Category Archives: Career Management

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.

How Executives Can Avoid a Social Media Headache

Navigating the increasingly complex world of social media is the norm for executives. Here’s what you need to know.

executives headache

Social media can be a hugely important tool for executives in this day and age. When used appropriately, it can help you land your next job, help you communicate what you’re working on in your role, and help keep you on top of industry news and trends.

But setting up and occasionally maintaining your LinkedIn profile is just the tip of the social media iceberg these days.

According to a study conducted by Forbes and reported on SocialTimes, CEO engagement on social media will double by 2017.

Brands are doing this for good reason, with 82 per cent of people more likely to trust a company with CEOs on social media, according to the study.

You could get a tap on the shoulder by your HR leader any day, too. Companies often look across their organisation when considering a social media strategy for executives, with subject matter experts in different areas of the business (such as procurement) often having great insights to share.

Blurring Personal & Professional Boundaries

Of course, it takes extra time to be active in the social media. In fact, it’s blurred the lines between people’s personal and professional time and space. Used unwisely, a person’s social media presence can have repercussions in both their personal and professional lives.

This not only includes LinkedIn and Twitter, but also blogging, Instagram and Pinterest.

And at times, a lot that can go wrong. For example, the media stories of a Scottish executive who lost his $US2 million-a-year position as CEO last year when he decided to talk to his daughter during a ‘boring’ board meeting.

The executive told his daughter how he hated board meetings and that he was tired of the session that morning. He used Snapchat to share photos of the board meeting, along with tagged messages to his daughter, saying he was bored.

His daughter using a screen grabbing app to save the photos and posted them on her Instagram page, prompting a backlash that cost him his job.

This is just one of the many headlines about social media misuse that have caused headaches for successful corporate executives. There have also been plenty of accusations, misinterpretations and media headlines due to social media use.

Use Social Media as Tool for Good

However, don’t let this deter you from using social media, with executives able to use social media to their advantage rather than using it to ruin their career.

On the other hand, when used responsibly, social media has helped politicians win elections, startups take their new brand to the world and executives land new positions.

Posting blogs on LinkedIn or your company blog can also be a great way to bolster your corporate profile and help position you as an industry expert.

Outsourcing this process to a freelance journalist or copywriter can be a great way to ensure you meet your blogging goals.

Start by familiarising yourself with your company’s social media policy, which should outline their expectations. Raise any clarifications with your HR or communications department.

Avoiding the Executive Headache

When it comes to security, you can never be too careful. Here are a few ways to ensure you aren’t giving away too much information online.

Avoid checking-in: Don’t check in on Facebook at airports, on trips away for work or in specific locations during your time off. You never know who is watching for this information to be made public.

Set status updates to private: If you’re going to post business photos of delicious meals at a restaurant or tell people where you are on social media, make sure that your status settings are private, so that only your connections can view this.

Manually approve online tags: There’s an option on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to approve photos and status updates you’ve been tagged in, which could reduce the chance of attackers actively monitoring your movements.

Key Social Media Platforms

And just in case you weren’t sure where to start, here is a brief run-down of the key platforms for you.

  • Facebook

The largest social network on the web both in terms of name recognition and total number of users. It’s a great medium for businesses to connect with customers.

  • Twitter

Share 140 or fewer character text updates to your followers, along with videos, images, links and polls. Twitter enables you to interact with other users by mentioning their usernames in your posts.

  • LinkedIn

Nowadays, if you’re a professional not on LinkedIn, you’re in a small minority. Allows you to create a professional profile and connect with people around the world, from peers, to colleagues, to competitors, to potential business partners.

  • Procurious

The world’s first online business network for procurement and supply chain professionals. With over 18,000 members, there’s a wealth of knowledge and potential collaboration with fellow global professionals.

  • Instagram

This visual social media platform is based entirely on photo and video posts, with many users posting about food, art, travel, fashion, architecture, hobbies and similar subjects. Growing numbers of retailers have had strong sales growth on the back of utilising this platform to display their collections.

  • Tumblr

This is one of the most difficult social media platforms to use as a business, but it’s also one of the most interesting. Users can post text, chat posts, quotes, audio, photo and video, while reposting other users’ content is quick and easy.

  • YouTube

This video platform allows businesses to show their products in action. It’s particularly useful for companies that mostly sell over the internet.

  • Blogs

Posting interesting articles either on your own personal blog, the company blog or post articles to LinkedIn can be a great way to bolster your corporate profile.

Getting the Smartest Guys in the Room

Is it just me, or does it feel like procurement is forever running in circles? We’re spending a lot of time worrying about whether we are ‘at the table’, when the real question might be, “Are we on the menu?”

albert-einstein smartest people in room

Last year I had a one of those rare “A-ha!” moments. I was chatting to a CFO of a global company, with 50,000 people working across more than 30 countries.

He was in the middle of a major cost transformation and I asked him whether procurement was playing a leading role. He said he didn’t know.

More than a little surprised, I asked him politely how was it that he didn’t know. He responded:

“Well, when we have our team updates it’s usually via Halo and all I see is a group of faces. I really don’t care whether they’re from HR, Operations, Finance or Procurement. All I care is that I’ve got the smartest guys in the room, solving our problems.”

And that was my A-ha! moment.

Quality Rises to the Top

Procurement shouldn’t fret about promoting its brand or carefully crafting a value proposition because ultimately, the quality of our people will speak for itself. What we need to ensure is that we get the smartest people onto “Team Procurement”.

Today at ProcureCon Europe I’m sharing three short, sharp “big ideas” for how procurement can get the smartest guys in the room.

1. Set Daring Talent KPIs

The power of KPIs has become a hot topic among the Procurious community with discussions about how metrics can be used to influence procurement’s perception within the business.

In my blog article ‘Measuring the Unmeasurable‘, I suggested we ought to measure how many members of the Procurement team are promoted to enterprise-wide leadership development programs. You know, those rising star or high potential programmes. (When I was working in corporate, we called it “charm school”).

If CPOs were brave enough to call out this KPI as your bold aspiration for their team, it would have a double-whammy effect. Firstly, it would promote procurement internally as a source of real leadership talent. Secondly, it would increase procurement’s level of attractive proposition for ambitious candidates looking to really ‘get somewhere’ in their career.

2. Find a Millennial Mentor

If you want to attract the brightest stars, you need to understand how the next generation of talent thinks. One of the best ways to doing this is to find yourself a millennial mentor.

I have had more than a few millennial mentors in recent years who have taught me two important lessons. One, there is enormous power in social media. And, two, why job selection is more about their boss and how likely they are to champion and influence on their behalf, rather than the company itself.

At Procurious, we believe there is a direct correlation between the strength of your online brand and the calibre of millennial talent you attract to your organisation.  Put simply, in the minds’ of millennials: “If you’re not online, you don’t exist”.

3. Incubate Intrapreneurs

Leading global CPOs are not paid to reduce costs – they are paid to drive change. But implementing ‘big ideas’ in big companies is not easy, as we were reminded last year at The Big Ideas Summit by Rio Tinto’s Finance Director, Chris Lynch.

If you want to get the smartest guys in the room, you need to find and develop people who think and act like entrepreneurs, but can still work and importantly, get things done in a corporate environment.

Some questions worth asking yourself:

  • What are you doing today to promote the image of your team as “entrepreneurial”?
  • Are you attracting candidates who can innovate?
  • Do you have a culture that will enable ‘intrapreneurs’ to thrive and gain momentum?
  • Are your stakeholders willing to embrace entrepreneurialism?

What’s your plan for getting the smartest guys in the room?

Are You Sitting Comfortably? Then I’ll Begin…

Treat your next interview like you’re telling a story. Make it engaging. Make it clear. But most of all, make it memorable.

tell a career story

Once upon a time in an office block not too far away, our hero/heroine walked into the most exciting and biggest interview of their career…

For me, a successful interview is like reading an enjoyable story. Stories “create “sticky” memories by attaching emotions to things that happen. That means leaders who can create and share good stories have a powerful advantage over others”(1).

I consistently advise people that I have represented to have their own story and message when attending an interview. An engaging and memorable story resonates with the reader; it holds our attention, keeps the pages turning and becomes memorable in the mind of the reader.

Here are a few points to think about.

The beginning of the story…AKA first impressions.

A great story has a strong start. So if you get an opening question like, “So, tell me about yourself?” or, “So, why are you interested in this role/company”, then start well. Through your opening 2-5 minutes, generate interest and attention in the mind of your ‘reader’.

Use language that feels right for your career story. I think it never hurts to describe things simply but effectively. Try to use words that add zest to your experience and motivations. Just try not to over complicate the ‘plot’.

Don’t lose your reader, keep those pages turning.

What is your message in your story?

Understand what the challenges of the role are, and what are the current and future demands on the organisation. Your recruiter and your own research will help you understand this.

Settle on your ultimate message, then you can figure out the best way to illustrate it at interview. Use your career story to invoke a clear connection between what value and experience you bring and how you can harness that experience for your new prospective Employer. Make the Interviewer want to know the story behind your career. Characterise yourself positively.

Be true to your IQ and that of your audience.

It would be foolish to underestimate your audience. Your interviewer is looking to hear information on your career experience that resonates with them.

They will want to understand you as a character and what you offer and stand for, so never dumb down your message or yourself. Make your story relevant and credible.

Maintain pace, select an appropriate momentum

I’ve heard on too many occasions from hiring managers that an Interviewee started amazingly well, then petered out after 20 minutes. 10 times out of 10, the hiring manager is terribly disappointed – ”Gee, they started so well, we thought we had found our perfect candidate!”.

Like any strong story, start well, maintain the plot, maintain clarity and consistency through each chapter (or job).

Don’t lose the reader, keep those pages turning.

To do this, you must be well prepared. You must have planned your storyline, organised and detailed all sub-plots, and all the characters in your career history. It has to remain relevant to your ultimate message.

A strong ending

Many an interview can lose its way with a fluffy and overly elaborate ending. Be concise and finish strongly. Be positive, perhaps even bold. Don’t fade out with a whimper.

Ask yourself, how many times have you commented on poor or lacklustre ending to a book that you have read. I bet you can remember how that ending made your feel years after reading it. I’ll even bet you never read, or recommended, that story to anyone again!

  1. Extract from the Harvard Business Review – ‘How To Tell A Great Story‘.

The Source is a specialist Procurement mid to senior and executive recruitment and search firm with national reach. We provide tailored contract and permanent recruitment solutions to leading organisations in the Australian market.

Making the Final Ascent from CPO to CEO

Taking the final step from CPO to CEO appears to elude many procurement leaders. So, why does Procurement so often lose out to Finance?

ceo to cpo

At the eWorld procurement conference last month Tania Seary interviewed me about leadership as part of Procurious’ Career Boot Camp series. After we finished she said, “there’s one question we ran out of time for: why do so few CPOs become CEOs?”

This set me thinking on my flight home. There are well known examples of the supply chain providing the key to the executive washroom. Tim Cook at Apple, and Sam Walsh at Rio Tinto are just two of the more well-known.

Famously, though, the best trodden route to the top is via the Finance function. 52 per cent of FTSE100 CEOs and 30 per cent of Fortune 500 CEOs have a financial background. So why do the accountants win out?

Show Me the Money!

There’s a Dilbert cartoon where the boss informs his staff: “you know we said ‘people are our most valuable asset? Turns out we were wrong. Money is our most valuable asset.”

dilbert-assets
Courtesy of Scott Adams (dilbert.com)

Given the paucity of HR directors making it to the hot seat, it seems boards tend to agree. CPOs should score well here: at the core of the role, after all, is to maximise the effectiveness of the company’s expenditure.

“Much travell’d in the realms of Gold”

Peter Smith’s eWorld workshop inspired me to quote Shelley, so it may be time to turn to Keats.

The other great advantage possessed by Finance Directors is that they see the entirety of the organisation: from wide expanses to western islands, no corner is hidden from their view nor beyond their reach.

This is critical. The board relies on the FD as one of the few people, other than the CEO, who has a grasp on how the totality of the business fits together. Not only does she or he have knowledge of what’s going on in each part, but they also appreciate the interlinkages between them.

How do CPOs fare against this measure? Well, if we’re frank, variably. In some organisations, CPOs see the complete cost base and fully understand how the company’s capital is deployed – and why.

In others, they may only influence part of applicable spend – KPMG’s survey suggested the average is around 60 per cent. Without that comprehensive view, the nominations committee may not consider a candidate ready to take overall leadership.

I suspect this is the most critical factor holding CPOs back. Ascending to greater height affords – but may also in the corporate world, require – a broader view.

Then like stout Cortez, with eagle eyes, may the CPO take that final step to become a CEO, and survey the scene, silent, on a peak in Darien.

To hear more from Stuart, catch up with his Career Boot Camp podcast here. You can also read more from Stuart on the impact of maverick purchasing on procurement, and download the latest Applegate whitepaper on the subject.