By Andy Beth Miller
I attend a fair number of conferences with procurement professionals. At some point, discussions turn to “getting a seat at the table” for projects at one’s company. In this respect, I have apparently been lucky. I’ve had most of the access I’ve wanted, most of the time. Or is it luck? Here are a few skills I believe the best procurement organizations possess that make them desired contributors to their companies.
Gretchen Moe knows about wellness, and running. In fact, as Director of Procurement for New York Road Runners, Inc., you could say that Moe has made the state of wellbeing her business.
These days, Moe makes it a point to incorporate sustainable purchasing within her procurement business strategy, the wellness of her company being the ultimate goal. For Moe, taking a holistic approach is the only way to go. She explains how ‘winning’ in her niche of the procurement game is really about reinventing the way we look at the bottom line, making it less about every penny saved and more about the big picture.
“For me, it’s about making sustainability a significant part of the evaluating criteria. It’s not likely to be the least expensive option you find during sourcing or when it is a focus in a service contract proposal. So, you really need to make sure you’re weighing the long-term goals against the shorter term,” said Moe.
While she sympathizes with those who have a bit of sticker shock when comparing prices, she urges us to push past that initial price tag. “It’s usually the pricing factor that trips people up – especially when they have to make the case to upper management, who often focus primarily on the bottom line and turn around on ROI. I’m lucky to work for a company that thinks holistically about purchasing,” she said.
But, what if your company isn’t “there” yet, and like us, might need some convincing? “I think it’s important, early on, to communicate the goal [and importance] of focusing on sustainable purchasing. It doesn’t have to be a one note message, but be clear about your priorities. It’s also going to look differently based on the category of spend you are working with. You might be in a chemical factory or a high fashion retail industry – sustainability will look differently across those areas. Make it your goal to seek out solutions that will work for yours,” she advised.
I asked Moe why sustainable purchasing is so important to a company’s success. She didn’t mince words: “At this point, I’m not sure I even think of [sustainable purchasing] as a means to a company’s success – it’s simply the right thing to do. I do think that the economics of sustainability are critically important. We’re going to see a huge expansion in the industry of environmentally-aware solutions. But again, it’s the right thing to do, the forward-thinking thing to do, and if you’re not thinking about it now, you’re way behind the curve.”
As Moe is talking, I can’t help but think of the popular—and to-the-point—brand slogan of Nike. “Just Do It!” they say (with an exclamation point!). Moe would definitely agree.
We asked Moe for some surefire pointers to do just that… well, you get what we mean… The following are five surprisingly simple ways to take that first step:
Look for best practices within and outside your own industry
Be open-minded to new ideas
Think long term, then re-evaluate goals and target spending
Be an ambassador
When asked to elaborate on being an ambassador, Moe simply stated that means to “figure out what it will take to get other people on board with your plan.” And then, you guessed it, Just Do It.
Her excitement about her job and the passion that she has for procurement is palpable as we speak, so I have to ask Moe just how she first became interested in the procurement industry. She answered readily, “I fell into it quite by accident twenty years ago at a large pharmaceutical company, and it turned into something I felt comfortable doing. It’s the opposite of sales. I would be a disaster at sales!”
As I listened to her answer and heard the laughter in her voice, I had to chuckle to myself. She may not think that she would be great at sales, but she had sure sold me on this idea—in just a half-hour interview. But, as she seems to maybe not know that yet (who can read minds?), she offered some encouraging advice on how to navigate any hiccups along the way.
“With any burgeoning industry, not every ‘great new idea’ is going to work out just as you expected. But you learn from your mistakes and move on. Take the time to test things out as much as you can in advance, and keep up with the tons of material available out there on the subject,” she said.
Moe then crosses the finish line of this interview, and wins by a mile, with just one quote: “Fred Lebow once said that ‘Training is like putting money in a bank. You deposit money, then you can take it out.’ I think that’s true of a procurement focus on sustainability. You’re putting a deposit down on the health of the world. Surely that’s a comparable goal for any company whose focus is on the health of everyone in it.”