Anthony Clervi is the vice president of growth at UNA Purchasing Solutions. He’s a driven entrepreneur with a passion for people and relationship-building opportunities. With extensive experience in sales, marketing, and business consulting, Anthony provides consistent leadership and strategic direction for company success. Anthony earned his degree in business administration with a focus in economics and finance from McKendree University. In his time at McKendree, Anthony played varsity baseball for four years and continues his love of the game as a Kansas City Royals fan.
UNA Purchasing Solutions is a leading supply chain improvement company dedicated to helping members in business, hospitality, education, healthcare, and nonprofit markets improve their financial and operational performance.
UNA Purchasing Solutions provides members with the most competitive and extensive portfolio available through its partnership with Novation, a supply contracting company. Together, they provide $53 billion in combined annual purchasing power. Through a continuous portfolio review, UNA Purchasing Solutions ensures access to the day’s best pricing on products and services used.
Where did the idea for UNA Purchasing Solutions come from?
Group purchasing has existed for decades, specifically in the healthcare and education markets. We formed our company to ideally provide purchasing solutions for not only the healthcare and education markets, but also for business markets. With our team’s background, experience in providing high-quality service, procurement, and sourcing, it only made sense to get started in helping companies succeed.
What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?
Every day brings opportunities to overcome obstacles for our customers, providing the ideal chance to exceed client expectations. I spend a lot of time on the phone with clients and suppliers, and I frequently travel to see affiliates for necessary face-to-face time.
In today’s marketplace, every business is trying to expand, but ours is highly selective and intentional about growth trajectory. I’m always looking to “move the needle” by recruiting the best people to expand our team. I also identify customers whose goals align with UNA’s to form valuable partnerships. For me, a successful day involves overcoming challenges and having fun in the process.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I love brainstorming with experts in other fields, bouncing ideas off them, and testing the solvency of ideas from an outside perspective. I find collaborating with my team — even if it leads to heated discussions — helps reach the best solutions.
With a rigorous decision-making process at UNA, we can set a course based on strategic ideas that parallel our core initiatives and value system. Sometimes, I’ll try something new on my own just to see if it works. If it yields positive results, I’ll invite others into the process.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The growth and power of networking through social media sites like LinkedIn. We’re all familiar with LinkedIn, and most of us use it, but the site’s growth and applications have grown exponentially. I’ve even heard of employers accepting LinkedIn profiles in lieu of traditional résumés.
What is one habit that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’m extremely persistent, sometimes to a fault. If I have an idea in my head or a mission I want to accomplish, I see it through to the end. If, in the end, it’s a poor idea, I have to be willing to change directions quickly and forget fretting over lost ground.
What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?
I was a dishwasher in high school, and it was rough. The work was fairly straightforward but monotonous, and I didn’t like the hours, either. But I did learn a lot about the back end of a restaurant, how line cooks think, and the importance of efficiency in any operation. Most importantly, I learned that I needed to continue my education and that working in a restaurant wasn’t for me in the long term.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I hate this question because I’ve learned so much by making mistakes. That said, I wish I could’ve done several things differently. Unfortunately, hindsight is 20/20. But, if I could do it all over again, I’d encourage my younger self to “go for it” and take more risks; life is short.
As an entrepreneur, what is one thing you do regularly and recommend others do?
Be a voracious reader. Look for mentors who can help guide you. But don’t forget to have fun!
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Taking action. With a new business, sometimes you just have to get in your car and drive; pick up the phone and start asking questions; make moves toward potential customers. Over time, your questions will become focused in the right direction, relationships with your customers will grow, and you’ll build the right understanding of where your business needs to go.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I took a class on real estate a while back and spent a lot of money on tools I thought would make me successful. I quickly realized a shortcut didn’t exist — it was going to take more time and effort to get started than I anticipated.
I made many consecutive emotional decisions and later realized the timing wasn’t right for me. I liked the idea of being in the real estate business, but until I was ready to invest the time needed to become an expert, I would never be successful. As we all know, this applies to more than just real estate.
What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I would love to develop an online platform for car owners nationwide, accessible to anyone, to view the top 15-20 mechanics in an owner’s respective city. It would work much like CarMax — with no negotiations and a static price — so you’d know you were getting a good deal.
When it comes to mechanics, it’s hard to establish trust. It’s just as hard to know a good deal from a poor one. This online platform would be free to consumers, while car shops/mechanics would pay to join. Too many businesses try to take advantage of people. A platform like this would hopefully eliminate a lot of that nonsense.
Tell us something about you few people know?
Growing up, I wanted to be a fighter pilot. To this day, I have an affinity for airplanes.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Our team uses Salesforce — it’s one of the easiest and best tools available. The ability to view things in real time with your team and customers is invaluable. It helps us stay organized and proactive so we can anticipate potential problems before they arise.
What is the one book you recommend our community read and why?
“Good to Great” by Jim Collins is a fantastic read! Starting and growing a sustainable business is all about starting with the “who,” and that’s your team. Don’t expect to go anywhere significant without the right people on your journey.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
My older brother, Matt Clervi, has been a huge inspiration my whole life. He’s gifted, creative, and attuned to the ever-changing world around him. I love hanging out with him, and it’s fun just hearing his latest idea or vision for doing something differently or better.
Mike McCann — a general partner for New York Life, a mentor, and a dear friend — is a great example of what it truly means to be a man in today’s society. Mike has helped shape my thinking for the better and reminds me that God and my family should always be my top priorities.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.