BY ALASTAIR ROY OF ARO PROCUREMENT
Spring has sprung and the hospitality sector is gradually emerging from its enforced cocooning. Signs from the scientific community are hopeful that lockdowns will not be required again and I am sure the majority of cogent thinking individuals will maintain a collective fingers crossed mentality for some time to come on that front. We can only hope for a cessation of the seemingly endless media loop of picking over the pandemic entrails to be replaced with a new upward trajectory of optimism for our businesses and communities.
So much has changed but the essentials of running your business remain the same as before and the principles of Procurement – right quantity, right quality, right place, right time and right price, remain reassuringly constant. However, that doesn’t mean everything around those tenets has to remain the same. Now is the time to breathe new energy into your supply chains, reinvigorate and reimagine your supplier relationships to draw on the concept of ‘building back better’. It would be easy to convert that phrase into a cliché but it is important to consider the sentiment behind it and find ways to improve all aspects of your business in Procurement and beyond.
Start with a review of your supplier spend for a period of time that you believe best represents your normal level of trading – the optimistic viewpoint has to be that those days will return. Many of your suppliers will have been incredibly supportive throughout the past year and this is important to consider. However, business is business and all suppliers are alive to this fact and will appreciate that you are rebuilding the foundations of your business which will ultimately help them in the long term. They are in the same boat and a nuanced deployment of soft skills all round will enable parties to reach a new understanding with existing or new suppliers to your business.
These soft skills relate to behavioural and emotional intelligence, communication abilities in both written and oral form and relationship management. Soft skills will help fast-track connections between suppliers and your own internal stakeholders. Always aim to strike a balance with soft skills and the more traditional, solid, procurement skills to better understand a situation from an emotional and behavioural perspective – then adapt your style accordingly. When approaching matters authentically and full of integrity – i.e. with a sense of wholeness – you will find that your objectives generally fall into place with a supplier who best fits your business.
When you have scrutinised your supplier spend in terms of spend versus risk to identify the potential for consolidation and minimisation of off-contract purchases, commence the tendering or benchmarking process to shape your supply chain and simultaneously create operational efficiencies. It’s always alluring to look at the high value spend but equally important is to look at high frequency, low value tail spend, with a mindset to consolidate and challenge why purchases in this category have not been contained within the higher value supplied spends.
Opportunities will always exist to make savings through negotiation, altered specifications – with a focus on continuous improvement when any changes are considered – or through a more sustainable approach to delivering the desired cost and quality outcomes from your procurement decisions. Combining solid and soft skills in the fragility of the coming months will help set you for success in this new and hopefully exciting, post pandemic era.