Jessica Garrant, Director of Human Resources Strategy at Lucy Therapeutics discusses her teams’ need for a purchasing solution and how they implemented a new system. She praises the implementation process and the support they received from their implementation specialist. Jessica also highlights the benefits of using a purchasing platform for biotech startups, emphasizing the time and cost savings it can provide.
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Tell me a little bit about Lucy Therapeutics, your mission, and what you do there.
We are a small biotech company out of Waltham, Massachusetts. We actually found order.co when we moved to Waltham. We were in Cambridge, Massachusetts before at a location called Lab Central, and they handled a lot of our procurement - so that's actually how we found Order.co. Anyways, we’re looking for the key drivers in complex diseases and specifically mitochondria. That's our main focus and what our scientific team works on. So, we utilize the Order.co platform for a lot of our lab supplies.
What do you do as the Director of HR Strategy?
My role is not really limited to my job title. Because we're such a small startup, with 13 people including myself, you really can't just do one role, right? That's part of what has always attracted me to startups — the opportunity to to learn, grow, and try different things.
In my position, not only am I focusing on HR initiatives — benefits, compensation, payroll, recruiting, things of that nature — but I also have a heavy hand in our social media strategy.
I'm able to have a hand in a lot of different things and that's also how I ended up spearheading this implementation with Order.co. I do a little bit of everything, which is really normal for everybody at Lucy. We're all doing a bunch of different things and propelling us forward.
What did your purchasing process look like when you realized you needed a software solution?
When we came from Lab Central, they had a system there. I came on right as we were moving out of Lab Central to our own location in Waltham. Most purchasing was done primarily through their platform. Everything came in, the individuals at Lab Central checked it in for us, they let us know when it was there. It was a very non-manual process, but it was handled primarily by that third party.
When we moved to Waltham, obviously we didn't have that anymore. We had all our vendors set up, but there's so many of them. And, when you have multiple people that are actually ordering, you really can't be organized. You can't follow budgeting — there's a lot of areas that you're going to end up wasting time or funds, right?
And the thing to remember about biotech is that you're not generating revenue at this stage — so sticking to budgets is even more critical. We really needed to make sure that we're staying within budget, being organized and following our protocols.
So, we had a manual process in place, but right from the start, your scientific team is trying to focus on science — and how can they do that if they're trying to remember the login for this and the login for that? And certain things are non-taxable and we have all these different moving parts. So we needed a system where we could just make it easy.
We looked at quite a few — five total. Order.co was recommended to me by a colleague, and they were the clear winner. I mean, the very clear winner.
All the other systems seem to have this one fatal flaw that was a heavy manual piece, and Order.co just didn't have that. There are certain things that we can't actually utilize the platform for, but they're very minimal, and they’re things that you would expect.
I just knew looking at it — I said there's no way this is going to work. This is going to cause more stress. And, if we can look into a platform that's cost effective, and can tie to our budget, and QuickBooks, and all these things that we needed it for.
What was that fatal flaw that you kept seeing come up in all of the other software that didn’t apply to Order.co?
The flaw seemed to be the same with all of them. It was like, “Oh, no, no, no, no. This is just where you assign your budget — then you order it yourself and you import the information into the accounting system somehow or you enter it, and then it filters to QuickBooks.”
I don't understand the logic behind that. I don’t understand why any company would want that. To me, if you're going to have a procurement system, the system should actually order the product for you.
And if there's an issue, they should handle the return for you. And, it should actually flow into QuickBooks — and it's going to be one fluid process. So, we just kept running into that same manual piece.
I’ll be honest, when I did the the call with Order.co, I was waiting for it. We actually asked that question like, “do you actually order it for us because we had heard already that they all these other platforms did not actually order it for you.”
Once you finally found a system that does the purchasing for you, what did the implementation process look like? What was your experience like as you rolled Order.co out to your team and completed the set-up.
I've done a lot of these system implementations, mostly for human capital management, HRIS and payroll systems, but this was the best implementation I've ever done.
Doing this type of system for the first time, I was expecting more bumps in the road. First of all, the utilization of the the project management system — that we got access to immediately — I loved that because you go in, you check off the tasks. You know exactly where it is. You could ping your implementation representative right from there. So there wasn't any back and forth in email, or maybe you forgot to include someone and then you're CCing them and they're responding to an old email. Right? It's all within this project management platform. Huge plus. We always knew where everything was.
We had weekly check-ins with Nicole, our implementation consultant. She just kept us in line — we knew what we needed to tackle on our part before the next meeting. Myself and the team, before we hung up the call, everybody knew who was tasked with what.
We were actually ahead of schedule. Nicole joked with us, “you guys are really ahead” and I said, “this has been so easy!” That speaks volumes to, not only to the ease of implementing the system, but also that Nicole was very skilled at what she did.
Once implementation was complete, Nicole ran a training for us, so there was also a level of accountability — if Nicole had said something during the set-up that wasn't coming to fruition, she would be there to answer for it. Now, that didn't happen, but you don't see that a lot of times in implementations. They're like, “I'm handing it off. You're now going to the training team and then you're going to your your account representitive.” But Nicole was still there. She was still part of the process.
Once we knew how to use the system, then myself, the operations person, our executive assistant and our accounting manager — we actually did all the ordering first before we rolled it out to our extremely busy science team.
Then, when we knew the system well and it was set up exactly how we wanted it — with the proper cost centers, classes, QuickBooks integration — we were ready to go live, which was only about two-weeks.
Order.co did another training for our scientific team when they were ready. Many times, businesses will only give you one one training and then they’re done. With Order.co there wasn't that type of resistance — it was nice to have that time frame where we were able to learn it and then roll it out to the science team when we were sure.
You’re a biotech company and ordering from a lab. You’re not our “typical” Order.co customer. Did you have any reservations about coming on board when you haven’t seen similar businesses to Lucy Therapeutics using the platform?
I will be completely honest — that was certainly a hesitation for us. But when I was putting together the business case for this platform, the fact that there is a a timeframe where you can try it out and then, if it's not working for you, you're not bound. Having that ability to to try out the system was key. It wasn't a heavy lift in terms of implementation. You guys really did everything we gave you all of our information for our vendors and then you guys kind of took it from there.
Being able to actually try it out and and know that we're not locked into this if it's not working out was what made the decision for us.
It really was because again, being a small biotech startup, utilizing a platform that's not specific to the industry, there is that there is that little bit of, “Oh, what if, what if we don't like it and we're stuck on this for two years and it's not working out for us.” What really made it an easier sell for me on for my job, but it also took a level of anxiety off of myself and the team where we weren't feeling like, “Oh goodness, we can't pull the trigger on this because if it's wrong, it's going to be pretty bad for us.” It was easily drowned out by having the option to to actually try the platform fully before.
What manual processes do you feel like are totally off your plate now that you have the system up and running and working for you?
My favorite one is the approval process. We set up like approval limits for each individual that is on the platform. If there's something that I need to approve, or one of the managers needs to approve, we get an email. We don't have to worry about something accidentally going through or if somebody already ordered something and there may have been like a mix up in communication, we don't have to worry about that.
It’s also huge to stick within the budget. Working in a startup, when you're not generating that revenue on the back end, it's very critical to make sure that you're staying within your budget. So, when we finalize the budget for 2023 and we had these figures in place, it was easy to just plug them in and we get these reports.
That's I guess that's another piece too. The reporting is great; it not only filters into QuickBooks, but we can actually pull reports directly from Order.co to see how much of one specific product we're ordering from one vendor, or how much we're ordering from one of the designated vendors, and where we're saving money.
Order.co took pretty much all the manual processes off except for actually selecting what you’d like to purchase. But you can't complain about that, right? It does all the heavy lifting for you in terms of documentation, price matching, like all of that is just done right there. So it's really nice.
What advice would you have to another biotech startup whose purchasing is getting a little bit overwhelming?
Consider your return on investment in terms of labor hours.
That's a big thing that people miss out on calculating — how many labor hours are you spending with a manual process? Yes, you may be adding an additional cost per month for a platform, but when you break down the labor hours that you're paying an individual or individuals to do a manual process, you're actually more than likely going to result in a cost savings.
Labor hours are the thing that that I always tend to preach, having the HR background that I have. It's something that tends to be missed. If you're going to use all this time, that could be better utilized somewhere else — on your scientific research. If you're having somebody on the science team do all this ordering, think about how much more productive they can be if they get several hours of their week back.
In biotech, you're ordering a lot, constantly. It's almost daily. So when you have those daily hours back, you're able to actually produce more. So you're spending a little, but you're gaining a lot more in terms of saving time relating to labor hours.
Another piece I should mention is relating to morale. People aren't stressed out about how they're going to get these items ordered. I know that once they got up and running and they learned the system, it definitely boosted their morale, and they were able to continue to do the work that they came here to do, instead of sitting in front of a computer and logging into different vendors to order things.
Also, consider just giving it a shot. It's a quick process. You get what you put into it. And as far as the the implementation, if you're organized, the implementation will go just as quickly as ours did because the organization's already done for you within a project management system. It’s great, give it a shot.
Thinking about those labor hours, what do you think that number is for your team as a whole?
I couldn't even begin to calculate it only because there are so many individuals that do ordering. We have a lot — and that's what makes the process impossible to do manually. So I couldn’t even give you a number because there are so many people that do it. It's substantial.