All posts by Tania Seary

Career Espresso – 5 Minutes a Day Fast-Track to Success

There is nobody on this planet who cares more about your career success and advancement than you.

5-minutes-for-success

I know it sounds harsh, but it’s true.

Of course you’ll have some super-supportive bosses, well-meaning peers, family and friends along the way. But nobody other than you will be investing anywhere near the same amount of time and energy thinking through your career options and developing the best strategies to progress you up that career ladder.

Take Control of Your Success

The only common denominator in your career is you”

This career advice was given to me years ago by a Global CEO, and it has always stuck with me.

And quite frankly, you are the one who is going to benefit most (fame, money, self-satisfaction) from getting ahead. You should be the person most motivated to get ahead.

And unfortunately, you are the only one who can actually do the work required. You can’t outsource your own professional development!

In today’s business environment, getting the training you need is tough. But the good news is that in five minutes (about the same time as it takes you to drink an espresso), you can get the daily information you need to keep your career on the fast-track to success.

No Budget, No Time, No Training?

Taking full accountability for your training is definitely the first step to fast-tracking your career. But you then face a number of other hurdles.

Large companies have cut budgets so severely, that there is rarely any money to attend, or travel to, the really great procurement conferences and specialised training.

Not only is training funding non-existent, many procurement teams have been forced to downsize to such an extent that they can’t afford to have too many people out of the office at one time.

This is dramatically different to the world in which your bosses grew up in where MBAs were funded, elaborate corporate leadership development programs were in place, and attending conferences were all part of the job.

But this is the reality of the modern economy. This is the business environment you are trying to develop in. And one in which you will also need to nurture and develop other future leaders.

You need to throw out your old conceptions of professional development and training and adapt to the brave new world. This is all about taking matters into your own hands and going digital for success.

Learn Online or Become Obsolete

Globalisation and technological change is disrupting every aspect of procurement. Even when you are motivated to take accountability for your own training, it’s difficult to keep up with everything that’s going on.

Global CEOs are aware of the need to motivate employees to take their professional development into their own hands, and dramatically up-skill themselves now and in the future.

For example, “Adapt, or else”, were the new marching orders for employees of AT&T earlier this year.

Faced with competition from not just from Verizon and Sprint, but also Google and Amazon, the telecommunications giant is now working aggressively to make sure its employees catch up and get ahead of the changing technology of the times.

Its CEO and Chairman, Randall Stephenson, isn’t afraid to mince words about what will happen if his employees don’t.

In an interview with the New York Times, Stephenson said those who don’t spend five to 10 hours a week learning online “will obsolete themselves with technology.”

“There is a need to retool yourself, and you should not expect to stop,” Stephenson told the Times.

Anytime, Anywhere

We often joke about doing procurement training at home in your pyjamas. But this is exactly what you can do today.

You can access the latest thinking and procurement insights from around the world on your laptop, smartphone or other device, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

This means there is really no excuse for you not to be plugging those career competency gaps!

Start a Lifelong Habit Today

Starting today, for three weeks, challenge yourself to commit just 5 minutes a day to strengthening your career muscle by enlisting in Career Boot Camp.

By signing up to Procurious, you will wake up to a new podcast (five minutes), blog and lively discussions centred on a different career topic each morning – all to help you get into the best career shape of your life!

Getting involved in the Career Boot Camp will also help you start an important habit. Just a few minutes of daily learning can make the difference between you standing still, and delivering more impact through your role.

Get Connected. Get Ahead!

If you want Procurious to send an invitation to your procurement friends and peers to participate, we can arrange this. Simply reach out to our Community Liaison Manager, Laura Ross via e-mail.

Or, simply refer your team to enlist here.

Talented New Mothers – Please Don’t Quit!

Are you a new mum? Thinking about starting your own business? Tania Seary lays out the benefits for new mothers of staying employed in the corporate world when children arrive.

New Mothers

The wait leading up to our launch of Procurious was killing me.

It was like re-living those last few weeks waiting for a baby to be born. There’s not much I could do other than hope and pray for a safe delivery. Fortunately we launched successfully and have had some great traction so far.

This waiting period, in conjunction with my eldest son’s 9th birthday (yikes!), and the daily juggle between work and family, gave me cause for some reflection on the whole topic of motherhood and career.

Australian procurement superstar Georgia Brandi recently posted this very thought-provoking article on LinkedIn written by Sramana Mitra. Dramatic opening paragraph aside, the rest of the story covers just about every tricky point of this highly political debate. To stay at home, or not? To work for someone else, or yourself?

Career Super Women to Working New Mothers

I’ve had some flashbacks of those awkward first days transitioning from career super woman to working mummy. Highlights of which mainly focus around breastfeeding, but, given we have a mixed audience here, I’ll save some of those stories for another forum.

I could write a book about my journey as a working mother. But in the interest of brevity, I would like to put forward my thoughts on the benefits of staying employed by a company, vs. opening your own business, when women become new mothers.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love owning my own business, I have had a fantastic time, working with, and for, some great people. But it hasn’t been easy. Also, my business was a few years old when I had my first child, so I wasn’t exactly starting from scratch when I first “went on maternity leave”.

Employee vs. Mumpreneur

I had a lot of reasons for wanting to start my own business. Primarily I had a strong vision of what I wanted to create – I wanted to create a specific workplace culture, more than a specific company. And twelve years on, I’m happy to say that culture is alive and well.

I also wanted to do my own thing, be free of the corporate hierarchy which I found very frustrating. I was tired of being judged by peers and leaders I didn’t always respect. This of course was a very naïve reason, as you will always be judged – when you’re in your own business, your clients/customers are the ultimate judge!

I also wanted to have children and travel with my busy husband. So there were lots of forces driving me to do my own thing.

But of course, the path I chose took a lot of hard work and perseverance. It took a year before we won our first big client, so I had to fund the business (and myself) during that period.

And then we needed to (and still do!) keep proving ourselves and winning new business, while we’re working on producing quality outcomes. When I had my children, I asked different people to help run the business, with varying degrees of success.

But in the end, it has all worked out. And if you’re feeling an affinity with all the above, I fully encourage you to pursue your dream.

However, I can also see many benefits in remaining employed by someone else during your child-bearing years.

Here’s my top 5 reasons to work for an employer when having children:-

  • Do it for the Sisterhood

Australia (and the wider world) still has an appalling lack of female representation at the highest levels of business. The more women that actually stay in the workforce will provide us with the greatest chances of increasing the number of women in the senior ranks.

  • Do it for the Money

How much money you generate from your own business in the early days totally depends on the business model. However, in my case, I had to fund the business for at least the first 12 months of operation. You need to be prepared for this loss of income.

On the flipside, if you stay with a corporate employer today there is more financial support than ever before. When you return to work, you will continue earning at the same rate as previously, and hopefully continue on your career trajectory, which will be compensated with salary increases.

  • Do it for the Recognition

I am going to make a broad assumption that most corporate women have reached their late 20’s, mid ‘30s when deciding to have children. This means you have reached a certain level of success and have built a reputation within your internal stakeholders, suppliers and other third parties.

Starting a new business is very humbling (I’m trying to be positive here). You will have many setbacks on your journey to success..and when you do achieve success, it will be only you and your team there to recognise you.

In a corporation, you will be recognised and rewarded (well, not always, but more so than working for yourself!).

  • Do it for your Development

There’s no doubt that you learn a great deal running your own business, but nothing as formal (unless you organise and pay for it yourself!) as the quality and frequency of training you receive in a large organisation.

Think about it. Companies train you on everything – from Microsoft office, to the latest legals, compliance and your professional training. And there’s maybe even the odd corporate off-site or incentive travel.

  • Do it for your Sanity and Self-Esteem

Really, this is a point in favour of either working for yourself or someone else.

If you’re the kind of gal that finds domestic life a struggle, just knows she needs to work, or has the all-important financial imperative – then you will no doubt need to get back into the workforce in some capacity.

I’ll never forget those early days going back to work. Buying a cup of coffee from my favourite barista, then sitting at my desk in a zen-like state for at least five minutes soaking up the serenity.

That was heaven. It saved my sanity and definitely kept my struggling self-esteem somewhat in tact.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Have I been too harsh on the entrepreneurial option? We’d love to hear from all the new mothers (and any career super women who are also supermums) on how you made the choice.

Beware the Scary Old-World CPO

Is your career in the grips of a scary, old-world CPO? How do you recognise if your boss is one, and what can you do about it?

Scary old-world CPO

Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

– Lewis Carroll, 1871

You’ll know a scary, old-world CPO when you see one.

I had almost forgotten about them until I found myself in a meeting with one last week. Somehow in recent times I have escaped the horror of hearing such old-world, closed network thinking like:

  • “I don’t want my team on social media, someone may poach them”
  • “We’re too busy working to be looking at what’s happening in the rest of the world”
  • “We know our business best”
  • “What if my team spends all day on social media?”

To the team at Procurious, these comments are like blasphemy. We’re on a mission to change the face of procurement, and give the images associated with the profession a makeover. We want to replace the old brown cardigan-clad stereotype, with fresh images of procurement as the “smartest guys in the room”.

My meeting with this archetypal nemesis reminded me of all the reasons why we founded Procurious. It gave me increased motivation to continue our mission, and gave rise to an overwhelming urge to protect all the amazing rising stars in procurement from the soul-crushing dictatorship of a scary, old-world CPO.

The Old-World CPO

Let’s face it, if your personal characteristics and actions portray an image that you’re living in the past, the chances are good you are. People don’t leave companies, they leave bosses.

As such, we want to reward the great bosses, those leading by example, keeping their teams energised, investing in individuals’ careers, and continuously pushing procurement to excel.

What are the tell-tale signs of a scary, old-world CPO? The next time you’re going for an interview, or looking at your current boss, don’t fall for the flashy suit, big title, or even the big brand name they represent.

If the person opposite you falls into one of these categories, the chances are your career development will come to a screeching halt under such a draconian regime.  

The (Digitally) Invisible Man…or Woman

Check whether this CPO has any sort of online presence. Tell-tale signs of invisibility include profiles with no photos, or inappropriate photos, scant, or no, information, and no visible mentions in a Google search.

There may have been a freak internet-cleansing event, wiping out all references to this person, but the reality is that they probably haven’t spoken at any events, written anything interesting, taken the time or effort to understand social media, or understand the fact that you will be researching them online.

Also, beware those CPOs who have fewer than 500 connections in their network. Some CPOs do make the case of quality vs quantity. But, if you’re working in a large company, have a large team, and work with an extensive supply base, shouldn’t 500 quality connections be expected?

You (and the majority of your peers) want to work for someone who is an influencer. You want a leader with a wide range of connection they can introduce you to, and broaden your horizons. Working with someone with a limited network can be a road to nowhere for your career prospects.

Robinson Crusoe – the Loner 

This CPO really is an island.

They don’t believe in networking, collaborating, or outside knowledge flow, and believe information is for their own personal advantage to build their power base. The Robinson Crusoe profile can physically manifest itself as an executive sitting in a corner by themselves, with their back to the team.

This information block exists not only within their psyche, but extends to the procurement team itself. This old-world CPO has particularly old-world views, and creates a knowledge hierarchy, where they take all the great (and politically advantageous) ideas as their own.

Another problem with this approach is that it encourages working in a closed network as part of the norm. These scary old world CPOs end up staying in the same profession, peer group, company, or industry, invariably associating with people they already know. This peer group continues to reinforce their outdated approach to management, and their thinking is never challenged.

The new world CPO is collaborative, a “true influencer” and shares their knowledge freely and widely.

My view is that a CPO’s main job is to not only drive change and innovation (and make a couple of deals on the side), but to give their team the opportunity to access tools and discuss ideas with other professionals, thought leaders and experts from around the globe.

Yet I still see CPOs encouraging teams to work in isolation, unaware that there is whole universe of knowledge to help them grow and excel in their jobs.

The Devil Wears Prada – The Career Crusher

Their desk calendar reads 2016, but their attitude towards employees is stuck in the 1950s.

Yes, your boss should have an overall plan for how their team is delivering against the overall business strategy. But they should also have a plan for you – both for what you need to deliver, and how you need to develop in the future.

They should be committed to diversity and promoting young talent, to making sure their team reflects this commitment and is generating opportunities for the next generation of talent.

The best CPOs are obsessed with finding the best people and helping them develop. They send their people out to be trained in the skills they need, expose them to new opportunities, and build peer networks that will develop leadership skills.

The worst CPOs keep their category managers locked away from the rest of the world in fear that their people will be poached. A great CPO doesn’t need to worry about this. They know that they have developed a great employee value proposition that keeps their team engaged and retained.

Reverse Mentoring

Let’s not be too hard on these talented Heads of Procurement. They can’t all be cut from the same cloth.

Why not get on the front foot and try and initiate some reverse mentoring. With a few polite, and well-placed pointers, I am sure you could help turn your scary, old-world CPO into a procurement rock star.

Sharing your skills and knowledge could help your CPO become increasingly tech savvy and an advocate for technology, including social media, for procurement. And just in case you need some more points, you can find a 5-point checklist on being a great procurement boss right here.

We look forward to seeing you both on Procurious soon!

Use Every Sales Trick in the Book: Procurement’s Guide to Business Partnering

Procurement professionals know just about every sales trick in the book. How can we turn these tricks to our advantage in business partnering?

Sales Trick Business Partnering

As a procurement pro, you’ve seen it all – the pitches, the gaffes, the strategies, the crash and burns. You also have your long list of personal success stories – the sales people, and sales strategies, you have personally unraveled and re-engineered to meet your company’s needs.

But then there have also been the spectacular defeats, where an absolute master of the sales spin has left you feeling like mere putty in their hands.

These negotiation experiences have, perhaps unknowingly, left us with a rich repertoire of successful sales techniques, which we really should be leveraging to master our own destiny.

We need to leverage these important sales learnings, and improve how we ‘sell’ our services into our own organisations, in order to master the art of ‘business partnering’.

Procurement Business Partnering

Fortunately, I am able to call on the collective thinking of a dozen of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies as I ponder this question, because business partnering has been the hot topic at the last few Productivity in Pharma Think tank sessions.

The discussions have focused on what skills and characteristics lead to successful business partnering, and those skills that help the procurement function become a ‘connector’ inside and outside the company.

How to be Liked

But going back to my story, let’s look at what we have learned from the best salespeople we know, and how we can adapt this to our approach to business partnering.

Be a “playmaker” – Let’s face it, you have probably genuinely “liked” the salespeople who have been most successful in convincing you to buy from them.

So how do you go about getting your stakeholders to “like” you and “buy into” the service you are offering? Some global procurement teams are actually applying a bit of science to this challenge.

Heads of Procurement know, like many other things in life, if you get the relationship right, everything else will follow.

Novartis, for example, uses a very sophisticated business partnering framework. The first step of this is “knowledge of self”, whereby each procurement executive completes a personality profile analysis. These profiles are then considered against the stakeholder to find the “perfect match” for the business partnering relationship.

Stakeholder engagement skills are also become an increasingly important part of the procurement recruitment process. Heads of Procurement are looking for a somewhat elusive set of skills that will orchestrate the supply network and create a vital link between the various functions in the company.

They are looking for executives who can create that all-important “bond” with their internal stakeholders, as well as their supply base.

Giles Breault of The Beyond Group says, “If you are going to write ‘business partnering’ on your CV then you must have these skills: the ability to engage and speak the language of your internal customer; the ability to lead projects as an equal partner; and intrapreneurial skills that help you operate like you are the CEO of your own business.”

Applying Sales Tricks

The “Play Maker” is a personality profile identified in the Game Changer Index (GC Index). This type of person is interested in people and relationships. They take the view that how well things get done in organisations will reflect the quality of relationships.

As the Game Changers would say, procurement teams wanting to improve their internal business engagement should look for people who “get a buzz” from the challenges of managing the process of influence, or those people who see themselves as a potent agent of change.

But once we have recruited the right skill set and matched up the personalities as best we can, we need to revert back to those all-important learnings from our sales friends on the other side of the table. Namely:

Remember why we have two ears and one mouth – The best salespeople listen more than they talk. Is your procurement team remembering this important 2:1 ratio when they interact with your stakeholders? I suspect that most procurement teams could benefit from listening more to their stakeholders and really understanding their business needs.

Fight the battle on the number of fronts – As we all know, the best salespeople have a multi-level account plan. They align the various levels of people within their team with the decision makers within their customer’s organisation.

They implement a consistent, tenacious plan and stay on message to achieve their goals. Does your procurement team have an account plan for your stakeholders? Do they stay “on message”? Are they focused on sticking to the plan?

Have single point accountability – This was a topic raised at a dinner hosted by Lucy Harding at executive recruiters, Odgers Berndtson, in London late last month. Most organisations can’t afford to have a separate role, or full time staff member, dedicated to business partnering.

Delighting the customer needs to be part of everyone’s role, but who is ultimately accountable for satisfying each internal customer needs to be made clear.

Have a story to tell – a USP – Procurement spends a huge amount of time listening to the unique selling proposition (USP) of its sales people and suppliers. We need to craft our own stories about our service, how we can help the business, and why we will drive value for stakeholders.

Ultimately, it’s about making our stakeholders, (who are really our customers), feel the love. As I wrote in a previous blog, building credibility, listening to our customers, and translating this into knowing what they do and don’t want, is critical for the process of business partnering. 

The Productivity in Pharma Think Tank brings together a conclave of senior procurement leaders from the Pharmaceutical industry, creating a unique, mini-MBA style environment, where the most pressing issues facing the function are explored in detail and, from which, key insights and applicable takeaways are derived.

You can find out more about this event at The Beyond Group website, and connect with the event hosts and facilitators Giles Breault (@GilesBreault) and Sammy Rashed (@RashedSammy) on social media.

Are You One of Procurement’s Game Changers?

As disruption is increasingly recognised as a strategic business skill, being one of the game changers is a highly coveted role.

Game Changers

In a world increasingly recognising ‘disruption’ as a strategic business skill, where an army of highly talented and ambitious professionals are fighting their way to the front line in the war for talent, the idea of being identified as a ‘game changer’ is quite coveted.

After all, we all want to get named on the high potential talent list, don’t we?

Game Changers – A Bad Thing?

That was the premise that started the procurement talent discussion at the Productivity in Pharma Think Tank in London. But then there was a revelation.

Despite media hype and discussions at high brow HR think tanks about these ‘unicorns’ – game changing individuals – it turns out that being a game changer isn’t necessarily a good thing.

You see, what most large organisations actually want are executives who can execute the strategy and implement. In other words – get stuff done. What has been discovered is that game changers can sometimes lack EQ, and have the potential to bulldozer their way through an organisation, eventually proving themselves to actually be too disruptive.

Those organisations who actually do need a disruptive or transformative force are now separating out these individuals from the rest of the pack, and placing them in “garages”, “incubators” and “shark tanks”, to use their unique skill sets for good, not evil.

Increasing Collaboration

In fact, well known procurement search and interim consultants, Langley, put forward a case that procurement should actually be the “great integrators”.

“Today’s procurement professionals need to integrate the link between company, suppliers and the environment. They need to be able to bring the outside, in,” said the Managing Director of Langley, Cristina Langley.

In talking about the talent he is trying to attract to his organisation, Tyson Popp, CPO at Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, further reinforced this need for an increasingly collaborative style. Popp mentions that he is looking for talent with “an intellectual curiosity and a need to connect across the organisation”.

The Science Bit

The good news is there is some science behind this debate. The Game Changer Index (GC Index®) has been created by eg.1’s CEO Nathan Ott, and Chief Psychologist Dr John Mervyn-Smith, in collaboration with Professor Adrian Furnham at UCL.

The Index was developed in response to client demand for a more useful way of identifying people who could implement transformation. It was born from a frustration with the way that traditional tools, such as Belbin and Myers-Briggs, neglected this special group of talent.

The team believed that Game Changers were fundamentally different from ‘High Potentials’ and ‘Traditional Leaders’, and would not be identified by existing, antiquated assessment tools. This was an issue for businesses searching for individuals who could drive transformational change.

This was the foundation for the development of The GC Index. The tool, through several phases of research, highlighted the ways in which individuals differed in terms of Imagination and Obsession. Those high on both emerged as the Game Changers.

Applications in Procurement

Despite me having given game changers a bad rap earlier in this story, and given that my personal mission is to change the face of procurement globally, I really do hope we have a lot of CPOs out there who are game changers. That is, transformational leaders who can deliver paradigm-shifting change. The real issue is how best to enable them to succeed in a structured environment.

The GC Index® identifies these dynamic individuals, but has evolved to also assess four other profiles, which are equally valuable and are necessary to ensure genuine, long term, game-changing transformation.

These profiles could apply to anyone within your procurement team. However, I thought for demonstration purposes I would share my thoughts on what the generic procurement roles for these profiles could be:

  • The Strategist – This could be Category Leaders. They have an ability to analyse patterns and trends. They will be most comfortable leading by giving a focus to action, through direction and purpose.
  • The Implementer – This profile could best be characterised as sourcing professionals and transactional (P2P, etc.) executives.  They are essentially task-focused individuals, driven by a need for tangible achievements. These are the leaders who will be in the ‘thick of the action’, and get on with things.
  • The Polisher These people lead through setting standards, and could therefore be best characterised by our Compliance and Procurement Process Excellence leaders. They are demanding of themselves and others. Their mantra will be, “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”. They instil belief in people in action, and in the possibility of a better world. This definitely sounds like our best practice procurement leaders!
  • The Play Maker – This probably epitomises the poster-child version of the modern-day procurement professional. Perfectly placed right in the intersection of all four profiles, this individual is interested in people and relationships. They are, therefore, best equipped to take on the all-important task of stakeholder engagement, but also managing upwards (C-level) and outwards (supply markets). Play Makers at their best will lead through building productive relationships and helping others to do the same.

Apparently Richard Branson is a playmaker – not only driving outcomes, but making sure the whole experience is enjoyable, even potentially playful! (Heaven forbid in procurement!)

Making a Contribution

So the real question is, how do you develop your skills to maximise your success in this new corporate reality?

The good news from eg.1 is that you don’t necessarily fit into one box. Their data shows that while some individuals have a dominant profile, they also have an ability to ‘flex’, moving, for example, from being a Strategist, when the situation demands it, to being an Implementer.

The other good news is that just about all leadership styles can work. You just need to understand what your style is and play to your strengths. And as Nathan Ott commented at this year’s Big Ideas Summit:

“Not everyone can be a Game Changer, but everyone can make a Game Changing contribution.”

The Productivity in Pharma Think Tank brings together a conclave of senior procurement leaders from the Pharmaceutical industry, creating a unique, mini-MBA style environment, where the most pressing issues facing the function are explored in detail and, from which, key insights and applicable takeaways are derived.

You can find out more about this event at The Beyond Group website, and connect with the event hosts and facilitators Giles Breault (@GilesBreault) and Sammy Rashed (@RashedSammy) on social media.

5 Career Lessons From a 75-Year-Old London Cabbie

Inspiration can often come from an unusual source. And you should never be too closed off to learn career lessons from a wide variety of people!

Cab Career Lessons

On my way to the Productivity in Pharma meeting in London yesterday, as is often the case, my cab got stuck in traffic.

As we edged our way across Westminster Bridge, I got chatting to my taxi driver, and discovered that I was going to be his very last customer after a 45-year career as a London taxi driver.  His plan was to drop me off, return his cab to the depot, and catch a bus and train combination back to his wife in Surrey.

Not one to miss an opportunity to learn, I quickly thought through what this wonderful man’s life and career lessons could mean for procurement professionals.

A Quick Side Note!

But before I share my learnings, let me tell you how much I love London cabs! I’ve always wanted the opportunity to share my love in one of my blog articles, so I’m very happy to now have the chance! These unique, purpose-made vehicles can turn on a dime, and accommodate five passengers, as well as luggage. Amazing.

According to Wikipedia, many black cabs have a turning circle of only 25ft (8m). One reason for this is the configuration of the famed Savoy Hotel. The hotel entrance’s small roundabout meant that vehicles needed a small turning circle in order to navigate it.

That requirement became the legally required turning circle for all London cabs. Also, the custom of passengers sitting on the right, behind the driver, provided a reason for the right-hand traffic in Savoy Court, allowing hotel patrons to board and alight from the driver’s side. I love these types of London stories!

Back to Career Lessons

Anyway, back to the career lessons learned from my septuagenarian chauffeur.  Here’s what came to mind –

1. Don’t sweat a couple of hiccups early on in your career

Don’t worry if you have to go over a couple of speed bumps early in your career – my cabbie got fired twice early in his.

He had a lot of fun in his very first job, which was being the doorman at the very exclusive Dorchester Hotel. A highlight he shared was when Zsa Zsa Gabor dropped her towel and exposed herself as he made a delivery to the room. His photo also blessed the Daily Mail, when the famous Hollywood actress Jayne Mansfield rewarded his good work with a kiss. Maybe as a result of these heady experiences, one day he fell asleep on the job and was summarily dismissed.

He tried couple of other jobs, including being a bus conductor, but when he threw his supervisor off the bus, he realised he wasn’t really meant to work for others. Despite these small set-backs, this gentleman still enjoyed a 45-year career.

Which brings me to my next point…

2. Your career is a marathon, not a sprint

I know that during the first decade or two of my career, I was convinced that the faster and harder I worked, the faster my career would progress. To a certain degree, this may have been the case.  Even now, I am probably working at a slightly unsustainable pace, but I am learning that sometimes you have to slow down in order to go faster.

While chatting as we edged our way along, it dawned on me that this gent was someone who was in extremely good shape.  At 75 years of age, he still had a full head of hair, was highly animated and spoke lovingly about his children, grandchildren and wife of 52 years (“who kept him young”).

He was obviously a man who enjoyed good health and had a positive life. As much as we feed our self-esteem through career success, we need to remember that our health, happiness and support of our family and friends are really what will sustain us on the long haul.

3. Do what you love

People who have been successful in their career often say things like “I’ve been very lucky”. But what you normally find is that they have worked hard at a job they love.

Make sure you are passionate about what your career – it will reflect in everything you do and will help buoy your success. Being in procurement is a great head start, because you’re working in the most exciting profession in the world…right?!

4. Know your stuff

One of the defining characteristics of the London taxi drivers is their in-depth knowledge of London’s streets and their ability to navigate their way to the desired destination through the congestion and chaos London is so well known for! All without the help of a sat nav.

This is because London taxi drivers go through stringent training to obtain their licence. They need to pass “The Knowledge”, a test which is among the hardest to pass in the world. The drivers need to memorise every possible route through the 25,000 city streets, and know all 20,000 landmarks. Apparently, it takes the average person between 2 to 4 years to learn the knowledge. And it shows – these guys really know their stuff!

So no more complaining about studying for your MCIPS or ISM qualification! Knowledge will give you the credibility you need to achieve your career success.

5. Trust the universe

Amazingly, in his long career (which must have included literally tens of thousands of customer trips), he only had a handful of people not pay their fare. To me, this really reinforced that the universe is actually quite a good place.

There are more good people than bad and in the large majority of cases, people are honest and do the right thing. A cause for us all to remain optimistic!

Safe travels!

The Productivity in Pharma Think Tank brings together a conclave of senior procurement leaders from the Pharmaceutical industry, creating a unique, mini-MBA style environment, where the most pressing issues facing the function are explored in detail and, from which, key insights and applicable takeaways are derived.

You can find out more about this event at The Beyond Group website, and connect with the event hosts and facilitators Giles Breault (@GilesBreault) and Sammy Rashed (@RashedSammy) on social media.

Procurement KPIs – Measuring the Unmeasurable

Is it time to develop new procurement KPIs? As the profession delivers more value, we need to consider measuring the ‘unmeasurable’.

Procurement KPIs

How on earth do you put a KPI against innovation in procurement? How about risk management? Or talent? It’s time for the profession to come together and quantify the value we deliver beyond cost savings.

For me, a revelation that came out of the discussion at The Beyond Group’s “Productivity in Pharma” (PiP) Think Tank in Basel last month, was that there is an urgent need to create procurement KPIs that fully reflect the broader value our profession delivers.

Unfortunately, we will never escape the requirement to track savings (and nor should we; we’re good at it!), but it’s time to define the value-addition areas of what we deliver – productivity, innovation and risk management – in hard dollar terms so that we can quantify our value delivery in these areas.

In my previous post, I shared five rules of thumb for good procurement KPIs. To recap, each KPI should be:

  • clearly linked to an overall business objective,
  • uncomplicated and measurable in hard-dollar terms,
  • based on outcomes, not inputs,
  • not too long nor too many (five to six KPIs at a maximum),
  • achievable and inspirational.

Taking these rules as a starting point, let’s look at five value-addition areas that every procurement professional should be measured against:

  1. Productivity

I know there are a lot of CPOs out there who are tired of the old ‘cost savings’ metric.  And I understand it. But the reality is that cost savings is at least ONE thing that clearly defines our contribution. If we walk away from this, then we have lost an important anchor.

However, we do need to ensure that the broader business audience understands procurement is about so much more than savings, and that we can clearly define value in other areas as well.

One important point I would make (an opinion also shared by ISM CEO Tom Derry at the Procurious Big Ideas Summit) is around cost avoidance. Don’t insult yourself, or your CFO, by reporting on this metric. Costs that have been avoided simply don’t count.

  1. Efficiency

There are so many ways CPOs can deliver efficiency gains that result in bottom-line value for their organisations. In the pharmaceutical world, I imagine this would be measured in terms of speed to market (or “speed to patient”, as one clever pharma Procurement Head put it), faster clinical trials or even the good old basics like reducing inventory.

There are so many ways that procurement can free up cash in the business, but the hard dollar value of this needs to be quantified – which is not impossible.

Business cases are always based on the time value of money. Net Present Value (NPV) is a fundamental financial measurement for businesses. So, before you embark on one of these efficiency projects, work with your finance team to agree on a calculation for the hard dollar value of the efficiency gain, then deliver it, and stick to the agreed value!

  1. Innovation

Procurement rock-star and former CPO of Deutsche Telecom, Eva Wimmers, talked last year about incentivising procurement-driven innovation by creating a suite of relevant KPIs, including cost and time savings achieved as a direct result of innovative improvements.

Innovation KPIs can be process-centric, behavioural or customer-focused (such as service and net promoter scores). What’s important is that every KPI is measurable in its own right and clearly connected to overall corporate objectives. 

  1. Risk management

This is a powerful measurement that will capture the attention of your CEO and other executives. You see, the challenge with risk management (like safety) is that the ultimate success is when nothing goes wrong!

Procurement and other parts of the organisation can spend a lot of time and energy securing supply relationships and carefully managing contingencies, which result in absolutely nothing happening (which is a good thing!). At the C-level it is, therefore, quite easy to take risk management for granted and be tempted to reduce funding and resources in this area.

Actually, safety is a very powerful metaphor for the role procurement plays in managing risk. Nothing captures an executive’s interest more than safety. The language and methodology of safety measurement is well known to executives, most of whom are rewarded on safety metrics.

So, rather than re-invent the wheel with a whole new set of measurements around risk, simply reframe risk in a safety context.  Work with your safety department to understand their metrics, explain what you are measuring and get their advice on how they would construct metrics for risk management in procurement.

When ‘selling in’ your risk management KPI to senior management, don’t underestimate the power of good storytelling. It is critical to illustrate your business case with rich examples of how much market share and stock market value has been lost by competitors and peers when supply chain risk is not properly managed.

Traditionally, we have valued this in terms of potential legal costs, but today it is so much more than that. Social media now ensures that your end customers (and the press) quickly become aware of supply chain issues, and these are amplified to such a point that they result in loss of market share and ultimately share price value.

Supply chain disruptions can have catastrophic impacts on corporate brand and equity value. Procurement, however, can play a huge part in protecting the company from this type of disaster, and I believe this is one of the most valuable roles we can play today. Risk management must therefore be highlighted and reported upon in our procurement KPIs.

As you will see at the close of this story, my bold recommended KPI for risk management is number of days supply chain disruption reported in media (with the objective of keeping this at zero!).

As a side point, research in the US has shown that companies who have invested in appropriate social procurement (projects that aligned and complement your brand) will bounce back faster after a market ‘shock’ event.

  1. People

Call people what you will – ‘assets’, ‘human capital’, or even ‘resources’ – but I prefer to use the word ‘talent’. People are frequently regarded as an enabler metric, but I think it should be much more than that.

We should position procurement as a source of leadership talent for the business, particularly if we believe what we say (and I do!) that procurement provides some of the best commercial training of any function.

Procurement offers its team members the opportunity to work across the business internally, as well as externally – so let’s put our money (and our KPIs) where our mouth is! Develop a metric that measures procurement’s contribution to developing leadership talent. Once again, this is something to which senior leadership is very committed in the best organisations. 

So, to be provocative – here are six procurement KPIs that I would put forward as a CPO today:

  1. Cost savings – $ saved in financial year
  2. Productivity – $ released through working capital initiatives
  3. Innovation – Projected $ value delivered through procurement-negotiated supplier-led innovation.
  4. Risk management: Number of days supply chain disruption reported in media.
  5. Talent: Number of employees who have worked in procurement and are now on the enterprise leadership development program.

Procurement KPIs are a hot topic for everyone, and I’m sure you won’t agree with all my points. So…what are your thoughts?

The Productivity in Pharma Think Tank brings together a conclave of senior procurement leaders from the Pharmaceutical industry, creating a unique, mini-MBA style environment, where the most pressing issues facing the function are explored in detail and, from which, key insights and applicable takeaways are derived.

You can find out more about this event at The Beyond Group website, and connect with the event hosts and facilitators Giles Breault (@GilesBreault) and Sammy Rashed (@RashedSammy) on social media.

Less is More – The Power of a Good KPI

It is not every day that procurement can learn from a fashion icon, but in my (and Coco Chanel’s) view – “less is definitely more” when it comes to a good KPI for procurement.

Coco Chanel - Good KPI

Think about your role in procurement. Think about the huge number of outcomes you work hard to deliver every day, from the repetitive (but necessary) daily tasks, to the huge projects with looming deadlines. Now, I want you to distil your entire, complex, multi-faceted role into just five KPIs.

That’s right – five KPIs only.

Passion for KPIs

I didn’t realise how passionate I was about KPIs until the conversation came up on the agenda at The Beyond Group’s “Productivity in Pharma” (PiP) Think Tank in Basel last month.

The room was full of heavy-hitters from the big pharmaceutical houses, including Novartis, Roche and Bristol Myers Squibb. Not necessarily CPOs, but heads of indirects, clinical research and engineering procurement. The facilitator, Sammy Rashed, led a spirited debate on what a good KPI should look like, how KPIs should work, and how they can benefit a business.

Wow! As the conversation evolved, I realised I had some strong views on how my beloved profession should be measured.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. Just after I finished my MBA, I spent a couple of years working with Alcoa’s corporate finance team on how we should measure procurement’s value, and then educating the procurement team globally about how to report the calculations. I’m also married to the global CFO of a FTSE 10 company, so I know the kind of metrics that he deems as solid, and those that are “fluff”.

What Gets Measured…

On that point, let me tell you a little bit about what I know about the mind of a Finance Director. It goes without saying that they are absolute geniuses: kind, considerate, and definitely make the very best life partners.

BUT, as I am sure you have witnessed in your own organisations, the mind of a CFO is fairly mono-dimensional. Value has to be defined and quantified in hard terms.

I put in a quick trans-Atlantic call to my husband to ask his opinion on KPIs, and was rewarded with this gem: “You can’t improve what you can’t measure”. It’s actually a variation on a common saying of his, which is “what gets measured, gets done” – but there you go. CFOs are full of surprises.

KPIs can be lagging, leading, soft, or hard – but whatever you do (according to this CFO) they must be linked to the corporate objectives, which is where I will start with my five rules of thumb for a good KPI.

1. Each KPI needs to be clearly linked to an overall business objective.

This is one of the most important issues for procurement to consider. You see, if procurement KPIs aren’t linked to the business strategy, then your team’s activities will not be seen as relevant to getting the business to where it wants to go.

I think this is why I get fired up on this topic. We talk about a ‘seat at the table’ and ‘speaking the language of the business’ – well, in the c-suite, KPIs are the language of the business. As a procurement professional, the KPIs you choose actually define your role in the business. Don’t underestimate the power of a good KPI to secure your seat at the table.

We were all in agreement at the PiP Think Tank that for procurement to be relevant and valued, it must be aligned with the business strategy. Your KPIs are the ultimate reinforcement to senior management that your team “get it” and understand how they can contribute to the overall business success.

KPIs that deliver profit (through cost-downs), free up cash, contribute to top-line growth through innovation and protect the corporate reputation will resonate strongly with your senior leadership team.

There is another important reason for linking your KPIs to the corporate objectives. Shared objectives help create teamwork and a sense of connection for everybody and the greater organisation.

2. Your KPIs need to be uncomplicated and measurable (ideally in hard dollar terms)

Procurement receives a lot of “constructive feedback” (I’m trying to be positive here) for using too many unique terms and not speaking the language of the business. Make sure your KPIs can’t be criticised for the same reasons!

A good KPI can be measured relatively easily and understood by the business. There’s no problem with spending some time with Finance to make sure you are a little creative in defining how value is being delivered, but the end result must be something that is widely understood and helps build credibility rather than undermine it.

You will also open yourself up to criticism if your team, or other parts of the business, need to spend a lot of time on calculating KPIs, so be careful and keep it simple.

3. KPIs should measure outcomes, not inputs or internal processes

Number of meetings, number of ideas, strategies being developed – none of these count in my book. They are all measurements of the inputs your team will make with the objective of achieving an outcome.

Your KPIs should capture the value this type of activity will actually deliver to the business. They have to resonate with the senior level by measuring outcomes rather than cataloguing your own activity.

4. Don’t have too many KPIs

Going back to what I said at the beginning, this should be a maximum of 5 KPIs. It takes courage, real discipline (and a lot of debate), but try to get your KPIs down to a small handful of measurable outcomes. It will give everyone clarity and focus.

5. KPIs must be achievable

More than anything, your team will need to believe that they can actually deliver on their KPIs. In a way, they need to be inspirational. They should engage the team to focus on the results that will make their function truly valued!

What is your criteria for a good KPI?

The Productivity in Pharma Think Tank brings together a conclave of senior procurement leaders from the Pharmaceutical industry, creating a unique, mini-MBA style environment, where the most pressing issues facing the function are explored in detail and, from which, key insights and applicable takeaways are derived.

You can find out more about this event at The Beyond Group website, and connect with the event hosts and facilitators Giles Breault (@GilesBreault) and Sammy Rashed (@RashedSammy) on social media.

How My Procurement Network Made 1 Million Dollars

Your procurement network could have massive benefits for you and your business. But only if you are growing and managing it effectively.

Million Dollars

Mention the “n” word and most people cringe and break into a cold sweat. The problem with networking is that it has a really bad reputation.

The term evokes clichéd images of businessmen getting together for meetings with secret handshakes and weird hats, or of the “long lunch” at the club. Networking used to be elite and self-serving. You networked to get up the corporate ladder; you did not network to collaborate or share.

In today’s world networking is widely accepted as a critical element to career success. But I would also go as far as to say networking will improve all aspects of your life.

Getting started with networking can be tough. After all, old habits die hard. If you need some further encouragement, read my article on the ‘3 Steps to Becoming a Networking Guru’.

Inspiration and Information

Networking stretches way beyond finding your next job. Your network can be a source of inspiration. It can provide you with information and insight you would have never otherwise encountered.

Effective networking may help you find your next mentor, role model or, god forbid, a friend. Of course there are many definitions for networking, but to me networking is about creating and maintaining relationships.

So why should you bother with all this networking business?  I mean, if you just get on with your job and deliver on your promises, isn’t that enough to make you successful?

Well, of course it is, but you may be disappointed when you miss out on some lucrative benefits. Ultimately, the benefit of business networking is to create commercial value.

Leveraging Your Procurement Network

Procurement Network - 1 Million Dollars

To bring the power of an effective procurement network to life, I want to share a personal story to show the “multiplier” effect of building strong relationships.

It proves that just 1 connection can be worth millions of dollars to you and your network.

Let’s go back to Australia 10 years ago, where I met Nick Moen. He wasn’t a client, but a leading CPO, and a very smart guy, running procurement for BP in Australia and New Zealand. Nick and I really connected, we met regularly for coffee, and talked about leadership and shared ideas about improving the procurement profession.

Nick was one of the first CPOs to come to me and suggest the value he would derive if I established a CPO Roundtable. Eight years and more than 50 different companies later, that group is still going strong, benchmarking, sharing and collaborating.

In another of our meetings, Nick mentioned some fantastic should cost-model training he had undertaken from a company called Anklesaria, based in San Diego. We struck a deal which has provided hundreds of procurement professionals in Australia with a very valuable skill-set.

Connecting Connections

One year we were looking for a global speaker for our CPO Forum. Ankelsaria recommended Nokia’s outgoing CPO, Jean-Francois Baril. Many years later, his son, Matthieu helped build our eLearning platform on Procurious, and ended up living in my home in Melbourne for three months.

Jean-Francois also introduced us to the amazing former CPO of Deutsche Telekom, Eva Wimmers, who is now a personal friend and a real visionary on supplier-enabled innovation.

Nick and I also decided to start a Procurement Executive Program, which has now trained almost one hundred rising stars. Although the Deputy Dean of the Business School, Dr. Karen Morley, moved on before we started the program, she and I created a connection. This led to me asking her to develop an X-Factor Skills Assessment to identify CPO talent. She is also a regular judge on our CPO of the Year Award.

At one of our coffee mornings, Nick brought along one of his rising stars, Richard Allen. Richard would later become CPO at BP, and now is the CPO at Australia’s largest telecommunications companies, Telstra. Richard and I have continued to keep in touch.  Even three years after I left Australia we still talk at least once a month.

So – from one meeting – all this value has been generated.

Value for Others

Also worth pointing out is how much other people have gained from the partnerships created. Hundreds of people have received valuable training, my business partners have made money, I have had fun, and got a lot of joy and pride out of building my business. It hasn’t just been about networking.

And to think all this value, goodwill and good work was generated from one networking meeting. So what are you doing to leverage your procurement network? Isn’t it time that you took another look?

At Procurious, we want to create a truly global network of procurement professionals that are there to support each other to learn, grown and prosper.  We believe if you get involved, you will get ahead.

Procurement Needs More Positivity in an Online World

In our online world, where knowledge and information is at the touch of a button, it pays to share. And it’s time for procurement to share in order to demonstrate the value it brings to the organisation.

Share Share Share

Sometimes the biggest and best ideas are the simplest ones. Whether it’s a new way of looking at an old problem, or just showing others how to take the first of many steps, the simplest ideas often have the power to cut through the noise and change the way people think.

This is my big, simple idea: the procurement profession needs to share.

Have you ever looked into how Google works? The search engine performs approximately 100 billion searches per month through over 60 trillion individual pages. Google navigates the web by ‘crawling’, or following links from page to page, sorting the pages and keeping track of it all in the 100-million-gigabyte ‘index’. As you search, algorithms work in the background to understand what you want and pull relevant documents from the index.

Results are then ranked using over 200 factors, including site quality, spam removal, freshness and user context – all in 1/8th of a second. Google is becoming incredibly sophisticated, taking keywords into account as part of a wider interpretation of the data on your website, to form its own conclusion about what your site actually delivers.

Language Matters

I found this out, predictably, through a Google search. My point is that as the amount of web content and chatter about procurement grows exponentially all over the world, we need to keep in mind that the language we use matters.

The profession has to optimise the picture that is being painted about procurement because the more positive words and imagery that are put out there, the more we will be discovered and our value understood.

The good news is that influential advocates for the profession are doing exactly that – in the past 48 hours we’ve had positive keywords and phrases used to describe procurement (here on Procurious and elsewhere) including:

  • Avenger
  • Rock-star
  • Thinking the unthinkable
  • Millennial-led disruption
  • Leadership in the digital age
  • Unleash the superhero
  • Procurement evolution
  • Changing the business model
  • Collaborating to inspire

Think about what would mean when a newly-minted CEO, who wants to understand what we do, takes the time to Google ‘Procurement’ and sees overwhelmingly positive language like this in their search results. That CEO can’t help but be inspired and energised by the hype and positivity around procurement.

Forget re-branding – focus on reinforcing the value of procurement

There’s been some discussion recently about re-branding procurement, abandoning the title of CPO and adopting language such as ‘Commercial Operations Director’, or even ‘Chief Relationship Officer’. Further down the chain, only one-third of 99 different job titles used by procurement professionals include the term “procurement”.

In my opinion, re-branding procurement is a distraction, especially since we’ve made enormous progress in educating businesses about what procurement does. Rather than having to re-educate the C-Suite about what a Commercial Director or Chief Relationship Officer does, that energy could be better spent actually showing people what we have and can achieve.

In line with why we created Procurious to begin with, we know that the procurement and supply chain profession has struggled to overcome outdated stereotypes, so it’s time we join forces to become collectively valued. By empowering future procurement leaders, we can change the face of the profession from the inside out, rather than worrying about the label itself.

Share, share, SHARE!

Procurious Founder Tania Seary shares her Big Idea for 2016

Modern wisdom has it that if you don’t exist on Google, you don’t exist at all. If we can’t collectively raise our voice and optimise procurement through positivity, then there is a real danger that the CPO role will become increasingly irrelevant and, eventually, forgotten.

So, how do we go about it? Through constant positive reinforcement. The more positive stories, photographs and other uplifting imagery out there, the more it will help us. Specifically, you can:

  • Share your social media profile, your business photo and broadcast your everyday successes.
  • Ask questions and share what you don’t know – without sharing the things we’re concerned about, there can be no action built and no moving forward.
  • Give knowledge back to enrich the wider community – everyone has something valuable to share.
  • Share your vision for the profession, and most importantly, your big ideas.

Let’s stick with the label we’ve got and continue to build upon it, because the momentum is with us as a profession. Remember, the more we flex our collective muscle, the stronger we become. My call to action to all you avengers, rock-stars and superheroes out there is to get behind one word – and that word is “procurement”.

Even although the event itself is over, there’s still time for you to get involved with the Big Ideas Summit 2016. Visit the Big Ideas Summit website, join our Procurious Group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing exclusive and unique thought leadership, Big Ideas, and discussion that will shape the future of procurement. Don’t miss out – get involved, register today.