Raj Sharma: Creating “Open Government Markets” for $10 Trillion in Global Public Procurement Spending
A public procurement and management expert, Raj Sharma shares his story and values in creating innovative platforms worth $10 trillion in global public procurement spending.
Raj Sharma is a public procurement and management expert who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Finance and International Business and an MBA in Entrepreneurial Studies.
In 2003, he co-founded Censeo Consulting Group, a strategy and operations consulting firm that was recognized nationally for its focus on using management as a tool for delivering public and social outcomes.
He has also served on various boards including the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Asian Law, and two non-profit organizations focused on improving access to education, Girl Rising and Higher Achievement.
Sharma also led several major research studies and authored various frameworks including the public procurement workforce competency model and Measuring Public Value (MPV) framework which are published in journals like Wall Street Journal and Harvard Business Review.
Currently, Sharma aims to create “open government markets” for $10 trillion in global public procurement spending to help both buyers and suppliers through the Public Spend Forum, a market intelligence and procurement innovation platform, and GovShop, a supplier and contracts intelligence platform.
CREATING A PATH ON HIS OWN
After working as an associate in Booz Allen Hamilton, Raj Sharma was supposed to work for another job but he decided to create a path on his own and take the risk even without a business plan, no contracts, and barely had $50,000 in the bank.
“Even through failures of not even being able to build, I thought I could take those lessons and then apply them in another job. And that would propel my career further. So that’s, I felt like there was really, I was just investing in myself and that’s all I thought about it.”
Sharma also called his best friend and asked him to join him in his venture. But in order for the venture to work, they talked about the core values of the firm first.
“To me, that was the most important thing. And I’ve always felt about any business. Yes. You know, you can have a strategy and a problem that you’re solving, but the core foundation of everything that makes you stronger, even, you know, if you think about it as a human being, right, as a person, it’s your values, right?”
Still, it was not an easy path for Censeo because the government cycle takes a while so in order for them to really get their first customer, they highlight the pain points of their customers and what the need is.
“Don’t think about the solution because, you know, that’s where we start a lot of times. Think about the pain points. What are you trying to solve for? So, I knew a lot about procurement having worked with some of these fortune companies but also then having seen the government.”
Then, during a defense wide strategic sourcing out of the Office of Secretary of Defense, they beat the competition and was awarded a government contract against all of the big firms in the industry.
“Anyways, it took me to, it took us a year. We had no preference. We had no minority certification. Nothing. We had no government experience. So, anybody who ever tells me that you need all of those things to work with the government, I say bullshit. Okay.”
DEMOCRATIZE INFORMATION FOR THE PUBLIC
The Public Spend Forum was built in order to provide solutions about how to change the way governments across the world spend $10 trillion.
“I want to do something. I’ve solved problems as a consultant, one by one; I want to see now, can we build something at a much bigger scale? Right. That can solve trillions of dollars in spending.”
However, after years of building it, they still had no idea how to exactly solve it but Sharma believed that they are still on the right path through the building of GovShop which they made in order to achieve the goal in democratizing the way people access market information.
“What if we just kind of unleashed this data on, in the hands of everybody and get all the bureaucrats out of the way, get all the leaders out of the way, get all the policymakers out of the way, give it to people that actually make a difference and do things on a daily basis can we empower them, right? And make them the heroes that they, we know, they can be.”
VALUES THAT HE INCORPORATES IN BUSINESS
As a child who grew up in India, Raj Sharma didn’t have a whole lot but there are other children who have nothing at all. This is where he learned that if he wants to get money, he has to earn it.
“I wanted to feel, like, really proud that we have done every single thing we can to earn every penny that we got from anyone. And that results driven is become like, if you go back and look at Cenceo is like so, core to the DNA of the firm, because it was so instilled people over-deliver all the time. And I’m very proud of that.”
Sharma aimed to always respect, trust, and do right towards people. As to how he believed that they should lead with values in making their projects, it should also be a win-win in terms of dealing with people.
“Any relationship we get into, whether it’s, you know, with our clients, with our staff, with our community, with our vendors, whoever it always needs to be win-win, right?”
ADVICE FOR SMALL BUSINESSES
1. Lead with value and not certification.
Before getting Censeo’s first client, Sharma and his partner waited for a year. All they had was their solution that solved the pain points and the needs of their clients. Sharma didn’t believe in leading with certification because it has no use in terms of really solving the problem at hand.
“You’re relying on some certification. I’m sorry, that’s not good enough. Right. That’s what I say, because I think it’s hard earned money. There’s a lot of people that deserve it. Right. Why should you get it? So I, that’s my guidance to people. I know it might sound harsh to people, but I’m all for value. And like, if you are the best set, I, you know, you should get it.”
2. Mindfulness is key.
Even with being on board and managing his businesses, Sharma still makes sure that he is mindful and centered every single day in order to make good decisions and always do the right thing. With this, he has a consistent morning routine, he meditates daily, and drinks 16 ounces of water daily.
“I think it’s really important because life is complicated, right? Running a business is complicated. There’s so many stresses. So I think you need to take that 15 to 30 minutes is what I tell people for yourself. Because if you use that time for yourself, believe me, the rest of your day is so much more powerful.”
Also, he always keeps in mind that nothing else matters except his health and his family. All the other things are just noises around him.
If you want to watch the full video of the interview with Raj Sharma as he shares his story and values in creating innovative platforms worth $10 trillion in global public procurement spending, then be sure to click the links below:
$10 TRILLION in global public procurement spending
066: Raj Sharma – Creating “open government markets” for $10 trillion in Global Public Procurement Spending