All posts by Procurious HQ

Negotiation, Trump-Style – The Winner Takes It All

Negotiation with suppliers can be done using hardball tactics, so long as there is no genuine need for an ongoing relationship.

In the New Yorker last year, Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter for Donald J Trump’s The Art of the Deal said:

‘He lied strategically’.

‘I put lipstick on a pig’.

Rather than inviting more in-fighting than a Taiwanese parliament, let’s focus on the negotiation trap inherent in Trump’s behaviour.

Whether you’re for or against him, Trump’s negotiation tactics are more obvious than a bogey hanging out of your left nostril on a video conference call. Let’s look at his top five tactics:

  1. Huge ambit opening positions – if he wants $2.50, he asks for $1 Billion.
  2.  Flattery – ‘You’re a good guy, a great guy, the best’!
  3.  Bluster – ‘This is going to happen my way, it always does … believe me’.
  4.  Anger (feigned or real) – ‘This deal is so bad, so wrong, you’re making me really mad’.
  5.  Insult and intimidation  – ‘You’re a loser, you’re crooked, you are going down big time’.

These tactics may or may not have worked, but it’s fair to say that at best, they are transactional.

The Winner Takes It All

A deal can be done using these tactics as long as there is no genuine need for an ongoing relationship. The winner takes it all, the loser’s standing small. (Sorry, too much ABBA in adolescence).

Interestingly, a lot of people have asked me if I think Trump’s tactics could be useful for them.

My short response is ‘If you plan on renewing that client, want referrals or would like to be treated as a trusted adviser for a while, then probably not’.

However, when I ask them if they’ve been subjected to these, and other, tactics from clients including senior managers and Procurement, most say ‘All the bloody time’.

Many sales managers and sales people are aware of these tactics being used against them, yet are so keen to get the deal that they succumb, subjecting their company to poor margins, ridiculous stress to meet deliverables and a culture of subservience.

How to address the key tactics in Trump’s playlist

  • Huge ambit opening positions: Plan your own positions, especially your walk away. Politely refuse to discuss offers outside that range. Get back to discussing what the client is trying to achieve
  • Flattery: If you’re desperate for approval, ring your best friend, your mum or ask your dog if he loves you mid-lick. You don’t need approval and validation from clients.
  • Bluster: Ignore or say ‘thanks for sharing that, so let’s look more closely at the issues on the table’.
  • Anger: Keep asking questions like “Why is this so bad? Why do you want to still pursue this then? What would you like to do from here? (my personal favourite).
  • Insult and intimidation: See Anger, or coolly refuse to continue until the behaviour stops.

Unless you don’t care whether your client gets a great result or not, transactional negotiation styles won’t work very well.

Equally, whether they are the President of the United States or the Chief Procurement Officer, you should build a skilful, tactical wall and get them to pay for it.

Elliot Epstein is a leading Pitch Consultant, Keynote Speaker, Corporate Sales, Negotiation and Presentation trainer who gets sales results rapidly. He has coached and trained high profile corporates globally in presenting, selling, negotiating and pitching. Visit Salient Communication for more information.  

This article was first published on LinkedIn.

Game-changer: Elon Musk intervenes in Australian energy crisis

Energy politics has reached fever pitch in South Australia, where an increasingly fraught situation has been disrupted by a single tweet from Elon Musk.

Take a moment to feel sorry for your procurement colleagues working in the Australian energy sector. Since former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s now-famous “axe the tax” campaign against a national carbon trading scheme in 2011, Australia has been without a clear federal energy policy, leading to very little certainty about future direction for the sector.

This is a problem, as power companies plan three to four decades ahead. A lack of bipartisanship on this issue means that even if a policy is put in place, any future change of government (from Coalition to Labor) would mean a rollback of the hard-won legislation of their predecessors. Power companies know that at some stage in the near future, a carbon trading or emissions intensity scheme will need to be put in place, but they don’t know what form it will take, when it will happen and what the targets will be.

Compounding the issue, the Federal Coalition government is at odds with Labor-majority state governments around Australia on energy policy, culminating in this tense exchange last week between South Australian Premier and the federal energy minister, Josh Frydenberg. South Australia has drawn the lion’s share of criticism from the federal government on its energy situation. The state has an aggressive renewable energy target of 50% by 2025, with a high reliance on wind power.

South Australia’s energy crisis started in earnest on 28th September last year, when the state experienced a once-in-50-year storm event. Gale force and storm force winds, including tornadoes and 80,000 lightning strikes, damaged 23 pylons on electricity transmission lines. As a result of the initial damage and automatic safety features shutting down undamaged parts of the network, the entire state power grid cut out for at least three hours while emergency repairs were underway. 

Power gets political

Even before the power was switched back on, a number of politicians in the federal government commented on the crisis, linking the storm damage with the state’s renewable energy target. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said South Australia had paid “little or no attention to energy security”, while the Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, told the ABC that “Wind power wasn’t working too well last night, because they had a blackout”. One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts took the opportunity to urge all government to “exit all climate change policies.”

Much of the news cycle following the storm was dominated by a debate over renewables and energy security, and whether the storm damage or the state government’s policy was to blame. The situation was compounded by a series of further blackouts while calls increased for an urgent review of energy security at the state and national level. The debate spilled over into the international media, with South Australia rapidly becoming a much-cited example of a failure for renewable energy. Renowned Danish wind farm expert Soren Hermansen, who helped create the world’s first 100% renewable island, defended wind power by saying, “I’d have to go to Australia to deal with a blackout. We have a very powerful grid – we don’t experience any failure.”

Musk intervenes

Dropping unexpectedly into this politically-charged debate, billionaire co-founder of Tesla and SpaceX Elon Musk presented a game-changer with a single tweet earlier this month:

The offer was originally made by Lyndon Rive, Musk’s cousin and Tesla’s vice-president for energy products. Tesla has offered to install the 100 megawatt hours of battery storage that would be required to prevent further power shortages, price spikes and blackouts in South Australia. When pressed on Twitter by Mike Cannon-Brookes (Australian co-founder of Silicon Valley start-up Atlassian) on the seriousness of the offer, Musk himself doubled down with the pledge to “get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free”.

Tesla’s confidence in its ability to deliver stems from the stepped-up battery production out of its new Gigafactory in Nevada, along with a recently-completed installation of an 80MWh grid-scale battery farm in southern California. The Californian project took 90 days to complete and cost US$100 million.

After a flurry of tweets and an hour-long phone call between Elon Musk and Prime Minister Turnbull, the debate around energy policy in Australia appears to have switched to an entirely new (renewable) direction. South Australia has announced a $550 million energy package, with:

  • $150 million for a 100MW grid-scale battery
  • $75 million in grants and another $75 million in loans to eligible projects which support private innovative companies and entrepreneurs
  • A $360 million state government-owned gas-fired 250MW power station to provide energy security when needed.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Turnbull has unveiled $2bn expansion plans for the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, aimed to add 2,000MW to the scheme’s 4,100MW  capacity, or enough power for 500,000 homes. In a sign that the tension between federal and state energy policies continues to play out, Turnbull told reporters that the hydro-electric scheme will provide 20 times the capacity of the South Australian battery system.

Encouragingly, in the past month the national debate seems to have shifted away from the decades-long opposition between renewables and coal, to the state and federal governments trying to outdo each other on renewable projects. Cannon-Brookes wrote the following in a series of tweets that capture this shift:

“The national energy conversation seems to palpably have changed. We’re debating lithium ion vs flow vs pumped hydro storage solutions … whether 100MW is enough [or whether] 2GW is too much. $150m [investment in grid-scale batteries] in South Australia, $30m in Victoria, $2bn Federally. I’m confident there will be a series of good bids [for battery storage tech providers] in South Australia. Super funds, power operators, HNWs and many individuals wanting to invest. Most importantly, Australian people and the tech community and speaking up, loudly, that they want change.”

In other news:

Heavy construction equipment manufacturers waiting on Trump’s infrastructure plan

  • Executives in the construction industry are concerned that President Trump has not yet invested time to win congressional backing for his $1 trillion spending plan for large road, rail and bridge projects.
  • Equipment manufacturers have experienced low activity from farming, construction and mining clients in recent years, and are reportedly impatient for information about what form the investment will take.
  • The administration has indicated that an infrastructure plan would come after Congress deals with complex health care and tax reform.

Read more at The Wall Street Journal.

Kids @ Work: Children crash professor’s live interview with BBC

  • In a now-famous video interview, Professor Robert Kelly’s children burst into his room while he is discussing the impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye with a BBC anchor.
  • The interview was interrupted first by his daughter, who dances into the room to join her father, then a baby in a bouncer and finally by his wife rushing in to herd the children out of the room.

Read more about incorporating your children into your work day on the Procurious blog.

Intrapreneurs: How Do You Know When Your Idea’s Got Legs

Creating an encouraging environment for intrapreneurs in the biggest organisations can be tough. Rio Tinto CFO, Chris Lynch, offers advice on fostering innovation and some top tips on how to assess when an idea has legs!

Chris Lynch spoke with Philip Ideson as part of Procurious’ Even Bigger Ideas, a 5-part podcast series sponsored by State of Flux. You can access the series exclusively on Procurious.

What exactly constitutes a big idea? Rio Tinto CFO, Chris Lynch, believes that a big idea is defined as something that challenges the status quo. It’s got to be an idea that forces people within your organisation to think differently. Of course, this will only come about if the organisation and its employees are thinking differently in the first place and in a work environment that encourages it. The right big ideas can lead to enormous differences in company output.

But how do you know when it’s worth investing time, and money, into someone’s idea and what can the biggest companies do to encourage and motivate their employees to think big.

Organisations must foster an intrapreneurial environment

Chris believes that “good businesses, good leaders, good organisations, good companies and good departments all want to get better.  They want to ensure they’re making progress and delivering better returns. When their employees lose the desire to improve it’s a sign that they’ve lost all their energy. Everyday, people should come to work motivated to try to make a difference and that’s why big ideas are important.”

It’s crucial that people have opportunities to make a difference, feel confident that they are indeed making a difference and are acknowledged for this. It’s unlikely that any intrapreneurs will continue to flourish within huge organisations if they aren’t rewarded and supported in their efforts and contributions.

Chris was keen to remind us that big companies have got to be very very careful in this area. It’s easy to deter enthusiastic intrapreneurs before they’ve even started innovating.

“There must be a culture that’s open, honest and diverse. But, it’s pointless being diverse unless it’s inclusive.  People must feel confident to speak up and take risks without the fear of having their idea criticised.”

How do you when a big idea has legs?

Organisations need the foresight to be able to recognise a brilliant idea and the confidence to roll with it.  Chris reminded us of an old business saying:  “‘You don’t get fired for hiring McKinsey and taking McKinsey’s advice.’ But it’s a bit of a cop-out to have that sort of attitude.”

“A lot of large corporate organisations are risk-averse. They’ll  have 27 ways to say no and 1 or 2 ways to say yes. We need to get companies to recognise their own people’s contributions, ideas and their energy and enthusiasm. This to me is the key factor about intrepreneurship. Companies must be able to recognise the best ideas and follow through on them.

How do you know when an employee’s idea has legs?  It’s going to be something that makes you stop in your tracks and say ‘hey this is something that could really make a difference.’ It might spark reactions with other team members who can think ways to expand the idea.

How to make your big idea a reality

Chris had some final nuggets of advice for any budding intrapreneurs out there:

  • Commit yourself. Once you’ve decided that it’s worth putting in the effort; give it everything and don’t give up
  • Find someone with whom you’re comfortable sharing and testing your idea. Have a conversation about where your idea could lead and what it could do for your organisation
  • Do your homework. If there’s data that you need, get the data. If there’s things that you can do to prove a point, do them. Take it as far as you can on your own
  • If you need a sponsor, pick your mark carefully. Think about who would be the best sponsor for this idea
  • Have the courage to take a risk– It’s important to have the confidence behind your idea to say  I’m prepared to put my credibility on the line behind this idea and stand up for it at all costs

Even Bigger Ideas is a 5-part podcast series available exclusively to Big Ideas Digital Delegates. Sponsored by State of Flux, this series features interviews with five of the most intriguing power players at this year’s Big Ideas Summit in London.

Big Ideas Summit 2017: Be Bold But Nice

The role of procurement is changing and evolving. Professionals have more influence than ever before and Deb Stanton wants them to use their position to be bold but nice!

At the Big Ideas Summit 2017, we once again challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

Our attendees spoke about everything from creativity to politics, from cognitive technology to workplace agility, current affairs, economics and the future. Whatever your industry and wherever you are in the world, there are some top tips to takeaway!

Procurement has elevated within organisations

Deb Stanton, Executive Managing Director at CAPS Research, believes that the procurement function has really elevated within our organisatons.  Data collected by CAPS research shows that 82 per cent of CPOs now report directly to their CEO or one level down.

Under these new circumstances, professionals will have to work differently with their business partners and in their procurement teams.

This is why, Deb believes,  being Bold But Nice, is a valuable mantra. Procurement needs to ask the challenging questions, go in search of new solutions and embrace ideas. Of course, professionals  need their organisation to to work with them, which is why it’s important to be amenable whilst driving new value to our companies. .

Want to find out more about Big Ideas 2017? Join the group on Procurious.

You’ll find all of the Big Ideas Summit 2017 videos in the learning section on Procurious. If you enjoyed this Big Idea  join Procurious for free today ( if you haven’t done so already).  Get connected with over 20,000 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world. 

SpaceX, Red Cross Millennials Amongst 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars

Procurement and supply leaders as young as 24 are impacting major companies including SpaceX, A.T. Kearney, Cisco Systems and the American Red Cross. 

ISM and THOMASNET.com today announced the 2016-17 winners of the 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars award, presenting the profession with an inspirational batch of role-models who are sure to attract more Millennials to supply management.

Tom Derry, CEO of ISM, says the quality of this year’s crop of stars is inspiring. “Younger generations in the workforce are stepping into leadership roles earlier than their predecessors. This year’s winners are leading the charge, and show that our future is in capable hands.”

“Capable” is an understatement when you look at the achievements of some of these professionals. Andrew Paulsen is a Senior Buyer at SpaceX, one of the highest-profile and most sought-after companies to work for in the U.S. There, he has helped transform the castings commodity into a strategic organisation focused on the reduction of risk and the amplification of innovative designs and production processes.

Amanda DeCook of A.T. Kearney spent nearly a month in Tanzania leading a supply chain diagnostic on life-saving commodities (such as antibiotics) for the remote Sengereme District near Lake Victoria. She was able to make recommendations that would help reduce the likelihood of stock outs in the future, resulting in more lives saved.

Subhash Segireddy, Supply Chain Program Manager at Cisco Systems, led a team which developed a strategy for a manufacturing project which enables resiliency in the supply chain, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and drives millions in cost savings with a vertically aligned supply chain.

In a rapidly changing supply and demand environment, Jaime Todd has created innovative projects for the Red Cross, including a first-ever toolkit for category managers, along with supplier risk frameworks, policies and procedures.

There’s a common thread in the careers of these four Rising Stars, in that they’re all contributing to a wider cause beyond immediate business goals. Whether it’s reducing greenhouse gases, ensuring the supply of life-saving blood, assisting a remote African community or even helping humanity reach Mars, each role taps into the social aspect that has been identified as a major draw-card for Millennial talent.

Three winning characteristics of 30 Under 30 Stars:

According to THOMASNET.com’s Donna Cicale, the judges looked for three main characteristics in this year’s batch of Rising Supply Chain Stars. The 30 winners are:

  • Multi-talented: “We look for people who demonstrate and excel at a wide range of skills beyond business acumen. We’re searching for fast learners, effective communicators, quick thinkers and natural leaders.”
  • Influencers: “Supply chain stars must be ‘movers and shakers’ in their organisations. They need to be skilled in getting others engaged, bringing colleagues on-board, and working towards common goals.”
  • Trailblazers: “We look for individuals with ‘firsts’, or accomplishments not previously realised by their organisation. A ‘first’ can relate to timing, budget, initialisation, integration or adoption.”

Each winner will receive a one-year membership to ISM; complimentary admittance to ISM2017 annual conference in Orlando, Florida (May 21-24); and a THOMASNET.com Team Training Lunch and Learn session for them and their colleagues.

Visit www.thomasnet.com/30under30 for the full list of 30 Under 30 winners.

Digitalisation – Making Procurement 4.0 a Reality

Procurement is dead, long live Procurement 4.0! Digitalisation represents a fundamental, but inevitable shift for the profession.

Download your copy of ‘Procurement 4.0 – The Digitalisation of Procurement’ on the Fraunhofer IML website.

Throughout this series of articles, we have discussed the evolution of Procurement to Procurement 4.0. From trying to establish a single definition, to outlining the challenges the profession faces, the journey promises to be difficult.

However, the benefits and advantages that at the end make this particular journey worthwhile. Using the findings in BME’s survey, we’ll look at how digitalisation will help to shape the profession.

Digitalisation of Procurement

According to BME, the digitalisation of procurement is key for the profession to maximise the value it delivers to the organisation. Procurement needs to digitise all its manual processes and focus on the strategic ones.

Big Data plays a major role in this, and procurement can use existing knowledge to drive activities in this area. However, to fully realise this, organisations need to understand the role their staff will play. This is not only in how their roles will look, but also how they will need to be trained to carry them out.

“Existing fears based on the changes expected seem to be resulting in a passive approach. Even the very consideration of the immense changes that we may face as a result of Industry 4.0 is creating a sense of paralysis.”

Management of the cultural change, and setting of a concrete roadmap will help these activities. And once this is complete, procurement’s work can begin in earnest.

Digital Procurement Portfolio

The digitalisation of the procurement portfolio will have a key impact on the value the profession brings. The changes to the portfolio will be impacted both by digital technology, and changes to the supply chain in Industry 4.0.

New raw materials, assets such as 3D Printers, and new tools will all fall into a much-changed procurement portfolio. This will require both newly adapted process, and new skills for the professionals running them.

  • Respondents to the BME survey highlighted the following areas as key in Procurement 4.0:
  • Procurement will need to improve internal (vertical) networking with other departments.
  • Procurement will then use external (horizontal) networking with suppliers in order to source the correct products.
  • Further qualifications are essential to build knowledge of products and technology. This will enable procurement to act as an equal in vertical and horizontal networking.
  • An expanding supplier portfolio will make horizontal networking more critical than ever.
  • Procurement need to source innovation from suppliers. This will reduce time to market, access state-of-the-art technology, and overcome any missing skills in-house.

Developing Organisation 4.0?

In order for all of this to succeed, organisations as a whole must recognise the need to change. Functional working and silos will stand in the way of development and knowledge sharing, both fundamental to successful working in Industry 4.0.

Digitalisation is only possible if procurement can then forge strong, lasting relationships with internal and external stakeholders. People are critical to this, and organisations must provide up-skilling opportunities in line with this.

“The successful implementation of Procurement 4.0 stands and falls with its employees. Employees must be involved in times of upheaval and appropriately qualified. If this is ignored, it can be assumed that the company will fail.”

While this may take time to come to full fruition, there’s little argument among experts that this is necessary. The future lies before procurement, but it’s down to the people in the profession to help it walk this path.

The Association Supply Chain Management, Procurement and Logistics (BME), founded in 1954, is the leading professional association for supply chain managers, buyers and logisticians in Germany and Central Europe.

Fraunhofer IML, founded in 1981, is a global expert on all fields of internal and external logistics. The Institute also currently heads up the largest logistics research centre in Europe.

To download your copy of the report, visit the Fraunhofer IML website.

NEC to build world-first information platform for Global Pandemic Supply Chain

When a disease outbreak hits, even the slightest inefficiency in supply chains can lead to a catastrophic loss of human life. A joint initiative of The United Nations World Food Programme and NEC Corporation will greatly improve the supply chain response to the next pandemic. 

The 2013-2016 West Africa Ebola outbreak began in countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, with smaller outbreaks occurring in Nigeria, Mali and Senegal. Imported cases led to infections being reported in the UK, Spain, Sardinia and U.S. before the outbreak was declared in June 2016. By this point, the World Health Organisation reported a total of 28,616 cases and 11,310 deaths.

According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the need for a streamlined and coordinated supply chain response was highlighted through the many challenges encountered during the West Africa Ebola outbreak. They included:

  • Severe warehousing and distributing capacity constraints
  • Limited visibility of the overall supply and demand of critical items
  • Access constraints caused by border closures
  • A lack of public-private sector coordination resulting in duplicate efforts and an inefficient response

Protective clothing (pictured above) is an example of a critical item that must get through to healthcare workers in outbreak areas. A full set of protective clothing includes a suit, goggles, a mask, sock, boots and an apron. Healthcare workers change garments frequently, discarding gear that has barely been used to minimise exposure to the virus. By October of 2014, Ebola suit makers including DuPont and Kimberly-Clark had tripled production to try to cope with demand as health workers used an average of seven suits per bed, per day. The World Health Organisation estimated that three million protective suits were needed over the course of the outbreak. Tragically, healthcare workers represented nearly 10 percent of cases and fatalities due to ebola.

New supply chain platform will save lives when the next pandemic comes

Supply chain logistics are a critical part of any emergency intervention. Inadequate logistics can lead to critical delays, cost lives and waste precious resources. NEC’s announcement of a new information platform, which will be part of the Global Pandemic Supply Chain Network, is expected to improve response times, find cost efficiencies and aid in continuous improvement.

The technology has been described as a “logistics visualization system that will enable end-to-end tracking of pandemic response items” – such as protective clothing – within a country facing an outbreak, helping to ensure quick and appropriate delivery of supplies to people in need. Other key functions of the system include reporting, analysis of supply chain inefficiencies, data integration with existing logistics systems and in-country warehouse management.

“It is widely recognised that the global health architecture could be reinforced with an improved supply chain platform to enable better preparation and faster response time for pandemics”, said a spokesperson for the Japanese Government, which committed US$1 million to the development of the new technology.

 Public/private collaboration driving results

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of this announcement is the demonstration of how effective public and private collaboration can be in solving enormous challenges such as a global pandemic response. Aside from the key collaboration between the WFP and NEC Corporation, a framework for future pandemic response has been developed through an “unprecedented” level of cooperation between public organisations including the UN, WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank; and private sector companies including Johnson & Johnson, UPS Foundation, Becton, Dickinson & Co., and NEC.

 In other procurement news this week…

 White House trade advisor reaffirms administration’s trade goals

  • The U.S. is seeking more reciprocal trade arrangements with key countries to boost growth, reduce the trade deficit and reclaim American production capacity, according to Peter Navarro, director of the White House National Trade Council.
  • Speaking in Washington last week, Navarro singled out nations that have contributed to the current deficit problem, including Ireland, Vietnam, China, South Korea, Taiwan and Switzerland.
  • According to Navarro, the U.S. plan to reduce the trade deficit “is not based on higher tariffs, but rather getting our partners to lower theirs.”

Watch Navarro’s speech here.

Canadian federal procurement processes flagged for an overhaul

  • Addressing an event hosted by the Information Technology Association of Canada last week, Canada’s Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote stressed the need for an overhaul of federal procurement processes to improve accessibility for SMEs.
  • At present, unreasonably complex processes and requirements are resulting in 8000-page responses to RFPs, which small businesses simply do not have the resources to undertake.
  • Ms Foote said that government procurement processes “have the ability to shift markets … (and) launch businesses.”

Read more at Ottawa Business Journal

 

Big Ideas Summit 2017: Pay Your Bills

It’s not about the money, money, money… except that it kinda is. Barclays Chairman, John McFarlane, reminds us that we need to pay our supplier bills on time!

At the Big Ideas Summit 2017, we once again challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

Our attendees spoke about everything from creativity to politics, from cognitive technology to workplace agility, current affairs, economics and the future. Whatever your industry and wherever you are in the world, there are some top tips to takeaway!

If You’ve Got Bills You Gotta Pay – Pay Them!

Barclays Chairman, John McFarlane, has a simple but utterly  fundamental Big Idea to share for 2017:  Procurement pros must pay their bills on time!

John acknowledges that  it’s a  great time for people working within procurement. There are now global marketplaces, the online arena continues to grow exponentially and power has transferred into the hands of consumers. This is a truly unparalleled period for the function.

But despite all the changes  that are occurring, John was keen to remind procurement professionals that suppliers really matter and the importance of paying bills on time should never be underestimated. If you don’t pay  when you should,  you’re accountable for endangering a perfectly good customer.

Looking after your  long-term interests and nurturing your relationships is more valuable than always thinking in the short-term.

Want to find out more about Big Ideas 2017? Join the group on Procurious.

You’ll find all of the Big Ideas Summit 2017 videos in the learning section on Procurious. If you enjoyed this Big Idea  join Procurious for free today ( if you haven’t done so already).  Get connected with over 20,000 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world. 

Not just about Trump’s Tower: Procurement in Azerbaijan, the Land of Fire

Azerbaijan has hit the headlines today with allegations that a Trump Tower hotel project in Baku involved a deal between the Trump family and a “notoriously corrupt” Azerbaijani oligarch with ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. 

Trump, towers, and corruption aside,  Procurious recently interviewed one of our own community members, Fidan Amirbekova, about working in procurement in Azerbaijan – a tiny Caucasus state that has suddenly found itself in the international spotlight. 

With its unique cultural heritage, ancient origins and shared border with Iran, the history of the former Soviet state of Azerbaijan makes for fascinating reading. But what’s it like to work in Procurement there? Procurious member Fidan Amirbekova shares why the most important asset in Azerbaijani business is your personal network.

Welcome to the Procurious community, Fidan! Can you tell us a little about your country?

I live and work in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan and a thriving city on the coast of the Caspian Sea. The town’s origins go back to Roman times, with the earliest written evidence of its existence dating from 84AD. Today, it’s an incredible mixture of ancient buildings and modern skyscrapers. The town’s most recognisable buildings these days are the iconic “flame towers” (pictured).

Azerbaijan, also known as the Land of Fire, is the largest of the three South Caucasus states and is bordered by Russia to the north, Georgia to the north-west, Armenia to the west, Turkey to the south-west, Iran to the south, and the Caspian Sea to the east. Our culture has been defined by our location at the cross-roads of Russia and Persia (later Iran), and Azerbaijan has been a part of both empires at different times in its history.

Although the country has a Shiite Muslim majority, Azerbaijan doesn’t have an official religion, and all the major political forces in the country are secularist. The official language is Azerbaijani, although many of us speak Russian and English as well.

What kind of organisation do you work for?

I work in procurement for Bakcell, the leading mobile phone operator in Azerbaijan. The telecommunications sector is one of the biggest and most innovative in the country, and the role of procurement is significant. I’ve worked at Bakcell for almost 13 years now, with six of them in the procurement department. Specifically, I’m responsible for Marketing and Sales procurement and specialise in services purchasing.

As a profession, procurement in Azerbaijan is quite new, but it’s growing rapidly. Most of the large companies (especially the international ones) require procurement specialists in their teams. There is no developed manufacturing chain in the country, so we need to import almost everything.

Are there any challenges involved with moving goods across borders?

Yes, there are sometimes difficulties with moving goods across borders, but experienced professionals can always find a way. Doing business here is about who you know – personal relationships play a very important role in every field in Azerbaijan. You will succeed if you have a large network – it doesn’t matter if your connections are business-related or personal. In my experience, a wide circle of friends and acquaintances solves everything. That includes online social and business networks like LinkedIn – and Procurious!

Do you source anything from Iran? 

There is some trade over the shared border between Azerbaijan and Iran. Personally, I haven’t yet had to source anything from Iran. The two countries have a shared history and there are many Azerbaijanis living in Iran, and vice-versa. We have stronger business and personal relationships with Turkey. Our languages are similar, and Turkish students come to Azerbaijan to study. We import a lot from Turkey, and there are many Turkish companies here, both small and large.

What pathways are offered to get into procurement in Baku and the region?

As I said earlier, procurement is relatively new here, although it’s growing fast. At present, none of our higher education institutions offer courses in procurement. There is, however, a small consulting company which represents CIPS in Azerbaijan and offers training courses and CIPS qualifications. Many procurement professionals here are actively seeking new opportunities and professional development, so having the CIPS qualification is becoming increasingly popular.

Overall, I think procurement has a great future in modern Azerbaijan. Businesses here understand that we can make a great contribution.

Procurious may be an English-language business network, but our community members come from all over the globe. We’re looking for more stories to build a picture of the unique challenges faced by procurement professionals internationally. If you’re interested in sharing your story, please leave a comment below.

The Unpalatable Update On Thinking The Unthinkable

It’s all too easy to avoid thinking the unthinkable when the unthinkables concerned are so unpalatable. 

Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock.com

Nik Gowing, BBC Broadcaster and Visiting Professor at King’s College spoke with Philip Ideson as part of Procurious’ Even Bigger Ideas, a 5-part podcast series sponsored by State of Flux. You can access the series exclusively on Procurious.

Nik Gowing introduced Procurious to the concept of thinking the unthinkable at last year’s Big Ideas Summit. Unthinkables are critical events that are not being considered or prepared for by organisations or by our governments around the world.

From Brexit to the election of President Trump;  from Putin’s invasion of Crimea to the upcoming European elections, unthinkables have been occurring frequently over the last few years.

Unthinkables such as these disrupt everything that we presume to be stable and constant, they create an unthinkable environment and, unfortunately, they’re not letting up in 2017.

Nik Gowing returned to Procurious this year to speak in our podcast series, Even Bigger Ideas, and to give us an update on the current state of affairs. Why is the world struggling  to prepare for unthinkables and what can be done to change that?

The New Normal

In recent years we’ve endured one unthinkable after another and, more often than not, several at once. Nik firmly believes that this is to be the new normal. Leaders, whether they admit it or not, are worried about what’s coming next and what the future holds for their organisations.

“If  organisations don’t handle or recognise [unthinkables] then it could lead to them going out of business very quickly. Consumers and customers feel alienated by what a lot of companies are doing; what a lot of governments are doing.

A lot of the next generation, the millennials, don’t like what they see in companies or governments and of course this means that they don’t want to go into those companies. Therefore, there’s a succession problem as well.

We haven’t seen anything yet with AI and the internet of things coming down the track. What many thought would be unthinkable in twenty years, will probably be unthinkable in twenty months.”

Why are we failing at thinking the unthinkable?

Executive leaders are often  overwhelmed, under pressure and unable to think about unthinkables.

The latest Thinking The Unthinkable Report reveals nine conclusions as to why leaders have, so far, struggled to respond to unthinkables. Nine key words and conclusions were mentioned repeatedly by survey participants.

“One of [these conclusions] is denial, and another one is willful dissidence. There’s a hope that, ‘Well, this is only a blip. It isn’t going be like this indefinitely.’

Those who have made it to the top whether it be C-suite, CPOs or as chief risk officers are constrained in their way of thinking. As Nik points out “the conformity, which gets you the promotion and gets you to the top, in many ways, disqualifies you from understanding the enormity of the changes that are taking place.”

“In reality,  leaders must use every kind of idea that’s out there; coming from inside the company, outside the company, in order to actually understand, appreciate, mitigate and confront head on the enormity of changes coming”

It’s Time to Start Thinking the Unpalatable

Nik asserts that unthinkable events are often apparent but we choose to ignore the available evidence because it is so unsavoury.

“Thinking the Unthinkable is the title, but actually it should be thinking the unpalatable. In almost every aspect, there is  clear evidence out there [of what’s to come].”

“Before the migration crisis in Europe there was two years of warnings from the UN and the International Organisation of Migration. But companies, and certainly governments, did not want to listen to it or take notice.

“The unpalatable is this stuff that’s out there.  Organisations say to themselves ‘Surely, that’s not going to affect us. Surely, it’s not going to be that bad. Surely, we can ignore it.’ And, actually, they should be saying, ‘We’ve got to embrace this.’ ”

What can be done?

“Chief risk officers and procurement officers have got to think far more broadly. There’s probably an unpalatable, small incident or issue out there that is going to turn into something much bigger. We are too often seeing the attitude of ‘We’ll rule that out. We don’t want to know about that.’ Instead, unpalatables should be right at the top of the risk registry. ”

“Events that were once viewed as outlandish unthinkables would not even been considered as likely in the risk registry. It’s a bit like dealing with alcoholics. No one wans to admit they’ve got an alcohol problem until they get in the same room with a lot of people suffering from the very same problem. At this point they’ll say ‘My goodness, that’s me. We’ve got to do something about it.’ ”

“So what we’re in the process of doing at the moment is creating a community of leaders in government and corporates around the world who’re saying we’ve now got to change the way we do business. It’s about changing culture, mindset, and behavior. It’s not about spending money. It’s changing what’s in the human software up there.”

Procurious Even Bigger Ideas is a 5-part podcast series available exclusively to Big Ideas Digital Delegates. Sponsored by State of Flux, this series features interviews with five of the most intriguing power players at this year’s Big Ideas Summit in London.