All posts by Procurious HQ

RFP Beware – It’s Not Just About Ticking The Boxes

Don’t get caught out by using a template without thinking! The result can give you nightmares!


I was recently asked to describe the worst procurement project that I had been involved in. While not the worst, this story certainly highlights the importance of engaging procurement teams early and not blindly following templates!

The scenario

I was in the role of a buyer supporting an internal customer and I took over a project at evaluation stage. The evaluation team had individually assessed the bid responses and the team had convened to discuss their findings. A weighted attribute model had been selected to help identify what criterion was valued over others.

The template bites back

The ranking of the bidders evaluation scores were revealed and the project lead was shocked. “This isn’t what we expected? These aren’t the best proposals that meet our needs, these are the weaker ones?!”

The problem became obvious. The boilerplate RFP template had been used without tailoring it to the business problem they were trying to solve.  Most critically, the evaluation criteria percentage hadn’t been adjusted at all. Innovation was set to a default of 10% whe,n in fact, it was the most critical factor the project!

What is a weighted attribute evaluation model?

A weighted attribute model is one of the most common evaluation models used in procurement. It helps to identify the proposals that best meet the most important buyer needs. This could be requirements like: methodology, project management, resources or capability and capacity.

A typical weighted attribute model looks like:

Track record10%
Technical skills25%
Project team and key personnel20%
Methodology35%
Price10%

There are many different ways to approach the weighted attribute model. (Top tip, don’t put the percentages too close together otherwise there will be nothing distinguishing one bid from the other!)

Project resuscitation

What would you do if you inherited a project at evaluation stage and the RFP didn’t actually ask the market for the complete picture that you wanted? And worse, that the evaluation criteria didn’t match the most critical elements of the project?

These were my options:

  1. Cancel and start again – this wouldn’t be fair to the bidders who had already put in the time and effort to respond.
  2. Reissue parts of the tender questions – the submission deadline had already passed but we could seek further clarification responses. This would risk our reputation in the market.
  3. Create a second stage and interview each bidder to better understand their proposal and see if they have the capacity and ability to scale up to our desired needs.

We selected option number 3 and ran a second stage process. The presentations enabled us to drill down into each proposal and meet with each company face to face. They were able to better understand the objectives we were seeking and we were able to better understand the solution they were putting forward.

3 lessons that changed the way I approach evaluation

  1. One size doesn’t fit all

A template with a generic model can’t be assumed to meet the needs of every project in every situation. It’s important that the needs are thought about carefully and that the right model is chosen for the project.

  • Clunky RFP processes aren’t always right – especially where innovation is required

Consider what parts of the process must be executed e.g. notice to market, instead of paper based responses – ask the bidders to complete a simple two pager, then hold a dialogue to flush out the rest of the solution.

  • Think carefully about what is important to the success of the project

The commercial team could have determined what was most important to the project. Pairwise analysis is a great tool to help with this!

The traditional RFP model’s days are numbered and will hopefully soon become a thing of the past. It does not suit all processes and yet it’s still frequently used. If the entire process can’t evolve to be more efficient, then we have to change the way we approach evaluation to ensure we’re selecting the best company for the job, rather than the company that can write the best response.

Join Procurious to connect with 40,000 other ambitious procurement professionals and get free access to networking, industry news, training and much more. 

Coronaphobia: Have You Got It?

Businesses across the UK who are making efforts to get back to business are facing a new uphill struggle – employees claiming stress and anxiety or are simply requesting outright to be furloughed for another 3 months.


Workers who were furloughed back in April are being gradually invited back to work, although some are being asked to work from home. However, many small businesses are reporting major issues in getting staff back to their roles, after 3 months being at home.

“It’s crazy to think that after all this uncertainty and worry – that happy time arrives when you can invite staff back to work and that they don’t want to actually come back!”, says Jonathan Ratcliffe who runs office space company Offices.co.uk

Reports from SMEs across the UK include:

  • Workers being too scared to come back to work and are being signed off due to anxiety
  • Staff not wanting to come back to work, who would rather be furloughed for a bit longer
  • Employees deciding to have a change of career

“Those struggling mentally you can well understand and have my sympathy, but we have seen first-hand staff simply asking if they can stay on furlough for a bit longer, it’s crackers, I couldn’t believe my ears”, adds Ratcliffe.

Businesses must tread carefully and understand the employee’s rights. Employers now face the daunting challenge of rebuilding businesses across a wide variety of sectors with a lack of motivated staff due to the long spell of lockdown.

The issue is complex, and the situation is unique for every type of business and every employee. However, as companies see demand for services increase over the next month, the issue of reintroducing staff from furlough into a routine of work is going to be a challenging one.

“I totally sympathise with everyone who has been furloughed, it’s a tough time, but we must realise the scheme cannot go on indefinitely. We want to welcome employees back with socially distanced open arms and build our way back out of this mess”, Ratcliffe from Offices.co.uk concludes.

How To Be More Resilient

There’s a lot we can learn about resilience from this world-famous explorer.


No matter who you are or where you are in the world, the last few months have been particularly challenging. And while we’ve all struggled, those of us with one quality may have universally coped better than others. That quality is resilience. 

Resilience, otherwise known as the ability to recover quickly from challenges, has long been lauded as an essential quality at work and in life, and now, it’s more important than ever. But as important as resilience is, it’s also known to be hard to foster, with experts saying that a lot of it comes down to whether we’ve faced challenging circumstances before, and expressly learnt how to cope. 

One person who is incredibly experienced with all things resilience is George Bullard, so we decided to get his expert insights. George is a world-recording breaking explorer who is on a mission to rewild humans. He’s completed some truly incredible feats, including breaking the world record for an unsupported arctic journey (he spent 113 days in the Arctic when he was just 19), and crossing the ferocious North Atlantic ocean on a kayak (which he completed in 66 days) to unearth an ancient myth about the inuits. 

Here’s what George had to say about how we can all be that bit more resilient: 

1. Don’t self pity; ask for help

Currently, there’s memes circling on social media that implore us to be ‘our most productive ever.’ But as we watch the horrors of the current pandemic unfold before our very eyes, we all know that it can be quite hard to be productive – or even, to be our best selves.

But if you’re going to be more resilient, George says, at some point you do need to move beyond feelings of uncertainty and self-pity, and endeavour to get on with the task at hand. Communicating your feelings can help though, George, says, and we should always endeavour to do so. 

George had some incredibly low points on his expeditions, but when he was at the height of his self-pity, he also had an important epiphany: 

‘One of my expeditions was 53 back-to-back marathons, hauling everything we needed to survive a 2,211km journey. On the 53rd day of not seeing another human except for my team mate, I remember wishing I wasn’t there.’ 

‘I questioned what I was doing, why I even wanted to break the record. That morning I cried helplessly.’ 

‘But it didn’t help. Nobody came to my rescue. So when I had run out of tears, I stopped crying.’ 

2. Keep trying – and never give up

When we’re in stressful situations, our brains can sometimes tell us to effectively ‘give up and go home’ – or to stop trying. But if George has learnt anything throughout his expeditions, it’s that we need to fight the urge to give, and keep going. Resilience, he believes, is an attitude that defies what your brain is instinctively telling you – and for good reason. 

Later on his arctic expedition, George experienced a true life or death situation. Amazingly, on day 104, he ran out of food: 

‘The expedition had already been relentless – and then we ran out of food. We survived the last 9 days of the expedition eating small fat balls made of butter and oats.’ 

‘Words can’t really describe how it felt to run out of food on day 104, while living on ice, in a tent, and pulling your entire life on a sledge. I remember thinking “is this how I am going to die?”’ 

George’s experience, though, did teach him something important about how our brains operate: 

‘[That experience] made me realise that humans are a remarkable species. We have this incredibly powerful brain, and it can make us feel and think things. Those feelings can impact our ability to endure.’ 

‘Our brains sometimes tell us to “give up” long before our bodies are actually tired.’

3. Focus on the journey, not the destination

By now, many of us have realised that unfortunately, this coronavirus crisis is a marathon, not a sprint. Knowing this, we need to prepare ourselves to be resilient for the long-term – but how? 

George believes that the best way to ensure long periods of hardship is to change our focus. Specifically: 

‘Avoid thinking about the destination. Instead, focus on the journey. Over the course of the pandemic, we will wish dream of the good days that will seem like an ice age ago, and wish that this isolation will end tomorrow.’ 

‘It won’t. Accept that you can’t control everything and enjoy each day for what it has to offer.’ 

Like on his expeditions, George thinks it’s important to focus on the basics … and remember to be grateful for them:

‘Covid-19 reminds us of what is really essential for survival. On my expeditions I prioritised the same things – food, water and warmth. Now we have the opportunity to be grateful for these things.’ 

4. Remain flexible 

Throughout this crisis, we’ll all invariably have our good and bad days, with some a whole lot worse than others. But in order to be truly resilient, says George, we have to master the ‘bounceback’ – how quickly we rebound after setbacks. He believes that the key to doing so is by doing a few critical things: 

‘There are so many unknowns in the current crisis, so the best way to handle this – and many other challenging situations – is to remain flexible, versatile and adaptable. That way, you’re prepared to face the setbacks which inevitably will come.’ 

Do you have any other tips for becoming more resilient in these challenging times? Share them with us in the comments section below. 

How can you develop your own resilience, achieve self-mastery and successfully manage your personal energy? We take a look in this year’s Career Bootcamp as we encourage you all to ‘Power Your Mind’. Register here.

What It Feels Like To Be Furloughed

Have you been furloughed during the coronavirus crisis? Many people have. Here’s a searingly honest account of what it feels like.


Matt* was suddenly and unexpectedly furloughed from his job as a sourcing consulting director at one of the US’s most recognisable businesses. He has shared his story here on the condition of anonymity. 

Life has a funny way of throwing us curveballs, hey? Just last weekend, I found a list of goals I’d made, sometime after the new year when the enthusiasm of resolutions had yet to wane. I’d included the good old standard goals, something like ‘get fitter,’ ‘scroll less!’ ‘don’t get hung up on things you can’t change!’ but there was also a solid few career ones in there. None of them, I might add, included being sent home from work, suddenly and unexpectedly, with no return date and no certainty there would even be a job to return to. But then again, was a pandemic really in anyone’s plan? I’ve since heard that some people believed it possible, but to be honest I never really gave the idea much thought. 

I’m a sourcing consulting director by trade, and I love – or, I loved – everything about my job. Helping clients transition and transform their businesses was my bread and butter, and I enjoyed the variety and challenges it afforded me. On a daily basis, I’d be confronted with new and different projects; no two clients were the same. As a natural people-person, I found the client contact invigorating and the problem solving even more so. I was often jet-setting around the country and seeing different cities while living out of a suitcase and it suited me just fine. It enabled me to get properly embedded in my work and give it my all. 

Around January, I remember seeing eerie photos of Wuhan and thinking how strange it looked and seemed. I think I saw a photo of a door welded shut on an apartment block and I reflected on how grateful I was for American freedoms, and how I never thought something even resembling a lockdown could ever happen here. Boy, was I wrong. Our doors might not be welded shut but we sure are trapped in another way. 

Have you seen the movie the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? If you haven’t, it’s where four English children go through their wardrobe into a land completely unrecognisable to them, called Narnia. ‘Virus life,’ to me, felt like Narnia, but not in a good sense. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, it felt like we were safely in the wardrobe one day and then a place we truly didn’t want to be the next. 

From a work perspective, when the pandemic did hit hard, I was immediately concerned about the travel side of my job, but not my actual job, interestingly. But as a business, we were shocked at how quickly things exploded and started having an impact. Somehow, stil, I wasn’t worried. But then. 

When they told me, I didn’t really react much. I was shocked, I think, maybe a little numb. I’ve always been a risk-averse person, always doing the right thing, always trying to get a stable job and succeed at it. So when I heard I was being furloughed, I kind of got this sense of, but I’ve always done the right thing? I certainly wished it wasn’t me. In a rational sense, I got it, of course I did. I understood the dynamics, I knew that things were unstable now and changing fast. But still. 

Since being stood down from my role, time has taken on a strangely elastic sense. Sometimes days go fast, especially when I get really engaged in playing games with my family or staying up late watching a movie. I know some people’s children have driven them crazy, but I’ve honestly enjoyed my family dynamics and our closeness so much. But when I do find a minute to myself, I can’t say my mind is completely clear. My business has told me, ‘as far as they know’ that I’ll be back, but I can’t help but wonder. A few of my colleagues have been laid off and I now see the fear and dread in their eyes as they confront America’s most challenging job market. Sure, in procurement we’re weathering the storm well but nothing is for sure. I try not to think about being fired. Now I’m not ‘present’ at work, I do feel genuinely worried. 

Being furloughed has been a great time for personal reflection. Fortunately, I was in a relatively secure financial position prior to this and so far, money hasn’t been a real issue – but I know for so many people, that simply isn’t true. I’ve also paused and reflected on what is an ‘essential versus a ‘non-essential’ business – something I’d never really thought about before. All things being equal, if I was ever offered a job again, I’d definitely preference an ‘essential’ business as having a stable job is critical to me. Despite my relative financial stability, I’ll also be more conservative with cash. You truly never know what is around the corner. That’s what this pandemic has taught me. 

In life, I’ve always been used to knowing what’s coming next. It’s such a strange feeling to wake up and not have to plan anything past my morning coffee. But at the same time, it’s nice to take a breath. The future is unclear, but I feel, in procurement at least, that there’s hope.

Editor’s note: As of 20 May 2020, Matt has been officially ‘stood up’ and will be imminently returning to his role. If you enjoyed this article then read the wildly popular article You’ve been fired or made redundant. What to say to your next boss?

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Are Procurement Professionals Inherently Narcissistic?

Are you the office Narcissist? This article seeks to demystify an unloved aspect of the human psyche.


If working from home for 6 weeks has taught me anything it’s that I get a lot out of human connection. I realised that I analyse my own behaviour through interacting with others. They act as a mirror. Now all I see is my own face day in day out on yet another Zoom meeting.

Aside from noticing how bad my under eye circles have become, the Zoom meetings have forced me into a new way of conversing. I try to cut in to get heard over the cacophony of voices all talking and competing at once. This is extrovert torture, where’s my stage?

But I’m special!

But I have a unique view point!

But I’ve tackled this before!

Hmmm is this narcissism? Am I the office narcissist?

The answer is yes, partly.

How we interact with the term narcissism

Narcissism is flung about as an adjective to describe behaviours of people that we encounter in our every day lives. Whether it is hearing about the latest dating flop from your bestie or hearing the latest office drama from colleagues, the pop culture definition would label a narcissist as someone who is self-centered to an unhealthy degree.

Defining narcissism

Narcissism is commonly defined in the context of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) which is at the extreme end of the spectrum. Psychology Today defines NPD as someone who displays “…grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration. People with this condition are frequently described as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. They may also have grandiose fantasies and may be convinced that they deserve special treatment.[1]

At the heart of it they lack self-love

While we often view a narcissist as someone that loves themselves too much, talks about themselves a lot and is very self-obsessed. It runs a little bit deeper than that. Robert Greene is one of the most well-known proponents that believes narcissism comes from a lack of self-love that leads to insecurity and a lack of empathy for others.

Without this inner worth the narcissist will seek attention and validation from others to feed the beast.

Newsflash! We’re all narcissists!

What’s often missed in the pop culture definition and understanding of narcissism is that we all have it within us. Narcissism is a normal and healthy part of being human it’s just a matter of where you lie on the spectrum.

Take a light hearted test, go on

In 1979 the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) was developed by Raskin and Hall.[2]

While this test is not a diagnostic tool, it can be used to see where you rate on the narcissism scale in very general terms. I got 12 out of 40 and rated most highly in exploitativeness, self-sufficiency and authority. I can see how these traits would complement being a leader in a commercial sector!

Are procurement professionals inherently narcissistic?

The most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists nine criteria for NPD, it specifies that someone only needs to meet five of them to clinically qualify as a narcissist. Read on to see if you can relate to the telltale signs of a procurement narcissist.

Note: it is not a diagnostic tool, instead it measures normal expressions of narcissism. So, even someone who gets the highest possible score on the NPI does not necessarily have Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

9 signs of NPDTelltale signs of procurement narcissists
1. Grandiose sense of self-importanceThe procurement person who must talk at every meeting about themselves and won’t listen to anyone else – even if it’s information from their client that they need to hear.
2. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal loveThe procurement person who won’t roll their sleeves up or get their hands dirty unless the project comes with a highly visible profile.
3. Belief they’re special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutionsThe procurement person who corners your boss any chance they can get and deliberately cuts you out of emails and meetings involving anyone higher up the food chain.
4. Need for excessive admirationThe procurement person who copies the whole team in on an email reply back to a customer where the customer has just thanked them for completing a task.
5. Sense of entitlementThe procurement newbie who demands to be the project lead on a $10m account their first day!
6. Interpersonally exploitative behaviourThe procurement person who proclaims they have written the best category strategy in the history of all time but actually they made others do it for them.
7. Lack of empathyThe procurement person who steals air time in a team meeting to talk about how amazing they are when a colleague has just lost a large account.
8. Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of themThe procurement person who sits in on your project meeting only to then try and take it over (when they were never invited in the first place).
9. Demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviours or attitudesThe procurement person who refuses to use plain english and will only communicate in unnecessary inflated industry jargon to make it known that they are better than anyone else.

Conclusion

While not all procurement professionals have NPD, we all display narcissistic behaviours from time to time. I would argue that a healthy amount of narcissism is required to be successful in this industry! If narcissism is an inherent trait in everyone that can be harnessed for good, then perhaps we need to reassess the characterisation of the behaviour trait as being only bad.

Is healthy narcissism your untapped office superpower?

If you enjoyed this article then read the wildly popular article ‘Are you the office psychopath’

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Happy At Home Alone? 5 Ways To Negotiate Your New Normal

Nine in ten of us do NOT want to go back ‘normal’ once lockdown ends. So how do procurement professionals negotiate a new WFH arrangement – that works for them and their employer?


With half the world in lockdown we are starting to get used to the ‘new normal’…. and after an initial reluctance, most of us are embracing the idea of a new way of life.

Yes, we do want some aspects of “normal” life to return. Being able to socialize, see our families, have a decent haircut (that’s not done at home) or enjoy a weekend at the beach.

But we don’t actually want to go back to life as it was.

A recent poll in the UK found that only 9 per cent of Britons want to return to life as “normal” after the end of lockdown.

One area where we are yearning for change is work … or more importantly the ability to work from home and/or more flexibly now that we have put the systems in place, mastered video conferencing and created our own home-office environments.

The good news is that three-quarters believe their manager trusts them to be productive when WFH according to research commissioned by Visier, which provides people-analytics to over 5,000 businesses that employee 7 million staff across 75 countries around the world.

So, if you are one of the 9 in 10 who wants a different type of working life, build on this trust: meet your deadlines, exceed expectations, continue to work collaboratively and show that you can excel at online meetings and conference calls. Do not give your manager any excuses to say WFH does not work – and that you have to return to your place of work, once offices are back open again.

The best way to tackle this negotiation is like any business negotiation (as a procurement professional you already have the skills). So be clear about what you want to achieve, build a compelling case and then make a persuasive argument.  

STEP 1: PROVE IT’S THE BEST WAY FORWARD

Seven in ten staff who are working remotely for the first time as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, felt they were either more or equally productive as a result (despite the unique challenges of slow internet speeds, homeschooling and hours queuing to purchase life’s necessities).

So, working from home does work. Just make sure you have the data to support your argument and include this information in your flexible working request. It will make it far harder for your line manager to refuse…and also help you prove to yourself that you CAN do this.

TIP: Make this data easy to assimilate by churning the figures – I wrote five more pitches every week, responded to 15% more enquiries per day, set up an online meeting with a new supplier and negotiated a contract remotely etc… It is much harder to argue with facts.

STEP 2: WHAT DO YOU REALLY WANT?

As with any negotiation, you need to have a clear goal. Perhaps WFH 5 days-a-week will seem too isolating (or impractical), so do you want 3 days in the office, 2 days at home? Or maybe a 9-day fortnight.

Also, if you are likely to fall into the category of being asked to work more flexibly (social distancing is going to last for some time, so you may not actually be welcome in the office), you need to work out what works for you. If you crave the stimulation of an office environment at least part of the week, make sure your employer knows that WFH permanently is a deal breaker… and let’s face it we all find it difficult to be home 24/7 with family rows over internet usage.

TIP: Presenting a simple solution will make it easier for your immediate line manager to make a decision (remember, everyone else will be putting in flexible working requests too). However, you might have to be flexible about being flexible – for example, to agree to WFH on a Wednesday because everyone else is at home on a Friday.

STEP 3: PRESENT A SOLUTION – NOT A PROBLEM

The financial implications of Covid-19 mean that organizations will be looking to shed staff and cut overheads. One of the most obvious cost savings is premises – with predictions that there will be a huge shrinkage in office floor space even after the world gets back to work.

So, highlight the savings on office overheads from sharing space, hotdesking or remote working.

Another way to save money – and potentially save your job – is to offer to work a reduced working week.

Yes, it will mean a pro rata salary (a 20% pay cut if you move to a 4 day-week), however if the coronavirus has taught us one thing, it is to value having less while enjoying more time with those we love.

If you no longer have to afford two holidays a year (it might be difficult if there are travel restrictions for some time to come), are saving a fortune on eating out (more of us are becoming proficient home chefs) and spending less on grooming (who else is embracing a more natural look?), you might be able to take that pay cut.

TIP: Make yourself less expensive – you will then be less expendable. Being cheaper to employ while being more productive will make you less of a target for redundancies than your colleagues.

STEP 4: WHAT DO YOU NEED TO MAKE IT WORK?

There is no point asking to work flexibly if the office can’t get hold of you, conference calls keep cutting out and your presentations no longer look professional.

So, you need the right tools. That includes the right tech (laptop, software, printer and an upgraded internet connection). Also discuss insurance (this might cost more if you have expensive equipment at home), the extra costs of running your home office (electricity) and an allowance for things like stationery, printer ink and other office supplies.

TIP: Don’t make expensive demands (it could be a dealbreaker) but show you have thought through the practicalities of WFH and wish to have an open conversation about how to make the new arrangement work. In some countries you may be able to claim these expenses against tax and in the UK from 6 April 2020 employers have been able to pay up to £6 a week (£26 a month) to cover additional costs if you have to work from home (although not for those who choose to do so).

STEP 5: KNOW THE LAW – JUST IN CASE

While employers are likely to be highly responsive to flexible working requests – or even insist that more staff WFH at least part of the week – it still pays to know the law…and in particular, what reasons your employer can use to refuse your request.

Many workers around the world (Europe, Australia, some parts of the USA) have the right to request flexible working (although this is NOT the same as being able to work in the way you wish – you just have a right to make a request).

Generally the reasons for refusal include:

  • additional costs
  • it is impractical – either you have to be there in person or there will be difficulty reorganizing work among other staff
  • there will be an impact on performance, productivity, quality, customer service

TIP: It is better to preempt a refusal, by countering it in your flexible working request. It will not only show that you know your rights but also that you have thought of practical solutions to any potential problems.

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How One Supplier Pivoted From High Fashion To Scrubs

How do you pivot your operations? Here’s how. We discover how one fashion house started making scrubs. 


Imagine, for a second, that during this pandemic, procurement simply wasn’t needed within your organisation. Your boss then came to you and said that the business valued you and thought you had some transferable skills, so they had decided you should switch into a sales role, immediately. How would you feel? What would you do?

Admittedly, in this situation many of us would panic. But right now, we don’t need to look far to find people that that exact situation has been thrust upon – namely, our suppliers. Throughout this pandemic, we’ve witnessed this exact, almost instant change, occurring from Ford and Tesla switching their production to making ventilatorsto 3M making face masks. But how does it feel to have your world changed, overnight? And as the pandemic rolls on with no vaccine in sight, can we expect more suppliers to be doing this? 

To get an insight into this fascinating transition from a supplier’s perspective, we spoke to Martin Kristensen, Director of the House of Kristensen. Incredibly, over the last few weeks Martin and his team has transitioned from manufacturing high fashion to making homemade scrubs, which are now being used by the NHS. 


Martin, tell us about your business prior to now making homemade scrubs? 

Sure, so House of Kristensen is a couture fashion house specialising in made-to-measure, bespoke designs. We create unique feature pieces for both private and public/professional clients, with our public pieces being quite high-profile. 

For our private clients, we design mostly for special family occasions, such as weddings, birthdays, bar mitzvahs, etc. For our professional clients, we do everything from gown design for famous TV shows as ‘Strictly’ or ‘The Voice,’ to dressing stars for stage performances(we’ve worked with Katy Perry and Dame Shirley Bassey, to name a few). We also create stunning outfits for red carpet appearances, including Cannes Film Festival, the BAFTAs, and many more. 

We understand that you’re based in London. Tell us how the coronavirus unfolded for you. What’s your personal experience been and how has it affected your business? 

I couldn’t have been in a stranger situation when the Covid-19 escalation was first announced. I was actually running around a woodblock with camo-cream on my face on a training exercise with the British Army Reserves!

Prior to departure, though, I had left an action plan for my team with guidelines about what they should do if the situation escalated. My training was cancelled, so that allowed me to return to my team.

When I returned to London, immediately our focus was on adapting our workforce to be able to work from home, at least temporarily. This involved significant kit & equipment prep as well as material allocation so we could still execute our production schedule. 

Beyond that – honestly – the outlook for us wasn’t that rosy. We’re fundamentally in the events business, and with Covid, most events were axed. We had a quarter of a million pounds’ worth of cancellations, and little room for new opportunities. 

Everyone was afraid, there was no certainty. All we could do was focus on being proactive, strengthening existing relationships and forging new ones. 


With everything that was going on for you, how on earth did you think of switching to produce scrubs?!? 

Scrubs4Heroes was born out of recognition of the extremely challenging situation facing our frontline staff and a desire to help in any way we could. 

For those of us in the leisure and luxury sectors, It is not every day that we are able to be a part of helping safeguard peoples’ lives. 

I will always remember the amazing care I received after my hand was broken in a cycling accident. So when I heard about the shortages at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, where I’d been treated, I called them to offer support with scrubs if any were needed, the response was clear and more requests followed, pushing us to capacity. 

I then decided volunteers were needed to help us meet demand and we then created Scrubs4Heroes. I am proud to say we now have almost 200 volunteers and are burning through about 3000m of fabric per week to meet our urgent orders.

We’re intrigued! How do you actually make scrubs? 

The process is very interesting and there’s lots of different design features you definitely wouldn’t think of. 

Firstly, you need to find the right fabric. We discovered quickly that poly-cotton was best, as it provides a resistance to shrinkage when cleaned at higher temperatures as well as a resistance to wear/tarnish, whilst also ensuring a degree of breathability. 

The next step is the creation of the garment, from a specific NHS-approved pattern. We also need to consider details relevant to practicing medicine such as colour. Colour is a lot more important that you’d think – research shows that looking at blue/green helps keep doctor’s eyes more sensitive to variations in red. So if you are a terribly busy doctor, nurse or surgeon looking at blood frequently, operating or trying to detect an infection, typically indicated by levels of redness, blue or green is invaluable to refresh colour perception

That’s amazing! How many scrubs are you making now? 

Lots! The list of places we are supporting has grown significantly in recent weeks. We now have 14 NHS trusts and clinics we are working to supply, as well as six GP surgeries and just this weekend we delivered to NHS Glasgow. 

We are also now supplying HM prison service with instruction packs and material to help them produce scrubs for the NHS. We think that’s pretty special – I think it would have to be the first couture house and correctional facility collaboration! So far they anticipate adding 50-100 sets of scrubs to our relief effort per week.

Congratulations on your great contribution Martin! Where to from here? 

It’s hard to say. There’s a high degree of uncertainty at the moment and we’re not anticipating a flood back to the sort of events we cater for. We need to remain nimble and agile and adapt to our changed circumstances. One example of how we’re doing this currently is with our Couture-In-Situ Service where your own personal shopper comes straight to your home, hotel or office with a selection of 30 carefully styled looks. This enables us to provide the same level of couture and expertise, but within your own safe setting. 

Way to go, Martin! Is there a thing or two you think can you learn from Martin’s transformation? What does it tell you about how you personally are dealing with change? And how are you currently remaining nimble and adapting to changed circumstances? Tell us in the comments below.

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Fake Masks And False Cures: The Dark Side Of COVID-19

Criminals exploit COVID-19 fear with fake medical equipment. Here’s how world governments are fighting back.


COVID-19 means huge opportunities for criminals.

They are taking advantage of essential goods demand by flooding the market with their own shoddy versions – exploiting public fear.

Here’s a look at the most common (and concerning) fake products on the market.

Fake goods in the EU

Counterfeit pharmaceuticals and healthcare products are everywhere, according to Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency.

In a recent report, it listed the most worrying fake items they’ve uncovered:

Medical equipment: face masks, virus test kits, gloves

Disinfectants: alcohol-based hand sanitiser, disinfectant cleaning wipes

Medicine: choloroquine (an anti-malaria drug initially thought to help treat the Coronavirus), other fake cures

Europol says the fake goods are sold through online stores created just to profit from the pandemic. Some even target victims through messaging apps like Telegram.

The goods originate from ‘frequently changing addresses in Asia’, making it extremely difficult to trace.

Europol is concerned these inferior goods could put people at serious risk.

“Counterfeit goods sold during the corona crisis do not meet the required quality standards and pose a real threat to public health and safety,” says Europol Executive Director Catherine de Bolle in the report.

“People who buy these fake products have a false sense of security, while they are in fact left unprotected against the virus.”

Substandard masks in the North America

And it’s not just Europe. The pandemic is keeping United States’ Homeland Security busy, with more than 200 criminal investigations related to COVID-19 so far.

One woman was caught selling illegal pesticide on eBay, claiming it could provide immunity from the virus.

Another man allegedly tried to sell 100 million facemasks to the government, despite not actually having any.

The man claimed his stash came straight from 3M, one of the biggest healthcare equipment manufacturers in the US.

3M responded with a lawsuit, saying: “3M’s legal team is taking strong action to protect 3M and the public against the conduct of those who seek to exploit 3M’s brand and reputation and defraud others during this time of emergency and crisis.”

3M is also suing a Canadian company for re-selling 3M masks at five times the retail price, vowing to “[put] a stop to those who are trying to cash in on this crisis.”

Another worrying trend in inferior products is testing kits.

The University of Washington School of Medicine spent thousands exporting kits from Shanghai, only to find some of the tests were tainted with bacteria.

The university has since recalled all tests to be on the safe side.

Seizing test kits in Australia

Australia has similar issues with shoddy test kits, according to Zoran Kostadinoski, Head of Border and Biosecurity at the Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia (CBFCA).

He said the border force has intercepted hundreds of dubious testing kits and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Even though members of the CBFCA aren’t directly responsible for checking the authenticity of goods, they warn importers and exporters to be diligent.

“Procurement professionals need to ensure they source PPE from reputable manufacturers that provide quality products and meet the health standards of the importing country,” he warns.

“Until there is a global regulation of such products that provides certification, the issue of counterfeit goods in the supply chain will continue, as some look to make quick profit based on demand of such products due to COVID-19.”

China pledges to clean up

Authorities are doing their best to help people identify goods that meet safety standards.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even set up a website with photos of the most common counterfeit face masks.

Nevertheless, the question remains: why isn’t there greater effort to stamp out fakes before they are ever exported?

It’s complicated, as LA Times journalist Alice Su explains.

“It’s common for Chinese suppliers to export a product under one licensed company’s name but to source their products from second, third or fourth factories, like a chain of Russian nesting dolls, with little to no traceability down the chain of supply,” she writes in an article.

She also points out not all suppliers set out to produce inferior products. Many factories shifted to PPE production at the government’s request without knowing the proper quality controls.

Regardless, the Chinese government is making a concerted effort to shut down offending manufacturers and revoke their export licenses.

Fighting online crime in the UK

That process isn’t happening quick enough for people like Sarah Stout, however.

She’s the CEO of Full Support Healthcare Ltd, a supplier to the UK’s National Health Service.

Recently, she shared on LinkedIn that her company gets dozens of offers every week from manufacturers of the sought-after N95 mask.

95% of the masks are fake with forged certificates, she says.

“When I informed one supplier that I knew their certificates were fake, they said to me, “[O]k, if I give you real certificates for other product will you place an order?’” she writes.

Her experience isn’t unique. UK authorities say they’ve taken down 2000 Coronavirus scam websites so far, including 471 fake online shops.

Many of these websites were discovered through spam emails. One common email appears to come from the World Health Organization and offers COVID-19 health tips in exchange for personal password information.

James Brokenshire, UK Minister for Security, urged people to be aware of the many ways criminals exploit technology like email to gain advantage.

“It’s despicable that they are using the coronavirus outbreak as cover to try to scam and steal from people in their homes,” he wrote in a press release. “We all have a part to play in seeing they don’t succeed.”

In response, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre is asking for people to send them any suspicious emails.

It’s not just a UK problem, though. Pandemic spam mail is a global headache, with Google detecting 240 million COVID-19 related spam messages so far.

How to tackle it

Even though technology is used for exploitation, it’s also a key to stopping Corona crime.

One company in the fight is Systech, which lets you check if PPE product is authentic by simply scanning the product’s barcode with a smartphone.

The company uses blockchain technology to trace the product journey throughout the entire supply chain.

Similarly, Zuellig Pharma, an Asia-Pacific pharmaceutical giant, utilises SAP’s blockchain platform to verify authenticity.

Customers can scan a barcode on the package using the eZTracker app, and know instantly if the medicine is a legitimate Zuellig product.

This use of technology, along with the efforts of governments and the vigilance of the public, go a long way to combat the dark side of COVID-19.

However, until essential goods supply can match global demand, criminals will find a way to cash in.

Want to keep up with the latest coronavirus and supply chain news? Join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group. We’ve gathered together the world’s foremost experts on all things supply chain, risk, business and people, and we’ll be presenting their insights and daily industry-relevant news in a content series via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. We’re stronger together. Join us now.

The Spy Who Loved Me – To Track Or Not To Track? That Is The Question

Companies ‘spy’ on remote employees using tracking software. Great for productivity? Or a massive invasion of privacy?


Covid restrictions are starting to ease, and soon the global workforce will swap their comfy sweats for a morning commute.

It won’t happen overnight, however.

Leaders like UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson want people to stay spread out, staggering shifts and working remotely where possible.

And some companies may even adapt policies to give employees the option of permanently working from home.

That leaves managers with the task of keeping staff productive from afar.

There are all kinds of ways this can be done, but one method stands out for its rising popularity (and sheer invasiveness): tracking software.

Here’s a look at what the software does, why companies use it, and its effectiveness.

Employee surveillance

Staff tracking software gives employers the ability to keep close tabs on employee.

Features vary, but this kind of software lets companies track everything a staff member does on a company computer.

This ranges from recording all websites visited, to taking screenshots every few minutes and sending them back to the boss.

Virtual monitoring isn’t anything new; IT and HR teams have used such tools for years. What’s new is the huge uptake in surveillance software subscriptions since the pandemic started.

In fact, one surveillance software company, Hubstaff, saw a 95% increase in new customers in March over February.  

Enforcing productivity

Is it overkill to record everything an employee does?

Not at all, says Courtney Cavey, Hubstaff’s Marketing Director. In fact, she welcomes being monitored with Hubstaff’s own software.

“The freedom it ultimately grants is priceless,” Cavey says. “[My boss] knows I’m working when I say I am because he can see that I’m tracking time and activity levels, and completing tasks, so he doesn’t have to look over my shoulder and constantly ask for updates.”

It’s certainly one way to make sure staff are productive. But it isn’t the only way.

Trust over anxiety

With all the other productivity tools for remote teams, including Slack and Zoom, why is surveillance software so popular?

It’s all about control, according to executive consultant Lloyd Bashkin.

“It’s perfectly understandable that CEOs will feel anxious at a time like this,” he says.

“[I]t’s a basic human need to want to feel a certain amount of control, and when that is stripped away, bingo – anxiety spikes.

“So rather than see [computer surveillance] as paranoia, for most CEOs it’s just a natural inclination to feel a certain amount of control.”

As CEO of management consultancy Lloyd Scott & Company, based in New Jersey, Bashkin says times of crisis only intensify a person’s leadership style.

“The perception of inescapable fear, such as COVID-19, will amplify a CEO’s behaviour – so untrusting CEOs become less trusting (as a way to relieve anxiety) and more mature, trusting CEOs become more trusting,” he says.

Loosening the reins

As an example, Bashkin points to a recent client – a CEO who clashed with his head of procurement.

The CEO had a long running dispute with the head of procurement, accusing him of having a negative attitude and of letting quality slip. Then the pandemic hit and remote working only made the conflict worse.

The CEO’s solution was to monitor the head’s computer activity closely. If that didn’t work, he’d simply fire him.

Luckily, a conversation with Bashkin helped the CEO realise the problem was his own trust issues. So the CEO gave the head of procurement more freedom to do his job without interference, and the problems disappeared almost overnight.

Output over input

That’s because staff realise when they aren’t trusted by their manager, and close monitoring can be demotivating.

“If employees feel their manager is looking over their shoulder at every moment, trust goes out the window immediately,” says Corporate Rebels’ Pim de Morree.

He thinks surveillance software is ‘micro-management gone wild.’

“Apparently, employers don’t feel the staff they hired are capable of doing a job without them tracking their activities,” he says. “It’s the workplace equivalent of a prisoner’s ankle bracelet.”

Instead of focusing on how work gets done, he says the real measure of productivity is what gets done.

“Figuring out how to measure that is the real problem to solve,” de Moree says.

Legal barriers

However, not all surveillance stems from mistrust or control issues.

There are vital reasons for monitoring staff computer use, like protecting networks from malware or other viruses.

In fact, some companies are required to track employee activities to meet legal obligations. The key to doing it well is transparency.

Employers should let employees know what information they collect and why, says Ashwin Krishnan, tech ethicist and COO of UberKnowledge.

He advises companies to explain staff monitoring “not in legalese terms, but in actual terms of what this means for [the employee].”

He says companies need a clear ethics and privacy policy for data ownership – like how long it’s held and what happens when it isn’t needed anymore.

“When employees can see the full extent of the responsibility and diligence shown by leaders, it breeds trust,” says Krishnan.

Be empathetic

That said, it takes more than transparency to increase productivity, Krishnan says.

Remote staff are far more productive when they feel supported – especially in these unusual times.

“Suddenly, the employee’s home life needs to become part of the manager’s discovery process,” he says.

“Not every employee may be willing to share this but letting them know that they have a supportive ear if they need it is crucial. [A]dapting previously scheduled work meetings (adjust timing, duration, frequency) to deal with this at-home reality shows empathy.”

Such empathy can also help customers be more patient with a company’s employees. 

Kristy Knichel, CEO of Knichel Logistics, a shipping logistics company in Pennsylvania, recently wrote to customers explaining her team’s new work situation.

Many of her staff are working remotely for the first time, and some even need company internet hotspots since they don’t have Wi-Fi at home.

“We understand that our employees are accustomed to the ease of communicating with one another in person in the office, so this has been quite a change to adjust to,” she writes.

“[O]ur team has made the transition smoothly and we hope that you have not experienced any disruption.”

Destination, not the journey

It isn’t easy to manage a remote team – especially during a pandemic.

It requires trust and empathy, while letting go of the need to control every employee move.

That’s why the best way to improve productivity is following de Morree’s advice and focus on what an employee delivers – whether in the office or not – instead of how they delivered it.

Want to keep up with the latest coronavirus and supply chain news? Join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group. We’ve gathered together the world’s foremost experts on all things supply chain, risk, business and people, and we’ll be presenting their insights and daily industry-relevant news in a content series via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. We’re stronger together. Join us now.

An Employee Tests Positive For COVID-19: What Now?

If you haven’t dealt with an employee testing positive for COVID-19, you probably will in the very near future. How are you going to manage it?


It’s a complex challenge that calls for quick and decisive action from business managers. The best practice will vary, depending on your workplace.

HR and workplace experts across the world are scrambling to communicate best practice to employers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A webinar organised by Hazmasters covered best practices for a various workplace types. The US company works with companies to build a strong safety culture, and has been overwhelmed by demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The webinar revealed that in the US alone, 14.4 million workers face exposure to COVID-19 at least weekly, while 26.7 million face exposure at least once a month.

Sylvia Kolitsopoulos is head of brand strategy and business development for Hazmasters. She explains that symptoms of COVID-19 may appear 14 days after exposure to the virus, making it difficult for workplaces to navigate the risks.

She recommends that workplace health and safety committee should be involved in creating best practice and training programs that work for your business environment. 

“We’re all doing our part to flatten the curve to get through this unprecedented time,” she says.

Kolitsopoulos and her team of Hazmasters colleagues contributed to the webinar, explaining that workplaces need to implement proper workplace hygiene practices.

Crucially, if an employee does test positive for the virus, it’s important to keep a record of this on the employee file and that any potential areas within the organisation that may have been contaminated in your workplace are recorded.

If an employee within your business is exposed, these procedures should be followed:

  • Immediate removal from worksite of individuals testing positive
  • Prompt identification and isolation of potentially infectious individuals
  • Individuals to monitor symptoms for 14 days and contact local health authority if
  • Thorough disinfectant cleaning by a certified company
  • Identify where person has been in the workplace to ensure those areas
  • If you can’t send them home, isolate the contaminated areas so decontaminate team can deep clean the area.
  • Continually check local health authorities for update as advice changes regularly.

Source: Hazmasters webinar

What rights do employees have?

Employees that have contracted COVID-19 will have different rights depending on legislation within each jurisdiction in your own country.

However, in most cases, if an employee is showing flu-like symptoms (whether COVID-19-related or not) while at work, they can be sent home. This is a standard workplace health and safety obligation.

Many employers are wondering if they need to pay impacted staff. The key here is to check the advice from your local authority, which may change as the pandemic continues.

A new report by research firm McKinsey says manufacturing plant leaders can help navigate the transition from initial crisis response to steady the corporate ship with three key steps.

These are:

Protect the workforce: Formalise and standardise operating procedures, processes and tools that help keep staff safe. Build workforce confidence through effective, two-way communication that response to employees’ concerns through flexible adaptation.

Manage the risks to ensure business continuity:  Anticipate potential changes and model the way the plant should react well ahead of the fluctuations to enable rapid, fact-based actions.

Drive productivity at a distance: Continue to effectively manage performance at the plant while physical distancing and remote working policies remain in place.

The report also reveals that absenteeism rates are another important area of focus. Employees are concerned about COVID-19 exposure, which could make them reluctant to come to work, while others may be prevented from attending work due to sickness or due to quarantine rules.

To handle this scenario, some companies are proactively reaching out to employees the day before and the morning of their shifts, and asking if they are planning to come to work, while others are offering hazard pay or soliciting volunteers to be on call for overtime, depending on vacancies, the report explains.

Protect employees

Employers need to take precautions to protect all employees, he explains.

“There are heightened concerns regarding the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace. If an employee has been absent from work due to flu-like symptoms, it would be reasonable for an employer to make enquiries regarding their ability to safely return to work,” Paterson says.

“These enquiries could include requiring them to obtain a medical clearance indicating that they are not suffering from any disease which may pose a health and safety risk to their work colleagues,” he says.

If an employee has contracted COVID-19, you need to ask who they have been in close contact within the prior two weeks.

Close contact is defined as a person that has been within six feet of the infected employee for a prolonged period of time. You should alert those who have been in close contact as soon as possible.

In terms of confidentiality, the law is clear here. You should tell everyone who has possible exposed at work to the positive employee, within revealing the employee’s identity.

Looking ahead

Moving forward, the lesson here is that workplaces need to have a roadmap in place to respond to pandemics. This includes the potential work from home scenario and specific procedures to ensure the health and safety or employees.

This includes the creation of pandemic kit for employees who have to visit clients, such as hand sanitiser, mask, safety glasses, disposable gloves, sanitising wipes and a garbage bag.

It’s also worth creating a blueprint for the unexpected. While it’s COVID-19 this year, next time it could be an earthquake, recession or something else unforeseen. Global consulting firm Korn Ferry has created this handy guide to implementing a blueprint that works for your business.

Want to keep up with the latest coronavirus and supply chain news? Join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid-19 group. We’ve gathered together the world’s foremost experts on all things supply chain, risk, business and people, and we’ll be presenting their insights and daily industry-relevant news in a content series via the group. You’ll also have the support of thousands of your procurement peers, world-wide. We’re stronger together. Join us now.