the requirements of the Level 2 PunchOut functionality which can help organizations ease the buyers' search for a product with an initial search option. Referring to the changing eProcurement landscape, "As more eProcurement systems enter the market, we will advise our clients on how to best meet those needs, whether it be through Level 2 or Transparent PunchOut, Guided buying, or other innovative product offerings; Supplier Solutions will build tools and processes to help suppliers delight their customers, " states Brisbin and concludes with, "There are no unsolvable problems."

Supplier Solutions

Fairfax, VA

Nik Brisbin, Founder & CEO

Delivers best-of-breed PunchOut solutions that control costs, save time, and minimize frustration

Supplier Solutions