Category Archives: Life & Style

Five Ways Procurement Can Change the World for Entrepreneurs

“Behind every growth story like ours, there’s always a procurement person who has provided an opportunity.” Procurious caught up with inspirational dynamo Nina Vaca at ISM2017 to discover why procurement needs to give entrepreneurs every chance.   

“The unsung heroes of my stories are always in procurement and supply,” says Nina Vaca. The Chairman and CEO of Pinnacle Group has experienced a roller-coaster of ups and downs in her 20-year journey from a niche IT business that was started on her living room floor to the workforce solutions powerhouse it is today.

“Success is rarely linear,” Vaca says. “Some of the hardest moments of my life were after 9/11, when we were at the brink of bankruptcy and almost didn’t make payroll. But every time, someone in procurement saved the day by providing the opportunity to bid.”

Procurement wasn’t just responsible for pulling Pinnacle Group back from the brink. A series of big breaks, provided by people who saw the vast potential in Vaca’s business, enabled an incredible growth story from a local, to regional, to national, to a global player. “Whether it has been the CPO, or a procurement executive, or a procurement manager responsible for our sector – those are the people who have always given us a shot,” she says.

Vaca gives the example of an RFP from the procurement team at Verizon. “We lost the first, the second – by the time we got the 10th RFP, we asked them for mentoring to discover exactly what we needed to do to win the contract. When we eventually won the contract it had grown from a tiny piece of work to a significantly bigger opportunity.”

“Our next big break came from the CPO of Electronic Data Systems. At that point we were a $40 million company, and we won a $160 million contract. Again, it was because the CPO really believed in us, and mentored us through the process. That contract took us from four states to all 50. That was followed by our biggest contract in Pinnacle’s history, awarded to us by the CPO of Comcast. We didn’t know each other very well initially, but he was willing to take a leap of faith and was very intentional about doing business with us. They were looking for a minority-owned company for a very strategic piece of work. That was a very aggressive RFP process, but winning that contract affirmed our ability to provide service on a very large scale and helped us become the number one fastest growing woman-owned company in the US.”

The result of Pinnacle Group’s incredible growth was that the company found itself breaking through a ceiling that no other Hispanic, female-owned company had crossed before. “When I broke through that ceiling, I found myself to be the only woman, and the youngest, to be in that position. That’s not acceptable to me, which is why it’s so important to nurture hope and inspiration in others to do the same thing. In a way, when the CPO awarded us that contract, the community benefits outweighed business benefits.”

“‘Ambition’ is seen by some as a dirty word, along with wealth creation. That’s how the U.S. has prospered, through people creating wealth not only for their families, but for their communities and the nation. For my daughters, ambition is a necessity, so long as you approach it in a positive way, and not by trying to succeed at the expense of others.”

Five ways procurement can help entrepreneurs succeed:

1. Provide them with an opportunity to play: Big breaks, such as those that propelled Pinnacle into its position as a market-leader, were only made possible because someone in procurement saw potential, took a risk and provided an opportunity.

2. Do your homework: “Look for the best and brightest, not just at the numbers”, says Vaca. Depending on your organisation’s goals, you might be looking for the fastest-growing or most scalable organisation to work with.

3. Mentor entrepreneurs: Contracts are won when someone in procurement is willing to guide you, offer a helping hand, take your phone-call and provide an opportunity. The common thread across all of Pinnacle’s big breaks is there was a supportive CPO mentoring them through the process.  

4. Sponsor wherever possible: Vaca has a very clear definition of sponsorship: “Sponsorship means someone being willing to put their personal brand on you – your success is their success.” How do you attract sponsors? “Be crazy good at what you do, and you’ll become a magnet for people who want to sponsor you. They won’t sponsor you if you’re not bringing your best every day.”

5. Get engaged in the ecosystem: For procurement, this means getting out of your comfort zone and getting engaged with organisations like ISM, or ramping up your online presence to build your network. For Vaca, engagement means philanthropy and providing inspiration and information to people who may want to follow in her footsteps. For this reason, she launched ninavaca.com, immersed herself in promoting STEM education, and takes every opportunity to give back to the community. “We host groups of students all the time at Pinnacle headquarters, and we are the industry partner for Thomas Jefferson Collegiate Academy – an early college high school preparing students to work in STEM fields upon graduation. If you want to do global things, start locally.”

Nina Vaca is Chairman & CEO of Pinnacle Group, and Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship.

Networking No-Nos

You only get one opportunity to make a first impression, so don’t blow your chance to make a positive contribution to your personal brand equity by making some classic mistakes at your next procurement networking event.

The way you approach networking in a crowded room depends upon your personality. Is it your first time at the event? Do you stride in like a confident extrovert, or work your way quietly through the room more like an introvert? Does your style of greeting make people feel comfortable, or is it as alien as Mr. Spock’s Vulcan salute from Star Trek?

Throughout my career, I’ve seen some career-limiting moves at the dozens of procurement conferences and events I’ve both organised and attended. Fortunately I’ve learnt a thing or two, which has helped me build a very large, healthy network.

So, what are the protocols for attending a procurement networking event? From my experience, you can’t go too far astray, so long as you avoid eight networking no-nos : 

  1. Don’t waste time

Whether you’re at a cocktail party or a two-day conference, every minute counts.  Don’t let yourself get stuck in a bad session or a non-productive conversation. Stay focussed on your end-game and be ruthless with managing your time. Time wasted indulging in idle chat is time best spent elsewhere.

  1. Don’t hang out with people you know

As comforting as it is to hang out with people already in your network, try to resist the temptation! You can have lunch with your colleague any day of the week, but you can’t meet your next employer or source of important market intelligence in the company canteen.

You have made the considerable effort to get into a room with a whole lot of new people, so challenge yourself!  Push outside of your comfort zone and reap the benefits of engaging with someone new.

  1. Don’t be invisible

After listening to an interesting speaker, make sure you ask an impressive question. Don’t be shy – you can bet there’s someone else in the room that is pondering the same question. Make sure you’re the one with the courage to speak up. Remember to start with your name, title and company when you ask a question to ensure everyone in the room knows who you are. It may prompt someone who wants to meet you to come over and introduce themselves.

  1. Don’t shirk suppliers

Great CPOs make sure they work the Supplier Exhibit Hall. Let’s face it; great conferences wouldn’t exist without the investment of these companies. More importantly, suppliers are an important part of your network. If you want to be across the latest market intelligence and product developments, you need to know what these guys are offering. This doesn’t mean you need to spend hours trawling through supplier stands. Research prior to the event will make sure you are purposeful and efficient.

  1. Don’t have a social media vacation

You might be working it hard with your face-to-face networking, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to avoid social media!  Posting your thoughts, comments and relevant articles will ensure you become more visible at the event. Your posts or tweets may also be re-posted or re-tweeted by the people you tag, which will amplify your presence. Event Apps, for example, are a fantastic networking aid and the most comprehensive place to find out about fellow attendees – and for them to learn about you! Once they know you’re in attendance, people will hopefully reach out to meet up.

  1. Don’t eat alone!

Event organisers serve food to help grease the networking wheels, not just to feed you!  Pluck up the courage to walk up to a new group and introduce yourself. I always politely request to join a group before quickly insisting. “Please, continue your conversation! I’ll listen while I eat.”  With this approach, you’re not rudely interrupting a conversation.  You will learn more by listening and asking a few select questions. If you’re really keen to make the most of the networking event, you may decide not to eat at all! This keeps your hands free for handshakes and your mouth free for answering questions – not to mention some of those embarrassing food moments where you have something hanging out of your mouth, or drop on your freshly-cleaned suit!

  1. Don’t forget your nametag…or your personality! 

So many times I have turned up at a conference, only to find that I’ve left my nametag in my hotel room, which leaves people questioning me all day: “Sorry, who are you?”

One thing I have never left behind is my personality, but so many people do! They feel like they have to put on a mask and act differently in their professional lives. You’ll look far more approachable if you look interesting and interested.  Smile, laugh, enjoy yourself, have a joke but, a word of caution…

  1. …Don’t fake it

My number one networking tip is to network from the heart and be authentic.

The bottom line to all these networking no-nos is to not be shy. Have the courage to throw yourself into those uncomfortable and nerve-racking situations. Introduce yourself, start a conversation, ask that question and find a new buddy! Who knows, you might even start enjoying yourself!

Tania will be delivering her top tips at ISM2017 on how to Network Your Way To The Top on Tuesday May 23rd, 3.45pm. Visit Procurious in the exhibit hall at booth 439!

Getting The Biggest Bang For Your Buck At A Procurement Conference

Game-on! There’s a right way – and a wrong way – to approach a major procurement conference. With your company making a significant investment to have you there, here are five tips to help you demonstrate an impressive ROI. 

 

This morning marks the start of the world’s biggest procurement and supply management conference. Let’s imagine, for a minute, that you’ve hit the fast-forward button and find yourself on the other side – bags packed, standing outside your hotel and waiting for a cab.

How do you feel? Exhausted but satisfied that you’ve made the most of every minute? Or a little bit … guilty? As your taxi pulls away and heads for the airport, will you wonder whether you should have spoken to just a few more people? You’ve attended plenty of sessions, but why didn’t you take more notes?

I know the feeling. It’s so easy to snooze your way through a conference, but it’s crucial that you don’t!

It’s my third year attending ISM’s annual extravaganza, and I’m starting – just a little – to feel like a bit of a veteran. As such, I want to do what old-timers do best, and share some advice to other conference-goers. Whether it’s through attending the best of the best speaker sessions, or through networking like a champion, I’m going to show you five ways to get the most bang for you buck.

It’s not a vacation

Remember the glory days when going to a work conference was, essentially, a bit of a treat? Sure, you had to attend a number of presentations but, in exchange, you were gifted a few days out of the office, possibly at a semi-exotic location, and a few cocktails at the bar with your peers.

Today it’s considered an absolute, and rare, privilege to be selected to represent your company at a major professional-development event. Budgets and headcounts are increasingly slashed, which means getting the approval to attend a conference borders on the extraordinary. As such, you can bet you’ll need to demonstrate a pretty sizeable ROI.

But you’ll only make the most of it if you’ve prepared well in advance and bring your A-game to the event itself.

  1. Have a plan

I’ve been busy interviewing members of the ISM2017 Conference Leadership committee (including  Lara Nichols, Naseem Malik and Howard Levy), and they’ve all stressed the importance of having a plan for the next four days.

It’s absolutely crucial to understand your key conference objectives in advance. What do you, and your organisation, want to achieve? Maybe your employer is keen for you to find new suppliers, gain market intelligence, or benchmark information? You might have some personal objectives such as finding a mentor or even a new job, or want to use the opportunity to position yourself as a thought leader.

The crucial point is that these events are no longer just about the individual attending.  Attendees need to multiply the investment and make sure that everyone in the team benefits from their learning from this event. This is why it is important for you to “amplify” what you learn back into your team. 

  1. Familiarise yourself with the agenda

Depending on the conference’s size, there could be dozens of sessions, many of which will happen in tandem. Take some time to constructively assess the schedule with your own objectives in mind. Select topics and sessions that are most relevant to you, and think about what will be relevant to your company, too.

Prioritise and plan your itinerary, but don’t overdo it! Be realistic about how much you can achieve, how many sessions you can logistically make it to – and how much information you can actually absorb.

  1. Become a social-media anthropologist

Nothing says “conference efficiency” quite like an advance perusal of the speakers and attendees list. It might seem extremely forward, but an invitation to connect ahead of the event via LinkedIn, Twitter or Procurious is actually pretty flattering. And, if you’ve got the courage to go one step further and send a personal message, you’ve got a great conversation starter when you eventually meet in person.

If online meet-and-greets aren’t your style, you can still benefit from researching the backgrounds and careers of attendees or speakers. This will help you to decide who you are most keen to talk to and if attending certain sessions will be worth your while.

Make sure you upload your full biography and a fabulous profile picture onto the conference App so people can find, and reach out to, you too!

  1. What’s your end game?

You started with the end in mind, you arrived at the conference armed with your objectives and a commendable knowledge of the agenda and speakers. Now you need to decide what sort of report you’re going to present back to your team.  A PowerPoint? Notes?  It’s useful to have an idea of this before the conference kicks off so you can simply fill in the gaps because,  let’s face it,  if you promptly present a comprehensive report to your peers after the event, you’re far more likely to be selected to represent the team going forward.

So, armed with this “straw-man” of your report, attend your sessions of choice and take notes. Engage with your peers to learn their views and insights, and include those in your report too. Go directly to speakers and suppliers and ask them for material that you can incorporate.

At ISM2017, don’t forget there’s a group of media professionals (including the team from Procurious) reporting on the conference – keep an eye out for blog articles with insights from the event, and catch the news from sessions that you weren’t able to attend.

  1. Share Your learnings

Use Twitter, Procurious and LinkedIn to share key learnings live from the event. Live updates and posts from the event can make you really popular back at the office and ensure that your whole team benefits from your attendance. Don’t forget the hashtag!

Are you at ISM2017? Don’t miss out on Procurious Founder and CEO Tania Seary’s top tips on how to Network Your Way To The Top on Tuesday May 23rd, 3.45pm.

And, when you drop into the Exhibit Hall, be sure to visit The Procurious team at booth 439 for advice on how social media can supercharge your procurement career.  

The Power Of An Online Network

Your online network can give you the edge in procurement – but only if you’re an active, value-generating participant in the community. 

Rising through the ranks of the fast-paced procurement world can be a hectic and sometimes even lonely pursuit.

To counteract this, a growing numbers of industry professionals are actively seeking out online communities of like-minded industry mavens to converse with.

Online communities can significantly bolster your professional standing in the broader procurement sector. Some people post helpful information on a regular basis to online business communities. Others pop into online communities for companionship, as they give people access to a different group of people to talk to instead of the colleagues they see on a daily basis.

Forging online relationships can bring huge value to your position in the procurement world, so make sure you pick a couple of key online communities to focus on. These groups are valuable because they encourage the sharing of content and industry-specific information that can help you in your role.

Professionals often join business communities for support, and people feel accomplished when they contribute useful information to the online community. By helping others, members can gain a feeling of being needed and appreciated by others.

LinkedIn is just the start

Australian marketing executive Jacqueline Burns was an early adopter of business online community LinkedIn. She leaves LinkedIn open on her computer all day and dips into conversations constantly.

As managing director of Marketing Expertise, Burns has been a prolific blog publisher on the platform, creating and sharing relevant information to her industry sector both domestically and internationally on a regular basis. To date, she has published more than 60 articles on LinkedIn – and the benefits have been significant.

“A lot of my work comes through the platform, simply by being present. I’ve secured many clients directly from LinkedIn who have been seeking someone with my services and I’ve been logged on and responded,” Burns says.

“I’ve secured a major client via my LinkedIn community, and also a large software-as-a-service provider from the US whom I’ve never met before,” Burns says.

Online communities add value to your role

Aaron Agius of digital marketing firm Louder Online says there’s been a natural push to use online communities for personal branding among many sectors. However, he’s a much bigger fan of using them for growth and education, with two communities in his field sharing a lot of personal insights that ensure he always walks away with new ideas. “Lately, I’m finding better information there than a lot of the marketing blogs,” he says.

While he could spend all day interacting with fellow marketers, he’s got too much on his plate to make that happen. “There’s definitely a balance between maintaining a regular presence in an online community without spending so much time there that it takes away from your actual work,” he says.

“I’ve found social media communities to be a great place for networking with others in my field. You’d think that marketers would be a private bunch, yet the relationships I’ve built through sites like these have given me great friendships with people I can go to if I have a questions, want to vent about an issue, or need a second set of eyes to help me figure out a solution,” Agius says.

Get started

Look for industry-specific communities that enable procurement professionals to ask questions, seek support and make connections, which can add huge value to your role.

Online communities can be a great tool for shortlisting vendors or to pre-qualify firms. Simply asking industry peers for their opinion is a great validation process for gathering additional intelligence.

Adding value goes both ways, though, so make sure you truly engage with the community, care about what others are asking for advice on, and be the solution to meet their needs when you’re able to.

It’s also important to be consistent. If you can’t keep up with the number of posts, then decrease your posts and pick a couple of key posts to contribute to each day, because quality and consistency trumps quantity. Also, bear in mind that different parts of the world come online at different times of the day, so taking 15 minutes to post in the  evening can offer huge value to an industry peer on the other side of the world.

However, as Burns points out, just having access to an online community isn’t enough – being an active user can bring you so much value. “You can’t just create a profile online and then walk away. Your online community is the place to show a bit of personality, and you need to be interacting regularly to get value from it.”

Don’t Argue With Footballer Daisy Pearce

The “Don’t Argue” is a classic move in the often-brutal game of Australian Rules Football. While we wouldn’t recommend shoving your colleagues in the office, there are plenty of lessons to be drawn from the world of elite sport.   

It’s always interesting interviewing sportspeople for a business-related publication. Before the interview, I usually have my doubts that I’ll be able to find something in their story that is relevant to the audience I’m writing for. Five minutes in, however, I’ve filled pages of notes about the many insights professionals can glean from elite performers.

This was the case with Daisy Pearce, AFLW star and captain of the Melbourne Team. In the space of 30 minutes, she provided links between her on-field performance and business agility, advice on how women can thrive in a male-dominated profession, and finished up with some leadership-related gems.

Daisy and the “Don’t Argue”

The theme of this year’s 10th Asia-Pacific CPO Forum (taking place on 17–18 May in Sydney) is “Pivot”. Why Pivot? Because in an era where flexibility and agility are seen as essential leadership attributes, the profession’s top practitioners must be able to pivot at a moment’s notice to gain commercial advantage from disruptive forces, including new technology. In essence, this means having the ability to rapidly and intelligently adjust short-term strategies to ensure you can achieve your organisation’s long-term objectives.

When I mentioned this term to Daisy, she immediately drew a comparison with the “Don’t Argue” move in football. “When you’ve got the ball and someone comes to tackle you, a “Don’t Argue” is when you send them off – push them away – and keep moving. Basically, you give them a shove with your arm, quickly change direction, and keep going.”

For non-Australian readers (and non-footy fans), here’s an explanatory video from the AFL:

So, what are the parallels between a “don’t argue” and a business attempting to PIVOT?

  • Your short-term strategy may change but the overall goal remains the same: although Pearce may suddenly need to run in a different direction to her original course, she’s still focused on the goal posts at the end of the field.
  • It happens fast, it’s immediate, and it’s often instinctive: CPOs often don’t have much time to plan and react to a disruptive force (an enormous footballer bearing down on you at high speed makes a great analogy). Decisions have to be made fast.
  • There’s no time to argue: Depending on the nature of the disruptive force, you won’t have time to initiate a long, internal debate about what to do. Instead, a fast decision could enable your company to mitigate the damage of a disruptive force, or even profit by it.

Thriving in a male-dominated profession

While the AFL (men’s football) has been around since the 1850s, women’s football in Australia has only officially existed since 2013.

“When I was 14, the rules were that I had to stop playing football with the boys in my hometown”, said Pearce. “I didn’t know back then that there was going to be a Women’s League, and thought my football career had finished. I turned to volleyball instead, before being drafted in the AFLW in 2013.

“I wouldn’t say I’ve had to overcome many barriers to become a footballer. Then main barrier, I’d say, would be that I simply didn’t consider football to be a career choice. The real barriers existed for talented women who wanted to play professionally before 2013.”

Pearce has more than one string to her bow – she’s entered the world of football commentary (also dominated by men), started a career on the speaker circuit, and has also worked as a professional midwife. “The opposite is true for midwifery”, she says. “There may be young men considering a career as a midwife, but are daunted by the female domination of the profession. My advice is to go for it – if you’re passionate about something, and it’s what you really want to do, there’s nothing stopping you.”  

Leadership on the field:

As captain of the Melbourne AFLW team, Pearce has plenty of leadership insights to share:

“My main piece of advice for leaders is to first, have a really good understanding of yourself and about how your behaviours impact others. Secondly, make an effort to understand the people on your team. Appreciate that everyone has different strengths, and will respond to different things.

“Invest in your relationships with team members and build rapport. In the long-term, it will help enormously when you need to have tough conversations. You can be both supportive and tough at the same time – people need to know you’re coming from a place of care rather than disinterest.”

Daisy Pearce will wrap up day two at PIVOT: The Faculty’s 10th Annual Asia Pacific CPO Forum.

Photo:  Getty Images

The Cabinet of Procurement Curiosities

What’s the weirdest, wackiest item you’ve ever had to source? JAGGAER takes a spooky look into its cabinet of procurement curiosities.

People buy odd things for curious reasons. The same holds true when buying for an organisation – with great purchasing power comes access to some really weird objects.

Procurement Curiosities

We explored our purchasing catalogue to see what we could uncover. Many of these items seem bizarre at first, but they all serve an important purpose for the right person. We bought a few things based on how strange they sounded, only to discover how practical they were.

We’d love to hear about the weird items Procurious readers have purchased or the ones lurking deep within your catalogues. Here’s a sampling of JAGGAER’s collection of curiosities. All of them are real. Some of them are genius.

The Dimensional Lever Punch-Monkey

Sounds like a gag-gift – unless you’re a craft maven or a teacher. The Punch Monkey is actually a tool that punches shapes out of paper – monkey shapes, to be precise. Teachers and crafters use the Punch-Monkey to punch out shapes for projects, borders and other creative pursuits.

Scientific Baby Hippy

We love the mental image this one conjures up – and we have emailed a sketch to the Cartoon Network. But a Baby Hippy is actually a model of a baby’s lower torso, hips and legs that is used to train medical personnel. Ever wonder how paediatric nurses are so good at giving those dreaded vaccinations? Thank the Scientific Baby Hippy.

Rock Crusher

We’re not talking about a monster truck. (Monster trucks are actually one thing we don’t have in our catalog.) But we can hook you up with rock crushers in a variety of sizes. Rock crushers can range in price from $65 to over $30K. They are used – you guessed it – to crush rocks.

Ejector Fork

Sounds like something Elroy Jetson might have used to launch his peas Astro’s way. In real life, an ejector fork has a slightly less exciting existence. It’s a utensil used to transfer and release pipettes containing small volumes of liquid in research labs. If we find a supplier for the Elroy version, you will read it here first. That would be awesome.

Pseudo Drowned Victim Scent

When you need a reliable way to train search dogs, pseudo scent is the way to go. This man-made compound mimics the smell of a human corpse, and maintains its scent for up to 30 minutes in still or running water. But if you spill some on you, and your date likes it, we recommend moving on.

Rat Brain Slicer

Don’t worry: this is not used in the Food and Beverage industry. It’s actually an essential tool for scientists studying the effects of drugs, chemicals and disease on the brain. The brain slicer allows researchers to isolate and prepare sections of rat brain tissue for study.

What procurement curiosities are lurking in your catalogue? Share them in the comments below!

Michelle Douglas is Director of Integrated and Digital Marketing at JAGGAER.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What kind of organisation do you work for?

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

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

Are there any challenges involved with moving goods across borders?

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

Do you source anything from Iran? 

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

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

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

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

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

Learning the Fine Art of Creativity

We live in an ideas economy where creativity is the new currency. So is it possible for those with less artistic flair to learn how to get their creative juices flowing? 

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

Everyone’s A Little Bit Creative 

Many of us enjoyed a childhood spent imagining, innovating and creating whether we were painting pictures, constructing dens from cardboard boxes or inventing fantastical make-believe games.

Indeed, the vast majority of research into child psychology suggests that we are all born naturally creative but we subsequently endure an education system or working environment in which our imaginations are more or less stamped out of us.

James Bannerman, a creative change agent and author of Non-Fiction best-seller Genius: Deceptively Simple Ways to Become Instantly Smarter, firmly believes that everyone has the capacity to be creative and innovative. Of course, some adults demonstrate greater potential than others but by employing certain techniques and embracing our inner creativity, we can all achieve additional moments of pure genius.

In a world where innovation is the new currency, procurement teams that fail to execute their ideas with originality will fall behind and die. James will be on hand at the Big Ideas Summit 2017 in London to give our CPOs and online delegates tips to release the creative genius in their teams.

Innovate Or Die

The maxim that organisations must innovate or die has never been more true thanks to rapid technology developments and fierce competition. In procurement, CPOs need to foster their intrapreneurs and work to achieve what Bannerman calls a ‘return on inspiration’:

“ It is easy to become fixated by Return On Investment in business, and often with good reason. The problem with traditional ROI, however, is that it is built upon ‘known returns’.

Creative Thinking, however, is more closely connected with ‘surprise returns’. You don’t always know what you’re going to get at the end of it – because creativity involves ‘the defeat of habit by originality’ (as Arthur Koestler once said in his 1964 classic The Art of Creation.

Yet, to those with an open mind, it can still be worth exploring the world of “return on inspiration”, as the ad agency Golley Slater referred  to it,  to see what comes out the other side”

At the Big Ideas Summit 2017, Bannerman will be putting 50 CPOs through their paces as he introduces them to lateral thinking exercises.

“ During our interactive session we will look at the C.A.N.D.O. model – which I write about in Genius!  This pinpoints the 5 main ways to come up with new ideas, whatever the challenge and whatever the problem: New Connections, New Alterations, New Navigations, New Directions and New Oppositions.

Before we explain what they are, and how they can be used in the real world of work, however, we’ll start off with a few Lateral Thinking exercises.

Take the question ‘What do you lose everytime you stand up ?’ for example. Many people struggle with this question, because they approach it far too rigidly and logically.”Maybe you lose your balance?” or “Maybe you lose the comfort of your chair” etc… If you apply a little Lateral Thinking and spin the question around, however, it can start to become much easier. ‘What do you gain everytime you sit down’ ? You gain a lap!

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 now!

Attention Roosters: Don’t Cock Things Up In 2017

HELP! 2017 is going to be an unlucky year for me – the Chinese Zodiac says I’m going to cock things up. 

As a rooster, I’m in deep trouble for 2017. It’s taken me almost 36 years to grasp the fact that in popular Chinese belief your birth sign year is considered unlucky, rather than lucky. Looking back on my last two Rooster years, this makes a sad kind of sense.

If I could, I’d go back in time to visit the pubescent, socially awkward 12-year-old blundering from one disaster to another in 1993. “It’s not your fault!” I’d yell. “It’s all due to the ancient Chinese Zodiac – events are way beyond your ability to control!” I don’t even want to talk about 2005, where I was essentially the same socially-awkward child in a 24-year-old’s body. Again – not the best year for me, but now that I’m aware of it, I can happily lay the blame at the feet of long-dead Han-era astrologers.

Looking into the characteristics of Roosters, and the wider Chinese Zodiac, has been enlightening – firstly because it’s all way more complex than I thought, and secondly because I’m now aware of my own cultural ignorance in this area – but more on that later. First, let’s look at the attributes of a Rooster.

Rooster characteristics

I was hoping to find a quick list of characteristics for Roosters, but the real story is much more complicated than I assumed. It depends not only on your zodiac sign, but the element associated with your year. Here’s a handy guide from www.chinahights.com:

Type of Rooster Year of Birth Characteristics
Wood Rooster 1945, 2005 Energetic, overconfident, tender, and unstable
Fire Rooster 1957, 2017 Trustworthy, with a strong sense of timekeeping and responsibility at work
Earth Rooster 1909, 1969 Lovely, generous, trustworthy, and popular with their friends
Gold Rooster 1921, 1981 Determined, brave, persevering, and hardworking
Water Rooster 1933, 1993 Smart, quick-witted, tender-hearted, and compassionate

I was born in ’81, which means I’m a Gold Rooster – determined (kind-of), brave (sometimes), persevering (I’m finishing this article, aren’t I?), hardworking (yes boss), and good-looking (I may have slipped that one in). Interestingly, only Wood Roosters have the characteristic I’d most associate with actual roosters, which is (pardon the pun) “cockiness”.

To complicate things further, there are also animal signs assigned by month (called inner animals), by day (called true animals) and hours (called secret animals). Which means that as well as being a Gold Rooster, I’m also a Rat internally, a Goat truly, and a Tiger secretly. Confused? Blame the astrologers.

Should Roosters ask for a promotion in 2017?

Well, at a macro level, it’s an unlucky year for you overall, but perhaps if you get the details right using the list below, you’ll be fine. In short, when you meet your boss to have that all-important career discussion, make sure you pick the month and day carefully with reference to the Chinese lunar calendar. Ensure you’re wearing gold, brown or yellow (NOT red!), pin a gladiola to your top before the meeting, and try to manoeuvre yourself so you face south or southeast during the conversation.

Lucky stuff for Roosters

  • Lucky numbers: 5, 7, and 8
  • Lucky days: the 4th and 26th of any Chinese lunar month
  • Lucky colours: gold, brown, and yellow
  • Lucky flowers: gladiola, cockscomb
  • Lucky directions: south, southeast
  • Lucky months: the 2nd, 5th, and 11th Chinese lunar months.

Stuff Roosters should avoid

  • Unlucky colour: red
  • Unlucky numbers: 1, 3, and 9
  • Unlucky direction: east
  • Unlucky months: the 3rd, 9th, and 12th Chinese lunar months

On a serious note – I’m culturally ignorant

How did it take me this long to find out that Chinese birth-sign years are unlucky rather than lucky? I’m ashamed to admit it, but what I’ve displayed is a lack of cultural curiosity. According to Cultural Synergist Dr Tom Verghese, curiosity is one of the attributes that makes for a culturally intelligent leader. Leaders without this attribute lack the motivation to find out more about the cultures they’re working with by asking lots of questions to develop their CQ, or cultural intelligence.

Dr Tom writes, “I believe curiosity should drive each of us in our own inter-cultural explorations. Understanding the values of other cultures and what their celebrations represent is certainly an important step we can all take towards representing and appreciating diversity and inclusion in our communities.”

Lesson learned. This year I’m going to do two things:

  • Make an effort to display more curiosity as I seek to improve my cultural intelligence, and
  • Tread carefully in what may be an unlucky year.

In short, I’ll try not to make a cock of myself in 2017.

Throwback Thursday – #suckit – The Art of Speechmaking

There’s an art to great speechmaking, and we can all take note how to improve. But could it also be the key to finding great talent?

I’ve just woken up in Los Angeles and am still in awe of Cate Blanchett’s amazing acceptance speech at last night’s Oscars.

No – I wasn’t in the audience (maybe next year!), but watching with a group of friends in our Art Deco hangout in Santa Monica. It felt a bit like watching the AFL Grand Final from an apartment in East Melbourne. The action was only metres away, but there you were, watching it on television like the rest of the world.

Cate’s speech was the demonstration of a well educated, articulate, thoughtful, and endearing individual. She came across as a true professional who was both confident and competent – a rare combination.

As far as I’m concerned, her speech ticked all the boxes. She used this once in a lifetime opportunity to talk to the world about the wealth of Australian talent, the important role of women in business, and her number one passion, the Sydney Theatre Company.

 

And, I’m sorry, I have always tried to avoid writing negative comments about specific individuals, but Cate provided a VERY stark contrast to the best male actor who…quite frankly…in his acceptance speech reinforced a lot of stereotypes about the acting world and Hollywood. Enough said!

Don’t Get Sticky Fingers

Now, I know there will probably be social media furore over her comment, “Julia, #suckit.” The background to which Blanchett is staying close-lipped.

It would seem Cate’s has proved correct an earlier, very clever quote from Julia Roberts regarding social media: “It’s like cotton candy. It looks so appealing, but then you just end up with sticky fingers”.

Wow!  What a great analogy – sticky fingers.  Really made me rethink my little personal journey on twitter, which you can read about in “Who gives a tweet?”.

Anyway, back to great speechmaking. While scrolling through my Twitter timeline to learn more about Cate’s big win, I stumbled across AFL Boss Andrew Demetriou’s 11 minute resignation speech.

OK, so it’s not everyday someone draws a link between Andrew Demetriou and Cate Blanchett! But in a matter of 24 hours, both these Australians made great leadership speeches that will help define their respective legacies.

Both speeches had the following in common –

  • Paid respect to their respective “codes”
  • Showed humility and empathy
  • Recognised where they had come from and those who had supported their journey
  • Sent a clear message about their passions/key communication points
  • Thanked their family

Because of their statesman-like, intelligent and heartfelt comments, they left their audience thinking even more highly of their respective professions.

Your Speechmaking Checklist

It’s not everyday that we mere mortals are called on to make landmark speeches, but the checklist above certainly gives us some good reminders as we walk through our professional lives.

So when that day arrives, and you’re in front of the camera, audience, or friends, will you be able to deliver a compelling summary of your contribution?

Here’s some thought starters:

  • As we interact with our team, do we show gratitude?
  • Are we investing our energy in those people who will be part of the winning team?
  • Will we have contributed in a material way to the development of our “code” or profession?
  • Have we supported our family as much as they have supported us?
  • Do we have a view, an opinion, or a passion that we are actively promoting to others as we interact daily?
  • Are we living and working by our values?
  • Are we showing empathy and humility?
  • And what about our team and others we have dealt with along the way?  Will they be our greatest advocates?

Speechmaking – The Key to Finding Talent?

But the importance of oration goes even further than our own ability to present professionally it would seem. It could just be the key to finding great young talent.

I’m always looking for great talent to help build my three businesses – The Faculty, The Source and Procurious. So, when I came across advice in Forbes on “how to find the Millennials who will lead your company,” I really took notice.

The author, Robert Sher, advised us to be on the lookout for Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) who have had experience in speechmaking and debating.

He highlights that the world needs business executives that have a deep understanding of how to persuade, how to present clearly, and how to connect with an audience.

Sher notes that many professionals, “fall short when it comes to speaking and communications skills. Many are good at making Power Point slides, and some are good at presenting facts clearly—even recommendations clearly.

“But few practice, or are aware of the techniques behind moving the emotions of audiences; whether they be in a meeting, or in an all-hands gathering of hundreds of people. We all know that people spring to action based on emotions, then simply justify it with logic.”

Here is the truth about students who compete in speech and debate. They’ve spent hundreds of hours perfecting their speaking skills.  Many have done intensive research to write their speeches.

All have endured the pressure that competition brings. They have performed well intellectually under such pressure, and they’ve made connections and friendships with other high performing peers. All of these behaviours are excellent predictors of success on any leadership team.