Sunday 27 January 2013

Calling procurement consultants, associates & trainers

If you're a business or procurement consultancy or procurement consultant or trainer this LinkedIn group might be for you so please read on......

Most consultancies have a database of associates to call upon. Yet I'm sure there are times when you need more people, or need to find someone with specific expertise, category or client experience or even someone who lives locally to your client. This group could be how you find potential new associates.

As an associate how do you find out about opportunities beyond your regular consultancies?
The concept behind this group is:
  • Procurement associates get their LinkedIn profiles up to date and join the group
  • Business and procurement consultancies join the group and when they have a need for a new associate they use advanced search on all members of this group. That should deliver a short list of potential associates.  
The idea formed at the end of a busy year for me travelling from Scotland to the Midlands and London. I wondered how many people were doing the journey in reverse and pondered if my life balance could be improved if I found at least some local work? As trains of thought go I then remembered conversations at conferences when I’ve heard “I didn’t know you specialised in that” “I could have done with your experience with my last client” “my clients don’t really like paying travelling costs so I’m looking for someone local”. And the rest as they say is history.

The success of the group will be determined by great associates joining, and consultancies hearing it's the place to go to have their requirements met. The more potential associates the better. It doesn’t matter whether you’re available now or not for another 6 months, or only have 2 days a week available the aim is to have a strong network of associates that consultancies can search on.

So do please join and then invite others to join and let’s together demonstrate the benefit of collaboration.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out

Tuesday 22 January 2013

Are your suppliers afraid to say no?

A comment left on yesterday's blog and subsequent tweets lead to one tweet last night that said I 'wish the 'n' word was used more' by suppliers. This morning Christine Tacon was named as supermarket ombudsman and said in an interview on the BBC today that she had been brought in to address the climate of fear where suppliers were afraid to say no. 

There's only one answer to bullies and that's to say enough and no. To hold your ground and know that they only bully because they need a fix of belittling others. To know that their self worth is lower than yours - otherwise why else would they be bullying you.

Yet it's not as simple as that is it?

The fear of the reprisal or the outcome of saying no is often a bigger motivator than the fear of yet more bullying behaviour and the impact that has on the business or individuals health and self esteem. The perceived outcome that suppliers fear can take many forms:
  • Losing turnover
  • Not being able to pay the bills
  • Losing their job or business
  • Being responsible for redundancies
  • Losing their own home and security 
Christine Tacon has only been brought in to stop the bullying (my term not hers) once a contract has been signed which for many I speak to is far too late. The bullying behaviour can start much much earlier.

Not every purchaser who asks for lower costs, however, is a bully even if the supplier says yes when they mean, and should be shouting a very loud, NO.

The solution as I see it involves:
  • Businesses need to consider the metrics they use to determine success because from where I'm sitting they currently drive some very odd and counterproductive behaviours.
  • Purchasers can't continue to use the excuse that they are only looking after themselves and therefore so should the supplier. 
  • Purchasers need to understand that power brings responsibility and that responsibility doesn't stop at the office door it also includes our suppliers.
  • Purchasers need to understand the financials of the businesses they wish to deal with and undertake cost analysis so they understand the impact of the targets they're asking for.
  • Suppliers need to understand the same and share it with their customers. 
  • Suppliers need to understand their resistance to saying no and deal with them because ultimately if the answer really is no they need to say it.
I would love to hear your examples of saying, or not saying, no to purchasers.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out in buyer and supplier relationships

Picture source and interesting blog on the 8 essential strategies for saying no: via Alison on Pinterest

Saturday 19 January 2013

Low cost vs ethical pricing

Much of this week’s media, that I paid attention to anyway, shone the spot light on our own personal buying strategies for food:
When I shared my admiration for the British family in my blog and encouraged readers to shop local more often than just Christmas and when it snows, I was met with responses about the high cost of doing this.

I wondered about the difference between personal shopping and professional buying. I found it interesting that personally I’m hearing we’re after the lowest cost when within business we’re often berated for doing just that.

As purchasers in organisations our internal stakeholders often accuse us of only concentrating on getting the lowest cost and of not considering:
  • what they really want
  • the quality
  • the service we get
  • the additional costs for extras
  • whole life costs
  • long term sustainability
  • and so on.
I’m surprised therefore that all these considerations are seemingly no longer relevant when buying food for ourselves. After all it’s the food that has the capacity to keep us all fit and healthy. With the wrong food having the potential to cause as much havoc personally as extra horse in their burger did for the share price and public perception of Tesco yesterday.

I wonder how much our low cost strategy is driving the likes of Tesco to ignore the list above and drive their suppliers for lower and lower prices.

Personally, since shopping more locally, I know I’ve got better value and my over all shopping bill is cheaper. Yes the mushrooms might be a few pence more expensive but:
  • I only buy what I want and make my own (and don’t get enticed to buy those processed foods or bags of lettuce that will go off before I’ve eaten it all)
  • I get to choose the quality of all the ingredients that go into what I eat (thus avoiding horse in my burgers unless I want it there)
  • I get advice on how to cook certain ingredients or get the recipe for the soup
  • I don’t buy all those extras that so often find their way into my trolley
  • I don’t have the 40 mins round trip to drive to the supermarket
  • I have more billable days available to earn an income due to improved health
  • And I have a shop still open, because I frequent it the rest of the year, that I can pop into when it snows.
Having said that - you will still see me in the supermarket – this week’s discussions have simply made me question how often that should be. After all if I’ll say no to work because I don’t agree to the values of an organisation why do I seemingly ignore these same ‘ethics’ when buying my food or other household items! Crikey not buying from Amazon would be very very hard but should I do so and endorse their business practices just because it’s easier!

What’s your buying strategy for food? And would it stand up to the scrutiny of internal stakeholders in the business in which you work?

Alison Smith
The purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out

Trolley picture source: via Alison on Pinterest

Friday 18 January 2013

Local shops are for life not just for Christmas or when it's snowing

2 years ago the town where I live was cut off by snow and, along with what seemed like the other eight thousand inhabitants, I descended on the local shops. We had all we needed really: a small Co-op, 2 bakers, a butchers, a fishmongers, hardware place, our equivalent to poundland, gift shops, newsagent & cafes. Sainsburys, Asda and Tesco were 5-10 miles away and out of reach.  

On that particular day the co-op's shelves were empty and I entered the veg shop for what must been one of only a handful of times in the preceding 6 years. I was upset with myself for what I felt was an abuse - ignoring them until they were the only choice. On that day I vowed to use them more.

These days I'm happy to say I'm on first name terms, regularly post pictures on their facebook page of soups made from their soup bags, ordered all my Christmas veg from them and visit most weeks.

Please remember your local shops are not just for Christmas or for when its snowing - if we don't use them regularly they won't be there next time it snows.


Wednesday 16 January 2013

PR disasters and procurement

It's not just Tesco that has found horse DNA in their burgers but unfortunately they are the company making the front pages today. You realise don't you that there, but for the grace of god, could go any organisation - if you don't believe me read on.

I'm sure Tesco just like other organisations before them (RBS, LOCOG, Britvic, UK Govt etc just last year) believed they had the appropriate steps in place to effectively manage their supply chain. I'm sure supplier assessments, risk assessments and quality audits had been undertaken. Yet they failed. The reasons for the failures will be many. I'd just like to add a few suggestions of my own:
  • the process of procurement is not understood by project managers/senior managers/leadership teams
  • the procurement department under takes it's activities in isolation from other internal stakeholders
  • once contracts are placed other departments, not necessarily involved thus far, pick up management of the contract, relationship & suppliers or for delivery, auditing, payment, and so on
  • communication with suppliers is limited 
  • objectives for cost reduction are more about "here's the cost reduction I need don't tell me how you'll manage it just deliver it" than undertaking cost analysis and understanding the implications of cost reductions asked for and offered.
  • people keep their heads down when they see the cliff edge approaching - after all who wants to speak up? As I wrote in a blog last year after RBS's supplier management PR disaster.
These reasons have very little to do with application of best practice procurement and more to do with fostering a culture of collaboration and understanding between all managers within an organisation.

Next time you have a meeting why not learn more about the work being undertaken by others within your organisation so you may all start to understand more about how the whole system is working rather than your own isolated parts.  

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change in purchasing one person at a time

Tesco picture source: via Alison on Pinterest

Friday 11 January 2013

What do you call your stakeholders?

Funny how trains of thought go.

I read that someone was giving up smoking for 2013. I tweeted that use of ‘giving up’ was constantly reminding them of what they were going without. Which, as anyone with children will know when trying to tell them they can’t do something, is not conducive to achieving the desired outcome. I then read a tweet that said “you get the gist everyone hates HR” in reaction to a blog entitled HR: a 10 point agenda for change.

Putting the two trains of thought together I wonder how much the words we use about our own procurement stakeholders get in the way of us achieving our desired outcome. How often do we hear “They don’t understand” or “They don’t listen.” What about “it’s us against them” “we need to win the argument” “we’ll beat them” - although it has to be said I’ve yet to hear “they hate us” or even “I hate them.”

The reminder comes of course when we realise that those who do achieve their goals, those whose stakeholders write about their relationship in Supply Management and those who win awards will already be aware of the language they use and the beliefs they hold about their stakeholders. Whilst it might not be about loving each other I’m sure it will be about collaboration, listening, understanding and doing it together.

If you’re not achieving your desired outcome how might the language you use and the beliefs you hold be holding you back? Just a passing thought as I start my day.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change in stakeholder relationships inside and out.

Original blog first published in Supply Management blogs.

Collaboration is everything picture source: via Alison on Pinterest

Monday 7 January 2013

Are your New Year's Resolutions balanced?

As I also shared in my Supply Management blog many of us use the start of the year to review our personal goals, whether it’s losing weight, stopping smoking, getting fit, seeing more of the family or setting up our own businesses.

It’s the same with work-related goals, with most set at the beginning of the financial year. In this setting, balanced scorecards are used to ensure the measurement of success of the individual, team, department or organisation and goals are considered more broadly. This makes sure short-term cost savings aren’t delivered at the expense of quality or long-term stakeholder relationships.

I wonder what impact applying the balanced scorecard approach would have to some of the new year resolutions we make?
  • Getting fitter might not become a lonely trip to the gym but involve activities with family and friends.
  • Going on a diet might also involve learning how to cook.
  • Giving up smoking may need to be supported by learning stress reduction techniques.
Considering the wider picture may provide additional motivation, improve the likelihood of achieving your goal or subtly change it. Whatever the impact, I’d suggest success is much more likely.

I’ll let you know how I get on balancing having a life with the travelling needs of the consultant trainer.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change in purchasing inside and out

2013 picture above source: via Alison on Pinterest

Sunday 6 January 2013

What's winning in your world - the good, the bad or the indifferent

I woke to this view this morning - what a fabulous start to the day. One shared with facebook friends and twitter followers. I then went to the BBC news app, as I do most mornings, and wondered why my mood changed:
  • no-turn
  • conflict
  • unrest
  • killed
  • clash
  • sacked
  • rape victim
  • kills
  • crisis
  • killed
  • suicide
  • arrested
  • dead
  • death suspicious
  • in court
  • dies
  • abusive
  • killed
  • warning
  • charged
  • concern
  • destroyed
  • arrested
Of the remaining 13 news items (across 4 categories) I only found a two where the headlines use of words could be seen as any counter to the above list:
  • progress made
  • retains title (not even wins!)
So that's a 2:23:11 ratio or good/bad/indifferent.

No wonder I then went to a couple of the places on the web that I know do sustain and inspire me Pinterest and Alison Chisnell's wonderful newyearblog series from guest bloggers.

I know news isn't supposed to be sustaining or inspiring but it's certainly easy to forget the impact immersion in it can do as we go about our normal lives. As I said in a blog last year if we are reminded of the worse in people and look for it it's hard to remember that a larger percentage of the time there's so much good out there.

Please don't let the stacked odds get you down - and when you notice that feeling of negativity reach out and be inspired by the many wonderful things that are published. Just a pity they don't make it into the news more often.   

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring positive change inside and out

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Get a life and reduce my carbon footprint

I know I can do it anytime of the year but I do love using the start of a sparkly new year to get myself organised. Cupboards get cleaned, clothes sent to the charity shop and To-do lists get written. I've got them organised across 4 colourfully and inspirationally decorated clip boards this year so let's see how long it lasts.

One of my goals for 2013 is to get a life (life balance that is). On reflection far too much of 2012 was spent travelling - if I wasn't driving 250 miles south I was letting planes and trains take the strain for even longer journey's. I even got quite blasé about leaving home at 1700 on a Sunday with no hotel booked to turn up at a hotel c2230 to book in for the night. If I didn't realise then the toll all of this travelling would have on me it was brought home when I started to plan January 2013. I'm able to work from home for much of it and so was busy planning joining a book club, going to the storytelling eves at the local centre, getting a block of yoga booked and getting dates in the diary with friends. These were all things I talked myself out of last year because I never knew where I'd be or how tired I'd be when I did get home. (Unfortunately I'm not one of those who can travel with no impact on energy and wellbeing levels.)

Of course as I travelled (mainly) south from my Fife based home other consultants and trainers were travelling north. Which had me wondering about what networks of associate consultants and trainers existed to make use of local resources and reduce the carbon footprint and enable us all to achieve life balance?

Any and all suggestions most welcome.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out

Planes, train and automobile picture source: via Alison on Pinterest