This issue we continue the series of meeting successful women who have built careers in or with a focus on Public Sector. Lisa Merder is well known in the furniture industry and had much success on the manufacturer side building teams and programs for successful public sector initiatives. A little over 5 years ago, Lisa left the furniture industry to pursue a career at OMNIA Partners. Today, Lisa is the Vice President, Workspace Sales Solutions at OMNIA Partners. She has been a go to for me for many years for both federal and cooperative learning.
Michelle: Lisa, we have known each other for a long time, but can you give us some background on how you ended up with a career focusing on Public Sector?
Lisa: Being in public sector for over 20 years, has been amazing. When I started, no one knew what a cooperative was and the advantages it has for public agencies. Now, it is very common and growing to non-profits and state adoption. I used to work with the federal government and healthcare agencies and found the purchasing process much easier in public sector.
Michelle: It is funny you say you find it much easier because when I train, I tell salespeople especially those focused on GSA that other salespeople try to make it sound very difficult and different to keep people out of the sector! I am a testament that it is a specialty you can learn in time and there is a lot of need for experts in public sector in furniture. So, when did you know you were going to be spending your career with a public sector focus vs commercial or other vertical?
Lisa: Probably about 10 years ago. When I was asked to make a choice in my supplier role, I felt more aligned with public sector. I also enjoyed working with my community and seeing the renovations and buildings.
Michelle: Interesting, I know you were focused on federal government way before 10 years ago so perhaps like me you went kicking and screaming into this vertical only to find out it was a good fit for you!! As you look back at your career, what are the key influential people or factors that supported your success?
Lisa: Tammy Rimes MPA, Executive Director of NCPP, National Cooperate Procurement Partners, has been someone I have admired for years. Tammy simplifies the process as she was a buyer in her past life. She can tell a story, with humor, that allows suppliers and procurement to relate to current events that they are dealing with today.
Additionally, National Cooperative Procurement Partners was my influence as well as Marcheta Gillespie, President of NIGP who I met when I was a supplier many years ago. Marcheta is very well known in the public sector space. As she speaks to large groups, her sense of humor, her experience, and the respect she brings to the procurement teams has always motivated me to be able to share very similar experiences as a supplier partner.
Michelle: Tammy is such a great person and so willing to help others. Hoping to have an interview with her coming soon! So, Lisa, we all know the path does not normally go the way we think or plan it to…along the way were there any twists or turns that developed that helped you to learn that you did not anticipate?
Lisa: When I was a supplier partner for so long, I never thought about being an employee of OMNIA Partners. Being on this side of the curtain has allowed me to help other suppliers to be successful. In developing a training program for the supplier partners, I was able to share the success I had with my former company. I have been on many panels talking about best practices and never thought this would be in my future. Now, I am a subject matter expert in the furniture space which allows me to share industries best practices to our agencies and suppliers.
Michelle: As someone who worked for a manufacturer that held an OMNIA Partners contract, I will say you do the best training and education or manufacturers and having you and other people on the OMNIA Partners team that have sold furniture has been so impactful in helping others grow their program. I know there are quite a few women in leadership roles at OMNIA Partners and it appears that Public Sector is favorable to women in general. How do you see the opportunity for women in Public Sector?
Lisa: I think opportunity for women in Public Sector is favorable, just like other companies. In my world, I was lucky to have opportunities to work with men and women across many companies.
Michelle: What is one piece of advice you have for women wanting to develop a career in Public Sector?
Lisa: I suggest you get engaged because that is how you are going to continue to grow to understand what your opportunities are and not just limit yourself to what you think you know in the world you are working in. Using social media platforms to follow people, agencies and organizations is very helpful. www.omniapartners.com is a great organization to follow.
Michelle: Great advice! I never intended to end up in this vertical, but I am forever grateful for the opportunity and where it has lead me to today! Last two easier questions: what one what one book would you recommend for a woman who is pursuing a career in Public Sector and/or what one podcast you would recommend for a woman who is pursuing a career in Public Sector?
Lisa: The book I would recommend is “Spend Matter.” It is a great publication for public sector. As for podcasts, I do not know of one specifically for public sector I would recommend, but I would encourage you readers to listen to The Trend Report by Sid Meadows. He interviews a lot of great people from the furniture industry and gives them the opportunity to tell their story and the story of their companies.
Michelle: Lisa, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. Well, there is another book for me to read!! We have both been interviewed by Sid for The Trend Report and I could not agree with you more. I love to hear the stories and “meet” people from the industry I do not know in real life.
I hope you are all enjoying this series of interviews. We have some amazing women in our industry and I love sharing the stories of the ones who have pursued careers focused on public sector.
About Lisa Merder
Vice President, Workspace Sales Solutions at OMNIA Partners
At OMNIA Partners, we believe in delivering extraordinary experiences within every industry. We can collaborate with you on solutions for our public and private sector members. We believe in the same things you do...reducing administrative burden of time and resources, greater efficiency and economies of scale in acquiring goods and services, and no cost to the members . And, we like to have a little fun along the way. Connect with Lisa on LinkedIn.
About Michelle Warren
Michelle Warren is President of Catalyst Consulting Group, a firm specializing in providing strategic solutions to the commercial furniture industry to enhance their sales, positioning, and distribution.
With 25 years of industry experience on the dealer and manufacturer side of the industry, Michelle has been recognized as an innovator in selling to the Federal Government, State/ Local Government, Higher Education and Cooperative Purchasing. Her expertise includes: sales strategies, strategic planning, 3-5 year road mapping, targeted marketing plans, distribution development, hiring reps, and training for reps and/or dealers.
She is known as a “serial networker” in the furniture industry and enjoys meeting people and making connections happen. If you’re interested in connecting - reach out at: Michelle@strategic-catalyst.com, connect on LinkedIn or visit www.strategic-catalyst.com to learn more about her work.
PUBLISHED IN: DELVE | APRIL 2022 V.25