Developments in 2019

For over 20 years I've had a foot in two camps - purchasing and personal development.

Whilst often delivering both to clients I've kept my social media separate. That double life has confused clients, and me, which has led to the decision to move my blogging to my personal development blog - Landscaping Your Life.

I do hope that you'll join me there as we continue to explore landscaping our success together.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Landscaping Your Life e-zine

I'm very, very, very excited to share with you the first Landscaping Your Life ezine aimed at helping you to Landscape your life whether it's your goals, confidence, motivation or other behavioural skills that need a little support.

To give you a flavour of what's included, there's a special feature about taking the learning from attracting bees in your garden to having a similarly buzzing life.

There's a number of regular features such 'In the potting shed' where we learn about the tools needed to landscape our lives.

and, in this edition 'Plant of the season' is Thyme where we learn from nature about time management ;-). 

And the Landscaping Your Life walk invites to consider the insights from deadwood row, let the light in avenue, unfurl corner and clear ahead copse.

I hope you'll join me by signing up for the Landscaping Your Life ezine here.

Monday, 20 May 2019

What do Chelsea and Procurement have in common?

It's that time of year again when Chelsea Flower Show reminds me of the origins of a process that I've used with clients for over 20 years.

Despite the image above, I'm not talking about gardening clients but procurement clients.

In the late 90s we were struggling to get the managers at the bank that I worked for interested in supplier management. My love of gardening provided a means of getting them a little more interested - in that questions about when they last pruned back their suppliers, or allowed one time in the greenhouse, or what tools were they using to develop their suppliers piqued their interest.

Since then I've shared many a post looking at the analogies between gardening and procurement such as
  • Anyone can buy - the difference between the tools in the buying, purchasing and procurement potting sheds
Since it's early origins the metaphor got bigger and I wasn't just using gardens as a metaphor for supplier management but nature became a metaphor for our lives and Landscaping Your Life (LYL) was born.

For over 20 years I've had a foot in two camps - purchasing and wider personal development. Whilst often delivering both to clients I've kept my social media separate. That double life has confused clients, and me, which has led to the decision to move my blogging to my personal development blog - Landscaping Your Life.

This week to celebrate this merger I'm going back to my gardening roots. I do hope you'll join me for vlogs, blogs, posts and insights as I visit different landscapes and explore many aspects of landscaping your life, and specifically:

  • Mon 20th: Landscaping your potential
  • Tues 21st: Landscaping your time
  • Wed 22nd: Buzzing with life
  • Thurs 23rd: Landscaping your relationships
  • Fri 24th: Taking a landscaping your life journey
  • Sat 25th: Landscaping your success
I certainly think its time that I allow the Landscaping Your Life seed to germinate, and plant it out into the garden for all to benefit from its insight. 

Alison Smith
Head Gardener
Landscaping Your Life - making life more beautiful

Sunday, 19 May 2019


The origins of Landscaping Your Life (LYL) date back to the late 90s when I used gardens as metaphors for supplier management. Whilst I later expanded it to include all of nature’s landscapes to all of our lives we’re going back to LYL’s gardening origins this week.
As Chelsea Flower Show shares the best in garden design this week we're going to be our own garden designers designing aspects of our lives so that we may flourish and share our beauty for all to see 🌸.
Join me daily over on the Landscaping Your Life blog for vlogs, blogs, posts and insights as I visit different landscapes and explore many aspects of landscaping your life, and specifically:
  • Mon 20th: Landscaping your potential
  • Tues 21st: Landscaping your time
  • Wed 22nd: Buzzing with life
  • Thurs 23rd: Landscaping your relationships
  • Fri 24th: Taking a landscaping your life journey
  • Sat 25th: Landscaping your success
I do hope you can join me as I finally allow the Landscaping Your Life seed to germinate, and plant it out into the garden for all to benefit from its insight. 

Alison Smith
Head Gardener
Landscaping Your Life - making life more beautiful

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

The Mental Health Continuum

Much like the sky has a continuum of cloud cover we all have a continuum of mental health.

Which is why my good friend Amy Macdonald at Headtorch frequently reminds us in their workshops, training and elearning that the answer to "how many of us have mental health" is

You'll find some short stories I wrote to support my own mental health over on my Landscaping Your Life blog.

Monday, 13 May 2019

We all have Mental Health

It's Mental Health Awareness Week the above video shares insight from the sea relating to our mental health.

As those at Headtorch remind everyone at their conferences, workshops and elearning the answer to "How many of us have mental health" is

Yes, we ALL have mental health, not just on bad days, not just when we’re feeling down, not just when we’re off work.

Every minute of every day of every year we have mental health - 100% of the time, 100% of us.

Mental health, that just like our physical health shifts up and down a continuum. Which means there’s different strategies needed to support our mental health dependent on where we’re at in any moment. Sometimes the strategy involves visiting the doctor, other times medication, other times talking, a walk, painting, the gym, time with friends or in nature, writing 😉 and so on. As many different strategies for mental health as there are for physical health.

Mental health awareness week is an opportunity for us ALL to consider what we can do to support our own, friends’, family’s, and colleagues’ mental health.

In previous years I’ve shared here insight from Headtorch’s conferences, explored what we can do to support suppliers’ mental health over on the Purchasing Coach blog, and written about strategies for taking care of my own mental health, and even the menopause, a time that significantly impacted my mental health.

This year I thought I’d share some short stories I’ve written. Short stories that explore different aspects of our own mental well being. Not at the very edges of the mental health continuum but of the every day thoughts and beliefs that impact our mental health. They're short stories I originally wrote as a means of reminding myself of the need to support my own mental health.

Short stories I hope you’ll enjoy - you'll find them over on my Landscaping Your Life blog  

Friday, 15 March 2019

What I do for Procurement Teams

Whilst I do work in the personal development arena, I also do a lot of coaching with Procurement teams – especially for larger organisations.

In this vlog I share a little more about the soft skills coaching I can provide to Procurement teams.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

What's your strategy for action?

What’s your strategy for refuelling your car?

Or more precisely, what’s your trigger for action?
  • Seeing the fuel indicator get to 1/2 full or perhaps a 1/4?
  • Maybe it's reframing the dial and seeing that it's 3/4 empty?
  • Hearing the alarm tell you the tank is approaching empty?
  • Filling up every Saturday morning?
  • Heading for fuel when you’ve a long journey ahead?
  • When you notice a cheap price?
  • Only when you start to feel the panic about running out of petrol?
  • When you pass your favourite petrol station (for a while I frequented one such location due to the M&S food shop on site)
  • When you stop for a comfort break
  • When waiting to pick up the kids from a class
  • Or something else entirely?
  • Perhaps it's about exploring other options instead of a petrol fuelled car - electric? taxi and/or car hire.
Are you aware of the decision making criteria that you're using to support this trigger?
  • Lowest price
  • Lowest total annual cost
  • Lowest total lifetime cost
  • Retain maximum resale value for the car
  • Managing cashflow
  • Engine friendly - which I believe supports not leaving it till the alarm has gone off as we stir the bottom of the tank!
  • Minimising disruption to your day
  • Minimising detours
  • Efficient use of time
  • Access to car 100% of time with 150 miles capacity
  • Reducing stress
  • Predictability of your schedule
Criteria that each result in a very different trigger for refuelling.

The reason I ask, is that shortly I’m headed to refuel my car using a different strategy than the one I’ve used for years. A new strategy that will I believe will reduce my stress, use my spare time efficiently, minimise detours and I understand improve the performance of the engine.
You see, I’ve always resisted refuelling the car and my strategy for years, ok decades, has been the sound of the indicator telling me I have x miles till I run out!! Little did I know, whilst using this example on a recent supplier management workshop, that in addition to helping expand delegates’ thinking about the triggers suppliers might have for taking action to avoid problems, it would help me solve my own resistance to refuelling.

Understanding the decision making criteria and arising trigger people use for action can be a very useful tool for problem solving.

For example, in the supplier relationship management workshop we were discussing complaints being received about the service provided by a supplier. A supplier who believed their service was 5* worthy, and yet user feedback suggested it was *2. Once we started to explore the criteria both parties might have for taking action, it wasn't hard to see how problems might have arisen.

Even in the LikedIn post on the subject of refuelling the car it's easy to understand how the different criteria people are using could lead to heated debates if we were needing to find one optimal strategy for fuelling the car:
  • One fueller discounting the criteria for minimising stress (ie avoid the alarm strategy),
  • Another calculating the annual saving of always buying at the lowest price, and
  • Another getting annoyed at the frequency of arriving late for meetings having had to refuel to get to their destination.
What triggers for action might be fuelling ineffective practice in your life?

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach

You might also find the post about using nature as our coach for supplier relationship management interesting.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Dear Organisation, with love from Procurement xx

Dearest Organisation,

A year has passed since I first wrote to you professing my love for you, and disappointment that we weren't doing more together.

Disappointment that our main role was firefighting,


chasing the low hanging fruit,

and ignoring the elephant in the room.

The elephant in the room that time and time again contributes to getting procurement wrong - such as in these very public disasters and gets bigger every year.

The elephant in the room that means, against our better judgement, we give you what we think you want and focus on price not cost!

This year let's make a commitment - a commitment
  • to listen,
  • to communicate, 
  • to understand each other's needs, 
  • to work together,
  • to support each other,  
  • to challenge the status quo, 
  • to be the change we want to see, and 
  • do great things together
I'm in - are you?

With love from Procurement xx

For a PDF of the full letter do email me or see my LinkedIn profile - because together we can do great things.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Insight from nature applied to Supplier Management

I love my job - but you know that right?

I particularly love it when I am able to bring everything I do together into one workshop.

Last week I facilitated a 'supplier relationship management' workshop. Although we decided it should really just be entitled 'relationship management' as we acknowledged our own contribution to the relationship and outcomes we get (50:50).

I say facilitated, but perhaps the better word for it was coached, because whilst we did cover some theory and models there was also lots of discussion to help attendees to explore a subject they're already doing on a day to day basis.

Discussion that touched on coaching improved performance, rapport, influencing, developing trust, managing meetings, conflict, and rewarding great performance. 

The aim of coaching is to help people to learn something for themselves - not to be told what to think. Coaching leads to long term changes in thinking and behaving - teaching not so much - unless its supported by coaching once back in the office.

We did touch on the GROW model for coaching performance of suppliers but we also tried a number of unconventional tools (see an advent series of posts from the archives introducing many of these).

Using nature as our coach and metaphor for supplier management was one of the tools that we used on the workshop that I was very pleased with the outcome about.

Imagine the following location:

"Idyllic rural location, ideal for hiking and climbing enthusiasts. Very sociable atmosphere with guests hanging out in the evenings, live music most nights. Unobstructed and breathtaking mountain views. Ideal for single travellers" 

What landscape do you imagine as you read these words?

For IP reasons I can't share with you the image used in the workshop but if you imagine the image at the top of this post with a series of hammocks hanging across from one cliff to another you'll get the idea.

The description above, that one delegate read out to us before showing us the image, had us all imagining something very different. It was used as a reminder to ensure we have the same interpretation as our suppliers about the specification and 'spirit' of the contract.

Of course, we know this insight logically and intellectually. By using nature we're tapping into our unconscious and creative mind. Tapping in more deeply to our inner wisdom might just ensure the insight is not forgotten when we jump to blaming a supplier for not meeting our expectations. Or when we're drafting an action plan and believe the words we're using are obvious and could never get misunderstood - could they? 

Other images and insights chosen in this exercise are shown below, although again I've had to use different images. You may want to view the pictures first and consider your own insights:

What action have these images inspired you to take?

Here's what we got on the day:

All the elements coming together and getting the balance right.

Penguins take it in turns to be on the outside of a huddle and take the brunt of the wind and cold. That is, they understand that can't do it alone and need the support of the whole colony to survive.

All parts of the garden need to be nurtured - watering, feeding, weeding, pruning etc. Other wise we'll just end up with an over grown garden. Which links to many post I've written about the link between supplier and plant management.

Rather than get too distracted with the trees we need to look beyond to the bigger picture to focus on the sky and what's at the other side of the current situation. To remember where we're headed rather than get side tracked or too despondent with the current landscape.

We should be this proud of the relationship we have with our suppliers. Relationships should look calm and serene from the outside even if there's plenty going on under the water.

Back to basics - we can only squeeze so much.

And one image that reflects another insight from the session was - that too much noise can dilute the message you're trying to make and you can lose the clarity both parties need in order to work effectively together. Which is why it's important to not over use the word "urgent" (but that's another post for another day!).

What did you notice as you read this post - what thoughts came to mind that might provide a different perspective on a situation you're facing at the moment?

I'd love to discuss how I may coach your team on any aspect of category management, or supplier management adding in or focusing exclusively on the very important aspects of emotional intelligence and creativity.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
+44 (0)7770 538159

For a wider use of nature as your coach see my Landscaping Your Life blog and also my book Can't see the wood for the trees aimed at helping you get back on track when you're stuck in a rut, up a creek without a paddle, going round in circles, are out on a limb, feel like a fish out of water or can't see the wood for the trees.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Time for a new buyer/supplier paradigm?

Funny how thoughts go – I was watching an interview with Oprah and the topic of #Metoo came up. As I was reminded of the behaviours the movement was fighting to eradicate, behaviours such as bullying, disrespect for others, pushing forward even when they’ve said no or the distress the actions are causing is visible, and blackmail (indirect or direct in terms of fear of losing the work/money if behaviours are challenged), I wondered whether business, and procurement were hearing the call for change too.

Can I stand here and say I’ve never shown those behaviours to a supplier – no - however unintentionally and, I hope, however many many years ago.

Can many Procurement departments say they’ve never done this - no.

Can many organisations – no.

You see - to me - bullying is bullying, blackmail is blackmail - the context in which is is taking place doesn’t alter its appropriateness and yet it seems that’s not a belief shared by everyone. “That’s just the way business is” is as prevalent a response to these behaviours today as I’m sure “that’s just the way Hollywood is” or “that’s just men being men for you” was years ago.
  • That’s just the way business is when suppliers fear speaking up, or saying no to unacceptable requests for fear of the repercussions.
  • That’s just the way business is when buyers assume because suppliers aren’t speaking up that they can keep doing what they're doing even though they know it's unacceptable behaviour.
  • That's just the way business is when sourcing send a 100 page tender to 15 suppliers knowing who they want to give the business too.
  • That’s the just way business is when Procurement ask suppliers at 1700 on a Friday for a response at 0900 on a Monday even though it's been on their desk for weeks.
  • That’s just the way business is when …..
In January two years ago I invited us not to leave our humanity at the office door. Then life got in the way and, whilst walking the talk, I didn’t do as much as I could to challenge unacceptable behaviour. Perhaps #metoo has given me the confidence to once again return to this topic and to want to explore with buyers and suppliers alike how we move to a new paradigm for our relationship – one that doesn’t fall back on old stereotypes and abuses of power.

Any thoughts on how to take this dialogue further much appreciated. Perhaps you’re already managing to avoid these behaviours in your organisation – and if so I’d love to hear from you.

I’m certainly looking forward to an event being hosted at the Fire Starter festival on kindness in procurement which is a start. Although 4 years ago I was saddened to hear even kindness was thought to be counter to how business is!

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out

Saturday, 19 January 2019

A Purchasing Coach review of 2018

Happy New Year - even if it's a little belated.

As January 2018 started much quieter than in previous years I wonder if I’d drained my blogging juices with a post a day in December 2017 introducing a range of tools I use in coaching, facilitation and problem solving?

It was also a sign of a quieter blogging year here on Purchasing Coach with the publication of my book Can’t see the wood for the trees in August and all things landscaping Your Life (LYL) that accompanied that, and then the death of my father in October resulting in posts here not being as frequent as in previous years (see 2016 year in blogs). Nor perhaps as controversial as I’m starting 2019 blogs talking about changing the buyer/supplier paradigm (out on 21st).

That said, there’s a few blogging highlights I’d like to share and they cover the topics I love to talk about:
  • Words having Power
  • Procurement
  • Soft skills and Self Awareness
  • Coaching

Words have power

Interestingly I started the year with one of my favourite subjects ‘the power of words’. That is, the power for words we use to contain the kernel of a solution within them.

Interesting with how the year ended that it started with a post over on the LYL blog on solutions for when “life gets in the way” with other posts here covering:


A letter that outlined that procurement needs to get back to delivering real value and not just the cost savings they think that organisations want that actually diminishes the relationship between the two. That is, it could be a match made in heaven and yet often feels like a one night stand or friends with benefits! One element of the letter was expanded upon over on my Landscaping Your Life blog and touched on what happens when we've exhausted the low hanging fruit.

In November my interview with Phil Ideson at The Art of Procurement aired – discussing all things procurement, soft skills and with a little Landscaping Your Life throw in for good measure.

As I do every year on metal health awareness week I invited procurement to consider mental health in procurement within our own organisations and that of our suppliers.

As ever, soft skills was a frequent topic in training and coaching sessions and an index of soft skills posts was posted for clients to dip into topics we’d discussed.

Other posts on this subject included:
  • The impact the roles we use to describe what we do has on the outcome we achieve, and the impact of simply changing the description can have. (Although wonder of this is really a words have power post :-)). After all procurement isn't just all about fire fighting!
  • Taking your rose coloured spectacles off – notes from a presentation I did at a CIPS local branch meeting on self awareness being the key soft skill that would have greatest impact on personal and organisational success


As a coach I’m often asked about the benefits of coaching and also realise there’s some myths too that stop people considering coaching as a means of them achieving more in their personal and working lives. I wrote 2 posts to help shed more light on what to expect from a coaching relationship.
Although if you’d rather not have a human as a coach my recently published book Can’t see the wood for the trees provides insight on how to have nature as your coach.

The book uses a process (LYL) I first developed over 20 years ago to help managers understand why suppliers needed to be managed, and how it was the same as looking after your garden ie I discovered that gardening was a great metaphor for supplier management. The process then expanded to using landscapes as metaphors for our lives.

You’ll find more about the LYL process using #landscapingyourlife on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. There's also in index of LYL highlights for 2018 including notes from a session on planning for success in 2019.

Here's to a fabulous 2019. I can guarantee I'll be continuing to share here what excites, inspires and challenges me.

You know where I am - +44(0)7770 538159

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out