By Andy Beth Miller

Running a business is tough, and not just in regards to the realms of logistics or finances, but emotionally, too. It can be daunting as a business owner to determine what is the best course of action moving forward in order to keep competitive in today’s ever changing marketplace. Nowadays, the bar of success is set quite high, no longer measured by simply being able to stay afloat and reach your bottom line and target profit margins every quarter, but instead, it is measured by keeping up with the Joneses, who are constantly moving forward with each passing day, in leaps and bounds.

It is exactly for this reason that the daunting aspect of it all can become overwhelming, paralyzing even, leading some business owners to simply stay stuck in the same old patterns of what they know rather than going out on a limb and changing things up, especially if they are unsure about what even needs to be addressed. In such situations, wouldn’t it be amazing if these business owners and stakeholders could simply find a business partner that would come alongside them and magically take the reins in regards to finding solutions and developing simple steps to pave the way to greater success, and even better, success that is sustainable over the long-term?

I think we could all agree that the answer to this question is a resounding yes, but then we have to ask, do such proverbial unicorns even exist? Surprisingly, again, the answer is yes, and I actually had the pleasure of sitting down with an expert this week, who not only made me believe that such a magical business partnership really is possible, but explained that it does not arrive in the package that one might first imagine…

Jonathan Townsley, a successful expert in the procurement field, sat down with us to give us priceless insight on how procurement can actually be a business partner of sorts, coming alongside business owners to help us reach our goals and improve our business from a holistic approach, thus improving all aspects of our company. In fact, Townsley is adamant when it comes to how vital it is to realize that procurement is not simply about placing an order or buying something. Instead, he says that it’s really about “enabling business transformation and business improvement.”

Here is where seeing procurement as a proverbial business partner comes into play. Townsley provides some key areas where procurement can work for you in order to do just this, propelling your company forward and creating an easy flow toward better efficiency and greater success.

If you ask Townsley, he will tell you that he could have very easily have gone down a different career path. “I always tell people, ‘I think I missed my calling. I should have been a teacher,’” he explains. He speaks in jest, but the more we converse, the more I come to understand that Townsley, in his procurement role, actually is a teacher of sorts, as education is one of the fundamental key elements in what he does for his clients on a daily basis. In fact, according to him, it’s where all of the magic happens, “It really is quite a bit of education, taking people through the journey, and letting them understand what is possible.”

Also according to Townsley, part of that education fleshes itself out in the modality of mentorship. He brings this illustration home by pointing to a collaboration from his past, during a time when he had engaged in work with Best Buy, where he dealt with Store Operations and had constant contact with colleagues, and more importantly, customers. “Best Buy had a tagline, ‘Let’s talk about what is possible,’ and that really resonated with me because that is the way that procurement works today. You talk with people, you listen to what is troubling them and what are their challenges and opportunities, and then you figure out what is possible together,” he explains. And, it is really that sense of togetherness in tackling any obstacle that is the crux of developing a successful business partnership with procurement.

Feeling enlightened, and excited by the doors of opportunity for improvement that such an idea seems to burst open, I ask Townsley to give some specific examples on how exactly procurement can come in and take care of business, literally. He immediately provided a great example, stating, “In situations where suppliers/providers aren’t performing well and are not giving you the most value for your money spent, procurement can help get them well again.”

It really is quite a bit of education, taking people through the journey, and letting them understand what is possible.

Townsley

Townsley continues, reiterating that there is much more to procurement than meets the eye, “Also, regarding businesses that are considering a strategic change to bring more customer satisfaction, procurement can drive that change.” Regarding specific departments, Townsley shares how procurement can help troubleshoot in those areas as well, stating, “One example would be if Engineering and HR are having trouble bringing on contract workers for an important project. Procurement can help communicate the need, the importance, and value of partnership with the right staffing agency suppliers.”

We are then pointed to an area that is critical, efficiency. Specifically, Townsley reveals how procurement can improve efficiency via streamlining. “Consider that a company’s Operations is struggling to find efficient ways to bring critical components to their manufacturing line from offshore suppliers. Procurement can help to streamline the process.” Then, Townsley points to an issue that is undeniably affecting us all, while also providing a light at the end of the tunnel via promises that procurement has the remedy for what ails us. “When technology trends are pushing engineering and product management teams to the edge, procurement can connect the most innovative suppliers to take advantage of their abilities and skills that will future proof the company’s products.”

After providing such an abundance of applicable examples of just how procurement can fill that business partner role, I was left wondering with some awe, could it really be that simple? Townsley assures us that it is, while pointing out that what really is required from stakeholders is openness, as well as a willingness to change, bravely taking the leap and partnering up with procurement, committing to seeing procurement as a true business partner. Basically, Townsley’s simple request shadows the well-known lyrics to an iconic song by the same name, “Don’t Box Me In,” as procurement is, and can do, so much more than purchase.