4 Ways Procurement Can Work With Start-Ups and SMEs

Size isn’t everything when choosing suppliers.

There’s a poignant scene in The Lord of the Rings in which the Elven Queen Galadriel turns to Frodo Baggins, a frightened young hobbit, and gently reminds him that ‘even the smallest person can change the course of the future’. 

Against all odds, and to the dismay of many powerful leaders in Middle-earth, Frodo is entrusted with the monumental task of destroying the One Ring within the fires of Mount Doom. His relentless determination, unorthodox methods and the faith of his closest friends all contribute to his ultimate success. 

What can procurement take away from this? Most importantly, when it comes to selecting suppliers, size isn’t everything – something any one of the 30.2 million small businesses operating in the United States could tell you. 

Traditionally, big works with big. But companies today are recognizing that they are selling themselves short by restricting their supply base to large organisations. 

Benefits of working with SMEs and start-ups include: 

  • Small businesses are more agile and innovative because they are less confined by rigid or bureaucratic processes.
  • Improved sustainability and added social value, which benefits the local economy. This is because SMEs are likely to have a good understanding of the community in which they operate.
  • Better value for money as a result of lower admin costs and increased flexibility.
  • Capacity to deliver highly specialised solutions.
  • Closer buyer-supplier relationships.
  • Increased efficiency in terms of product cycles and the provision of services.
  • Improved supplier diversity: 45% of US-based SMEs are minority-owned businesses.

Despite the many advantages, some procurement leaders remain wary of partnering with smaller businesses due to increased risks. Others simply struggle to effectively build and nurture these partnerships.

Here are my 4 tips for procurement to build successful relationships with SMEs and start-ups. 

1. Build close relationships with your suppliers

One of the many benefits of working with smaller vendors is that it’s easier to build meaningful, lasting relationships – often directly with the CEO. These drive innovation, reduce cost and mitigate risk. 

Procurement professionals should take advantage of this through regular communication and collaboration with suppliers, particularly in the pursuit of innovation.

Negotiations, contracting and pricing are a necessary (and important) part of any buyer-supplier relationship. But meeting your suppliers in person to seek innovations will drive value for your organisation. 

In reality, you might be surprised at how much additional value a supplier can contribute when you abandon standard approaches to SRM and commit to listening and learning.

2. Pay your suppliers on time 

According to a recent study, 11% of all invoices sent by SMEs are not paid on time, which comes at a cost of over $1 trillion each year. On top of this, the research found that 7.5% of all SME invoices are written off as bad debt. 

SMEs are dependent on good cash flow. Many fail as a direct result of clients delaying payments. So paying your suppliers on time should be an absolute priority for procurement professionals.  

Similarly, procurement should be cautious about driving harsh payment and contractual terms with small businesses that may be unequipped to negotiate with large corporations. Remember SMEs are likely to deliver long-term value in other ways. 

3. Be flexible 

In order to prioritise innovation and other benefits associated with SME partnerships, procurement teams must be willing to adapt their processes to be more accommodating. 

Many corporations are accustomed to only dealing with other big companies. This leads to the assumption that only large suppliers are capable of meeting demands and managing risk.

In reality, as long as suppliers are financially secure and can deliver your requirements, your flexibility in accommodating them is the more important factor. 

Procurement teams can do this by:

  • reducing contract complexity 
  • limiting turnover thresholds and removing high insurance and health and safety requirements
  • sharing risk appropriately between buyer and supplier
  • keeping KPIs simple, concise and supportive. 

4. Mitigate potential risks fairly 

There’s no question that there are risks associated with working alongside SMEs and start-ups. But with careful consideration and forward planning, these can be mitigated. And without negative impacting prospective suppliers to a point where they are compelled to walk away.

For example, an SME might present a higher financial risk than a big supplier. These concerns can be alleviated by requiring financial due diligence and detailed discussions surrounding the company’s finances to ensure complete transparency. 

Similarly, it’s worth asking for an overview of the supplier’s recent and ongoing projects, including a first right of refusal to buy the company should it go bankrupt. Commit to regular meetings and use incentives instead of penalties. 

So, the next time you’re approached by an SME or start-up, don’t reject them on the assumption that they will be too small to meet the needs of your organisation.

Just like Frodo Baggins and the Fellowship of the Ring, an SME just might turn out to be the most valuable partnership you ever create. 

Learn about the cost savings and other benefits involved in joining a Group Purchasing Organisation (GPO) at www.una.com

Taking Culture to a New Dimension at Work

Now we have the tools to help us understand culture, how are we going to apply this learning? Are you ready to take cultural learning into your workplace?

taking culture to work
Photo by Eugenio Mazzone on Unsplash

Over the last 12 months we’ve been looking at an in-depth discussion of Culture, Cultural Intelligence (CQ), what it is, and the impact it can have when working across cultures. Given this is the last post in this series, I thought it would be a great chance to review some of the key areas we have covered.

Over the series we have explored the 4 components of CQ – Drive, Knowledge, Strategy and Action. We have explored the implications of using these components to work more effectively across culture, distance and time.

We have also looked at the attributes and behaviours that accompany each of the components to give further insight into the specific ways we can address and increase our CQ.

Here is a summary of the components and their attributes.

  1. CQ Drive – The interest, motivation and confidence to adapt to a multicultural situation. It consists of intrinsic (i.e. meaningful work) and extrinsic interests (ie financial rewards) and the drive to learn and understand cultures, their norms and behaviours.
  2. CQ Knowledge – Understanding cultural similarities and differences. This includes knowledge of the values, norms and practices in different cultural settings.
  3. CQ Strategy – Awareness and ability to plan for multicultural interactions. It incorporates how we apply our CQ Knowledge insights.
  4. CQ Action – The ability to appropriately adapt verbal and non-verbal communication in cross cultural situations, including how well we can adapt when things don’t go according to plan.

Looking into the Cultural Mirror

Another aspect that we have delved into is the 9 dimensions of culture which were discussed in relation to the cultural mirror below.

By investing time to understand some of the key characteristics and notice similarities and differences within cultures, it is possible to identify areas that we need to be aware of. Having that awareness can assist us in navigating relationships across culture and help us avoid tensions and misunderstandings which can undermine success.

So where does all this leave us??

Applying Culture in the Workplace

Here are some thoughts and suggestions on how we can best incorporate the learning topics and apply it in the workplace.

First, have some self-awareness and be mindful of our own preferences and behaviours and how this impacts our world view. Second, be open to receiving and giving feedback on our interactions so as to improve effectiveness.

Third, be willing to experiment, possibly fail,  learn from our experiences and try again thus fostering resilience. Fourth, trust your intuition to gauge a situation and have that guide your responses and actions.

Fifth, have a sense of humour and be able to laugh at yourself, this is an important aspect of developing maturity. Sixth, cultivate the mindset of a student so that you are constantly learning and re-learning lessons.

Seventh, be grateful for all the gifts and rich interactions you have in your life.

It is my hope that in sharing this information and some practical strategies, that you are able to glean some insight into ways you can maximise your effectiveness and engage in meaningful and fulfilling relationships with people coming from a different view points.

Go forth!

A Decade In Review: Procurement In 2020

Is procurement less, just as, or more important this decade than the last? Find out as we take a walk down memory lane…

It’s the dawn of a new decade in procurement, and goodness me, how things have changed. From the digitisation of just about everything, to the introduction of big data, 2020 looks vastly different than 2010 did. 

As a former CPO and now Principal Advisor at Procurious, I’ve been at the coalface at what I can only describe as seismic changes to our profession. 

But have all the changes we’ve seen been good changes? Are we now poised to deliver more value, or will we struggle to do more with less? And are we more relevant than ever, or is technology replacing us? Here are my key observations from the last decade – and what we need to do to stay valuable going forward:

We became captivated with compliance

The last decade started for me with a bang – I was promoted to a procurement leadership role and I was, for the first time in my career, excited to be able to effect real, lasting and meaningful change. I felt that procurement could achieve much more than pumping out stock-standard contracts and controlling third-party spend. 

Yet my excitement was short-lived. As I looked around me, I found that, as a function, the procurement community just didn’t seem interested in broader, value-adding gains. Their focus was still quite shortsighted; they seemed captivated by processes and fixated on compliance. Cost-savings, contracts and the financial bottom line seemed to be the only thing on their mind.

Data made us better advisors (but some of us are still catching up)

‘Don’t ever do a job a machine can do,’ said our grandparents, as they rejoiced at the invention of the calculator. Suddenly, this advice was ringing true in our profession – we had eProcurement, cloud computing, and AI to take away a lot of our administrative work. What came in its place was the ability to deliver new and intriguing insights to our stakeholders quickly, without having to spend hours on Excel.  

As emails replaced purchase order pads, eCatalogues replaced supplier brochures and the data started to flow through, we had the information to inform our strategies and priorities. As a result, our advice and cost savings rapidly improved. 

Not everyone was a fan, though. Many of us became concerned with job stability, and some believed that technology had created more issues than it solved.

From cost reduction to value creation

As the decade progressed, our relentless focus on cost reduction started to feel like a grind, not least for suppliers who, feeling bullied by our negotiation techniques, began to speak out and cry ‘no more.’ These changes meant that the expectations of our stakeholders started to move away from a focus purely on cost.

The good news was that our newly automated processes helped us to shift our attention from cost-savings to value creation. Before we knew it, we’d automated our entire P2P process, freeing us up to build strategic partnerships with both our suppliers and stakeholders. 

In uncertain business and economic times, the focus on value creation was exactly what our profession needed. It lifted us from a ‘necessary evil’ in some people’s eyes to a strategic partner. On the whole, though, that transformation is far from complete, and many of us still have some work to do in this regard.

It’s more about the people than ever

Behind the analysis, behind the processes, and behind the cost-savings, procurement has always been a people profession. And perhaps the best news of the decade is that with all the change, with all the uncertainty and with the new and heightened expectations, procurement professionals have shown themselves to be resilient, optimistic and future-focused. 

We’ve embraced digital disruption. We’ve welcomed, with open arms, technology that makes us more efficient, and we’ve also onboarded stakeholders and suppliers to use that technology, meaning we’re adding even more value. 

But we’ve also realised where technology stops and that is, sometimes, with communication. We now understand how critical our ‘soft skills’ are at work, and that technology can’t replace the influential conversations we need to have to convince an operational manager to change suppliers, or make a case to buy more sustainably. Technology is transformative, but then again, so is our ability to negotiate.

As for 2020 and beyond?

With digitisation and automation now happening at breakneck speed, many of us have embraced the change but fear what’s coming next. Soon, virtual assistants will abound, collaborative marketplaces will proliferate. What value will we add, then? 

The answer is plenty. One thing we’ve learnt from the last decade is that in uncertain times, human relationships prevail, and that’s where our strength and expertise shine through. Armed with our best people skills, the sky is really the limit for procurement. As a function, 2020 and beyond could see us having more strategic influence than ever before. 

What other changes have you seen in the last decade? Do you think that procurement is less, just as, or more important this decade than last? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Helen Mackenzie is a Principal Advisor at Procurious and a former senior leader in UK public procurement. Connect with her on LinkedIn and join Procurious to hear more of her unique insights.

New Year, New Fear – The Dreaded Annual Pay Review

If you’re facing an annual pay review this month, follow these key Dos and Don’ts to boost your prospects

For many of us, our annual ‘appraisal’ when we discuss pay and performance is one of the few opportunities to talk really frankly and one-to-one with our line manager.

However, there is a tendency for pent-up frustrations to spill out.

All those extra hours you’ve put in for no extra pay. The fact that you suspect your colleagues are paid more than you.

The lack of training and development. Being overlooked for promotions. Doing the job of three people with no support.

This is your time to get everything off your chest, isn’t it?

Well, no. It is important to treat this like any other business negotiation.

So, keep it professional. Don’t get emotional. Prepare your pitch. Present your case. And have a back-up plan if you don’t get what you want.

First, some Don’ts. Avoid these common mistakes.

Don’t beg for more

Adopting the Oliver Twist approach (‘Please sir! Can I have some more?’) is just going to make your employer feel uncomfortable. 

Saying you need a rise to cover the increase cost of fares or childcare or rent may gain you some sympathy. But it won’t get you a rise.

This is a negotiation about your value to the organisation – not the cost of living.

Don’t threaten to quit

Threaten to take a job elsewhere and you run the risk of your employer calling your bluff – so you better have a job lined up.

You will also come across as disloyal. And when there’s a promotion or new opportunity, your employer might overlook you for fear you are going to leave anyway.  

However, you can point out that other employers are paying more as part of your pitch (see below). But stress you are really happy in your job and have no plans to move. 

Don’t go compare – even if it’s not fair

Some firms actively discourage staff from discussing their pay with their colleagues. So if you ask around to check if your salary is on a par with everyone else’s or to find out what pay rise they received, you could be in for a disciplinary chat, rather than a talk about your prospects.

There are many reasons why people doing the same/similar jobs are paid differently – from performance to length of service.

Most people are not happy divulging what they earn, let alone revealing the details of why they are paid what they are paid. 

Don’t lose your temper – it will make things worse

If you don’t get the answer you want, try to be understanding rather than angry. Your line manager may hate having to tell every member of the team that they won’t be getting much of a pay rise and it won’t help your case to make the process even more difficult.

Also, there may be a reason – poor performance, persistent lateness, or rudeness, perhaps – for a bad appraisal. 

You need to address these issues, not antagonise your employer.

Now some Dos. Follow these tips to make things go well.

Do prepare a business case

Many employers fear that if they give one person an inflation-busting rise ‘everyone else will want one’. So give some compelling reasons why you, as an individual, deserve more by offering something in return.

Don’t just focus your past performance (what you’ve already contributed). You should also demonstrate how you can save/make your organisation money in the year ahead and bring more to the table. 

For example, offer to take on a new project – saving your firm the cost of employing someone new or a reducing the need for hiring a contractor. 

Do your research

As part of your pitch, you can (and should) use data to support your case. In turn, this can help your line manager to justify a pay rise with higher levels of management or HR.

However, instead of saying X earns more than me or Y had a bigger bonus, use the information that’s available publicly (if you can). 

Medium and large employers must carry out an equal pay audit on a regular basis to ensure that they are complying with the law. If your salary seems out of line with what’s been published, you can use this information to present a case for better pay. 

If your organisation does not have to publish pay data, then go online to salary comparison sites such as glassdoor.co.uk or indeed.co.uk to benchmark your pay.

Also, check job adverts for similar roles in similar organisations and print out the data to support your case. Once again, be professional. Say something like: ‘The going rate for my role is £X. I feel that bringing my pay in line will not only help me but also help attract other talented people to our organisation.’ 

Do make your firm an offer they can’t refuse

Most employees have a good idea about where there are skills gaps within their organisation. Offer to solve these.

You could say something along the lines of: ‘If I undertake this development programme/do this course I could take on the responsibility for X.’ You can then justify more pay through a promotion.

Do be prepared to listen

Your line manager will probably justify why you are only getting X% as a rise. Listen carefully. 

It might be because the firm is going through a difficult time (perhaps it’s time to jump ship). Or perhaps your performance is not good enough – in which, case find out what you need to do to improve. 

Do have a plan B for tomorrow

The bad news is that your line manager has probably already decided the size of your pay rise – or been given the figure by HR. 

So whatever you say will not make a difference to your salary in the short term. However, you can use the review to ensure better pay and prospects in the future.

Think of all the things your employer can offer you that will boost your ‘value’ in the workplace and your long-term earning potential. These could include investment in your skills, the opportunity to work in a different office (or even a different country) and the chance to join a new team. 

If none of the above are on the table, look at alternative ways to be rewarded such as more flexibility – for example, working from home one day a week.

Try to leave the meeting with something – even if it is an agreement to meet again in three months’ time to discuss your progress. If you feel more positive, so will your line manager who will probably be as relieved as you are that the chat went well. This will make your next meeting much easier (and hopefully more productive).

So if you have a pay review on the horizon bear these keys Dos and Don’ts in minds as you prepare for the meeting. You’ll give yourself the best chance of getting what you want.

And in case you need a little more advice on getting to the top in your career, don’t forget to tune in tomorrow to our free webinar – Don’t Quit Your Day Job. Register here.

Will 2020 Be Our 50-50 Year? How To Help More Women Into Leadership In Procurement

The business case for diversity is clear – diverse teams and leaders are more innovative, collaborative, successful and profitable. But when it comes to diversity in leadership, we’re not where we need to be. How do we get there?

Procurement as a profession has proven our ability to change, to adapt and to thrive. From order takers, to expediters, to deal and market makers, we have proven we know how to make the most of an opportunity to create value, and we’ve been able to do so in ways never done before. 

Yet to realise the true potential of our profession, there’s one thing I know we need to achieve that we haven’t as yet, and that is: gender equality in leadership. 

Across the board, procurement performs above average from a gender perspective. A recent survey from our recruitment partners, The Source, revealed that 38% of leaders and managers in procurement are female (compared to the 30% average across all professions). This is a great start, but we’re still losing too many women along the way – when you look at entry statistics, 48% of procurement graduates are female. 

If we’re doing well, then, why do better? Better diversity can help us better manage complexity and enhance profitability, as I’ll explain below. And in good news, there are (at least) five things you can do right now to help your team get there. 

Why is increased diversity particularly important for procurement? 

As Deloitte pointed out in their 2019 Chief Procurement Officer report, CPOs (and increasingly, all of us in procurement) have to be “complexity masters” to excel at work. As we know all too well, complexity is now coming in all shapes and sizes, including trade wars, climate change and new regulations (external complexities), stakeholder alignment (internal complexity), people, organisational models and business plans (talent complexity) and finally, digital disruption. Managing one aspect of this is challenging enough; managing all can feel overwhelming. 

But greater diversity can help us do it all. Firstly, with diversity comes multiple perspectives and enhanced innovation, which will help us identify multiple solutions to solve the complex problems we face.

Diversity also helps us with everything inside our own four walls. The more diverse we are, the more likely we’ll represent the interests of those we serve, including our organisation’s customers – who are ultimately our customers. And not only do we represent our customers and stakeholders, we also better represent our own staff when we’re diverse, as we’re better able to understand them and make decisions that enhance their wellbeing. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, given the expectation of strategic business partnering from procurement, diverse teams have been shown to be up to 35% more profitable. With procurement functions now often required to do more with less, diversity can be a key driver in increasing our value-add and securing resources to innovate and grow. 

How to increase diversity in leadership in procurement

The challenges faced in retaining women in leadership in procurement echo those of wider society: inequality with paternity leave, unconscious bias and a lack of flexibility. But there’s so much we can do to counteract these, even on an individual level, and you don’t need to wait for society or even your organisation to catch up. If you want to reap the benefits of greater diversity in your team, try the following:

1. Give (public) praise 

In order to reach a position of influence, you have to be noticed. And unfortunately, sometimes being noticed can be as much about announcing what you’re done as it can be about the actual achievement in the first place. 

This can be particularly problematic for women, whom research shows can be punished for advocating for themselves. To counteract this, try giving public praise to women you believe deserve to get noticed. Whether it be on Procurious, LinkedIn, in a meeting or in front of an influential executive, giving praise can help someone be recognised and hopefully promoted. 

2. Encourage others to have a go

Across the board, there’s a big difference in how women and men apply for roles. Men will apply for a job when they have 60% of the required skills and experience, whereas women apply when they’ve got closer to 100%.

Although this is a stereotype, there’s never any harm doing what you can to prevent it. So if you know a talented female and there’s a role going, why not encourage her to have a go? 

3. Mentor and sponsor 

Whether or not you’ve got diversity as an official target or KPI in your team, as a leader, you’re no doubt responsible for performance. Knowing that, it’s important that you mentor and sponsor other more junior procurement professionals – especially females. 

Your mentoring can be any arrangement that suits you and the mentoree – you may want to meet regularly but informally or alternatively, you might put a more formal development plan in place. If you choose to be a ‘sponsor,’ though, you should be more active – as a sponsor, your responsibility is to specifically advocate for the person you’re working with in the hope of securing them a promotion (like giving public praise, but with a very specific end goal in mind!). 

If you want to increase your impact, you could even mentor someone outside of your organisation. Procurious and The Faculty run mentoring programs in both the UK and Australia, get in touch if you’re interested.

4. Role model flexibility – regardless of your situation

If you’ve ever been in any type of leadership role, you’ll know that you can influence your people as much (or more) with your actions than with your words. One of the most important ways to influence your people is to show you trust them through giving them flexibility. 

Flexibility is fast becoming the norm these days and for good reason – employees offered flexible work are more than 20% happier and more productive, and flexibility is the number one benefit sought by all employees, across the board. Yet still, there can be a ‘stigma’ around flexibility and when it is offered, it’s offered mostly to working mothers, which further entrenches (unhelpful) stereotypes. 

But if you’re in a position of influence, you can change this. No matter what your situation – mother, father, or non-parent, if you lead by example by both working flexibly and allowing it, you’ll help remove the stigma and as a result, help create better diversity.

5. Campaign for equal rights and equal opportunities 

Although unconscious bias is still an issue, one of the biggest reasons that there are less women in leadership roles in organisations is that they have career breaks that their male counterparts may not have, by way of maternity leave(s). 

But if you’re in a position of influence, you can change this by giving fathers a much sought-after opportunity to be at home. Numerous big companies have all recently removed the terms ‘primary and secondary carer’ and instead offered equal leave to all new parents. Why not advocate for this at your organisation? 

In our profession, a lot can change in a year. So why not make this year the year we all rally together and create a change we can be proud of? Our profession is complex, but helping more women into leadership doesn’t need to be. Diversity benefits us all, so let’s all do what we can to help propel more women into leadership. 

Tania Seary is the founder of Procurious and a passionate advocate for gender equality. If you’re interested to learn more about how to help women in leadership, tune in to our podcast ‘Don’t Quit Your Day Job – Your Path to the Top’ webinar on January 23rd, 2:30pm BST. Register for it here.

20 Ways To Get Job-Ready for 2020

This is the most popular month to make a career change, which means there’s even more competition – if you want to stand out from the crowd, it pays to be prepared.

Job-seeking is not a numbers game – all you need is one great job offer.

So, get yourself ready to be open to the right opportunities. Follow my list of 20 ways to get job-ready.

1. Don’t set goals – you will be setting yourself up to fail or to make a bad choice

If you set yourself a target of finding a new job by March, say, or earning a particular salary, you will be putting pressure on yourself to accept a job offer even if it is not the best career move for you. 

2. Think about why you’re leaving – just to be sure

Moving jobs takes time and is risky – you have little job security for the first 2 years. 

So work out why you are dissatisfied with your current role.

Need more flexibility? Ask to work a day a week at home.

Want to learn a new skill? Then put in a request. 

You’ve nothing to lose if you are planning to leave anyway. 

3. Make it a positive choice – desperation is not a good look 

Not only will you be in danger of accepting any job rather than the right one, hiring managers want to recruit someone who is positive and passionate about the job, not someone who is disgruntled and oozes negativity.

4. Focus on what you’ll gain – it will energise you

Change your mindset by focusing on what you want to gain, not what you want to leave behind. 

Make a list of all the positives you want from your new role.

For example, if you are stuck in a rut with no prospect of promotion, then training and development and opportunities to progress should be a priority in your job search. If you hate your commute, the location will be key. 

This list will help narrow your search – and help motivate you to make a change.

5. Be patient – it might take time 

Remember, it will probably take until Easter (at the earliest) before you start a new role, so don’t rush into the wrong decision.

6. Remain loyal – it will pay off 

Yes, it’s hard to give your best when all you can think about is leaving – however, don’t relax just yet because you will want a good reference and you might be working in your current role for some time. 

Never badmouth your employer. It could get back to the boss (awkward) or make future employers wary of hiring someone who is obviously so discontented.

7. Identify your strengths – and weaknesses 

You need to be clear about what you can offer future employers. 

To discover what your ‘brand’ is, ask trusted friends and colleagues to list the 5 or 10 things they think you do well – perhaps you have good technical skills or are good at being collaborative?

Then ask if there are any aspects of your personality or performance that they think need work – maybe you are not so good at organisation?

8. Search online for keywords that will sell you 

Next, match what you have to offer with the jobs you are interested in. A quick scan of job boards to see what recruiters are looking for will identify the keywords you need to include in your job applications – from ‘collaborative’ to ‘commercial’. 

Make a list. Then rephrase your skills so they fit these descriptions – for example, ‘ambitious’ could be ‘target-driven’. 

9. While you are looking, is there anything you are missing? 

If nearly every job spec is asking for a particular skill, then perhaps it’s time to get a qualification. 

For example, if the spec says ‘must be proficient in data analytics, including Excel’ and you use Excel but don’t have a certificate, go online and do a quick course. If there are any glaring gaps in your skills, perhaps you need to invest in a professional qualification. 

Also, check out the Procurious Training & Learning section.

10. Update your CV – only a generic one at this stage

Pay attention to the style: No more than two sides of A4.

Start with a personal statement. List jobs with the most recent first and avoid giving your entire life history. Focus on what you can do rather than what you have done. 

Include some examples of where you have met/exceeded expectations using the STAR (situation, task, activity, result) approach. This will clearly demonstrate you are up to the job without appearing arrogant. 

Don’t be tempted to invent hobbies and interests to make yourself appear more interesting or to lie (dates, job titles etc. are easy to check). 

And don’t forget to double-check grammar and spelling.

11. Remember to tailor your application/CV to each role 

When you get to the stage of applying, carefully read the job specification and include all of the keywords listed – using the exact same wording. 

Look through your list of skills and keywords that sell your brand and include those that are required or you think will add value to the job. Remember, at this stage, you need to show that you are an obvious fit for the job.

12. Have a professional photo taken

While many recruiters hate photos on CVs, they do like to see them online – either on your own website (if you have one) or your online profiles. 

A really good photo (remember to smile or at least look approachable) is, therefore, a must. At the very least, avoid holiday or party selfies.

13. Get your online presence ready – LinkedIn in particular

Think of this as your shop window – a potential employer or recruitment consultant might come across your profile and at the very least will check it. 

Ask a few key contacts if they will provide you with a recommendation and add a bit of personality by posting a few blogs or sharing some newsworthy links. Also, boost your network by requesting others to join it – the more senior the better.

14. Use Procurious as a resource

Make sure your Procurious profile is more than just a bland description of your current job. 

Use phrases like ‘passionate about’, ‘driven’ and/or ‘highly experienced’ and really sell yourself – don’t forget a photo. 

Also, click on ‘Build your network’ and start to reach out to professionals in key positions – someone might even approach you to offer you a job. 

15. Don’t forget to clean up your social media 

An inappropriate image or even just liking a less-than-tasteful joke can rule you out of a job.

16. Get signed up to job boards 

Get the apps (you can search on your daily commute) and sign up for job alerts (so you don’t miss an opportunity).

17. Identify your ideal employers 

Make a list of the firms you would like to work for and start researching them – you will want to talk their language in your job applications and be prepared for interviews. 

Also, check out glassdoor.co.uk to see how existing employees rate them – to avoid making a bad move.

18. Engage in strategic networking 

Find ways to network with staff who work for your ideal employers to find out what it is like to work there. 

You can then ask them if they have a referral scheme (existing employees are often given a bonus for recommending a new employee) or to let you know if there are any opportunities. 

19. Encourage approaches – a bit like putting up a ‘For Sale’ sign

Many job movers don’t ever apply for a new role. Instead, they are approached. 

Go to LinkedIn and click on ‘Show recruiters you are open to job opportunities’. (Don’t worry – you can control who sees this, so the boss won’t necessarily find out.) 

Also, get on the books of recruitment consultants specialising in your area so they can put your name forward for any relevant jobs.

20. Practise your pitch – it will keep you positive

Some people find it awkward to self-promote while others just come across as arrogant.

So practise telling stories that showcase how you have met a challenge, achieved a target or developed a skill – you can use these on application letters, when networking and in interviews.

It’s also a very self-affirming – and will help you deal with the disappointment when employers don’t even bother to acknowledge your application or reject you. 

So keep these 20 tips in mind to boost your spirits while job-hunting – and increase your chances of success. Good luck!

And if you want to move up in your career, change industries, or even need some extra motivation for the new year (and new decade!), start 2020 off with a bang in our upcoming webinar – Don’t Quit Your Day Job. Register here for free.

Why Buying From Social Enterprises Is As Easy As A, B, C

If you’re looking to boost the sustainability of your category plan, try seeking out social-enterprise suppliers. While we all know change can be challenging, and some buyers are reluctant to shift from tried and tested suppliers, this simple A, B, C approach empowers you to make things happen – and support social enterprise with buying power.

Do you want a quick and easy way to get more sustainability into your category plan?

How about an approach that’s focused on suppliers rather than the scope of what you buy? The answer is to ‘buy social’ – purchase from a supplier that is also a social enterprise.

B2B social enterprises are increasing in number both here in the UK and globally. They’re a great way to promote sustainability because:

  • Social enterprises have a positive social or environmental impact at the heart of their business model.
  • Their scale is significant – they make a contribution of £60 billion to the United Kingdom’s GDP.
  • Social enterprises are more diverse in their leadership and workforce, and we all know that diversity is proven to help businesses succeed and grow.
  • Building social value into your supply chain can help your business attract and retain talent, enhance your brand and access new sources of innovation.

And the good news is that buying social is as easy as A, B, C!

A: Analyse Your Spend

Given that there are more than 100,000 social enterprise suppliers in the UK alone, there’s every chance you’ve already got them in your spend. Make sure you analyse spend before you start to source new suppliers – and get your Buy Social KPIs off to a flying start.

Once you have identified that existing spend, why not amplify the impact by highlighting these suppliers to your buyers and getting even more spend with them if you can?

Sometimes you will find them in unusual areas. One of my teams identified that we already used a local social enterprise for kettles and other household goods. We decided to direct more of our buyers to that cause, which meant increased revenues for that supplier – and all it took was an email from our procurement team.

B: Baby-Steps Approach Gets Quick Wins On The Board

Sometimes changing suppliers is a difficult thing to do. People can be reluctant to shift their spend away from suppliers they’ve used for years. So a baby-steps approach could help by giving your team an early success story to build momentum. Try starting with a low-risk category of spending.

Janette Evans-Turner, Head of Sourcing & Procurement at Zurich Insurance, quite literally took a ‘baby-steps approach’ when engaging with the social enterprise From Babies With Love. Members of her team identified a social enterprise they could use in a low-risk category of spend to ensure that there was a minimum of fuss – and they were able to redirect their spend from a mainstream retailer to a social enterprise.

‘It was easy to approach the buying department as the change didn’t seem that big,’ Janette reports. ‘When we explained to our colleagues in human resources the double whammy of benefits that the change to buying social with From Babies with Love could bring, they were chomping at the bit to get started!’

C: Commit To A Challenge

The final step in the process is a commitment to a target that you want to achieve. Companies such as Amey have put in place ambitious targets to increase their spend with social enterprise and the results have been impressive.

They signed up to the Buy Social Corporate Challenge, developed and delivered by Social Enterprise UK, to support this:

  • The Buy Social Corporate Challenge programme, launched in April 2016, is designed to make it as easy as possible to buy from social enterprise suppliers.
  • There are 24 high-profile businesses signed up to the Buy Social Corporate Challenge representing a broad range of industries – including built environment, financial services, technology and communications.
  • More than £65 million was spent with social enterprise suppliers by Buy Social Corporate Challenge partners in the first three years of the programme.
  • 100% of Buy Social Corporate Challenge partners in the UK rated the quality of their social enterprise suppliers as comparable or better than existing suppliers.

So why not follow this A, B, C process and see if you can start buying from a social enterprise or increase your spend with one today? Find out more about the Buy Social Corporate Challenge here.

How To Get Moving On Your Career Path To The Top

Ambitious and driven? Plot your way to the top with the help of the Procurious webinar featuring advice from three senior leaders 

Are you looking for the next steps to get moving on your career path? Or are you thinking of quitting the day job in search of a new path to the summit?

Do you have questions?

Good news! Procurious has produced a webinar, ‘Don’t Quit the Day Job – Your Path to the Top’ with all the answers you need.

We have assembled a panel of experienced senior leaders from different industries and different parts of the world – Lara Naqushbandi (Google), Christina Morrow (Ricoh USA) and Imelda Walsh (The Source) – to offer career advice. 

And they have plenty of great insights to share with you.

Plan to succeed

Top of their list of recommendations is to have a plan.

Some people like a fully worked-out, detailed action plan. Others prefer a few tasks on a to-do list. 

Either way, you’ll benefit from having made a plan. It’s a good place to start to identify the things you need to do. 

And – as Imelda points out – you’re much more likely to succeed when that plan is written down.

But once you’ve made the plan don’t feel tied to it. Don’t feel you always need to stick to the programme.

Because sometimes doing that can stop you considering potential new roles that could be a great fit for you. 

Take Christina’s advice and ask yourself how you would define professional success. Use that as your guide to consider whether to stick to or deviate from your plan when a new opportunity arises.

Ask what’s important now

Although the financial side of work is an important consideration, the panel members stress the drawbacks of being blindsided by the money associated with a role. 

‘Look at the whole package, not just the pay cheque,’ Lara advises. 

In her experience getting the balance right between work and home life is something that everyone should consider before taking on a new role.

Having a passion for what you do is something all our panel members cited as important. Imelda reports that she’s been most successful when she has a role that focuses on her passion. 

Christina has always taken time out regularly to reflect on what she enjoys doing so that she’s clear on what she might want from any prospective new position.

Take risks

Be open to taking risks.

This may involve deviating from your plan or exploring options to try something new. 

Lara is a great believer in having an openness to risk. Going off the beaten path can often bring great benefits when thinking about the next step in a career. That’s an approach that has definitely worked for her.

But taking a step up can present new challenges and in Christina’s experience, there is always something from a previous role that you can use to build on for the next. 

So don’t stay too long in one job and get bored is her advice. Take a risk and try something out of your comfort zone. 

The soft skills we use every day in procurement and supply chain – like leadership, negotiation and collaboration – are just what are needed for the challenges of a new role.

Hone your network

Having a network is a great resource you can use for securing a new role.

Imelda sees many candidates who have used a mentor to help them develop and grow, achieving great success.

And mentors can help you think about how to adjust to a culture and brief that a new job can bring. 

Moving between different companies can mean adjusting to completely new working environments and procedures – and even sometimes changing continents. 

Lara has found she’s had to adapt her style to accommodate each company’s culture and management style.

Listen in

Why not listen in to our webinar to find out more from our panel about how you can create your path to the top by:
Planning your route
Asking what’s important 
Taking risks
Making the most of your network.

Register for our upcoming (free) webinar here and start 2020 out with a bang!

Don’t Overlook This One Critical Factor When Choosing Your Next Role

Many mention salary as a reason to look elsewhere. So, what possibly could go wrong when you chase the money?

When Tom* was headhunted for a procurement specialist role at a major energy supplier, his eyes lit up. It was literally his dream job – and at a salary $30,000 higher than he was being paid. 

What could possibly go wrong? 

Tom resigned immediately and started planning the lavish holiday on which he’d now be able to take his family. 

Yet less than 6 months later Tom found himself in my office, miserable. 

Tyrannical boss

It turned out that what had seemed like a lucrative move was anything but.

The long hours and high stress of his new role – combined with a tyrannical and workaholic boss – had made the situation untenable. 

‘I’ve learnt the hard way,’ Tom told me, ‘that it’s not all about money.’ 

As general manager of The Source, I meet hundreds of talented procurement professionals every year.

Like Tom, many mention salary as one of the reasons they want to look elsewhere. 

But I often tell candidates that money shouldn’t be the only reason for choosing a job. And in many cases it shouldn’t be an influencing factor at all. 

Here’s why. 

Flexibility and well-being are key

Workplace satisfaction research conducted over the last decade tells us that, contrary to popular belief, salary isn’t one of the driving factors when it comes to happiness at work. 

In fact, salary comes close to last on the list. 

What makes us truly happy at work is, in fact, a combination of permanent workplace flexibility, a commitment to health and well-being and the feeling that we’re doing meaningful and interesting work. 

We also need to feel respected at work. 

We need and want our leaders to notice and listen to us.

And, to an extent, we want them to praise us for our efforts.

In Tom’s situation, he had ended up with none of these. 

He wasn’t getting any respect. In fact, his new manager often berated him in front of other colleagues. 

He also had little flexibility. 

Despite the fact that the organisation had a strong policy on workplace flexibility, Tom’s workaholic manager made him feel like he could never take advantage of it. 

Finally, the lack of flexibility, high expectations and poor management had a knock-on effect on Tom’s health and well-being.

He was stressed and tired all the time – and struggled to stay motivated. 

Again, the organisation had a policy on employee well-being. But that hardly mattered to Tom, whose entire experience was being dictated by a manager he hated. 

People leave their bosses, not their jobs

After talking to me about his situation, Tom quickly came to another realisation about his poor career move.

And this time it wasn’t about salary. 

When you look at the drivers of workplace satisfaction, almost all can be achieved – or derailed – by your leader. 

This is something that’s enshrined in fact: 75% of all people leave their bosses, not their jobs. 

So if you think about it like that, risking leaving a good boss for the unknown can make the salary gain pale in comparison. 

Sure, that extra money might get you a great holiday, help you pay off your debt or buy you the car you’ve always wanted, but what are you giving up in return? 

Your job is a 40-hour-a-week, 48-week-per-year reality, and your career – which a manager can also make or break – is a lifelong endeavour. 

After a few months of searching, we eventually placed Tom in a new role, with a leader I know will give him the career experience he wants and deserves. 

But for all of you thinking of your next move this year, let this be a cautionary tale. 

How much does salary really mean? And how much emphasis should you place on that against working for someone who holds the key to your workplace happiness? 

I’d love to hear your experiences – please share them in the comments section below. 

Interested in some more career advice? Whether you want to move up in your career, change industries, or even need some extra motivation for the new year (and new decade!), start 2020 off with a bang in our upcoming webinar – Don’t Quit Your Day Job. Register here.

Tony Megally is the General Manager of The Source, Australia’s leading procurement recruitment and executive search firm. If you’re looking to hire in the procurement space, or alternatively, you’d like to have a confidential chat about your next role, please contact Tony on +613 9650 6665 or via email on [email protected]

*Name changed to protect privacy

Redefining Corporate Purpose – Is It Time For Boards To Adopt ‘Total StakeHolder Value’?

Major challenges such as spiralling inequality and climate breakdown are putting corporations under pressure to rethink their very purpose. The Maturity Institute has developed a ‘responsible business model’ that puts people at the heart of business and produces best value for stakeholders as well as shareholders.

Is your company facing an existential crisis?

To provoke discussion at a recent Procurious CPO roundtable, I suggested that each participant was working for a company that was already in the midst of one.

Why did I say this? From the London Financial Times calling for a re-setting of capitalism to US CEOs shattering the prevailing paradigm of profit maximization, to investment firms in the City of London calling for a renewal of stakeholder-focused value creation, the purpose of corporations is under intense scrutiny – and facing pressure to change.

The questioning of corporate purpose is putting firms into a state of flux.

If shareholders (or owners) are no longer to be accorded primacy in setting strategies designed to deliver the best financial returns, then what else should be driving them? 

How, and for whom, a firm creates value has become a boardroom conundrum like no other.

Text Box: “This topic blew my mind…my question is now – which organizations are going to take the big leap forward on this?” 
Procurious CPO Roundtable participant, November 2019

A Host Of Challenges

Environmental and human problems arising from business and economic activity have continued to surface at an alarming rate. Poverty, human rights, slavery and growing inequality have become more acute.

Climate breakdown is now impacting all around us. Polluting plastic swirls around in our oceans, contaminating marine life, while toxic pesticides find their way into our bodies via food systems, and poisonous air may be undermining our health every day.

Customers, investors and workers are not just asking questions about their involvement with firms that do not seek to address and resolve these problems, they are increasingly avoiding them altogether.

Governments and regulators are also under growing pressure to restrict or revoke licenses where firms do not work to address such issues or fail to provide real benefit to local communities. 

So what should your own company do to meet these challenges?

It is evident that firms that understand how to simultaneously serve society and perform financially will be the ones that can survive and thrive.

Shareholders And Stakeholders: A Common Purpose

Since 2012, the Maturity Institute (MI) has been building a responsible business model that shows how companies can produce the very best stakeholder and shareholder value by putting people at their heart.

By aligning management systems to leverage and realize the potential value of all their human stakeholders, companies can competitively differentiate themselves from their peers.

For procurement heads, this specifically includes suppliers. This is an area in which value-based relationships (as opposed to those driven more by cost parameters), together with appropriate system design, should lead to superior outcomes.

Moving from a ‘shareholder’ to a ‘stakeholder’ business system requires an understanding of what this entails across an organization’s whole system – including workers, customers, investors, suppliers and wider society.

It also requires engaging everyone in the pursuit of a common purpose.

Total Stakeholder Value

Our work is designed to act as a practical guide, to set out a way forward for boards, C-suites and managers to pursue a goal focused on creating healthy organizations through what we call Total Stakeholder Value (TSV).

This is not based on a theoretical perspective but on existing, exemplary ‘mature’ organizations.

At MI, we teach the invisible factors that have enabled organizations like Toyota, Handelsbanken and Mercadona to lead the world in a direction that is in everyone’s interests. These are companies that have a central purpose rooted in serving society.

Alongside financial outperformance, they have consistently delivered the best-quality products and customer service ahead of peers.

In achieving this, they have deliberately designed high-value management systems, including supplier relationships, and have also led others on managing out harm, in either environmental or human terms.

Organisational maturity

To help companies identify how these factors play out within their own organization, we deploy Organizational Maturity Ratings (OMR) to uncover the intrinsic value and risk arising from the company’s whole human ‘ecosystem’.

Our open-source OM30 diagnostic looks at 32 inter-related questions and is able to identify and predict the likelihood of material human value and risk arising from critical causal drivers, such as:

  • Formulating and articulating a corporate purpose of Total Stakeholder Value (TSV) maximization
  • Identifying whether an organization’s business strategy and operating model are predicated on reconciling its (market) value with changing societal values
  • Checking the extent of trust placed in the leadership and management team by customers, employees and other key stakeholders
  • Determining whether the organization is planning to maximize the value it generates from all of its human capital value (both internal and external, e.g. supply chain)
  • Considering the evidence of any never-ending, continuous improvement philosophy being operationalized.

By examining these factors across their whole system, companies can, at last, gauge a baseline of true corporate responsibility and how it affects total value generation.

Strategies For Transition

This also enables executives and managers to identify key strategies that will help the transition to a corporate purpose of TSV – one that drives financial, human and environmental performance that can also be measured and monitored.

For CPOs, the OM30 also has a specific additional application – in helping to assess the suitability of suppliers. Here it acts as a measure of alignment with parent-company culture and human systems, and can be used to determine levels of supplier responsibility and fit, above and beyond any compliance requirements.  

MI is using its methodology and building its evidence base by working with corporations, investment managers and academic institutions to help them understand the relationship between the OM30 and a range of value and risk outcomes.

Recent academic testing of our data has shown:

“…the benefits to shareholders and stakeholders are not mutually exclusive; in other words, the value to business, shareholders, stakeholders and society are aligned. A company can maximize profits and create wealth for shareholders mainly by establishing a mature institution that enhances well-being for all legitimate stakeholders as well as create positive externalities to the environment and the wider society. 

Cambridge Judge Business School, March, 2019 

We can all participate in encouraging, demanding, designing, building and facilitating the process of change that is now necessary; to help create many more mature, exemplary firms that can lead others.

MI is actively helping stakeholders to play their part.

Stuart Woollard is Council Member at the Maturity Institute. The Mature Corporation – A Model of Responsible Capitalism, co-authored with Paul Kearns, is available with a 20% discount using code Corporation20 from Cambridge Scholars Publishing https://www.cambridgescholars.com/the-mature-corporation.

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