Executive Spotlight: Michelle Trout, Senior Director, Indirect Procurement Brinker International


Executive Spotlight: Michelle Trout, Senior Director, Indirect Procurement Brinker International 

Interview conducted by Rachel Manthei, 2nd year MBA Student, TCU Neeley School of Business

Rachel Manthei: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and the positions you have had prior to your current role?

MT: I’ve pretty much grown up at Brinker, having been here for 22 years. I started off in IT, with a helpdesk/support services role. I helped with supplier management, hardware refreshes in the restaurants, and project management. In the early 2000’s, we needed to do more hardware refreshes, but there was no negotiation process in place. I started asking questions about buying IT hardware and started finding better pricing on IT computers and point of sale terminals. One day, I asked my boss if I could be the IT purchasing supervisor, and he said yes. Following that, I started to partner with a senior category manager in the purchasing department, sourcing on behalf of IT and the project management office (PMO). When that individual retired, I became the Indirect Sourcing Manager, sourcing on behalf of the PMO and IT teams. That’s the condensed version of the story!

RM: Thank you for sharing that story, and how you’ve grown and moved within one company by being bold and willing to raise your hand and ask questions.  

MT: Yes, of course.

RM: How would you describe the importance of Indirect Procurement for the success of Brinker?

MT: At Brinker, Indirect Procurement primarily means the sourcing of Corporate Services. My team partners and sources spend for every department on campus. We source things like digital/traditional marketing agencies, Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) services, IT software/hardware, pharmacy benefits, pest control services and event planning/conferences to name just a few!  Having a pulse on this spend that in most companies is negotiated by individual department team members gives Brinker an advantage not only from  a cost savings and avoidance standpoint but helps ensure that all the necessary departments are involved in providing input into an agreement are included – IT, Risk, Legal, Accounting, etc. It’s our job to make sure that all applicable departments have input into the agreement. It also helps ensure that we are leveraging services/software and resources across our organization. As you can imagine we have many types of standard contracts to support the variety of widgets and services that we source which can be very complex especially when data is part of the equation. 

RM: So how many people work in Indirect Procurement?

MT: I have a team of 9, and we are aligned with our business partners in each department. We divide and conquer, but I’m also a huge believer in cross-training, so we do a lot of overlapping. Especially because IT influences so much of our spend.  Each department/category on the team has some type of IT tool. This also gives people an ability to learn about different areas in the business, build relationships and continue to improve and build their skills.

RM: Basically, you do the back-end to everything that makes the business work?

MT: Yes, exactly.

RM: Thank you for explaining that. With all of those different areas your team is involved in, what does an average day look like for you?

MT: There is no average day! This morning my first meeting of the day was talking about a CMMS solution, which is really a facility management software tool, working with our partners in Facilities. Last week I was working with our SVP in marketing, on a project for menu pricing.

RM: How does a project for menu pricing connect with your team?

MT: A purchase has to be made; therefore my team is engaged in conducting an RFP working alongside our business partners as they are the subject matter expert.  We facilitate the entire RFP process and work together with the business partner to recommend the chosen supplier and conduct the negotiations and contracting. We often support our business partners throughout the term of the agreement with business reviews. 

RM: Did you help look at or recommend what software/tools/partners your business partner would want to bring in to use?

MT: Yes, we help evaluate what resources are in the marketplace as well as what another department may have already purchased that may meet their needs. One of the really cool things about our role in the organization is that we get to learn about every facet of the business. Being in Supply Chain, we learn about what’s going on with our food and beverage but supporting the organization, we get a deeper understanding and the opportunity to learn all about what’s going on in Marketing, IT, special R&D projects etc..

RM: If you could recommend skills for supply chain students to focus on developing, what would they be?

MT: Natural curiosity and a desire to learn. Not being afraid to ask questions and having a passion for sourcing and creating balanced relationships are two things I always look for in a category manager. As a supply chain student, know that there is more than just direct materials to source.