By Ronald Hedley

“Belle rushed over to the Beast as the final petal was about to fall from the rose. His time was just about to run out. ‘I love you!’ whispered Belle, breaking the enchantress spell. Magically, the wounded Beast turned back into a healthy, handsome prince. All of the objects in the castle became human beings again, too, and Belle and the prince lived happily ever after.”

(Teitelbaum, Michael. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. A Golden Book. New York. 1991.)

And, just like that, the life of young Amanda Prochaska was changed forever. “I loved the movie, so I decided to learn French in high school. I did so well in French that I received a scholarship in college. That took me to France for a while and helped me get my first job,” Prochaska explained. Her first job was with Schneider Electric. “Because they were a French-owned company, I decided to go to their website. They had a buyer position open. I went through the interview process, and I was offered the job that same day. I have been in procurement ever since,” Prochaska said.

Just like Belle’s in Beauty and the Beast, Prochaska’s story has a happy ending. She is currently the President and co-founder of High Performance Procurement.

As we all know, the fairy tale mentioned above is… Well… A fairy tale. When one starts her own business, it is not a happy ending. However, if one is fortunate, it can be a happy beginning. There is certainly no prince charming to kiss, and no one waves a magic wand of success. Starting and operating a business takes endless hours of hard work.

Why did Prochaska start her own business? Prochaska shared that her motivation began three and a half years ago, when she attended a Women’s Leadership Conference. One of the speakers at the conference was Judi Holler.

“She did a presentation about developing yourself. The premise was that if you’re not continuing to learn and expanding your horizons, then you’re not going to be able to develop your team and the people working for you,” Prochaska explained.

We were using their methodology with our suppliers. We partnered with a procurement organization and identified the suppliers that they would like to target for this type of program. Then, we invited them in for breakfast or lunch.

Prochaska had been singularly focused on running the day to day business of the company where she was employed. “I was not spending time on self-development. It was a huge kick in the [lower region],” she said.

After attending the conference, Prochaska read Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. Prochaska recalls, “There was a stat in the book that resonated with me. It said that 95% of retirees surveyed by the Social Security Administration said that they had a mediocre life. I was shocked by that.”

She continued to explain, “It impacted me from my team perspective, thinking about my team members that I used to lead. Personally, I wanted to be part of the 5%.”

The suppliers get an opportunity to network with procurement and with each other, which is always important. Then, we introduce them to the coaching program.

Prochaska was motivated to dig deeper. “I was really intrigued by the concept of self-improvement, so I started reading everything that I could on the subject.” An epiphany ensued. “I started to understand that your thought processes and your faith in yourself drive a lot of the outcomes in your life,” she said.

Thus, the concrete was poured. “I realized that I shouldn’t be afraid of risk. All these things helped me build a strong foundation to make a change in my life. I just decided to start my own business,” Prochaska explained.

She was then able to incorporate experiences gained, as well as programs used at her previous job, MGM Resorts International, into her new company (High Performance Procurement). At MGM, Prochaska had partnered with Cycle Success Institute, a company which, since 2001, has been helping small and medium-sized companies increase their overall performance.

Prochaska explained how COSi influenced her startup company, “We were using their methodology with our suppliers. We partnered with a procurement organization and identified the suppliers that they would like to target for this type of program. Then, we invited them in for breakfast or lunch.”

The Discovery Phase

Connecting suppliers and procurement teams over a meal has its benefits, but the goal is much loftier. “The suppliers get an opportunity to network with procurement and with each other, which is always important. Then, we introduce them to the coaching program,” Prochaska said.

According to Prochaska, supplier buy-in is the key. “The supplier can choose whether or not they want to participate. Their decision to participate is critically important because we want the supplier to be motivated to improve.”

If the supplier chooses to participate, they go through a 12-month coaching program. So far, about 40% of the invited suppliers have chosen to participate in the program.

The process doesn’t end there. “The tiger teams will go on for as long as the company wants. In fact, what we see most often is that the tiger teams live well beyond the 12-month program. They get built into their culture,” Prochaska explained.

The Implementation Phase

Prochaska explained the next steps, “We then help the suppliers discover potential opportunities within their business. Those can be innovation, marketing, process efficiencies, leadership gaps, employee morale opportunities, whatever is holding the business back from high performing.”

She continued, “We take them through an implementation phase. We bring people together to work on small tiger teams. They do six-week sprints, solving a particular problem. It’s quick, agile like a tiger, and it builds collaboration and employee engagement.”

The process doesn’t end there. “The tiger teams will go on for as long as the company wants. In fact, what we see most often is that the tiger teams live well beyond the 12-month program. They get built into their culture,” Prochaska explained.

The Alignment Phase

Prochaska explained how they move on from coaching to aligning the supplier’s Key Performance Indicators, “Most companies that we engage with have a very limited metric. They really haven’t thought through how to measure the business. Is their organizational structure correct? Are there any employee training programs that are needed? That is the alignment stage.”

The Sustaining Phase

The last of the four-step process deals with sustainment. The essential questions follow: What are the leadership capability gaps? What is the state of the communication within the company? What is the governance model? How is the company forecasting and budgeting? Prochaska explained, “It’s the leadership suite of activities that we focus on to make sure that the supplier is truly high performing.”

The methodology that was borrowed from Cycle Success Institute has proven to be successful. Prochaska explained the results, “It teaches the owners of these companies to work on the business versus in the business. What we find most often is that owners are so busy trying to execute that they don’t take a step back to think about what the business doing, or ask themselves what is their strategy?”

Prochaska is proud of the fact that, after the training, because the supplier performs in a more consistent manner, their performance increases. “They start bringing new ideas to the table, new innovation to procurement, and they form a more robust relationship with procurement,” she said.

Improved supplier/procurement relationships are vital. “This is a deeply rooted relationship that procurement is building with the suppliers because of the gratitude that they have for the experience,” she explained.

I would like to see procurement departments think of themselves as the ultimate problem-solvers for the companies that they
serve. There are all kinds of new opportunities.

And there is one more little perk. According to Prochaska, “You get great results with very little investment because you are not paying for the program, the suppliers are. All procurement does is introduce the program to their suppliers.”

We are looking to expand into the Private Equity space, helping PE firms obtain dramatically higher ROIs from the businesses they are investing in.

She also has a transcendental, long-term vision. “I would like to see procurement departments think of themselves as the ultimate problem solvers for the companies that they serve. There are all kinds of new opportunities,” Prochaska explained before posing a few rhetorical questions for self-evaluation: “How do we streamline work? How do we engage others to drive value for our organizations?”

Prochaska ended our interview with this bit of advice, “If procurement departments can position themselves as the go-to places to solve problems, then we will drive ultimate value for the organizations that we serve.”

So, if procurement is the Beast and Prochaska is the Beauty, then perhaps happily ever after is not just a fairy tale after all.