By Andy Beth Miller

 

We all know Henry Ford as the world famous business magnate who founded the Ford Motor Company. In fact, many of us drive around in his four-wheeled creations on a daily basis. However, while we may know his name, few of us know what truly made this automobile mogul tick, much less what made his company thrive.

Although Ford was obviously unable to meet for an interview in order to enlighten us, we were delighted that, amid her busy schedule, performing a plethora of duties as SVP of Procurement and Real Estate at Dentsu Aegis Network, Sabrina Traskos graciously sat down with us to delve into the sometimes baffling world of procurement, while even giving a nod to Mr. Ford, as well the diva Janet Jackson herself. But more on that that later…

I lead off by asking Traskos her thoughts on my favorite Ford quote: “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” Traskos offers a profound and relevant perspective on Mr. Ford’s philosophy.

“Every time I hear this quote, I don’t picture cars. I picture rowing sculls going horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. To be a truly successful CPO, you have to get a lot of peo-ple rowing in the same forward direction,” shares Traskos, who goes on to specify that, in order for this rowing team to perform well, everyone from subject matter experts to lawyers, project managers, suppliers, accountants and the whole procurement team must move and operate as one fluid entity.

With so many roles involved, this may seem a nearly impossible feat. However, Traskos says this isn’t beyond our reach, or at least it doesn’t have to be…

“If you communicate to everyone what the destination is at the beginning, and keep doing that consistently throughout the project, you have a much better chance of getting where you want to be,” she says. So, tell us more Sabrina, where should we row—or go—from here?

Traskos doesn’t beat around the bush (she obviously knows a cry for help when she sees one). Instead, she jumps right in, giving us the top four traits of a superlative CPO:

Diplomacy:

“Procurement has to apply principles consistently to make things work across a lot of different types of stakeholders. You have to be deliberate in your messaging, but deliver it in a way that resonates with all types of teams.”

Inspiration:

“It would be nice if every supplier could deliver exactly what you need on time, but we live in a world of changing trade treaties, corporate social responsibility, and an emphasis on delivering profits to shareholders. So, you have to be able to guide all the different participants through all stages of procurement in a way that encourages them to do more than just meet the SLAs.”

Focus:

“At all times, your eye must be on delivering your savings on time and in a way that is meaningful to the business. You also have to balance that with flexibility to help the business as changes manifest.”

Tenacity:

“Not everyone you meet has had positive procurement experiences, so they may be reluctant to partner with your team. A lot of people don’t even understand that procurement helps the business’ bottom line. You have to commit to showing them the value of procurement and educating them on how and when to collaborate.”

Now that we’d been given the personal qualities to focus on exuding, we wanted to know what exactly we need to focus on doing in order to shine as CPOs. Traskos shared these insightful tips:

Pump up your PR and Branding Efforts:

Taking a cue from diva Janet Jackson, whose lyrics ask, “What have you done for me lately?” Traskos urges us to make sure our clients know just that—what we can do (and have done) for them. “You have to let people know what they are getting out of their procurement relationship, or they will stop putting time into it.”

Implement Plans for Compliance:

“This is where I see companies with mostly indirect spend or lots of M&A activity falling short. Your team can negotiate the best deals with the lowest pricing, but it doesn’t help the company if people are doing their own thing. Compliance is a key tenet to savings, and you have to project manage the adoption of new suppliers into the purchasing system.”

Listen:

“I have seen new CPOs come in and promise savings, only to roll out the exact same plan as the last one. No stakeholder will buy in. You need to listen to your col-leagues, then see what works for them and what doesn’t. No one will partner with you if they think you are arrogant and incapable of hearing their needs or working towards their goals.”

Be Strategic from the Start:

”You need to know exactly where your CEO and CFO want to go in the short run and in the long run. Your plans and negotiations should push them towards those goals.”

Ford also said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do…” So, we’d better get rowing.