Category Archives: Career Management

Why “Free Help” With Buying Decisions Costs More

As consumers, we’re wary of so-called “free” products and services as there’s always a hidden cost. Why, then, are procurement teams willing to accept free help with supplier selection?

Businesses often seek help with their buying decisions, especially in complicated categories such as telco or energy. Preparing an RFP requires a willingness to trudge through data swamps, while analysing supplier responses requires more than a strong coffee to do properly.

When a third-party broker says that they’ll help – for free – the temptation is to say yes, if only to avoid data swamps and caffeine addiction. However, you need to keep in mind that the people who help “for free” are still going to get paid, just not directly by you. They’ll collect their pay from your suppliers who are willing to pay a commission to get the opportunity to service your organisation. In turn, those suppliers recover commissions from their customers (you), either as a line item on the bill or through higher prices. In the end, you’re still paying for the service, just not up-front.

For large businesses with lots of cost centres, this can be a good way to share the cost of getting help. Branch stores pay their bills and, without realising it, pay for the help you received through higher prices. Procurement managers who use this approach can look like heroes because they claim savings and a successful outcome without having to win broad company endorsement for using expensive 3rd-party assistance.

Selecting suppliers for the wrong reasons

The danger of commission payments is that different suppliers pay different amounts. Some commissions contain a ratchet mechanism with longer contract terms, while higher contract values generate higher commissions.

Unfortunately, brokers who offer their services for free are incentivised to select the suppliers who pay them the most, rather than those who deliver the greatest value to the customer. The usual outcome is long-dated contracts with a single source supplier. At least the billing is easy, but your business will end up paying more in the long-term due to lack of value.

Up-front payments

Paying brokers up-front changes their incentives. Instead of focusing on supplier commissions, they now focus on demonstrating their value to you in a bid to win further business from your organisation. “Brokers” go upmarket and call themselves “consultants”, working harder to realise the greatest-possible savings and service levels. Customer and consultant incentives align.

The positive consequences of fee-for-service payments are shorter contract terms and more suppliers. Shorter contracts reflect a balance between testing market prices with the logistics of changing suppliers. Having more suppliers means you are able to split your requirements across the lowest priced suppliers to get the best possible price for your portfolio of demand, rather than being herded toward a single-source supplier.

“Free” services in IT

For software companies, “free” represents a gateway product, or a way of demonstrating the value of a software product to the customer. It means the software provider doesn’t have to employ a slick-suited sales person and can scale the work of their t-shirt clad developers. Salesforce, one of the leading dealers of enterprise SaaS, costs their customers on average $45,000 per annum. The entry level CRM package is $5 per user but customers quickly pay more to satisfy their needs, getting more value from the base CRM product as they buy additional features and capability.

Our approach at Kansoly is the same. We’re a cloud-based telco procurement platform for businesses running RFPs and reverse auctions. Our base product is free, where we offer to run a telco RFP for you for nothing. What’s in it for us? We gain customer insights and supplier engagement, both vital for making our product better and delivering more value to our larger, fee-paying customers. Our free customers get competition for their services and cost analysis that they would otherwise have to invest in.

Brokers and consultants have always been part of the procurement landscape, but their incentives are defined by the way they’re paid. However, the development of Saas procurement platforms increasingly means that free offers aren’t always related to low-value outcomes.

Bruce Macfarlane is the founder of Kansoly, a telco procurement platform for business. Kansoly runs RFPs and reverse auctions for data, mobile, or fixed line.

5 Skills To Drive Supply Chain Success This Year

The skills required to drive supply chain success are forever changing. However, there are some skills that will serve you well over time.

Far from abating, the pace of change in the supply management procession continues to accelerate. It’s critical for supply managers and for the survival of the profession itself that practitioners continually update their skill-sets to avoid being left behind.

It doesn’t matter how experienced you are. If you let your capabilities fall behind while the profession continually reinvents itself, you might as well hand in your resignation today.

A common discussion we see on Procurious revolves around the new skills required for today’s procurement and supply managers. The catch is that even the latest skills are likely to become outdated with a matter of months as new technology and unexpected shifts in the global economy change the game again and again.

That’s why the list below is comprised of five skills that will see you through the next year and beyond, despite the galloping rate of change.

1. Becoming a lifelong learner

The most important skill for 2017 is more of a habit. Starting a new, lifelong routine of daily learning will open your career horizons, keep you informed of disruptive technology, and will rapidly transform you into the best-informed member of your team.

Your daily routine may involve reading industry news and blog articles, or targeting your capability gaps with online microlearning. Investing only a few minutes of professional development every day will make an enormous difference.

2. Improving your cultural intelligence

Although globalisation suffered at least two body-blows in 2016 (UK’s Brexit and Trump’s protectionism), it’s safe to assume that supply managers will increasingly work across borders and, subsequently, across cultures. The best global procurement and supply professionals have high cultural intelligence. This means they:

  • have the drive and curiosity required to understand the norms and behaviours found in different cultures
  • actively seek to understand cultural similarities and differences to avoid cultural missteps
  • plan ahead for cross-cultural interactions – making the time to learn common phrases such as greetings and farewells
  • are flexible enough to adapt their tone and manner during cross-cultural interactions according to their observations.

3. Mastering your elevator pitch

Every procurement and supply professional needs an elevator pitch. This is important not just for the benefit of your own career, but for the profession as a whole.

Even in 2017 we’re still in a situation where there’s a vast ignorance out there about what procurement is, and what we do. Being able to confidently spread the word with a short, engaging summary of procurement’s value will help your own prospects, improve stakeholder understanding of procurement, and (most importantly) help attract top talent to the profession.

4. Building your brand online

Are there still some stalwarts out there who are holding out on embracing social media as a career-building tool? Again, this skill-set is not only good for your own networking and career development, but very important for the wider profession.

We need as many people as possible being positive about procurement and supply management online.

Why? Because the alternative is a mire of online negativity from disgruntled stakeholders or suppliers with a grudge. Join two or three social networks, talk up the profession, and reap the professional benefits of a strong online network.

5. Embracing social procurement

Social procurement has gone from a nice-to-have, good-for-the-brand exercise to an integral part of business strategy. Before launching your first social procurement project in 2017, ensure you’re able to articulate how it benefits the business by aligning your efforts to enterprise-level targets and organisational values.

Top Reasons to Advance Your Career With an MBA

Competition for the top procurement jobs is fierce. Have you considered that an MBA might be one way to get ahead of the pack?

MBA

Procurement can be a very competitive industry. Both procurement managers and officers are continually looking for ways to advance their career and beat out other job candidates for the best roles.

If you’ve been in the same position for a while and seem to be struggling to rise higher, it might be time to get your nose in some textbooks and build up your network of contacts through a higher degree.

A Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) can, in particular, be a fantastic option to study. You can choose one of top online MBA programmes to work on part-time, or opt to quit your current role and study full-time instead.

Here’s why you should consider enrolling in an MBA program today.

Job Prospects

One of the major reasons why it’s worth completing an MBA is the job prospects that can come from such qualifications. Having an MBA listed on your resume can help you to stand out from other job candidates in a crowded marketplace, particularly if you’re keen to get into a higher, leadership position.

Employers typically tend to see MBA graduates as having greater business acumen, skills, and knowledge than those who haven’t completed the higher degree. They also appreciate the fact that students will often be more likely to “hit the ground running” on day one.

In addition, having an MBA under your belt can also give you more job security with your current company or within your industry. Employers tend to feel that business school graduates bring more value to their roles and to an organisation in general, by:

  • Having a broader business understanding
  • Being able to handle complex situations
  • Improving adaptability, nimbleness, and innovation
  • Being able to spot inefficiencies and better problem solve

This kind of belief can mean that if the economy tightens or a firm’s results decrease, and people start to be let go, your name will be much lower down on the list than others.

Relationship Building

Another major benefit of studying an MBA is that doing so gives you the chance to meet, and build solid relationships, with like-minded graduates from around the world.

Many people who have completed MBAs find that contacts they made during their studies become invaluable contacts in the long-term. Having this network to use as a sounding board, and to turn to for advice, ideas, and referrals, as you build your career is priceless. These connections can help you to really stand out from others in your company or industry.

Getting to know graduates from across the globe exposes you to different cultures, business practices, points of view, and networks. It’s something you wouldn’t necessarily have in many other types of degrees. MBAs are very international studies, and tend to have strong alumni networks which stay close even in spite of distance.

Learning Practical Skills

Of course, completing an MBA is also certain to give you a wide variety of practical skills which you can use at work every day. For starters, communication is something that graduates really have to get good at during their studies, whether through completing team projects, individual presentations, or work placements.

Working together in teams, and getting a group of potentially strong personalities to move in the same direction, can also help you to learn helpful leadership, management, and negotiation skills for the future. Completing studies while you’re still in a full-time job also requires fantastic time-management skills.

Other transferable skills which students can graduate from an MBA with, and use throughout their career, include:

  • Creativity;
  • Problem solving;
  • Critical thinking;
  • Computer proficiency; and
  • Cross-cultural understanding.

Learn About the Bigger Business Picture

Lastly, completing MBA studies also gives you the chance to stop and think about the bigger business picture. This will help you not only in your current role, but also throughout your career.

MBA coursework typically always involves students looking at the global economy and trading markets. This gets people to think about more than their own little world where they currently work. It also makes it easier to see how events impact on both a micro and macro level in a business.

Tiffany Rowe is a marketing administrator who assists in contributing resourceful content throughout the World Wide Web. Tiffany prides herself in her strong ability to provide high quality content that readers will find valuable.

How to Hit a Target 10 Years Away – An Olympic Effort

How do you sustain your focus on a goal that’s 10 years away? One Olympic legend shares her story – how will you apply it to your career?

Australian Olympic legend Chloe Esposito trained 45 weeks a year for an incredible 10 years before the day she won gold in the Modern Pentathlon in Brazil. Chloe visited The Faculty CPO Roundtable National Meeting in Sydney to share her inspirational story with our members.

In case you missed it during the Olympic Games, here’s the incredible moment Chloe broke away from her competitors to cross the finish line in first place.

Chloe’s interview with The Faculty’s Sally Lansbury was packed full of life lessons, insights, and a strong message about persistence and resilience that can be applied to every career.

At what point of the event did you know you were going to win gold?

I only knew I was going to win after I put down the gun (in the final shooting event) and started to run for the finish line. I just bolted out of the shooting range – I didn’t know where the other competitors were, but I just focused on myself as that’s really all I could control. When I glanced back, I knew that I had it. It was such a pinch-me moment, and one that I’d trained for basically all of my life.

What exactly does the Modern Pentathlon involve?

It’s actually five events in one – fencing, swimming, show-jumping, shooting and running. They’re spaced over the day, and you start each event with a penalty depending on how you’ve performed in the previous event.

The challenge is to train across five different areas – my father (who is also my coach) and I have deliberately focused on my weakest area, fencing.

We moved to Budapest, Hungary, to concentrate on fencing. Budapest is like the boiler room of Modern Pentathlon. It’s right in the middle of Europe, with so many competitions and pentathletes there.

My favourite event would have to be horse riding. You only get 20 minutes with an unknown horse before the event, so there’s no point trying to train the horse in that time. You just spend those 20 minutes getting to know each other.

What do you think gave you your edge over the other athletes?

Putting in the extra 1 per cent. In Budapest we doubled the hours of all training. Whether it was pouring rain or snowing, I’d still train, no matter what. My family and I got to be known as the “Psycho Espositos” – our training schedule is nuts, but it gets results!

The other factor that gave me an edge is the incredibly supportive network around me. My dad, mum, brother and sister all got behind me to help me achieve a life-long dream.

How do you sustain focus on a goal that’s 10 years away?

The secret is to set up a series of short-term goals and focus entirely on those. These were smaller competitions, world cups and so on. If you try to think too far ahead, you’ll go crazy and you won’t get there.

You also need to have the flexibility to change your short-term goals as circumstances require. For example when I tore my Achilles tendon, we changed a lot of my goals to focus on recovery, mainly through spending more time in the pool.

What’s next, now that you’ve achieved such a major life goal?

Tokyo 2020! There’ll be huge pressure now that I’m a gold-medal winner, but I’m definitely going to give the Tokyo Olympics a go. In the meantime, I’m stepping into a completely new world to what I’m used to – speaking, presenting, television appearances. I’m starting to build another career for myself.

What life lessons have you learned through your Olympic journey?

I can think of five lessons that will take me right through my career:

  1. Hard work always pays off at the end of the day. When you’ve worked so hard, something good has to come out of it!
  2. The extra 1 per cent always pays off in the results.
  3. You’ll need huge determination to achieve your career goals.
  4. Don’t rush into things – the opportunity will eventually come.
  5. Give yourself some time off. I like to do something completely unrelated to training at least once a week, such as going to the beach.

Packed with value, The Faculty Roundtable gives member organisations access to cutting-edge thought leadership and commentators, a ready supply of valuable expertise through exclusive market intelligence, as well as networking and professional development opportunities for CPOs and their teams.

Please contact Sally Lansbury for more information.

Following the eISM Yellow Brick Road – A Guide to Guided Learning

We’re at the beginning of the yellow brick road, folks. This course is the foundation of all ISM’s educational offerings.

yellow brick road

Time zones can make things difficult. When I first signed up for ISM’s Fundamentals of Purchasing Guided Learning, I was resigned to the fact that I’d probably need to get up in the middle of the night here in Australia to join a series of four live webinars, broadcast from ISM’s head office in Arizona.

Luckily, it didn’t turn out that way at all. ISM ran their webinars after work hours in the US, which meant I could join them at the very civilised time of 9.30am. So, with headphones in and a cup of coffee within reach, I started my first foray into guided eLearning.

The Yellow Brick Road

When Dr. Wade C. Ferguson, (President, Erv Lewis Associates, LLC) compared the course to the beginning of the yellow brick road, he was referring to ISM’s comprehensive Mastery Model, a set of competency-based standards for the profession.

At first glance, the model is dauntingly large, with 16 main competencies and over 70 sub-competencies to choose from. However, once you break it down to essentials that are relevant to you, and chart out the competencies you wish to specialise in, it all begins to make sense.

Every competency in the Mastery Model is linked to one or more ISM Training (or eLearning) offerings. In addition, this particular course sits across a whole suite of introductory-level sub-competencies.

Access Anywhere, Any Time

Essentially, Guided Learning is self-paced eLearning with an instructor. The course ran over four weeks, with 16 modules, four of which were live webinars facilitated by the procurement and supply management veteran, Dr Ferguson.

The remaining 12 modules were homework, to be completed between the webinars. Each of the “homework” modules delivered information in an engaging mixture of multimedia, including ISM’s micro-learning videos, voice recordings or plain reading. The modules then always ended with a quiz to check knowledge and comprehension.

The main benefit of guided learning would have to be that you can take the course without leaving your home or office. This is vital for professionals who don’t have the time, or travel budget, necessary to attend training in-person. It also means that people like me can join from over 13,000 kilometres away.

The flexibility this offers is fantastic. One of the four live webinars caused a clash in my schedule, but this wasn’t a problem at all. I simply accessed the recording from the learning portal to watch later in the day.

The Guided Experience

Dr Ferguson drew upon his 40 years of industry experience to pepper his instruction with illustrations from his own career in supply management and education. The course covered, as expected: fundamentals of supply management; legal considerations; category management; contract formation and management; and finally, negotiation skills.

Here are some gems from Dr Ferguson’s webinar commentary:

  • Future-oriented procurement: “We have to be proactive, anticipatory, and not just react to a buy signal. It’s about the identification of what is needed, both now and in the future.”
  • Changing business priorities: “You know, flexibility has got to part of what we do every day. At some point you’re going to have a new CEO coming and totally upsetting the apple cart. What are you going to do?”
  • Vision statements: “When organisations express their cultural aspirations, they typically flow down through the organisation and find a home in the supply function.”
  • Social responsibility: “Find some small areas where your function can really make a difference”.
  • Strategy: “A roadmap without a destination isn’t very useful – it’s just spinning your wheels.”

The only thing I felt I was missing out on in the eLearning experience was getting to know my classmates. It’s like sitting in a movie theatre full of invisible people all watching the same thing. You know they’re there, but there’s no way to see them, or talk to them.

The instructor had a great deal to get through, but I would have appreciated him pausing for a moment to talk about who was online, where they’re from, what they do and the companies they represent. That being said, there was a discussion board available in the learning portal where you could introduce yourself.

On My Way

To circle back to Dr Ferguson’s ‘Wizard of Oz’ analogy, I feel I’ve taken some significant steps along the Yellow Brick Road of ISM Mastery over the past four weeks. There was a huge amount of information compressed into the course’s 16 modules, but the self-paced aspect made the workload feel very manageable.

Find out more about eISM here. Registrations are also now open for ISM2017 – click here for more information.

Buying Tech – Your Fast-Track Ticket to the Top!

I’d like to make a correction. Tech buyers aren’t just our next CPOs, they’re our next Board members.

No, I haven’t misspelt “BioTech” in the headline here – I genuinely mean buying technology.

I wrote last week on Procurious that IT procurement professionals are best-positioned to become the next generation of CPOs (Chief Procurement Officers) or CIOs (Chief Information Officers).

But then, I decided to upgrade this career trajectory to Board level.

Why? Because I’d heard first-hand how some of the world’s largest industrial companies are turning their businesses on their heads. They are changing their focus so it’s less on manufactured goods, but services they can provide to complement those goods.

Banking on Future Tech

At last week’s ProcureCon IT conference in Amsterdam, banks, car companies, engine makers and other industries all made their way to the stage to tell a similar story. You see, they’ve all finally come around to Michael Porter’s way of thinking. It’s all about delighting and owning the customer – or, more specifically, the customer data.

Even the most traditional sectors represented at the conference made it clear that they are banking their futures on technology. Of course they’ll still offer their core products, such as making cars or managing money.

However, their key competitive advantage will be in the customer experience they create through understanding their customers’ needs and habits. The data they capture when customers use their products and services is essential for this understanding.

So – to be successful into the future, these bricks-and-mortar businesses are going to have start adding some very different (and expensive) topics to their Board meeting agendas.

Decisions might include:

  • whether to store all their precious customer data in the cloud or in data centres,
  • how to protect their IP and their customers’ privacy from hackers,
  • how to comply with privacy legislation, and
  • which technology vendors to tie their futures to (or not!).

These issues have existed in business for a long time, but they now come with such significant expenditure and risk profiles that they will warrant serious Board contemplation and approval.

But who on the Board will have the experience and knowledge to provide useful and constructive insights for making these critical business decisions?

Become a Savvy Tech Buyer

Enter stage left – the technology procurement leader.

I’ve been reading and writing about seismic shifts in the world of Industry 4.0, but today the penny finally dropped. I now realise what a huge opportunity the next Industrial Revolution is for procurement.

It is indeed a brave new world. To my delight it has become very clear to me that the fastest career ticket you can buy yourself to the c-suite, is to become a commercially savvy technology buyer.

Whether you are in IT procurement or not, you should be focussing on developing these four key skills to secure your ticket to the top:

Big Data Analytics

There is going to be a lot of customer data collected over the coming years. The companies that can extract the best insights from that data, and adapt their products and services to meet customer needs, will secure their competitive advantage.

Executives with a proven track record in complex analytics will be a valuable addition to the c-suite.

Data Security

Cyber security is already one of the most concerning issues for CEOs. This will only be amplified in the future as more and more proprietary information is created.

The executive team will need leaders who know about global privacy laws, the pros and cons of the cloud versus traditional data centres, and how to outsmart the latest human or robotic hacking capability.

The Digital Landscape

Companies are already in dire need of directors and executives who understand the difference between the Ethernet and the Internet. (Hint: it’s like comparing a glass of water with the ocean).

A whole new universe of technology options are forming as the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 explode. Boards desperately need digitally native, tech-savvy executives who can quickly analyse opportunities, understand the competitive landscape and engage first-mover start-ups in a commercially astute manner.

Busting the Big Guys

This isn’t a typical competency that you would normally see listed on a corporate job description. But from what I’ve heard over the past two days, every company is going to need a group of strong, strategic commercial leaders who can ensure the organisation doesn’t become captive to one of the big technology suppliers.

Without naming names, there are a handful of global players who dominate the infrastructure, hardware and software space.

Whilst IT procurement professionals genuinely want to engage the niche players, requirements around scale, scope and compliance inevitably lead to the large technology providers. These are somewhat symbiotic relationships, but (as we all know) there are huge inherent risks to any monopoly supply situation.

Gain Experience and Grow

So, if you’re ambitious, my career advice to you today is this:

Do all you can to get yourself into a role where you’ll learn these sought-after skills. A role in tech procurement would be perfect; procurement second-best (because every procurement professional learns essential commercial and negotiation skills).

If you’re not in procurement at all, the IT profession is another place where you’ll be able to gain the experience required to tick some of these boxes when it comes time to be interviewed for the c-suite – or hopefully, the Board!

See you at the top!

Procurious is the world’s first online network dedicated to procurement and supply chain professionals.

Register for free today! Join over 19,000 fellow professionals from around the world to share your knowledge, get your burning questions answered and help drive the evolution of the procurement profession.

No Seat at the Table? Time to Build Your Own Chair

The solution is simple, surely. If procurement can’t get a seat at the table, it’s time to build our own chair.

build a chair

How many times have you heard your peers or even yourself say the inevitable term, “seat at the table”? I am not sure where this proverbial leadership table came from, but we are constantly trying to get a chair. It’s time to build our own chairs and bring them to the table.

Time to Whittle Some Wood

So, how do we build our own chair? It needs to start with education. You can help. Earlier this year I was at a Supply Chain career fair, recruiting some talent, and had a chance to speak to several students about the lack of educational offerings for our profession. It was remarkable how many of them had a strong interest in procurement.

This University happens to be a leader in Supply Chain education, and one of their courses has a procurement focus.

The interest is there, but outside of this University, dedicated procurement courses are as hard to find as one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets, or a Snorlax on Pokemon GO. (See what I did there? I’m trying to bridge the generational gap – you either don’t know who Gene Wilder is, or you never downloaded Pokemon GO and have no clue what a Snorlax is! Anyway, focus.)

I don’t believe that every college and university is going to begin adding procurement programs, because honestly I am not sure if just adding the courses would solve the problem.

I am still not convinced you can “teach” procurement, which is another can of worms I am not ready to crack open. However, I do think there is value in introducing procurement to students; educating them, exposing them to the industry and sharing what we do.

I have been speaking to students and sharing my procurement experience since very early in my career. With only a year of experience up my sleeve, I was speaking at my alma mater. I continue to speak to students of all ages, and am often invited to undergraduate and graduate classes to speak.

I’ve even spoken about procurement at an elementary school! At the time I was working for a large beverage and snack company, so I think they only wanted some potato chips and soda without their parents knowing. But regardless, I was there.

Get Up and Get Out There

Stop complaining that you have to always justify your value. You alone are not going to solve the big issues at your company. You can create some great traction and maybe even get that seat at the leadership table, but keep in mind that it only takes one re-structuring to lose that seat once more. The solution? Get out there and educate.

Share. Be vocal. Don’t just attend procurement events – go to other industry events and get the word out on what we do. Attending procurement events is great, but often we are telling each other the same thing we already know.

How about you go to a CIO, CMO, or CFO conference and share how much value you are adding to your organisation? The movement needs to come from all ends!

The CPO is Not Dead

There was an article written earlier this year with the provocative headline, “The CPO is dead.” I really valued it and don’t entirely disagree with its suggestion of a shift from Chief procurement Officer to Chief Value Officer. The role of procurement has transformed – it’s not just tactical, it’s strategic; not just focused on cost saving, but adding value. I encourage you to read it.

I do, however,  disagree with the concept that the CPO is dead, because I think the CPO is just growing up. There is so much more work to do to get this industry further exposed, so that there is no second-thought for a company to focus on procurement top-down.

Pull Up a Chair – Let’s Eat!

So, what are you going do? Read this – great! Share this – great! If you’re reading this and want to make a difference, please connect with me here on Procurious, and let’s figure out how to get more schools involved and how you can drive this movement locally or even nationally.

Utilise your company, and your position, to be an external voice for the profession.

Nicholas Ammaturo is the President and Chair of ISM 7 Counties and a former winner of ISM and ThomasNet’s 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars award. Nicholas is Managing Director of Cormac Advisory Services, a retail and wholesale consulting service.

Women and Indirect Procurement – A Perfect Fit!

Indirect procurement is a perfect fit for women. And women in indirect procurement are a perfect fit for a company.

women indirect procurement

At a recent fantastic CIPS CH event on ‘Women in Procurement’, it got me thinking about why indirect procurement is a great function for women.

My path to leadership in procurement happened by accident. In the late 90s, when indirect procurement was emerging as a strategic sourcing function, I joined the corporate sourcing team at a large Swiss bank.

The team had been formed specifically to implement ‘strategic sourcing’. I got my first taste of the three things that make women in indirect procurement such a great combination.

  1. Indirect procurement is results oriented

One of the realities of being a businesswoman is that the range of acceptable behaviour can be pretty narrow. Being clear about your opinion in a meeting easily becomes being ‘too direct’.

But the great equaliser is delivering financial results. Everyone wants to hear more, especially senior executives.

But not just any numbers will do…

  • Clear financials – Focus on savings that bring the cost base down and have P&L impact via a tight link to the budget process (see my previous article on this topic).
  • Long-term savings commitment – The first time we committed as a team, I was nervous presenting it to the executive committee. But after we delivered the first year, my nervousness was gone.

Women who advance into leadership roles in corporations are all results oriented and tend to be super exact because the winnowing out process is earlier and harsher.

Mary, the leader of the US professional services category was exactly this kind of woman, delivering business innovation and significant numbers every year.

As part of our strategy for breaking through on more difficult categories, she led a new approach by working across regions. I also gave her a leadership challenge to think bigger on the numbers. She did. And the team delivered some great innovation to the business and tripled the savings delivery.

  1. Indirect procurement is flexible

One of the greatest aspects of being measured on results is that it makes space for flexibility between work and home time.

After some years in consulting, I was back in industry with a full-time role, and two small children, leading a big team for the first time. There were several other women with children in the team trying to manage work and home time. We needed to do something.

There were two things going for us.

  • A results oriented CPO even though he was an old style German man!
  • Procurement is in the ‘client’ role so sales people try to match your schedule.

This combination equals control of your agenda and gave us a chance to organise time differently.

  • No meetings after 5pm, but with the expectation of being online post bedtime.
  • Working fewer hours than the men just by being more focused. There’s nothing like needing to be home to get focus.

There’s no pretending that this was easy to do. But in addition to being able to balance work and home time, there were two side affects of this way of organising things.

  • The leadership team was young. And the men also started to organise themselves this way after they had children.
  • Talent retention and growth of women rising on the organisation.

Isabelle, a young woman in my former team recently had her second child and had the chance to take over a regional head role. We met for coffee and discussed her fear of taking the role with young children.

She made a clear plan on how she would manage her work and home time, including how many late evening conference calls she was willing to make, and went for it.

Great for her and great for keeping and developing talent in the company.

  1. Indirect procurement has P&L impact

Women continue to be underrepresented in senior management, and the ones there, are often in non-powerful functions like HR.

One of the key ticks in the box for advancing is P&L responsibility. Indirect procurement can have high impact on the P&L and therefore crucial ‘visibility’ to senior management. Keep in mind:

  • Senior management cares about the P&L. You need to not only deliver the numbers, but make sure you are up there presenting to them. And it’s a chance to show you can handle the pressure of executive level presentations and questions sessions.
  • Know your numbers inside and out. This means being aware of the status of all material projects driving delivery on a monthly basis.
  • Can you measure and track it – proof! Have a clear report that is linked to the budget cycle

The more visibility women have, the better their chances to advance. This naturally adds to the pipeline of women for a company – the lack of which is the eternal topic in every article about why there aren’t more women in senior positions.

The bottom line is empowered women deliver.

Pauline King is the CEO of Heykins GmbH, Rapid Results Procurement, focused on working with clients’ existing teams to deliver tangible financial results.

She is a recognised expert in indirect procurement with deep operational experience in procurement transformation. Pauline also works closely with The Beyond Group AG where she heads up the Indirect Procurement Practice.

My 5 Killer Job Interview Questions

How do you separate the diamonds from the rough in your next recruitment process? Do you have the killer questions to help?

killer questions

When I started all my businesses (The Faculty, The Source, and Procurious) I declared that I was building a culture, not a company.

Culture can’t be forced, but it also doesn’t happen organically. It stems from recruitment. It’s not always the best person, but the right person for the job, that can help foster company culture.

Leadership experience, technical skills and cultural fit are all important here, so how can you recruit someone that ticks all three boxes?

From all my years of playing interviewer, I’ve compiled five killer questions that separate the diamonds from the rough.

1. The “Tipping Point” Question

“What were the reasons for leaving your current job?”

Asking a potential employee why they decided to leave their job provides good insight into what makes them tick. It also highlights their personality and gives you a definite indication of what they don’t want to happen in their new job.

It’s also a good question to ask in exit interviews to ensure your business can learn from its mistakes.

2. The “Leader of the Pack” Question

“Tell me about something you’ve lead – a group, a team, a movement, an initiative…any situation where you were in the lead?”

This question resulted in the most surprising interview response ever. When I first established The Source, my procurement recruitment company, I was interviewing for the Managing Director role.

When I asked this question, one of the candidates paused and then answered, “I once led a revolt against management in a manufacturing company I worked for.” Wrong answer.

3. The “Mentor Me” Question

“Tell me about some people you’ve mentored and what they are doing now?”

If people stumble on this question, they obviously don’t have a track record in developing people. Furthermore, if they can’t talk to what their mentees are doing now, they really weren’t genuinely committed and interested in that person’s development enough to keep track of their progress.

4. The “Question” Question

“Do you have any more questions?”

I always want people to have lots of questions. And not just about them – their pay, their hours, the role and where they’ll sit – but about the business, about the industry, the issues we are facing, about our future.

To be successful in any business, people need to be genuinely concerned about their profession or industry, not just their own career development.

5. The “One Word” Question

One of my mentors gave me this tip. One of her interview questions was:

“If your friends could summarise you in one word, what would that word be?”

This question is great because it allows the candidate to drill down to the one attribute they represent but also aspire to be.

Want to hire someone who describes him or herself as “encouraging” or “meticulous”? Of course you do. Someone who describes him or herself as “Chatty” or “Brilliant”? Didn’t think so.

Reflect on Your Questions

So you’ve asked your questions, the interview is complete and you look to move onto the next candidate. Before you do so, remember the final important step – reflect.

This was a key piece of advice I received from one of our recruitment experts at The Source. It’s important to reflect on the candidate’s responses and behaviour to help determine where they fit in the organisation.

Hiring managers should always consider their current and desired workplace culture, and think about how the candidate fits in.

To do this, I often ask myself:

  • What were the energy levels like? Did the candidate have energy – physical, mental and spiritual (I know, sounds spooky…but think about it!)?
  • Did the conversation flow? Was the candidate both interesting and interested? Did I struggle to follow what they were sharing? Was the conversation stilted?
  • Would the person be a good representative of the team? Here, I’m talking about their values and approach, as well as the way they communicate and present.

With these interview questions in your repertoire plus some “reflection” time, you will be on your way to recruitment success.

Ask Not What You Can Do for Your Organisation

But what your organisation can do for you. And these tips should point you in the direction of a great employer.

jfk organisation

For a decade or more, the economy has very much been a hiring manager’s market. A number of economic events culminating in the GFC made it increasingly difficult for even the most qualified candidates to find a position. But not anymore.

Thanks to a host of economic upturns, more and more jobs are appearing. Finally applicants can ask: “What can an organisation do for me?”

These days, it is important for employers to consider how they can work to better their workforce. Career management is no longer the sole responsibility of the worker; companies must consider how to lend their employees support.

As a job candidate, you should look for organisations that are eager to learn your goals and aspirations, and provide backing and encouragement to help you achieve them. More specifically, you should search for an employer willing to do the following for the sake of your career:

Understand Your Intended Path

As a human being, you have personal and professional goals. Often, those goals include a specific career path culminating in a prestigious job title with important responsibilities and generous benefits.

From the very beginning of your employment, your employer should be eager to learn your goals and pave the way for you to achieve them.

As you endure the job-hunting process, you should explain your personal and professional plan to every prospective employer. The most promising employers will respond with information on career paths through their organisations, available career-boosting tools or programs, and (most importantly) a commitment of support for your goals.

Those who seem uninterested in your goals will not do anything to help you achieve them.

Adapt Roles and Responsibilities

Though you might not expect an entry-level position to be handcrafted to match your abilities and interests, as you head into your mid-career, your employer should begin adapting your role and responsibilities to suit your preferences and skills.

In fact, ideal organisations will be able to assess your strengths and weaknesses and provide opportunities for you to develop those abilities you will need to enhance your career and achieve your professional goals.

During the interview process, you might ask about the possibility of you gaining a hand in the development of your work responsibilities as you gain experience within the organisation.

Offer Necessary Resources

Regardless of your career goals, your organisation can dramatically improve your chances of success by connecting you with valuable resources.

Perhaps most importantly, your employer should have a programme to support the continued education of its staff. This can be through workplace seminars or tuition reimbursement.

Flex time will help you pursue advanced education, like a master’s of organisational leadership degree, that could qualify you for top positions at your organisation while also improving your skill set for the company.

Additionally, you might look for an employer that boasts a mentorship programme. This way, you can build relationships with important figures at your company and gain career-boosting opportunities.

Be Respectful and Compassionate

It is entirely likely that your goals will change during your career. It’s imperative that you find an employer who won’t disrespect your choice, or react extremely and destroy your opportunities for success.

Employers should recognise the value of investing in employees, who will undoubtedly become valuable assets or allies in their future positions – regardless of whether those positions are inside or outside the organisation.

It isn’t difficult to identify companies who lack compassion for their workers. You can often find evidence of poor treatment on ratings websites like Glassdoor.

Most organisations think first of the profit margins, second of the customers, and third of their employees. In years past, companies had little reason to worry about workers leaving for better jobs, because the potential for finding alternative reliable employment was low.

However, if we expect the current trend of job growth to continue – which it should, given the strength of the economy and imminent retirement of baby boomers – employers must begin to consider the health and happiness of individual employees.

Being kind and supportive, having tools for personal and professional improvement, and remaining flexible in roles and rules are the hallmarks of organisations that treat their workers well. You should keep an eye out for job opportunities with companies like these.

Tiffany Rowe is a marketing administrator who assists in contributing resourceful content throughout the World Wide Web. Tiffany prides herself in her strong ability to provide high quality content that readers will find valuable.