Category Archives: Generation Procurement

Can Introverts Really Thrive in Procurement?

While many aspects of modern business, including key skills, seem to favour extroverts, Susan Cain argues that introverts have as much to add and value to give.

Value of Introverts

 “There is zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”

Don’t miss Quiet Revolutionary”, Susan Cain’s keynote speech at ISM2016.

There are almost certainly introverts in your procurement team – whether it be yourself, your boss, or your colleagues, a third to half of the population are introverts. Susan Cain’s game-changing book The Quiet Revolution champions the introvert cause and goes into detail about how workplaces are designed to benefit extroverts – but what about introverts in Procurement?

What is an introvert?

First up, it’s important not to confuse introversion with shyness. Shyness is about fear of social judgement, while introversion is about how you respond to stimulation. In Cain’s words, “Extroverts crave large amounts of stimulation, while introverts feel at their most alive, most switched on, and at their most capable, when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments.”

We all fall at different points on the introvert/extrovert spectrum, but 21st-century workplaces are predominantly designed for extroverts and their love of stimulation. A culture that celebrates action over contemplation, open-plan offices, constant noise, and (worst of all) endless group-work, means introverts are often forced to pass as extroverts in the workplace rather than be themselves.

Groupthink versus creative solitude

“Groupthink” means that we can’t be in a group of people without unwittingly aping their belief. Groups follow the opinion of the most dominant or charismatic person in the room, even though, as Cain emphatically states, there is zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas. This reveals a serious flaw in the way workplaces, schools and even the legal system (think about what happens in the jury room) see group-work as the best way to get positive results.

Solitude is essential to creativity and productivity. Team members should be able to generate their own ideas by themselves, free from groupthink, then come together as a team to talk them through, while ensuring no single person dominates the discussion. Cain points out that collaboration is important, but we need to recognise that freedom, privacy and autonomy matters.

Rather than constant group-work, workplaces should encourage casual, chatty, café-style interaction where people can share their creative ideas. In Cain’s words, “we need to work together, but the more freedom we give introverts to be themselves, the more likely they are to come up with solutions to unique problems”.

Introverts make better leaders

In a culture that prizes extroversion, introverts are routinely passed over for leadership positions, despite the fact that they make the best leaders. Here’s why they’re a better choice for leadership roles:

  • introverted leaders are generally more careful and are less likely to take outsize risks
  • introverts are much more likely to let employees run with their ideas, whereas extroverts can’t help but put their own stamp on things
  • people recognise that introverts step up because they are driven to do what’s right, rather than because they enjoy directing others or being in the public eye.

What does this mean for Procurement?

As most CPOs would agree, Procurement is a “people skills” job. This means that alongside core skills such as supply market research, analysis, category and contract management, introverted Procurement professionals must be comfortable with networking, influencing, stakeholder engagement, supplier relationship management and negotiation. The best advice is to play to your strengths rather than try to be something you are not.

Extroverts love negotiating, – the thrill of the contest, thinking on their feet and coming out on top – but having to negotiate can make introverts very uncomfortable. Again, it’s not about shyness, but rather about finding yourself in a high-stimulus environment, with pressure, fast decisions, and no time to reflect in solitude to come up with creative solutions. Here are some suggestions for introverts to overcome their fear of negotiation by playing to their strengths:

1. Does the negotiation really have to be live? Carrying out a negotiation by email may be slower, but will allow you to make considered decisions rather than blurting out a rash offer in a moment of high pressure.

2. In a live negotiation, use the power of silence. A meaningful pause can make the person across the table so uncomfortable that they start to gabble to fill the silence.

3. Plan ahead. Use your solitary time to do your research and plan so thoroughly for the negotiation that you will be prepared for anything.

4. Listen. Have you ever had one of those conversations where the other party knows what they want to say and doesn’t appear to listen to you at all? Introverts make much better listeners because they don’t feel the need to dominate the discussion. Active listening makes people feel valued and will enable both parties to find common ground.

Susan Cain has a powerful message that resonates not only with introverts, but will be enormously valuable to extroverts who want to understand how to help their introverted colleagues thrive. Attendees at ISM2016 will learn how to create a better workplace Yin and Yang between introversion and extroversion, and join Cain’s Quiet Revolution.

Susan Cain

Time is running out to register for the biggest and best supply management conference on earth – ISM2016 – from May 15 to 18 at the Indianapolis Convention Center. More than 100 breakout sessions will feature some of the BIGGEST names in supply management, including Apple, Google and Coca-Cola. Get all the information you need to register on the ISM website.

3 Easy Steps to Become a Procurement Networking Guru

Take these three easy steps to become a procurement networking guru and realise the benefits of networking in a global community.

Networking Guru

The benefits of networking are many. However, many people still struggle with the concept and the motivation to get going.

At Procurious, we want to create one huge, global network of procurement professionals, all of whom have the opportunity to learn from one another. We want everyone to realise the benefits of networking, so I thought I would share my three easy steps to becoming a networking guru to help everyone get started.

1. Network from the heart

Why from the heart? Because networking has to be authentic, and you need to have the other person’s interest as your priority.

Firstly, your networking has to be based on absolute authenticity – that is, a real friendship or genuine interest in what someone else is doing.

As a networking guru, if you want to form a relationship with another person, you first need to show them how they’ll benefit. If you focus on how you can help others, more than how they can help you, you’ll always be approaching people with the best motivation.

A study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that workers who help others feel happier about their work than those who decide not to help. By asking someone for help, you give them the opportunity to display their skills and knowledge, and, at the same time, give their self-esteem a boost.

If the person asking the question wins, and the person answering the question wins, what’s stopping us from asking more questions. Despite all these  benefits, perhaps the fear of reaching out to someone and being rejected, is greater than the potential benefit.

When we face the fear of reaching out to someone else, we need to remember that networking is very much a two way street. Whether you’re at a face-to-face event, or on a social media platform, everyone is there for the same purpose – to network. So don’t be too self-conscious!

2. Be both social and formal

In the ‘old world’ getting to know someone and understand whether you had anything in common took a long time. You would meet someone at an event, follow-up via email and then organise a series of catch-ups to get to know them. You might have had to meet them quite a few times before you discovered the cross-over points.

In the world of social networking, the ‘getting to know you’ process is accelerated because you can see all this information on their profile. This fast-tracks the expansion of your network, because you can pre-qualify those people who you would like to join your network based on their experience.

Effective networking really involves a commitment of time, energy, and resources to produce meaningful results. Also remember that face-to-face meetings still play an important role in expanding your network.

You must also care for the network you’ve established (or are establishing). This includes personal contact through e-mails, telephone calls, scheduled meetings, or even a business lunch.

It’s only when we get to really know people through face-to-face contact, that we can understand both their motivations and their aspirations. You can then work out how you and other members of your network can help them achieve their goals. That’s when the magic starts to happen.

When you’re thinking about face-to-face networking, don’t just think formal meetings, corporate cocktail parties and conferences. A networking guru knows that you can literally network around the clock!

Just because you are “off duty”, doesn’t mean that you aren’t networking. Every interface you have is an opportunity to connect with interesting people who you can help, just as they can help you.

I once won a $1M contract from a wonderful woman I met at my son’s kindergarten parents’ evening. A few weeks back, I was at an Indian Ayurvedic Medicine discussion, and met a senior Facebook executive who has agreed to speak at one of our major events.

You always need to keep your mind and attitude open to these opportunities.

And once you have an established network, keep it active by using social media. The benefit to having an online network is that you can better maintain your network by keeping in touch much more easily. By posting updates and information on your social media profiles, you are reminding people that you are still out there. Your posts also act as a prompt for them to reach out to you and connect. Or, even better, remind them to recommend you for a job!

3. Connect the dots

Once you have an established network, you need to understand the power of connecting the dots.

As Steve Jobs said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.

Many people equate having a good network with having a large database of contacts, or attending high-profile professional conferences and events. But they falter at the next step – actually doing something to make the connection real.

In other words, to create commercial advantage from your network, there’s no point in just being ‘connected’ with all these amazing people. You need to know what to do with the relationship.

Your network will live and thrive only when it is used. A good way to begin is to make a simple request, or take the initiative to connect two people who would benefit from meeting each other. Doing something, anything, gets the ball rolling and builds confidence that you do, in fact, have something to contribute.

Other actions to cement your network can include sending through articles or other things that might be relevant or of interest to a contact. Or, drill down even further and remember birthdays, acknowledge important achievements, or determine a contact’s favourite hobby or sports team, and use this information to build the relationship. The fact that you’re thinking about a new contact can, and will, pay huge dividends.

Unfortunately many people don’t reach out to their network until they need something badly. A networking guru does exactly the opposite. They take every opportunity to give to, and receive from, the network, whether they need help or not.

For these reasons, and many more, I believe in the power of networking – for yourself, your contacts and the profession. That’s why we founded Procurious.

Apparently there are more than 2.5M procurement professionals in the world. But there are probably less than 500,000 who we can readily identify.

Many procurement professionals are working in isolation, unaware that there is a whole universe of knowledge and professionals available to help them do their jobs better, and learn more effectively.

There are so many problems we can solve together if we use the power of connection and leverage our network. If each and every procurement professional becomes a networking guru, there is very little that we can’t achieve!

Your Number 1 Resolution – Learn Something New

This is the time of year when most of our resolutions (lose 10lbs, get back to the gym, drink less, do something useful for the community) have fallen by the wayside. There’s one thing you can still do to make a difference in your life – learn something new.

Learn Something New

If you are a millennial, you probably know plenty about social platforms and the innermost workings of WhatsApp, but what about taking a course in supply chain dynamics or an appreciation of jazz? You can learn about almost anything on-line, and most of it is free.

Find a MOOC to suit you

MOOC stands for a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). These courses are offered by universities and other quality education providers via the internet and are free. There is a huge range of subjects that have quality content, although they do not normally provide certificates or academic credits on completion.

Many of the courses are developed by universities, but are structured and presented by training organisations, like edX, using specific technology that supports interactive and other forms of on-line learning. When you sign up, you are committing to the class time and assignments (which is good). You can register for classes offered by many leading USA and UK universities including Harvard, Stanford and Yale.

What are the course options?

The choices are vast. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a leader in this field. It is “dedicated to advancing knowledge and educating students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.”

They have courses that will teach you how to manage and harness the dynamics and interactions between firms and other entities within a supply chain. They also have courses like Drugs and the Brain and Introduction to Algorithms.

There’s a course coming up at the University of West Virginia called The Science of How Communication Technology Shapes Our Social Lives. Presumably this will be suited to more mature students who are bemused by the growth in the use of hand-held devices and mobile technology.   

Some courses are on not on a fixed schedule but are self-paced, and more suitable to those of us with challenging day jobs. Social Media Marketing for International Business from the University of Salford’s Business School is one of those that you can fit in with other extra-murals. 

It’s not all about work

If that all sounds a little heavy, how about a Jazz Appreciation Course from the University of Texas? You can listen and learn about the artists, eras, and musical methods that make jazz a great original art form. Louis Armstrong. Charlie Parker. John Coltrane. You’ve heard their names, but do you know what makes them great? It doesn’t even sound like work!

You can try Lynda.com for video-based courses on Photoshop or Lightroom, which cost a small fee. These are great skills to have for improving the visuals in your slide presentations and management reports. How about learning something that will let you have a serious conversation with your I.T manager without feeling inadequate? The Khan Academy is a well-established not for profit organisation that provides free courses on many subjects.

If you want to try something that is directly related to improving your skills on the job, how about: Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Excel or Career Edge: Communication and Teamwork. It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something!

Overcoming Gender Bias in Procurement

Jackie Aggett, Regional Commercial Manager at Laing O’Rourke, discusses the gender bias she has come up against in procurement, and how she has overcome it to get to where she is today.

Overcoming Gender Bias

Jackie Aggett hadn’t been in procurement long when she needed to spend weeks preparing a major annual report about the procurement of earth moving tyres.

She handed it over to the site manager and watched him hurl the report angrily across the room. It hit the wall and fell apart.

“What would you know about earth moving tyres?,” he bellowed?
The slight blonde 28-year-old calmly walked over and picked up the report, and told him again that there were going to be changes. Like it, or not.

“Every part of me wanted to turn around and run out the door, but I’ve always found ways to overcome challenges in the workplace and turn them into opportunities,” Aggett says.

Finding a Voice

The experience did nothing to dampen her conviction. She has worked in male dominated roles for 25 years. She started out in a supply cadetship at BHP Billiton and then went on to work in rail, construction, marine services and a seawater desalination plant.

“I learned a lot in that cadetship. My boss at the time gave me the cadetship because he saw me as being very courageous, which was part of my upbringing. He sent me straight to Port Headland, where I was the only female.”

Her colleagues weren’t used to working with women. The only uniform available to her was the men’s trousers and shirts. “They were ill-fitting and very uncomfortable. Procuring some clothes to wear to work was high on the list in those early days,” Aggett says.

If anything, her presence among the male workforce was seen perhaps only as a novelty. But that all changed once she began finding her voice in the business, and began offering new solutions to old problems.

“I had a good work ethic and believed in what I was doing, and hit the ground running. But the team weren’t engaged when I started to suggest change, and that was a difficult process to go through. However, I didn’t give up. I continued to speak up and stand up for myself.”

Creating Trusted Advisors

Aggett’s depth of experience covers roles in commercial, contractual and financial management from project start-up through to close-out. This includes all facets of tender preparation, negotiation, contract award and subsequent on-site contract administration, claims, project controls, forecasting, financial reporting and risk management as the client asset owner or contractor.

Six months ago, she was tapped on the shoulder and offered the role of procurement head with international engineering enterprise Laing O’Rourke, which took her across the country from Perth to Sydney. She jumped at the chance.

Her focus in her role has been creating a vision – working to transform the procurement function from spend managers to trusted advisers, firstly among her team of 35 people.

“It is imperative we move beyond being seen and acting as a governance compliance function. We need to understand the business strategy and align our objectives to deliver sustainable value,” she says.

Challenging the Norm

Aggett has implemented a supply relationship management programme among other initiatives, which has been a big step forward for the procurement function within the business.

“A key part of this has been challenging the way in which we engage with the supply chain. The supply chain has a wealth of knowledge and capability which, if tapped into, can provide value creating solutions for our clients, ourselves and our supply chain partners.

“Unfortunately, the construction industry does not often afford the supply chain the opportunity to bring their knowledge and capabilities to the table. Our supplier relationship management program seeks to change this.”

Aggett wasn’t specifically chasing roles in such large corporate organisations, saying one thing just led to another.

“It certainly wasn’t planned that I’d work in male-dominated industries. I had four brothers and a working mother, and was raised to believe that girls can do anything.”

Overcoming Roadblocks

She admits that early on in her career, she came up against road blocks, but didn’t for a moment consider that had anything to do with gender bias.

“I definitely came up against a lot of unconscious bias in my early roles, and at times doing my job took some courage and self-belief. Being female has definitely been a challenge in the roles I’ve held.

“I’d wonder why someone wouldn’t listen to me, or how I could better showcase my skills. I’d work very hard to win someone over, and go through the problem solving process to try and work out why I wasn’t getting the result I wanted. The fact that I was a woman was always at the bottom of the list. Now, after 25 years working in the industry, I arrive at that conclusion a lot quicker and obviously have a lot more confidence in the role.”

Aggett hopes times have changed and that young women entering the procurement industry don’t come up against the gender bias she experienced.

“Saying that, I have been fortunate to work with individuals and organisations that have encouraged me to take opportunities, to believe in my abilities and to reward me for my efforts. I have experienced many organisations that have allowed flexibility in my working week, as I’ve raised two daughters as a single parent.”

While there are no requirements to do so, she advocates the importance of having a degree behind you for anyone working in procurement. Her law and finance degree has stood her in good stead, she says.

“It has absolutely served me well to have the formal qualifications behind me. When people are passionate about procurement and they’ve got the formal education, it gives them a seat at the board table in any situation they’re in.”

Jackie Aggett
Jackie Aggett

Jackie Aggett was one of the keynote speakers at the second annual Women in Procurement 2016 event. Catch up with what happened at the event here.

Innovation and the Shifting Technological Landscape

Innovation is more important than ever before. The technological landscape is currently undergoing a shift three times the size of the industrial revolution.

Lego Car Innovation

This is according to Steve Sammartino, an expert on the digital revolution and disruptive technologies. Steve has worked in marketing for the world’s largest companies, founded and sold his own start-ups, is a business journalist, and thought leader in the start-up & technology arena.

And amongst all this, Steve still found time to make news headlines by designing and building a fully functional, air-powered, 500,000 piece Lego Car!

Ahead of his keynote address at this year’s CPO Forum event in Melbourne, Steve talks about the changing structure of the economy and the Supply Chain, and the importance of innovation to procurement and its future leaders.

Why is focusing on innovation more important than ever before?

We are living through a radical change 3 times the size of the Industrial Revolution. It’s 3 times bigger because this time it involves the entire globe, not just the developed economies. Here’s a fact to blow your mind in this regard – there are currently more mobile phones in use around the world than toothbrushes!

Technology and access to it is now seen a primary life improver for people in developing countries. It means that what worked and what mattered yesterday, won’t be a valid strategy today. Innovation is not just a matter of a company’s survival in disruptive times, and not just a way to outgrow your competitors.

And the thing that is different is that it isn’t just at the consumer end that innovation needs to occur. It’s an entire supply chain reset. A new infrastructure is being built, and major innovations are happening in areas customers never see. 

What are some of the ways multinational companies can adopt a ‘start-up mindset’?

More important than anything else, big companies need to learn how to fail, and that failing is not bad. They key to startups is that they move quickly, and cheaply, to find out what works.

Big companies also need to decentralise decision making, as many of the Industrial era efficiencies are now being usurped by nimble and local connections. In a world where one size no longer fits all, we need to remember that this applies to local operations as well. Lots of small mistakes lead to better outcomes in a connected world. 

How can businesses cultivate a more innovative and collaborative workplace culture?

Businesses just need to do one thing – remove the layers of authority, and become a horizontally focused organisation, not a vertical, hierarchical one. This will help to create an environment where frequent small risks are rewarded.  

What tips do you have for current and emerging leaders to stay ahead of the curve, and be equipped to lead their companies to future success? 

Staff need be interested in change. Be students of change and be the person who introduces ideas to colleagues, don’t wait for management to know what is coming. The other thing to remember is that being innovative isn’t about inventing the technology, but more about working out how to benefit from the changes. It’s not a technological process, but one of courage and creativity.

We need to love our customers more than we love our infrastructure, especially in times when infrastructure is reset. We can do this by thinking of applications to serve our customers, rather than ourselves.

Also, given most large companies are fearful of change, it only takes an open mind to get a few steps ahead. It’s not about guessing what’s next, but adapting faster when ‘next’ arrives. 

Why should businesses invest in social impact and change?

It’s vital because it is what we value as a society. But it needs to be more than donating to charity, or triple bottom line reporting. Our responsibility needs to be designed into our supply chain. Businesses need to go to market with a net positive social outcome, not white-wash bad behaviour after profits are made.

It’s a very important part of brand building. Organisations that make products that benefit society save costs on things like advertising. Just look at Tesla – a $30 billion company that doesn’t spend a cent on advertising.

You can hear more from Steve on these topics at the CPO Forum 19th of May in Melbourne. At CPO Forum 2016, the line-up of inspirational speakers will reveal how procurement leaders can “crack the code” and harness the game-changing power of supplier innovation.

For more information, including how to register for CPO Forum 2016, visit the website.

Samurai & Cowboys – Cultural Perspective on Management Styles

Whether you support or detest change, it is happening. But how much impact do management styles in different cultures have on change?

East vs. West Management Styles

Do you have a Smartphone? Do you use Google? Do you use global internet sites to get information on clothes, food, travel, music, research, work opportunities? These sites influence people and bring countries closer together, especially countries that share a lot of trade and commercial contact.

These factors influence what you and your colleagues may see as the norm. You are open to influence whether you know it or not, to leading thoughts, persuasions, technologies, arguments, speeches, TV adverts, products. Nothing stands still.

Management Styles – East and West

Could all of this affect management styles? If you compare Japan and the USA there are, of course, differences. However, countries will find it difficult to maintain existing management cultures in the face of fast-paced change, and as technology makes the world smaller.

There is a belief that you can group countries with similar management styles – the USA, UK and Australasia in one group, and Japan and other East-Asian countries in another. Traditions, national roots and leadership are different, and this difference should be cherished. But could this have a negative effect on business?

When a multi-national company starts operating in Japan, Directors “back home” will see differences in culture. A Japanese firm, starting operations in the USA, is going to experience a culture shock when they hire local staff. Because of this, management styles cannot stay the same.

So which culture is better and will things change?

Values, Norms and Variances

There is a widely held belief that traditions and leadership styles in each country lead to the development of styles. National values, norms and education are instilled from an early age. These can lead to national variances such as:

  • Power of leaders to influence citizens
  • Pressure on a corporate employee if an error is made, and the outcome
  • Time scale to make decisions in a company, and by whom, a person or a group

Most will agree that management styles in some counties have changed over the years. People believe if you treat your staff well, they will perform better and go the extra mile. This is seen by customers, who tell others, and the company prospers. The ability to complete work to ‘best endeavours’ is initiated or halted by management – despite their wish to ensure good company performance.

But what or who influences the Directors and the Managers?

In a ‘Top Down’ style, the manner of the CEO is reflected across the organisation. But the leadership of a country can be influential too. Comparing Japan and the USA again, both have similar approaches and beliefs when it comes to market share, commerce and winning business. But there are variances that have evolved, which are more effective in their own regions.

Japan and the USA have traditionally strong trading links. Is there an argument for finding a cultural ‘middle ground’, where the best of both cultures are adopted by both parties in order to prosper? Is it a case of change and adapt, or fail commercially?

Power Distance

Current legal systems and education in each country lead to different responses by managers. Let’s take the concept of leadership and ‘power distance’ – the level of acceptance by society to the distribution of power. In some countries, an order might be met with “You must be joking!”, whereas in others the response will be “Yes, sir”.

It is said that ‘power distance’ and the process of decision making are inversely proportional. So, the more a person is deferential, the more that person looks for consensus before any decision is made.

If the citizen feels less influenced by their country or company leader, or traditions, they can make decisions faster, are able and prepared to take risk, and feel empowered to innovate and adapt rapidly to market forces.

In these countries when the economy thrives, the countries’ leaders tend to take the credit themselves, while, where there is a consensus or group response, leaders congratulate the group and see this as a mutual success.

Risk Avoidance

There are further differences when looking at risk taking or uncertainty avoidance in the USA and Japan. In Japan, the concept of a ‘job for life’ means there is traditionally high uncertainty avoidance.

In the USA, people will generally take these decisions, so when the company thrives, the employee receives the praise. Even if it turns out to be a bad decision, and the employee loses their job, a new employer may look favourably on the courage and innovation in the decision.

People don’t get it right every time – Thomas Watson, former Head of IBM, said in 1943 that there was a “world market for maybe five computers”. But if we don’t try, we will never succeed. The key is balancing the risk.

Long-term vs. Short-term

Gadget makers take ideas and concepts from multiple sources in order to make a better product, so too can management style benefit from taking the best from other models.

In any industry, there are people who are in for the long-term, and others who are in only for the short-term. In Japan, companies look at the long-term picture, and employees at the long-term ‘loyalty’ to a company, while in the USA, there is more focus on the short-term and individual careers.

However, this is changing in Japan, with candidates publishing Portfolio Career CVs showing skill sets, and not necessarily their list of corporate positions.

To take a simplistic view, we have one culture where short-term planning, individual confidence and easier movement between jobs, while the other focuses on long-term planning and thinking, collective confidence and the job for life.

But in 2016, the tide is changing, and a global perspective is required. Where the prevailing culture will end up is open to discussion but change is constant and more important, the pace of change is exponential – the rate of change is getting faster.

The Early Bird Catches the Procurement News Worm

In a fast-paced world, being first with the procurement news can mean the difference between being in the know and being left behind.

First with procurement news

Read Tania’s first article on the importance of networking and your personal brand here.

Too many procurement professionals spend their careers in closed networks. They stay in the same profession, peer group, company, or industry, associating with people they already know. In these safe, closed networks, it’s easier to get things done because we’ve built up trust, and know all the shorthand terms and unspoken rules. It’s comfortable because the group converges on the same ways of seeing the world that confirm our own.

Life in a closed network is easy.  It’s safe.  It’s comfortable.

But unfortunately these gentle words are not synonymous with career advancement. If you want to keep growing and get ahead in your career, you need to be challenged, and be a challenger, within your ‘tribe’. You need to be first with the procurement news, be able to quickly digest the information, and interpret what it means for your organisation.

Open or Closed Case

When we were designing Procurious, the team had a lot of heated debates over whether we should have an open or closed network. That is, should it be closed exclusively to highly pre-qualified procurement professionals, or open for the whole world (aka. recruiters, consultants, sales professionals) to join.

Luckily my team convinced me to keep our network open, and it’s been an important part of our success story.

When you become part of an open network, you are exposed to multiple groups. Unlike your peers in closed networks, you gain access to unique relationships, experiences, and knowledge. You get to hear from thought leaders and industry experts, and learn about their diverse opinions on the hot topics in procurement.

As a result of being exposed to thinking outside your ‘tribe’, you gain a more accurate view of the world. In fact, some research shows that people with open networks are better forecasters than people with closed networks.

Leverage Your Networks

While Procurious members may not be the first to hear new information, they can be the first to introduce information to their network. As a result, they can leverage the first mover advantage.

For example, as a member of Procurious you may be the first in your company to become aware of a major supply chain disruption. Although the whole Procurious community is aware of this event, you could be the first person in your company to share the procurement news and start planning your response.

What’s more, you could use your network to gain further information on the disruption, and leverage their expertise to help solve the problem. You will be amazed how the community responds with alternate suppliers, solutions, on the ground contacts! In our Discussions section you will see there has already been hundreds of questions asked, and thousands of answers provided by procurement professionals all around the globe.

Let’s face it – procurement issues are now global business issues. The nature and complexity of procurement and supply chain challenges mean that they are too big for one person alone to solve.

To come up with the best ideas we need many, diverse perspectives.  By involving more views, life and career experiences, demographics, and cultures, we can access these perspectives. Through our Procurious network, we increase the pool of talent and therefore ideas that are working to solve problems.  Let’s call it collective problem-solving.

Collective Muscle

If our procurement network on Procurious gets into the habit of collective problem solving by supporting each other by sharing the procurement news, and with information and advice, it will soon become an instant reaction – a community reflex. And if we keep repeating that action, then we will build community muscle.

So when bad things happen, or when we’re looking for solutions to big problems, we turn first towards thinking that we’re going to solve it in a community way, through our network!

Apparently there are more than 3,500,000 procurement professionals in the world. But there are probably less than 500,000 who we can readily identify.

Many procurement professionals are working in isolation, unaware that there is a whole universe of knowledge and professionals available, to help them do their jobs better and learn more effectively.

There are so many problems we can solve together, so much we can do to promote our own careers and the profession – if only we use the power of connection and leverage our network – there is very little that we can’t achieve!

This blog is part of a speech Tania made at the eWorld Procurement and Supply Conference in London on 2 March 2016. Stay tuned for further insights from Tania and the Procurious team from eWorld.

Manufacturing in China? Here’s What You Need to Know

Manufacturing in China might be a cost-effective solution, but it can bring with it inherent risks to global brands.

Manufacturing in China

For procurement professionals, that means trying to understand the cultural nuances that dictate how to do business in China.

Stories of issues have appeared in the media, including now-defunct Australian boot manufacturer Bennett’s Boots blamed a Chinese factory for trying to reduce its margins for the collapse of the entire business. While early orders were perfect and business grew, subsequent orders were cheap imitations, with 80 per cent of the container load of boats un-sellable.

Company founder Amanda Bennett told BRW magazine that: “Success to the Chinese is trying to do things behind your back and get away with it. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, it’s a cultural thing.”

Navigating the Cultural Landscape

But there are companies that specialise in helping foreign companies wanting to manufacture in China navigate the cultural landscape.

Chris O’Halloran is the founder of Striking Group, a project management consultancy, and has been to China dozens of times to build the bridge between China and Australian companies since launching in 2008.

O’Halloran admits that the Chinese do business by going in cheap and then trying to recover the margins by cutting corners, hoping no-one notices.

When manufacturing in China, the biggest trap Australian companies fall into is sending a drawing to China, and asking for 10,000 products to be manufactured without enough instruction, he says.

“To the Chinese, if it looks the same to them, then it is the same. They’re not trying to be nasty, it’s just the way they do business.

“Having said that, I’ve been to factories in China completely automated where you can eat off the factory floor that are far beyond anything we’ve got here.”

New Wave of Challenges

China has emerged as a manufacturing powerhouse, with immaculate robotic factories and far greater capability to manufacture luxurious goods rather than just mass produce cheap items.

However, the country faces new challenges. According to this report by McKinsey & Company, these include increasing wages, more complex value chains, and consumers growing more sophisticated and demanding.

Australian companies trying to do business with China also often fall down by thinking they’re dealing direct with the manufacturer, when in fact there’s two or even three middle men shielding the manufacturing operator, O’Halloran explains.

“The Chinese like to keep their cards close to their chest, so often you don’t really know if you’re dealing with the manufacturing facility or not. This is very common in Australia, and not the best way to do business.

“However, no-one can build to scale as well in Australia. They are light years ahead of many major manufacturing hubs around the world, and often Australian companies don’t realise how big these Chinese companies are.”

Fostering Relationships

O’Halloran shortlists a number of factories for his clients and helps them foster a relationship with the business owner and arranges guided factory tours. He also conducts spot checks for clients.

“We’re looking for things like, do they have a quality control process in place, and how do they buy their goods, and whether Fair Trade Agreements are in place. We always try to establish if they’re managing the entire manufacturing process in-house, because sometimes they’ll outsource some of the work to a sweat factory down the road without telling you.”

He also says that the Chinese are not great at design, but they’re amazing at copying and reproducing something, and mass producing it. Smaller scale runs are also increasingly cost-effective. Australian companies also need to understand cultural nuances, such as the importance of hierarchy to the Chinese, he adds.

The Chinese are also very superstitious, and their lucky number is eight, he says.

“The Chinese will go out of their way to find the number eight in their business dealings. They even design buildings with eight floors or eight windows in a room, and other things based around feng shui,” O’Halloran concludes.

Top Tips for Manufacturing in China

  • Don’t try and navigate the Chinese manufacturing industry alone, hire an expert.
  • Explain what you want in as few words as possible. Don’t leave anything open to interpretation.
  • Always start slow, on a small scale.
  • Understand cultural nuances and the importance of hierarchy.
  • As a sign of respect, when you accept a business card with two hands, and look at it carefully. Put the card on the table in front of you, never in your pocket.

 Source: Chris O’Halloran, Striking Group.

Is Your Personal Brand Picture Perfect?

Employers are increasingly using social media to hunt down their next employee. So what’s your personal brand saying about you?

Your Personal Brand

Today, a staggering 90 per cent of UK employers use social media to find employees. As we all know, a large proportion of roles are never formally advertised, with employers preferring to rely on references and people they “know” to fill important roles.

An important secret you need to know from the recruitment industry is about ‘passive’ candidates. These are people who are not actually applying for jobs, but are seemingly happily engaged in their current roles, as opposed to those who have actively applied for the role. These passive candidates are actually the most valued candidates.

So, the question is how will these silent employers “know” you, if you aren’t out networking, connecting and promoting yourself on social media?

The Importance of Networking

I had the perfect example just this week when a headhunter called me for some recommendations for the Head of a Digital Procurement Marketplace. It was a very senior job, paying in the high $200,000s.

I have worked in this profession for more than 15 years and am very committed to networking. I am fortunate to have met thousands of procurement professionals, have more than 5,000 connections on LinkedIn, and am an active participant in the 12,000 strong Procurious community.

Now, when I was asked for recommendations, who do you think came to mind first? Someone I met ten years ago when eMarketplaces were all the rage? Or someone I saw sharing information on LinkedIn or Procurious earlier in the day? The latter, of course.

In order to help you understand the importance of your network and online profile in helping you get that next job, let me share how my mind worked when trying to think of some suitable candidates.

Standing Out

I started thinking through the thousands of events and meetings I had attended and personalities that had stood out – I came up with a few names.

Next, I started reviewing my online social networks. First I found people who had the right skill set and experience, then I started looking at people’s profiles in depth. This was quite a lengthy process, so I used some filters. This is who didn’t make the list:

  • People without a photo on their profile.
  • People with limited connections (sorry, to me, its hard to think how anyone in procurement could have fewer than 500+ connections).
  • People whose work history hadn’t been updated or was very scant.
  • People who, when I googled them, weren’t mentioned anywhere, hadn’t published anything, or spoken at an event.

If people met any of these filters, I wasn’t going to recommend them. I would imagine many other senior people like me would use the same process. I know recruiters definitely would…

Why? Because my personal brand is on the line when I recommend someone. I only want to recommend people who are “in the loop” and up to date with what is happening in the world. And those are the people who are building and using their networks.

‘Picture Perfect’ Personal Brand

For this reason, all your work history, successes and contact details are important to include on your social media profile. But I want to particularly stress the importance of an impressive profile picture.

Our mission at Procurious is to change the face of procurement. So many images of procurement out there today reinforce a very old, brown cardigan-clad image. We want to replace those images with fresh, global images of being “the smartest guys in the room”.

Make sure your headshot is just that, a headshot where people can clearly identify you as you. Make sure your attire and demeanour are professional and represent how you would look turning up for a job interview – no selfies, no wedding photos, no hazy screens, favourite cars, or children. You laugh, but we see a lot of crazy things on Procurious, which is why I’m making this point.

Personally, I think of a shot of you speaking or in action in a professional setting can be powerful to promote you as a thought leader. These are tough photos to get, so a plain vanilla corporate headshot will also serve you well. Using the same photo across all social media can be powerful as your ‘personal brand’ is consistent and is reinforced each time someone sees you.

After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

This blog is part of a speech Tania made at the eWorld Procurement and Supply Conference in London on 2 March 2016. In her next instalment, she will share why being first with the news will help you be a first mover.

The Fine Art of Negotiation

Your negotiation skills come into play practically every day in the procurement game. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

essential negotiation strategies

Strong negotiators master verbal, written and non-verbal communications. They’re assertive, approachable and know what they want.

And while procurement professionals are relying on their negotiation skills more than most, there’s always room for improvement to ensure you’re getting what you want during the negotiation process, regardless of whether you’re the buyer or seller.

Getting the Right Result

Strong negotiators rely on specific skills including patience, self-confidence and creativity. This is according to Australian business and leadership coach Cheryl Daley, who focuses specifically on the art of influencing others.

“People don’t often believe they have strong negotiation skills, but it’s a skill we all need in life, particularly in business. There’s always better ways to approach negotiations, but we often fall into the same rut and forget about the importance of looking for new ways to get the result we want when negotiating,” Daley says.

Negotiations often become a power-play between two parties, but the aim should be for everyone to walk away feeling good about the outcome, she says.

Long-Term vs. Short-Term

Anyone about to enter into a negotiation of any kind should start by determining the type of negotiation it will be.

“The type of negotiation will have a huge impact on the way you approach it. A buy and sell negotiation with someone you will deal with once, will be a completely different situation than if you’re entering into something you believe will be a long-term partnership,” Daley explains.

“The longer-term negotiation processes in the business world can take months or even years. These usually involve higher stakes, and can involve a discussion back and forth for some time until everyone has an outcome they are happy with.”

Set Your Goals

Be sure to set the goals in your own mind, before the initial discussions with the other party, so you don’t feel disadvantaged from the outset, Daley says.

“Be prepared to do some personal preparation before the first discussion with the other part. Always be polite and create a dialogue that doesn’t position one party as the ultimate winner and the other one as the loser. Be firm, but not aggressive. Stay calm, because the moment you lose it, you’ve lost the battle.”

Knowing what the other person’s weaknesses are will really help. It’s easy to be steamrolled by the other party if there’s no connection or relationship in place, so take the time to get to know them, and how you can help them achieve what they’re aiming for.

“It will always be more difficult to negotiate if you don’t first ask a few questions of the other party first to determine whether you’re able to solve their problems during the negotiation process. Otherwise, you could find yourself at a disadvantage,” Daley adds.

Not All About Price

Meanwhile, licensed Buyers’ Agent Nicole Marsh reminds us that negotiation isn’t always just about price. Often, negotiating other terms for real estate buyers such as a longer settlement, being able to move in on an earlier date, or the vendor leaving behind the white goods is enough to get the deal over the line.

“Long term partnerships may require each party to make concessions to make it work and may involve more problem solving skills to get the deal across the line,” Marsh says.

On the other hand, when a negotiation does come down to price, it’s important to set a ‘walk away’ price so you don’t agree to a higher price than you can afford, she says.

“It’s never too late to look at how you approach your negotiations, and consider adding new skills to your repertoire,” Marsh says.

Top Tips for Negotiating

Marsh also shared her top tips for negotiating:

  • Be firm, but not aggressive.
  • Strive for solutions that work for both parties.
  • Stay calm. Stick to the issue, and don’t become hostile or frustrated.
  • Don’t take it personally.
  • Pick a mutually convenient time and place for the negotiation to take place.
  • Put details in writing.
  • Consider whether you need legal advice.