Category Archives: Trending

5 Conversation Starters for your Festive Party

Ready for another round of parties this festive season? Here are some hot tips and conversation starters to get you through your next social engagements.

conversation starters
Photo from Pixabay on Pexels

The festive season can be a continual revolving door of social situation after social situation. When it comes to the work environment not only do you have to deal with your own office but often those within your customer or supply network as well.

Making small talk and being stuck in social situations is even harder when your energy is low and you’ve had enough of people. What makes it hard for us to engage in conversations and why should you care?

Fear of Being Rejected?

A University of Chicago study by Nick Epley has revealed the biggest reason people don’t want to engage in conversation or small talk is a fear of rejection. This causes the brain to assign a high degree of risk in the concept of talking to strangers or making small talk.

There has been a further study that has proven this assumption to be incorrect, where no initiator of small talk was rejected.

Myth Busted

Armed with cold hard scientific facts doesn’t make the situation any easier but at least you know that most people are willing and receptive to talking. Here are five conversation starters to get you taking that all important first step.

1. Check the attendees and do research

Look up who is attending and what projects that they have recently completed. This can work for internal office parties and for your customers or suppliers. Work related topics are the safest, but make sure you keep it light.

2. How to deal with hierarchy

There have been a few occasions when fate has left me a few drinks in standing with the CEO. Don’t be silent susan. Management are human to, stick with safe topics like plans for the holidays. If you’re feeling really jazzy ask them what their biggest success or challenge was in the past year.

3. Common ground

If you’ve exhausted all your “go to’s” then try to think of some common situations where you may be able to relate to each other. Start simple with “are you more into podcasts, books or movies? What’s your favourite?”.

A Harvard University study has found that asking people about themselves can cause a change in the brain that naturally enhances their mood. The trick is to make it general enough that it doesn’t seem intrusive.

4. Do the twist

Flip the script a bit. We all get stuck with the usual silence fillers of “what are you doing for your break?”.

Tweak things slightly and ask “what are you most looking forward to over the holiday season?”. You’ll make the person think and it will provide opportunity for light, but genuine, conversation.

5. The naughty list

It’s good to keep in mind things that are a no go zone. If these things are executed exceptionally badly, they may prove to be career limiting moves.

  • Don’t get wasted. Monitor your drink intake and make sure you eat!
  • Don’t participate in gossip. You’ll get such a cringe when you next see the people in the sober (fluorescent) light of day
  • Don’t cross the personal communication line. It’s probably not a good look to leave voice notes over messenger or create an IG story of your new bestie.
  • Don’t discuss work in depth. It’s amazing what you can hear on public transport or out and about, let alone at an office party. If you are representing your company at a customer or supplier event then don’t be drawn in to talking about the competition or your organisation. You’re still logged on.

By applying the first five tips and avoiding the naughty list you’ll be sure to be on top form this festive season. No ragrets! Regerts! Oh, you know what we mean…

This article is solely the work of the author. Any views expressed in it are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect official policy of the New Zealand government or of any government agency.

The Introverts Guide to Office Parties

‘Tis the season for office parties. And also the season for introverts everywhere to agonise over whether they really want to attend…

christmas parties
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

There is nothing worse than the festive time of year for an introvert. All the dreaded required and implied invitations come in. It’s also the time of year when energy is lowest, you’re just amped to get out of the office for a well earned break. Not rub shoulders and trade awkward bants with office colleagues that you already see waaaay too much of.

You’re in a Social Pickle

Follow these tips to manage any social situation where you find yourself held hostage.

Parties – do your homework

Don’t ignore it, you’re going to have to face the facts that this dreaded situation is upon you. Find out who is organising the party and ask them how it’s going. You’ll likely get a barrage of problems and issues, act as a safe venting space and you’ll gain their trust. They’ll give you a preview of the rundown of how things are going to go. You can use your new found friendship to conveniently place yourself away from the scheduled office conga line.

Maths is your friend

Arrive early to leave early. Attendance and face time at an office party is about being seen, you don’t have to be there the whole time to get a tick in the box for attendance. It can also double as a great excuse to leave “yeah look I’ve been here 14 hours already helping susan prep the sausage rolls, so I really need to get home to let kid/dog/goldfish out for some air…”

Find a role

Use your new office BFF aka the party organiser to your advantage. Find out if there is anything you can strategically do to “help” to remain largely unseen with limited interaction. Hand out props to people going into the photobooth, help the band get their gear in, clear tables or fill up the toothpicks.

Size matters

The number of people at the party could have an impact on how much the dialled is turned up on your introvert richter scale. Review the RSVP list and check who is going versus who is invited. As you’re scanning the list think of any relevant projects they’ve been involved in and store away some one liners like “how did you find your experience on [x project]?”

Where’s your energy?

The labels of extrovert and introvert were created in the 1920s by the psychologist Carl Jung. In a nutshell he states that the difference comes down to whether people recharge by being around people or being alone.

In a party situation if you can quieten the external stimulus enough you may begin to see where your mind is. If it’s racing in a million different areas worrying about a million different things then you need to focus on just one thing, even if that one thing is twirling the straw in your glass.

Back-up Strategies

If the top tips don’t work then do some prep and follow these tried and true failsafes.

  • Seek Refuge. Find a safe team and stick with them.
  • Infiltrate. Call in back-up, invite some people loosely related to your team and form your own rival crew. Even better if they also hate office parties to! Think of the biggest project your team worked on during the year, are there any stakeholders that you could invite?
  • Decline, don’t go. If you really hate office parties that much then try to decline and offer an alternative like a team lunch out. At least you can limit your interaction to a small group of people.

The Best Kept Secret

The ultimate survival strategy comes down to one thing: own it.

There is no harm in being straight up with people. In fact it can be a really good conversation starter and you’ll probably be surprised how many people are exactly in the same boat.

Own your label and own your needs. Take that fresh air or break in the bathroom to recharge. The hungry extroverts have been filling their bellies with all the social antics and office banter. It’s ok to refuel by yourself on your own terms.

This article is solely the work of the author. Any views expressed in it are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect official policy of the New Zealand government or of any government agency.

Navigate Global Trade in 2020 and Beyond

Digitisation, automation, and the shifting state of global trade are the three macro-trends predicted to affect Procurement and Finance the most over the next few years.

global trade

According to ourworldindata.org, global exports today are 40 times larger than 100 years ago. Much of this due to long-term relentless focus on developing free trade – across the world, but especially between the three powerful nations or nation groups: The European Union (EU), The United States of America, and China.

Albeit with the global commerce climate changing daily, there are growing concerns, as highlighted by a recent report from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) that explores why geopolitical issues are dominating.

Free trade is the heart of modern business

The free market has thrived for decades. So much so that the young generation of business professionals haven’t experienced the closed alternative. But due to shifting trade dynamics, the free market we have grown accustomed to may be threatened, and not everyone is prepared.

According to the survey report from the EIU, only 35 per cent of respondents are confident in their organisation’s ability to adapt to global trade trends and have secured alternative market sources or suppliers.

Anyone in Procurement and Finance would agree that a free market and mutually advantageous regulations have made business easier. Cross-border shipping, VAT handling, cross-border invoicing—all of which are more straightforward when governments cooperate with one another. All that mundane work and those non-productive tasks required to move money, people, and goods between countries is decreasing.

As a result, businesses can:

  • source materials where they are the most accessible,
  • produce goods and services where it’s most economical,
  • and sell final products in the markets where the profit can be maximised.

An European Strategy and Policy Analysis System (ESPAS) report has estimated that by 2030, the amount of trade between USA and China will grow by 80 per cent, and over 85 per cent between EU and China.

Given these numbers, free trade must surely be part of the recipe for growth. Or will it?

EIU highlights global trade concerns

In the recent EIU report sponsored by Basware, we interviewed over 400 supply chain and finance professionals to find out how they’re preparing for the future.

Almost one in four of the respondents believe that the post-Brexit climate of trade will have the greatest effect on global commerce. 21 per cent believe that the impending US-China trade war will pack the biggest punch to global trade dynamics.

Overall, survey respondents revealed that they’re generally quite concerned. The most common impacts expected from these changes are:

  • An increase in procurement costs (35 per cent);
  • Greater supply-chain complexity (29 per cent); and
  • A decrease in business opportunities (22 per cent).
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And these professionals are justified in their worries.

Questions regarding international trade post-Brexit and the customs introduced between the USA and its trading counterparts make even the most experienced supply chain experts raise questions.

Discussions of the current and future geopolitical landscape have become a permanent agenda point in board meetings. The competitive nature of businesses is no longer merely determined by the typical factors of economies of scale, product differentiation, switching costs, or access to distribution channels. Instead, it’s also determined by businesses’ abilities to manage ever-increasingly fragmented supply chain for goods and services and respond to changes outside of their control.

According to Ernst & Young Global Limited (EY), one in five executives say that there is “too much uncertainty” to predict the full effects of the trade actions instated this year by the US government.

As products and services become more and more dependent on tangled interdependencies of businesses and therefore subject to trade restrictions, the chances of non-compliance increase. As the probability that these sanctions hit your supply chain increase, so does your business risk.

Steps to prep for the future of trade

How can procurement and finance professionals embrace change to make sure that they are a part of the solution and not the problem?

Participants in the EIU report state that reviewing internal controls and procedures, forecasting costs through simulations, and developing end-to-end supply chain visibility measures are all ways they are prepping.

Here are three steps you can follow, to future-proof your organisation’s global trade strategy:

1. Move to digital flow of information

Move away from paper and email-based orders and invoices and adopt electronic commerce to take advantage of digital financial supply chain and its economies.

2. Consolidate financial and supply chain information to identify risks

Combine information regarding your supply chain from different sources to learn more about your supply chain. Develop alternative sourcing options to diversify supply chain risk.

3. Automate where possible

Automation is required in order to move people around from transactional duties into business advisory and forecasting. Develop and train staff to adapt to change.

It may seem like a lot of work. But, it’s worth it. In fact, many companies may not be able to face the consequences of not doing it. In 2014, The US Department of Justice fined more than $1.5 billion in violations of US rules and regulations collectively.

But in 2019, just a single sanction for a non-compliant company exceeded $1.1 billion. Businesses must apply increased internal controls and procedures to continuously monitor their compliance and the compliance of their supply chains.

Make a plan for your team

Following the three steps (digitising, consolidating, and automating) are three overarching concepts that will future-proof your organisation amidst global change. But there’s more to it and it’s covered in depth in the EIU report, ‘What’s now and next for finance and procurement‘.

Learn more about automation, digitisation and the future of the global trade, and download the EIU report, sponsored by Basware, now. Learn how finance and procurement executives are preparing their organisations – and get additional tips on how you can do the same.

Questions? Contact Basware – we’re here to help you simplify your operations and spend smarter.

How to Create a Buzz Around Contract Management

It can be hard to create a buzz around contract management. Get it wrong and it can sting badly. Get it right and the results can be honey-sweet!

Photo by Karsten Würth (@karsten.wuerth) on Unsplash

Procurement can sometimes be a real flash in the pan. The commercial squad can descend on any project that looks big enough, ugly enough or sexy enough. Money and risk can be like bees to honey – the higher it is, the sweeter the taste. It’s a sure fire way to get procurement’s attention!

Procurement professionals can be highly skilled at project planning, sourcing and providing commercial advice leading to strong contract frameworks. But when the show is over often everyone moves on to the next big shiny thing. 

While there is merit in ensuring that a solid sourcing exercise is executed, often the cream on top comes from executing exemplary contract management.

Contract Management? Yawn!

Contract management doesn’t have to be boring! If businesses get serious about contract management then serious results can be realised. There is nothing worse than a set and forget contract. It is almost guaranteed that some gold is being missed somewhere.

Contract management is quite simple at the heart of it (although admittedly it could definitely do with a re-brand).

How to Get Started

1. Ride on the buzz of signing. Capitalise on the newness of the contract by setting up the relationship meetings correctly at the beginning.

If you are a procurement person who will not be managing the contract then set up the meeting with the key relationship managers on both sides of the fence. You’ll be surprised how much value you can keep extracting, even if the contract is only freshly anointed! 

2. Take time to get the roles and responsibilities right and make sure each party understands their role.

3. Measure results and performance in a meaningful way. At the beginning of the project think about good ways to measure success. Make sure to ask your internal customers and supply market for ideas. 

4. Execute. Set the meetings, carry them out, do the surveys, do the reviews, gather the data, analyse the data, report on the data. 

How to do it right

Being organisationally ready is key. While individuals can carry out actions and get results, true value is experienced when the culture of the organisation (or the procurement team) is geared towards supplier relationship and contract management (SR&CM).

The best examples can be seen where dedicated SR&CM resources reside in a procurement team, rather than expecting individual team members to carry out these tasks within a role that encompasses many other specialisms.

Contract Management Challenges

Being aware of the challenges of embarking on a culture of change can help to set reasonable expectations of what is achievable and how long it may take. Knowing some of the sticking points from those that have gone before can be helpful in scoping out the scale and length of journey that is ahead.

The common challenges can be:

  • Resource. Obtaining sign off to get dedicated resource and gaining buy-in on the idea. Finding the right skill sets can be difficult. Sometimes new roles and directions can change the culture of the team.
  • Internal customers complaining about suppliers but either: not telling anyone; not telling the supplier; not telling procurement; and / or all of the above, plus not being willing to measure performance once mechanisms are put in place.
  • Bias – not wanting to use a supplier “just because”. To manage true poor performance (as opposed to perceived), then procurement need something tangible to build the picture and also, to give the supplier a genuine chance to improve.

What is the pay off at the end of the rainbow?

If procurement functions commit to embedding contract management into their team environment there can be many rewards.

  • Increased capability within the Procurement team – opportunity for other specialisms within procurement to learn from SRM&CM experts
  • Increased capability in the business as the contract managers and people dealing with the suppliers in the day to day increase their commercial acumen in regards to having tough conversations (or good ones!) with suppliers
  • Closing the gap between the supplier and the buyer. Understanding each side of the fence and the challenges experienced from both sides.
  • Ability to tackle poor performance in contracts effectively and efficiently as evidence is gathered, reported on and monitored. We’re not talking big brother looking to punish the supply market, there are often improvements required on both sides.

This article is solely the work of the author. Any views expressed in it are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect official policy of the New Zealand government or of any government agency.

Email Marketing – July the 4th Be With You!

Planning your next holiday email marketing campaign and struggling to stand out? Here are some top tips to help you steal the show.

Photo by Stephanie McCabe on Unsplash

Holiday email marketing campaigns can make or break a business. A study by Experian performed a couple of years ago shows that emails promoting special offers and incentives sent during the two weeks before the 4th of July resulted in dramatically increased open and transaction rates.

The best rated strategies included the following in subject lines: free shipping, vouchers and other cash incentives, 4th of July discounts and coupons, and 4th of July clearance sales.

Here is a prime example from Nasty Gal:

Email Marketing – A Strategy for Every Business

There are a number of approaches. The best one depends on the sender, the offer and the message a business wants to send across. First of all, it is important to remember that this particular holiday appeals to people’s patriotism. 

Contrary to popular belief, Americans tend to spend a lot ahead of the holiday. According to the National Retail Federation, people spend considerable amounts of money on food, clothing, party props and décor. The percentage stands at 93 per cent for young people aged 18 to 24. If your business caters to younger audiences, there is definitely room for increased transaction rates around the holiday. 

Even if that is not the case, a proper strategy will inspire customers to consider the offer. Coupled with the above-mentioned incentives, a clever marketing campaign will offer a little something to everyone. Here are some ideas on how to go about the 4th of July email marketing campaigns.

Animate the Audience

Holidays do tend to inspire partying, so adding animation to the emails is a good choice of action. A picture featuring fireworks or similar will boost the mood and make your offer more tempting. Here is an example from Nicole Miller:

Other examples may come to mind; remember to be creative and keep it cheerful.

Focus on the Holiday Mood

Holidays are fun, and the 4th of July is no exception. In fact, it may well be the most cheerful holiday nowadays. Whether spent with family or friends (or both), people focus on good times. It is, therefore, recommended to appeal to the atmosphere by creating fun emails. Rover did it brilliantly:

Be creative and humorous and look for ways to link the message to the offer.  

Stress on Patriotism

To appeal to overall patriotism, many campaigns fly the American flag. If you find it too generic, trust your brand’s specialty to add some zest to the offer. Here’s how Sperry nailed it:

Highlighting patriotic products is also a good idea. M&M did a splendid job with that with their 4th of July edition candies.

That isn’t to say that you need to create special themed products for the occasion, though. You may simply plaster the offer onto the American flag and get creative with the fireworks around it.

Things to Keep in Mind

The 4th of July is an American holiday and the biggest one next to Thanksgiving. If your business is international, do your homework with segmentation. Sending promotional offers to people outside of the U.S. would be a waste of effort and money, so focus on the target audience.

Further out, the 4th of July falls closely to Father’s Day and Memorial Day. You may easily kill two birds with one stone if you couple the offers. On top of it, sending too many emails too frequently is more likely to annoy the recipients than to inspire them, so use the opportunity to combine multiple offers into one email.

If you have a physical store, don’t forget to include business hours and the services offered around and during the holiday. It’s also important to include information on holiday shipping and delivery deadlines.

Finally, remember that the best of the best campaigns tell a unique story. It is not all about the offer. On the contrary, statistics show that people tend to remember the stories rather than the offer, especially if they are emotionally charged. Sharing an experience and showing the heroes being rewarded is what people will relate to the most. Adding a video or a promo campaign ahead of the holiday will keep customers connected to your brand and keep them coming back for a long while.

Piggyback Existing #Hashtags

To boost the outreach, don’t shy away from social media. Use the hashtags such as #4thofjuly and #fireworks to reach a larger audience and follow up with personalized email messages. Remember that younger generations are the key to your 4th of July campaign. Primarily, they use Snapchat and Instagram, with somewhat lesser percentage sticking to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Add an additional giveaway or two to attract more people. Some ideas include giveaways and social media photo competitions. The more interesting the offer, the more people will share the post. Photo competitions are known to go viral, if done the right way. Use your imagination and may, well July, the 4th be with you!

Blockchain: Supply Chain’s 21st Century Truthsayer

No-one can predict the future. But we could all use a truthsayer to help us protect ourselves in the here and now…

Photo by Mitya Ivanov on Unsplash

In most supply chains, communication is point-to-point and one direction. There is no single, shared record of events across multiple parties. This is no longer an efficient or effective way to do business and most organisations know this.

And where there is no single point of truth or shared records, trust in supply chains and from consumers can be eroded. What procurement and supply chains need is a solution that can deliver data, but also be unimpeachable.

But how to solve this issue and penetrate the dense forest of new ideas and myriad technologies all offering to be some form of truthsayer?

A Truthsayer in our Midst?

New technology is, however, transforming that linear disconnected approach, and providing momentum to the movement for mature supply chains to operate in a “network of networks”.

By placing a supply chain on the blockchain, it makes the process more traceable, transparent and fully digital. With blockchain, organisations can shine a light on the provenance of their goods, but also earn the trust of consumers by proving the safety and traceability of the goods. And in a fast-paced environment, those organisations who don’t engage with blockchain face the reality of being left behind.

From farm to plate, the food supply chain can now be tracked in an open, transparent, fully traceable and entirely digital way. But what has started out in the food supply chain has all the applicability we need to cover all supply chains. Everywhere.

How then do we get involved? And how also do we sell this concept to a probably sceptical organisation (and budget holder…)?

Join our Webinar

Help is at hand in the form of Procurious and IBM’s latest webinar, ‘Blockchain – Supply Chain’s 21st Century Truthsayer’.

Sign up now to join our panel of experts at 14:30pm (BST) on Tuesday the 15th of October:

  • Tania Seary, Founder, Procurious
  • Shari Diaz, Innovation Strategy and Operations Program Director, IBM Watson Supply Chain
  • Professor Olinga Ta’eed, Director of the Centre for Citizenship, Enterprise and Governance

In the webinar, you’ll hear from a panel of experts on a range of topics including:

  • The importance understanding products’ provenance in your supply chain;
  • The link between successful blockchain adoption and rising consumer confidence;
  • Success stories from across the globe in blockchain implementation; and
  • How to start the conversation in your organisation to get the ball rolling.

FAQs

Is the Blockchain webinar available to anyone?

Absolutely! Anyone & everyone can register for the webinar and it won’t cost you a penny to do so. Simply sign up here.

How do I listen to the Critical Factors webinar?

Simply sign up here and you’ll be able to listen to the on-demand. 

Help – I can’t make it to the live-stream of the webinar!

No problem! If you can’t make the live-stream you can catch up whenever it suits you. We’ll be making it available on Procurious soon after the event (and will be sure to send you a link) so you can listen at your leisure!

Can I ask the speakers a question during the Blockchain: Supply Chain’s 21st Century Truthsayer webinar?

If you’d like to ask one of our speakers a question please submit it via the Discussion Board on Procurious and we’ll do our very best to ensure it gets answered for you.

Don’t Miss Out!

This webinar promises to provide a fascinating insight for all procurement professionals into the wealth of possibilities that Blockchain has to offer procurement.

Make sure you don’t miss out by signing up today!

Four Ways Brexit Has Rattled CPOs

With Brexit headlines continuing to dominate the daily news, what have been the biggest lessons for procurement leaders on how to approach geopolitical risk?

By Pixel-Shot/ Shutterstock

As cross-party Brexit talks collapsed, stockpiling reached its highest level since records began in the 1950s. A final decision on Brexit looks like it has, yet again, been thrust into the distance. But by now chief procurement officers (CPOs), those charged with ensuring businesses have enough raw materials and goods, have learnt to live beyond politicians’ promises. 

Procurement teams have begun to view geopolitical risk as an unwanted yet permanent factor. It’s no longer just the prospect of Brexit that has procurement officers grappling with greater risk in their jobs. Any emerging geopolitical risk poses potential obstacles for global supply chains, which over the past few decades have become tightly interwoven. 

Lesson 1: Uncertainty is certain 

Procurement chiefs have learnt quickly that they cannot count on politicians. But they can control the steady flow of goods and materials to their organisations by risk-mapping and establishing alternatives. 

Dairy Crest, a manufacturer of British food brands, approved additional suppliers, extra sources of material and alternatives by identifying pinch points in the supply chain, ensuring greater flexibility. 

CPO Chris Thomson reviewed the stock management processes in terms of ingredients and packaging, factory planning processes and customer order to stock processes. All these processes had been in place for many years and were effective, but Brexit made it necessary to revisit all systems and processes. 

“It’s been quite an interesting experience to have a serious situation like this to open your eyes again and to challenge some of the existing business processes,” he says. 

He is not alone in his approach. Neil Butters, head of procurement at Inprova Group, says: “Before you think big, think small. I’d been trying to understand geopolitical risk and Brexit and other areas, and trying to work out how that impacted my organisation. What I ultimately decided to do was to take a fresh view of my organisation and the risk factors, and map them out.” 

Lesson 2: Revisit systems and processes 

“Brexit has forced many CPOs and their teams to look again at their suppliers, local sourcing plans, local versus international, and start to make some decisions about what their future supply should look like,” says Duncan Brock, group director at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS). 

Indeed, CPOs have been evaluating their supply chains at a more granular level. Many procurement teams have looked at what happens in the supply chain beyond the first contact with their own company. The view is if they can understand the risks posed at that distance, then they will be able to manage them before there is a direct impact on their business. 

“We haven’t fundamentally changed our sourcing approach. What we have done is put a lot more emphasis on our category management in our processes, and a lot more emphasis on how far up the supply chain we understand what’s going on,” says Dairy Crest’s Mr Thomson. 

Localisation might help some businesses, but switching to UK suppliers doesn’t always solve the problem. Establishing new suppliers has its own challenges and is rarely a seamless process, particularly if you are sourcing a strategic supplier. 

According to research by CIPS, almost a quarter of companies it surveyed were looking for alternative non-European Union suppliers. But the study also showed that half of British companies would struggle to find the suppliers and skills they need in the UK if they were forced to bring parts of their supply chain back home post-Brexit. 

“Anybody who approaches their suppliers in business as purely a transactional thing misses the opportunity to work special situations and to work closely together to manage whatever it is thrown at us. We treat our suppliers really as part of the business,” says Neil Ginger, chief executive of Origin, a UK manufacturer of aluminium doors and windows. 

Lesson 3: Stockpiling can’t solve everything 

Filling up warehouses with raw materials and medicines is a short-term solution. Stockpiling is an option for some, but many do not have the facilities to store surplus stock and those with perishable goods simply won’t be able to. 

Longer-term stockpiling won’t fix the challenges companies face over trading with EU customers and suppliers. Moreover, the additional costs of paying for the stock and then paying for warehousing that stock can be crippling, particularly for smaller businesses with fewer resources. 

Earlier this year, door and window manufacturer Origin began stockpiling aluminium extrusion from its supplier based in northern Spain in preparation for Brexit and disruption at the border. In total, the company stockpiled around £750,000-worth of materials, which is not an insignificant amount of money to add to your inventory. And then Brexit Day never came. 

“Beyond the things you can’t control, you’re just trying to stay as flexible as you possibly can. We bought more material to make sure we could see ourselves through some very short-term disruption at the border,” says Origin’s Mr Ginger. 

Lesson 4: Ditch the silos 

CPOs have become more rounded business people as a result of Brexit. They have had to work more intensively with other teams within their organisations, and have had to explain what they are doing to the board to ensure the business can keep functioning and fulfilling customers’ orders. 

Like many companies, Dairy Crest set up a cross-functional leadership group focused on medium to long-term Brexit planning. In addition, the company established a standalone cross-functional group focused solely on preparing for Brexit Day. They based their business planning on a hard Brexit, the worst-case scenario for many businesses. 

“We really focused our efforts on planning for the worst case and knowing that if it didn’t turn out to be the reality, we would be in a sensible position,” says Dairy Crest’s Mr Thomson.

This article, edited by Peter Archer, was taken from the Raconteur Future of Procurement report, as featured in The Times.  

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Motivating Procurement for the next level of evolution

How do you motivate your procurement team to reach peak performance? Start by asking the right questions.

Procurement is a highly specialized field in most organizations, one that develops leaders as change agents creating value in literally every space that they touch. With the advent of the digital era, there is a greater need to understand and implement technology to foray into unconventional territories and look for hidden value. Thus, motivating the Procurement teams to look for new ways of creating and driving innovation becomes critical in present times.

As we look at motivating Procurement teams, it is important to analyze how the professionals working in different Procurement jobs think about their roles. The recent Procurement 2030 report, courtesy Procurious & Michael Page pointed out the insight that most Procurement CPOs consider talent development and retention as a key focus area for future. Thus, it is safe to say that motivating teams would be a top priority for talent retention in Procurement. This report also highlighted that the buyers and category managers consider almost half of their work as tactical vs strategic, and that almost half of the work can be automated i.e. it consists of repeatable tasks. These are useful considerations in understanding the current scenario before thinking about the next-level progress.

So what could be the ways of motivating Procurement teams into peak performance?

Organisational structures

Based on my discussion with Procurement colleagues across industries, I have come to believe that the right organizational structure in Procurement is a critical first step towards having a productive and engaged workplace. We have seen many waves of changes in Procurement structure across industries over the last few years. First, there were location focused roles, then the category management roles came into the picture. Slowly, the buyer roles also became more globalized versus being local or regional over time. Thus, the Procurement organization has kept evolving.

(1) Evolution of global category management: Most buyers today realize that category management is the way to be and global structures provide maximum visibility to drive change, thereby it is a welcome change to most of us. However, due to many continuous changes, it seems like there is a tendency for some ambiguity structure wise in many workplaces. I recall a peer from a mid-sized organization who had remarked in a forum that he liked building expertise in the global category manager role but at many times, he felt that he was doing the work which was distracting him from his core priorities of understanding business needs and finding creative solutions with the help of his supply base. It is certainly true that organizational structures were not intended to be a barrier when they were put in place. However, often the buyers at entry and mid-level spend valuable time looking for clarity about what they are supposed to do, as core priorities seem not so core when laden with structural challenges.

(2) One size does not fit all: Some organizations follow one structure strictly i.e. they have either the category management specific or location specific Procurement roles, while some have a mixed structure depending on business and country-specific supply needs. Depending on the size of the organization, there could also be a matrix or a hierarchical structure. It is often noticed that layers of hierarchy also lead to slower alignment and execution, thereby affecting creativity. In the face of further change, it would be good if leaders re-assess the current organizational structure that they have and analyze if it is set up for maximum effectiveness. We think about factors such as our business needs and supply needs while setting up roles, but with time as things change, it is good to re-assess design by deep diving internally into Procurement desk responsibilities.

(3) Internal feedback and self assessment to rescue: In the quest to motivate teams and help them deliver with effectiveness, it would be paramount to see where the teams spend most of their time and make changes that help simplify the structure while driving quicker actions. So look internally and ask yourself- Are your organisational structures distracting your teams? Do your teams think they are spending valuable time and energy on tasks which they should not be doing as they do not add value? Is your organizational complexity weighing them down, rather than helping them focus on business needs and external market evolution? A deep self-assessment and appropriate internal feedback could help provide the right design for the future. This could also be the way to get buyers to go deeper on building internal and external stakeholder relationships and removing some tactical tasks to drive efficacy.

Employee Coaching

The current digital era is the era of employee engagement. We have come a long way from the factory age where work was repeatable and top-down approach worked. Now, the best organizations are the ones where employees can feel understood, valued and trusted. Hence, the role of managers as coaches becomes all the more important.

(1) Coaching by asking right questions: I have often thought that buyers are prone to considering some strategic tasks as tactical because that is how these appear superficially. For example, an area new to Procurement where no one has evaluated the scale before could appear so in some cases. Then, for some time the buyer would only manage it as a low priority tactical item, not realizing the full value it can bring to the table if its potential is realized. When I was buying Facilities for Middle-East and Africa region, it was considered a tactical area until we saw the benefit of leveraging full scale by engaging competitive new players in the changing market landscape. Had we not analyzed this area internally and externally, it would continue to be labeled ‘tactical’. The key thus, is getting the right coaching and input, and being asked the right questions to look deeper rather than scratch the surface.

(2) Coaching by internalizing Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs: Good coaches have an understanding of human behavior and motivation. The oldest model known in understanding human behavior is Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This can help managers to understand human behavior in office settings also. Usually, people have basic physiological, safety and belonging needs that would require fulfilment before they can reach self-esteem and finally the self-actualization stage. Of course, the peak performance is something that happens at uppermost levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This model can help both the coach and the coachee to assess themselves. Moreover, it provides the coach with a framework to understand the team first so that they can find ways to motivate people positively. A good coach can notice performance variations in the light of this model for themselves and the team, and use it to point them in the right direction.

(3) Coaching by understanding Losada line: Losada line is also an interesting principle in organizational behavior which measures the positivity to negativity in a system. What it states is that for any positive change to happen, a ratio of 3 to 6 is required. Lower than 3 would not be optimum for a good performance. To give you an estimate, successful marriages usually have a Losada ratio of 5 or above. This can be used by coaches to provide feedback and nudge the teams towards high performances.

In conclusion, as organizations get serious about leading with purpose and boosting positive collaboration for their employees, coaching and re-assessing organizational structures, on top of the existing mechanisms of training and rewards, could help unearth valuable insights paramount for their transformation into more evolved workplaces. While this happens, all of us in Procurement would need to be open to learning new things and adopting a growth mindset. In the words of Satya Nadella, as stated in his book Hit Refresh – “After all, how we experience the world is through communications and collaboration. If we are interested in machines that work with us, then we can’t ignore the humanistic approach.” We need to continue to bring humans closer by embracing collaboration and removing barriers. Do you think this could apply to your organization? What other strategies have helped in your journey?A

Three Ways To Make An Impact In Your Procurement Career

Procurement professionals are in a unique position to step up and make a positive impact. Here are three areas where procurement professionals should direct their attention… 

In an age when people want to work for companies who are doing good in the world, when consumers vote with their wallets and achieving supply chain transparency is easier than ever before there has never been more pressure for procurement professionals to commit to, and prioritise, making a difference in the world with the work that they do.

Tom Derry, CEO – ISM, discusses three areas where procurement professionals should direct their attention…

1. Sustainability

There was a time when sustainability was merely a PR strategy with minimal corporate effort put behind it. But those days are long gone and we’re at the tipping point where businesses can finally see the financial benefits of operating sustainability.

I’m familiar with the CPO of a major food manufacturer here in the United States,” says Tom.  “One day the Rainforest Action Network was protesting on their corporate campus. It came down to the sustainable sourcing of palm oils, which is a major food ingredient. What we’re realising now is our supply chains can create unexpected consequences. In this case, palm oil was being sourced from Indonesia, which incentivised local farmers to burn down the rainforests in order to plant palm trees. The food manufacturer was jeopardising the existence of this incredible biodiverse resource, without any sense of the consequence of sourcing palm oil to make their products.”

Tom also mentions the importance of catering to customer demands.  “My own daughter makes her consumer purchase decisions based on how she views the sustainable practices of the companies. Companies have realised that if they lose that customer, consumers walk away and you never get that business back.”

But, according to Tom there’s another reason key you have to take sustainability seriously. “In the stock market, companies like JP Morgan are publishing reports on companies based on ESG – which stands for Environment, Sustainability and Governance. So it’s no longer just financial metrics that are driving stock prices. It’s your score on your environmental performance, how sustainable you are, and your governance around your sustainability strategy.

“When that starts to drive stock price, that gets everyone’s attention. Believe me!”

2. Modern slavery

With 21 to 46 million people in slavery around the world, procurement professionals have a huge responsibility in weeding it out of their supply chains?

As Tom points out, it’s a sobering statistic but companies are  beginning to do amazing things. to tackle modern slavery.  “Nestle, for example, investigated their own supply chain for fish used in pet food products and found that the Thai fishing flight was using impressed labour. They identified the problem and proactively went out to address it rather than waiting for someone else to discover it.”

This approach allows companies to avoid appearing defensive and reactive and Tom believes we’ll see more and more companies taking that kind of stance, “because they have to!

“It’s not just about protecting your company’s reputation, but it’s also a recognition that we all share as humans that it’s a morally reprehensible practice – and none of us want to be a part of it.”

3. Diversity and Inclusion

A third way procurement and supply chain professionals can make an impact in their organisations is to improve supplier and workplace diversity.

“We need to make sure our supply bases reflect the kinds of communities where we do business,” argues Tom. “We also need to make sure our teams, internally – and our leadership teams – reflect those communities too.”

“Diversity broadens our point of view. We become more sensitive to cultural issues.”

Remember the backlash last year when PepsiCo released an ad featuring Kendall Jenner that somewhat insensitvely echoed a Black Lives Matter protest? Criticised for trivialising and exploiting the movement the ad was soon removed but not without significant damage to the PepsiCo brand.

As Tom points out,  “a diverse team will heighten your awareness to those issues before they get out into the public domain and embarrass you. You have a multitude of perspectives on how to solve problems.”

“ISM has got a long standing leadership position in this area . We’ve got a formal statement on the value of diversity to the profession we organise a conference and sponsor a certification to help people become leader of diversity efforts.”

Part 3 of Tuesdays with Tom is available now. Click here to sign up and hear ISM CEO Tom Derry talk on sustainability, modern slavery, and diversity. 

Tuesdays With Tom: Trump, Trade and Turning Disruption into Opportunity

Institute for Supply Management CEO Tom Derry compares the Trump administration’s trade policies to “self-inflicted friendly fire” in the first of our 10-part Tuesdays with Tom podcast series.

“In military conflicts, one of the outcomes we most dread are instances of ‘friendly fire’, when you mistakenly fire on your own troops. I think the current [trade] policy is almost an instance of self-inflicted friendly fire, from an economic perspective. We might be helping domestic industries like steel and aluminum (although even that’s arguable), but we’re actually damaging the far bigger industries that are consumers of those products; who make household appliances, yellow goods for construction, or automobiles. All of our exports in those areas will suffer with this trade policy.”

In the first of our Tuesdays with Tom podcast series, ISM CEO Tom Derry talks with Procurious Founder Tania Seary about the current raft of trade wars and tariffs that have come about as a result of US policy shift.

Supply management professionals do NOT like trade wars

“ISM publishes economic reports every month for the manufacturing and services sector. Comments have been very consistent: we’re seeing suppliers trying to impose price increases on buyers as they’re buying metals (such as steel and aluminum)”, says Tom. “We’re seeing people anticipating the tariffs, looking to end sourcing from China and look for suppliers elsewhere, and we’re seeing people postpone investments.

“The two most important economic factors in deciding where to locate a manufacturing facility are local taxes and tariffs. If tariffs are uncertain, [companies are] going to postpone decisions about building that next facility, which is not good for the economy in the long run.”

NAFTA renegotiations having an impact

“What’s so interesting about these policy changes”, says Tom, “is that even mere discussion has a real economic impact and causes real dislocation of supply chains. Even before the steel tariffs were imposed, people reacted to the idea of tariffs, and that caused businesses to have to change their plans.”

Historically, NAFTA has resulted in incredibly tightly integrated supply chains in certain industries, particularly the automotive industry. “We do a lot of assembly of automotive in northern Mexico for final sales here in the United States or in Canada, but before you get to that final assembly in those plants, you’ve got components for parts that move across the Mexican/US border four or five times before we get to the final vehicle”, says Tom.

“Imagine what it would be like to impose tariffs in both directions four or five times, and the inspections that would have to go with it, and the country of origin verification that would have to be performed. If NAFTA [fails], it’ll be incredibly disruptive in terms of the auto industry here in North America.” 

Two tips for turning disruption into opportunity

  1. Have a Plan B: “Every good category manger has a Strategy A for expected economic conditions, and Strategy B if there’s an economic downturn or something happens in the commodity markets. You have to have those playbooks thought through and scripted … if you haven’t done that, get to work on that immediately.”
  2. Be prepared to react fast: “If you see a dramatic change, you need to be able to respond to it in the moment. The advantage goes to the company, the organisation, or the individual who can react fastest during times of great change. If you’re late in moving, any potential benefit to be realised will be captured by someone else. Make sure you’ve got that playbook well defined.”

“The advantage goes to the company, the organisation, or the individual who can react fastest during times of great change.”

Tom tells the story of a CPO working at LG Electronics during the 2008-9 recession, who was concerned about securing semiconductors. They were aware that a recession would lead to a drop in consumer demand for electronics and hence a demand for semiconductor chips, so he visited his suppliers in Asia, then managed to convince his executive committee to buy $9 billion worth of semiconductors because the price would never be as low again. LG subsequently posted record profits for 2009 due to that CPO’s business acumen, his understanding of the spot market for semiconductors, and doing his homework. This is how you respond to disruptive events.

“[Procurement needs to] see through the common perception, recognise market opportunities and the dislocation between price and demand, and seize opportunities to turn a perceived threat into a great opportunity for a huge bottom line impact.”


Tuesdays with Tom is a 10-part podcast series featuring exclusive insights from ISM CEO, Tom Derry. Register now to receive an alert whenever a new podcast is released.