Investing in Eco-Initiatives with IBM’s Linda Demmler

May 30, 2014

IBM.pngJOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome back to Green is Good and we’re so honored to have back with us again Linda Demmler. She’s the Vice President of IBM Global Financing and Global Asset Recovery Services of North America, the great and iconic IBM brand. Welcome to Green is Good again, Linda. LINDA DEMLER: Great, thank you John. I am so excited to be back on your show. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I’m so happy to have you back on and for our listeners that didn’t have the opportunity to hear the great work that you’re doing at IBM the last time you were on the show, before we start talking about what you’re doing, talk a little bit about Linda Demmler. Give a little bit of your story and you journey leading up to IBM and the important position that you have here today. LINDA DEMLER: Sure. I’d be happy to. Thanks, John. In my current position, I’m responsible for global asset recovery services and at IBM and this has really been a journey for me. I started with IBM in the northeast region and I have worked in our leasing operations, our leasing company, for the majority of my career in a variety of different roles, whether it’s been strategic alliances or channel development or business development but I keep coming back to this asset recovery business because it’s just an interesting and fascinating business to me in terms of its ability to have real impact on the world around us. I live now in Annapolis, Maryland. I’m married. I have a 10-year-old daughter, Reese, and so as we look at the world around us and we want to be strong professionally in furthering the agenda of our corporations, we also want to be good stewards of the environment that we’re operating and the communities that we’re operating within so it’s been nice that this IBM journey has afforded me the opportunity to work on something as valuable as asset recovery and sustainability that really improves the way companies operate as well as the way IBM impacts the environment and communities in which we operate. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Before we go into the nitty gritty of our discussion, for our listeners out there that want to follow along online, IBM has one of the greatest websites out there and to follow along on what we’re going to be talking about with Linda today, you can go to IBM.com/financing. There’s so much great information here on sustainability and all the great work IBM is doing with regards to asset recovery services and sustainability. Your role has of recent times changed a little bit. Can you share the difference in your roles now in charge of North America versus worldwide? LINDA DEMLER: Yeah, absolutely. So it certainly has been an exciting and dynamic year. It’s interesting. There’s been so much that’s been new. Previously, I was running worldwide sales within global asset recovery services. I spent my life on a plane visiting all the countries and geographies around the world, meeting with clients, meeting with business partners, meeting with other IBMers on how we can further the sustainability agenda and really leverage best practices as a singular unit around the globe. About a year ago, I took this position responsible for North America and it’s been very interesting in that there is so much new in working directly with companies and getting down to the next level of working with them and driving companies’ own agendas, whether it is an IT transformation or a business transformation or their own sustainability initiatives but honestly, the world’s become so accessible that one of the things that I’ve found is that there are as many similarities as there are differences and I find most often working with the North American companies that no matter what we’re doing, there tend to be global implications to what their current needs or their current initiatives are, more than ever before so for instance, many U.S. companies have non-U.S. operations and even the smallest of partnerships could have a global footprint impact and I’m always approaching the new engagements anticipating that there will be a global impact and that’s really helpful for me as an IBM organization, given that we have this global footprint and that this critical mass of IT assets from our leasing portfolio. That gives us great insight and experiences that resonate in a variety of different situations. We’re used to working with businesses small and large, the smallest businesses to Fortune 100, but doing that across 40 different countries really gives us a breadth of perspective that in American companies, gives us a lot of flexibility and a lot of adaptability for the way the world is changing for everyone and how we need to recreate and reinvent our business models going forward. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s so interesting so of course hindsight in life, Linda, is always 20/20 but now that you look back a little bit of recent years and your position change, are you happy with the sequence that your career followed? Because are you better in your current role in charge of North America because of your previous global worldwide experiences? LINDA DEMLER: I absolutely think so. I think having that diversity of experience and meeting with employees and clients and partners from around the world and seeing all the variety of business models that are out there really gave me the ability to look at problems, look at solutions, look at new ideas from many different perspectives as opposed to having just one view of the world so it has been very enriching to me professionally and I would say personally as well. I still mentor a number of women from different countries around the world and bringing those experiences to me as a person makes me a more enriched person and you can’t help but be changed by those relationships. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s great. In our first interview, we talked about three principal market advantages that you have at IBM that you offer in the global asset recovery services division and those were sustainability, affordability, and trusted advisor and I’ve thought about that a lot more and that resonated with my listeners. I got a lot of feedback on that. Can you take a deeper dive into those three principles that set you apart from everyone else. Talk a little bit about the genesis of those three and how they continue to drive your differentiating sales proposition forward at IBM. LINDA DEMLER: You know, John, this was a real turning point for GARS when we focused on– We had been creating value through asset recovery solutions for over 30 years and we had so many best practices. They had been replicated around the world. We have eight patents for our unique and innovative remanufacturing and demanufacturing operations. I’m not going to say we became complacent but we certainly thought we know what’s going on. Over the last 10 years alone, we processed nearly a billion pounds through these operations so a few years ago, we really challenged ourselves to say we can do more, we can do faster, but how do we do better? What is it that really makes us different as an organization, as individuals, why do we show up at work in the morning? Why do we do what we do? Why do clients want to do business with us? What do we do that clients value? And so we created these small teams around the world to take pulse of local clients and marketplaces and honestly, we walked in with kind of a bias that we assumed we’d have to create these regionally based themes that resonated with clients locally and it was really fascinating. It’s not what we found at all. Of course, there’s local customs, there’s legal restrictions, there’s lots of business practices that are unique as you go to each city around the globe but at the core, what we’ve found is that clients value us because of the robust investments and IBM’s unwavering commitment we’ve made to environmental leadership, sustainability and they work with us because we don’t focus on selling just what’s in our warehouses but they want to work with us because we listen to their challenges and we work with them to develop real solutions to their problems, whatever those solutions might be. Sometimes there’s many client conversations I’m involved in. I don’t get a sale out of them but I get a customer and I get a customer that we will partner over many years in the future because I show up as a trusted advisor, not as a solutions seller and my team prides themselves on being innovative experts to really drive the pain points out of the customer business model, not just sell what we have on our truck and what we create that the clients value through that process is real affordability, not just low cost. I’m not just going to walk in with the lowest priced hardware or services but really focusing on what is it that we can do to accelerate a customer’s critical transformation end to end, acquiring solutions, getting them implemented, using them, getting rid of them. Sometimes disposing is the hardest thing and all of this comes down to affordably reducing the time cost and risk of customers’ transformation and affordability, for me, is all about realizing and truly recognizing with the client that time is money and the higher the risk, the more exposure clients have to costs increasing when things go wrong and so what was eye-opening was that these three themes of sustainability leadership and showing up as a trusted advisor not just there to sell something and really looking at the end to end transformation and how can we improve the affordability of that transformation, whether it’s reducing risks or reducing costs or reducing time and it was eye-opening that this was the same in every region, every geography, every client. Clients want to work with trusted advisors that enable them to affordably accelerate their transformation and link their corporate agendas and their execution to sustainability stewardship. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That’s the recipe for success at IBM. LINDA DEMLER: It’s been really fun. I think it’s really energized the team that while we like what we did, we’re all very passionate about it, you can tell we enjoy what we do but for us, what really crystallized it was the impact it could have on improving clients’ businesses and moving the agenda forward on a smarter planet was really energizing. JOHN SHEGERIAN: For our listeners out there that just joined us, we’ve got Linda Demmler back on Green is Good today. She’s the Vice President of IBM Global Financing and Global Asset Recovery Services of North America and to learn more about what she’s doing at IBM, it’s IBM.com/financing. Linda, I don’t want to gloss over it but I do want you to touch upon the wow numbers. You just touched on it a little while ago. Give the last x amount of years. You said a billion something? And give the annual number that you recycle in the cars division at IBM. LINDA DEMLER: Right, so I did mention, over the last ten years, we passed about a billion pounds of material through our remanufacturing/demanufacturing division around the world and I’m a visual person so for me, this is equivalent to 1,000 Airbus 300s. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Oh my gosh! LINDA DEMLER: If you look at 2013 alone, we processed more than 800,000 units of IT equipment and what we very much focus on, our unique value that we try to bring to the sustainability environment is we pride ourselves on our high percent of reuse versus solely recycling, 800,000 units of IT that we processed in 2013, more than 91% of it was reused and resold with the remainder being dismantled parts, going into recovery of precious metals, and if you take just the laptops we processed last year, it would be nearly the height of Mount Everest. JOHN SHEGERIAN: But let’s be honest, all of this is just appropriate and great sustainability practices, 91% being reused and resold and the other part going to end of life practices being commoditized. Everything’s staying out of the landfill then and everything is being disposed of appropriately so that’s all great sustainability practices and so kudos to IBM, kept that all out of the environment LINDA DEMLER: It’s also good business for customers because it frees up the capital for the customers to spend on their core business requirements, whether they’re focused on investing in innovation or growth or transformation so we do, the tens of thousands of assets that we receive back each week, we do remanufacture them and we remanufacture them according to original manufacturing standards and the way we drive such high reuse standards is we custom configure them for reuse and resale and so by focusing heavily on this reuse versus just pure recycling objective, we are able to help customers enable and drive forward their transformation because they’re either extending the life of the assets within their enterprise or they’re acquiring repurposed assets that allow them to extend the life of what they have in their footprint already while they’re making the big investments and transformations that are really going to drive their business forward, cloud, analytics, mobile, all that initiative that is bringing strategic importance to their business and really displacing huge number of assets in the process. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Linda, what we love to do on this show, as you already know, is give solutions so we have about four minutes left. For our listeners out there that are COOs or CEOs of companies, our listeners out there that are CTOs or other operations managers that make decisions with regards to recycling and new equipment and new technology, what are they supposed to be thinking about? What do you want them thinking about in terms of making decisions when need to refresh their equipment and such? What are some of the paying points? What are some of the things that you want to be top of mind? LINDA DEMLER: I think the untapped potential for companies out there is as companies are driving huge investments in these new promising initiatives, like Cloud and big data and mobility, are hugely disruptive and will move their businesses forward but it is displacing a large number of assets that can and should be reused and can return value to offset some of the cost and risk and time of those transformations they’re investing in so the key thing to think about is having a strategic asset management initiative in place that allows companies to extract the value out of the assets being displaced and working with a trusted advisor so that they don’t incur incremental risks or incremental costs as they go through that displacement and dispose of those assets. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And that’s really what you are then. You’re the plug and play for COOs and CEOs and other company leaders across the world and people become then that trusted advisor who then takes those assets and gets them repurposed in a safe, both environmental and data protection way, correct? LINDA DEMLER: Correct. Absolutely. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Got it, got it, got it. What should they be aware of though? Down to two minutes here. What should they not be doing? What are some of the absolute worst decisions someone in a decision making role can make right now when getting rid of their electronic assets? LINDA DEMLER: There’s a few considerations. Being cognizant of your own environmental stewardship plan, making sure that companies you’re partnering with are following the same policies and practices and methodologies that you have, that companies that you’re partnering with are keeping up with the complex ever-changing environmental regulations and that there truly are environmental management systems and I’d be remiss if when you’re working with companies, you’re working with companies who are not focused on reusing versus solely recycling because the reuse is where we really contribute to the sustainability of the environment and reduce the manufacture of incremental new assets because we have fully appropriate and fully capable new assets ready to go. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And reuse is one of the greatest and most legitimate forms of recycling. Shameless plug. We’re down to the last minute or so. If you want our audience members to have one big take away about your thoughts about IBM’s Global Financing Global Asset Recovery Services, GARS business unit, what would it be? LINDA DEMLER: I have to say I’m very proud of IBM’s longstanding history of environmental leadership and through those initiatives, we truly are making the world smarter and a better place and we’d be happy to work with companies small and large to help put in place an asset management and disposition strategy. JOHN SHEGERIAN: You are making the world a better place. Thank you, Linda, for being a visionary sustainability superstar. You are truly living proof that Green is Good.