From yesterday into the future - with corporate shapers in purchasing

The future of purchasing - an extremely important topic for me that I have been dealing with on a daily basis for a long time. As early as 2006, I dealt intensively with the role that purchasing will have to play in the future in the article "From Price Pusher to Company Shaper". And today, too, this aspect is crucial for purchasing as a success factor - you can find out exactly how in this blog.
At the beginning of my career in purchasing, at the end of the 90s, I was a price-setter myself. Well-educated, dynamic in a smart business outfit and with a laptop under my arm, I came to meetings - always with the figures, data and facts at hand and was a match for many an older managing director. The company I worked for at the time wanted me to have exactly this appearance. But even today I observe that many in the top management of companies are of the opinion that buyers also have to be price pushers. | Olivier Le Moal

Ice-cold price suppressor or modern company designer?

One day, wearing my "purchasing gear" again, I marched purposefully into the meeting room. But after just a few seconds I realised that something would be different today. Sitting across from me was a seasoned CEO in a suit who ran a company with 200 employees. However, he was pale, the sweat of anxiety was on his forehead and he looked nervous. As a price-setter at the time, I was prepared for everything - except humanity. When I looked at the manager, something clicked. I realised at that moment that buyers need to move away from being price pushers to being company shapers. "If I don't get this order today, I will have to lay off 150 people," he said to me. That day we didn't negotiate, we talked. And I became a company designer.

Being a company designer - what does that mean?

Together with the managing director, I looked for alternatives and solutions to help this business partner in need. In the company, I did not only make friends with this, but was accused of letting myself be "harnessed to the cart". But it is also up to the buyers to shape the company's reputation with their behaviour, as well as their own and the suppliers' future. Yesterday's price pushers or buyers, as I like to call them, can be recognised by certain characteristics. Feel free to think of your buyers in the following thoughts.

Bringing yesterday's buyers into the future

If you find yourself nodding in agreement with the following statements, or if you find that your purchasing department is doing the same, then it is time to change something. I would be happy to assist you in this process. So, hand on heart, how is it in your company - do the buyers only have Excel tables in their heads? Do they not know the end product and do they not care about the quality? Do they buy too expensive or too cheap? Does your purchasing department always have conflicts with other departments? Do your buyers suffer from a lack of creativity? Have your buyers never heard of strategies? Are language and social skills lacking? Are your buyers unable to present? And last but not least - is sales more important than purchasing in your company? If you agree with two or three of these statements, then something may be going wrong in your company when it comes to future orientation in purchasing. I don't want to do any purchasing bashing now, but I want to show clearly how buyers are experienced in your own company. If, for example, you as a manager notice that your buyers are in conflict with other departments, then you should build bridges instead of digging trenches.

Challenge and encourage - the classic

If you notice that your buyers are buying poor quality or do not know the end product, then you need an action plan that for example provides for the buyers to go directly to production and work there. If you operate internationally, you also have to know the language - this is where you as a manager are called upon to support your employees. Constantly challenging and promoting is also a way to move purchasing into the future.

Sales is No. 1?

When I talk about purchasing departments or companies that are still stuck in yesterday, one argument is that in them sales is seen as much more important than purchasing. It is important for top management and executives to strengthen purchasing internally. There has to be a change in thinking at all levels, because all too often purchasing is left alone and serves as a scapegoat for the others. Of course, sales is important, it is on the market and looks after the customers who, as we know, bring in the money. But purchasing is also on the market. And at the end of the day, the behaviour of the buyers is also reflected in the reputation of the company, which is enormously important for the customers, especially in times of crisis. So it pays to put purchasing on a par with sales.

Purchasing of the future - an outlook

Topics concerning the future of purchasing are among my favourite. When I think of the buyer of the future, I see a clear picture. He is a manager of his commodity group, takes personal responsibility, masters intercultural communication methods. In short, he is an all-rounder and an ambassador for his company. Looking further into the future, I see agile, cross-departmental project teams. A buyer who convinces with negotiating skills and humanity - working from wherever he is needed and using the digital possibilities to his and the company's advantage.

My appeal to the buyer of the future is crystal clear: away from the price suppressor of the past to the innovative, versatile and creative company designer.

Do you also want to lead your purchasing department safely into the future and make it a real success factor in your company? Then let us talk. You can now find out more about this and other topics for future-proof strategies in purchasing in my brand-new podcast – listen now.