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What really defines your effectiveness is how you handle problems. September 1, 2011

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Accountability, Business Improvement, Procurement.
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A long time ago I was taught that the true measure of leadership was all about how you handled adversity. Project Management and Supply Chain professionals are faced with difficult situations all the time (that is the beauty of the job) and knowing what to do and what not to do is key. After all, everyone acts the way they do for a reason. Most of the time it is “perceptions” that people have either about themselves or others that are the root cause of conflict. And if you get under the hood and discover those perceptions, you will be able to solve most any challenge.

Last night, I attended an Institute for Supply Management (ISM) group had the pleasure of listening to Rhonda Jones Sparks, who spoke to us about leadership development and in particular how to facilitate problem solving and problem ownership. Rhonda has been published with Stephen Covey (Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) and Brian Tracy (National Sales Trainer and author of Turbo Strategies).

The best takeaway from the presentation that will benefit you and your organization was how Rhonda defined the stages of problem solving. You can find Rhonda at http://www.rjsleadershipcoaching.com

Stage 1: Externalizing – Oftentimes this is the part you see when a co-worker is venting about the job. Externalizing is natural but it offers only temporary relief and it distresses others. Sometimes, people get stuck in this stage and continually live in the past or feel like they have been victimized. Everyone has a choice when faced with a problem. The real problem, however, is not the event that just happened, rather it is our “perception” of the options available to us. It is important to use active listening skills during this stage and not offer any solutions.

When faced with a problem, you have three directions that can be taken:

1) You can influence the situation by doing something to change the circumstances.
2) You can accept the situation by creating an internal change within yourself – a letting go
3) You can remove yourself from the situation entirely.

Stage 2: Personalizing – You make a conscious effort to take ownership of the problem and solve or effect change. This empowering step creates hope and shifts emphasis from problem to solution. Brainstorming possible solutions will help the person weigh the cost of the options.

Stage 3: Personalized Deficit – This is the one obstacle or issue which is keeping an individual from moving forward (the real problem). You ask, “What are you not willing to do right now, that if you did, you’d feel better and begin to move toward a solution?”

Stage 4: Personalized Action: Talk through the issues and create solutions. Make sure to answer who, what, when, where and how.

People who don’t facilitate problem solving have the potential for making your workplace into an unhappy, miserable and toxic environment. So if you see someone getting stuck – maybe they are in denial, have a blind spot or a behind-the-scenes enabler, step up and see what you can do to help!

Yours in procurement,
Steve

Steve Gordon specializes in procurement, logistics, cost saving and business process improvement initiatives – call him today at 865.356.3575

Remember what the Aberdeen Group says……….

“For a typical enterprise, it takes an increase
of $5 in sales to equal the impact of
a $1 reduction in procurement costs.”

Solutions is happy to complete a complimentary audit of your firm’s expeditures. Just call or write to get started.

If you want to learn how to save money on a particular commodity, just send me a comment or email me directly. I will do my best to answer your request in a future post.

Respectfully,

Steve Gordon
Senior Consultant
Solutions Business Consultants
http://www.costavoidance.org
__________________________________
”Bringing Service, Value, and Efficiency to the Supply Chain”

steve@costavoidance.org
(865) 356-3575
Skype: stevegordskype
Blog: https://innovativeconsultant.wordpress.com/
Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevegordonthecostsavingsguy

Savings Corner – Trimming Your Print/Copy/Ad Specialties/Design Costs March 10, 2011

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Accountability, Business Improvement, Increase Profitability, Internet, Marketing, Procurement, Savings Corner.
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One of the low hanging fruit baskets of savings that you find in almost every business is printing and its related cousins. This broad category includes everything from design, printing, copying, advertising specialities and the internet.
COPYING: Let’s start with copying. If your office is using inkjet printers – especially lexmark or even some laser printers, chances are you are getting eaten alive in cartridge costs. You have several alternatives – First, if you are in love with your inkjets or laser printer, shop around for toner – hint – the big box office supply places are not the place to shop – we have achieved savings of 30% or more by partnering with smaller distributors and giving them a price target to hit. Second, rent a copy machine (or machine) – most copier companies will rent you a machine, provide toner and guaranteed service for a little over a penny per click on black and white. Color will (of course) be somewhat more expensive and is based on volume but it will still be less expensive than your inkjet or laser. Third, do not buy your paper from the office supply store – buy it from a paper merchant or better still – leverage your printing supplier to provide copy paper at their cost in exchange for your printing business. Fourth, if you have large copying jobs – do not take it to your local Fedex Office – I love the guys that work there but we have been able to save 50% or more using copy wholesalers. If you must use Fedex Office then get a discount card from the manager – you can save 15% or more with that little jewel.
DESIGN: Graphic Design staffing is size dependent on your business – that will determine whether you can afford to do design in-house, use freelancers or employ an outside agency. Regardless of who does your design work, demand copies of both the final files and working files. The reason for this is two-fold – 1) You can make your own versions/revisions without paying anyone and 2) If the designer disappears or the agency goes under, you are protected from having to recreate a catalog or web site from scratch. With the exception of very small businesses, I advocate in-house design and conversion of all paper documents to .pdf or web-based forms. If you can’t design from scratch, learn how to make changes – we have trained numerous companies and the learning curve is not as steep as you might think.
PRINTING: Nothing has become more competitive than printing prices whether you are printing digital, offset, half-web, full-web…. you get the picture. Most companies fail to obtain competitive prices by not bidding out jobs deep and wide – deep because you need to poll a statistically significant number of printers (and that doesn’t mean 3) and wide because you must gain understanding of the printer’s equipment capabilities and how you can leverage your job to take advantage of their production sweet spot. Never give all of your business to a single printer and require that they bid out every job every time – this keeps them honest. Don’t fall for the trap that only such and such printer can do a quality job or that your co-worker’s next door neighbor owns a print shop and will give you a “great” deal. The best part about purchasing printing is that printing prices are relatively easy to reverse engineer since equipment speeds are published, labor is relatively constant and the major ingredient “paper” is easy to source and price.
ADVERTISING SPECIALTIES: This is another easy one. Once you understand the industry pricing codes, you can easily negotiate from a position of power if you choose to use a specialty rep. company. Or if you are adventurous, you can deal direct with most specialty companies because they would rather make a sale to you then no sale at all. There are a lot of variations – I have negotiated cost-plus deals with a rep. company because my client didn’t have time to source. I have also purchased shirts direct from the manufacturer (US and China) and then had them contract printed or embroidered. The direction that I go in is oftentimes dictated by my clients internal resources, the size of the job and the amount of savings desired by the client.
INTERNET: Much harder to explain in a short blog but here’s my attempt. Web design should keep your company’s look and feel which means that you can repurpose (not re-design) your graphics which can be done very inexpensively. Most importantly, I can’t stress enough that you (or your marketing person) need to spend a day researching competitors web sites as well as sites that contain the functionality that you would desire in your own site. Make a list of the components that you like, create goals for your site, a statement of work (fancy talk for a brief describing everything you want the site to do) and then bid these out. Not to an agency necessarily – we use a combination of project managers, freelancers, local talent and foreign programmers. The delivered product should be well-documented so that anyone that understands HTML, CSS, PHP, Java, etc. can make programmatic changes. For larger sites, a content management system should be utilized so that you or your wordsmiths can update the site without a degree in computer science. Finally, be smart about promoting your site. You can go broke trying to create traffic and once you bid out a site, you will get bombarded by hundreds of companies that swear they can make your site a success. The truth is that there are recognized companies who have already figured out optimization, lead generation, nurturing, email campaigns, affiliate programs and the like. Regardless of how you approach your site, spend time researching and (please) don’t reinvent the wheel.

Yours in procurement,
Steve

Steve Gordon specializes in procurement and logistics cost saving initiatives – call him today at 865.356.3575

Remember what the Aberdeen Group says……….

“For a typical enterprise, it takes an increase
of $5 in sales to equal the impact of
a $1 reduction in procurement costs.”

Solutions is happy to complete a complimentary audit of your firm’s expeditures. Just call or write to get started.

If you want to learn how to save money on a particular commodity, just send me a comment or email me directly. I will do my best to answer your request in a future post.

Respectfully,

Steve Gordon
Senior Consultant
Solutions Business Consultants
http://www.costavoidance.org
__________________________________
”Bringing Service, Value, and Efficiency to the Supply Chain”

steve@costavoidance.org
(865) 356-3575
Skype: stevegordskype
Blog: https://innovativeconsultant.wordpress.com/
Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevegordonthecostsavingsguy

Travel and Expense Policy – part one February 12, 2011

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Business Improvement, Increase Profitability, Procurement, Travel Policy.
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I have had quite a few requests for a travel and expense policy. Before I go into the philosophy and nuts and bolts, let me make a few comments.

First, most companies have severely curtailed travel, both for internal group meetings as well as attendance at training, seminars, and supplier visits. I am actually glad that a good number of these trips have been curtailed. With communication mechanisms like Apple iChat, Skype, Webex, Go-to-Meeting and other low-cost, highly effective tools, the goals and accomplishments of an in-person trip can be achieved without an unnecessary hit on the pocketbook. Why send three people to the same training? Send one and have him/her train the others – or film the training and put it into your training library for future hires.

Let’s look at a hypothetical scenario: A few years ago a IT executive wanted to send two of his personnel to make a presentation at an overseas conference. I challenged the $10,000 cost of the trip (which probably cost more than $15,000 if you count the loss of two IT resources for 10 days) for three reasons. 1) If you are invited to present, the body sponsoring the presentation should have covered the cost; 2) the virtual communication technology available at the time could have easily have achieved the goal; 3) the economy was showing signs of decline and it would send a negative message to the rest of the company (besides being fiscally irresponsible). I was told that this presentation was not only prestigious for the company but it would also serve as a reward for the employees. Actually, the company did issue a press release, however, both employees left the company before the year was out. There was no measurable ROI or any direct benefits to the company. Anyway, I lost the argument but would still make the same plea today.

Enough pontificating, let us talk about what you want to accomplish with a good travel and expense policy.

First, create some goals and objectives for your policy:

1) To fairly compensate the traveler and provide for his/her safety and comfort away from home
2) To ensure company resources are managed responsibly, ethically and legally and minimize costs when possible
3) To ensure consistency in travel administration, yet provide reasonable flexibility
4) When in doubt, use common sense.
5) Apply the same rules to everyone regardless of position.
6) The traveler should neither lose nor gain financially as a result of business travel

Think about these and let me know if I left anything out – I will follow up shortly with more on this in Part II.

Yours in Supply Chain,

Steve

Remember what the Aberdeen Group says……….

“For a typical enterprise, it takes an increase
of $5 in sales to equal the impact of
a $1 reduction in procurement costs.”

If you have a topic of interest you would like me to discuss in our blog, “in-person”, or see a typo, just send me a comment or email me directly. I would like to hear from you!

Respectfully,

Steve Gordon
Senior Consultant
Solutions Business Consultants
http://www.costavoidance.org
__________________________________
”Bringing Service, Value, and Efficiency to the Supply Chain”

steve@costavoidance.org
(865) 356-3575
Skype: stevegordskype
Blog: https://innovativeconsultant.wordpress.com/
Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevegordonthecostsavingsguy

The Savings Corner – Part I – Cleaning up Janitorial Spend April 5, 2010

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Accountability, Increase Profitability, Procurement, Savings Corner.
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I have received more than a three dozen requests from executives who want to know how to drive instant or (near instant) savings for their company’s bottom line. 40% have come from CFO’s, and the rest from President’s and CEO’s. The Savings Corner will detail lowest prevailing pricing for a variety of commodities. And not just for Fortune 1000 businesses but for businesses from 10 to 100 employees.

Let’s start with an easy one, janitorial. First, don’t fall into a trap by signing up with a pure janitorial company. They have no way for them to take a small 10-15% profit without going out of business. Sure, they will razzle dazzle you with their “cleaning systems” that mount on the wall and their claims that their products will clean 40% more than the household equivalent. Besides, most of the cleaning systems that I have experienced over the years have a proprietary mount that will only allow that company’s product to be used with it – locking you into an overpriced solution. Best practices disallow proprietary solutions unless there is a huge (and I mean HUGE) benefit for your company – Let it be said now that any company that fails to use a universal dispensing system should be hustled away from the negotiating table.

Many of your other suppliers have drifted into the janitorial supplies arena because of the enormous profit potential. A good example of this is your Office Supplies vendor. Oftentimes, you can leverage the office supply store by requiring them to sell janitorial products at 10% over cost – or you take the entire block of business elsewhere.

And now for a secret. The single best place for janitorial supplies is not Walmart or Sams or Costco – it is your local dollar store – Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Dollar Store, etc. – Where else can you pick up 21oz of Comet for a buck – which is half the price of Amazon or Staples. And they have a wide breadth of cleaners, mopping agents and the like The key to buying these supplies is to have your procurement specialist do it once a month, write a number on each product (with a Sharpie) and have your cleaning staff perform a daily inventory. Don’t forget to invest five dollars for a hasp and padlock.

Incidentally, requiring a daily or regular inventory (not only for cleaning supplies) deters shrinkage – thieves usually take advantage of a place that is operationally sloppy – if they know you are watching, they will choose an easier target.

Annual savings for a small company averages more than $1500 annually including the monthly staff time for picking up the cleaning supplies. For larger companies, it makes sense to look at outsourcing the janitorial function – one company that I audited had the in-house staff emptying office trash cans three times a day just so they could appear busy. I favor limited outsourcing, making the employees responsible for keeping their desk, kitchen and common areas clean and using the janitorial service for dusting, mopping and zone cleaning.

Steve Gordon specializes in procurement and logistics cost saving initiatives – call him today at 865.356.3575

Steve

Remember what the Aberdeen Group says……….

“For a typical enterprise, it takes an increase
of $5 in sales to equal the impact of
a $1 reduction in procurement costs.”

Solutions is happy to complete a complimentary audit of your firm’s expeditures. Just call or write to get started.

If you want to know how to save money on a particular commodity, just send me a comment or email me directly. I would like to hear from you!

Respectfully,

Steve Gordon
Senior Consultant
Solutions Business Consultants
http://www.costavoidance.org
__________________________________
”Bringing Service, Value, and Efficiency to the Supply Chain”

steve@costavoidance.org
(865) 356-3575
Skype: stevegordskype
Blog: https://innovativeconsultant.wordpress.com/
Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevegordonthecostsavingsguy

The Power (or lack thereof) of Purchasing Departments April 2, 2010

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Accountability, Improving Personnel Performance, Increase Profitability, Procurement.
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Recently, I read an interesting post by Mark Hunter on PowerHomeBiz which paints procurement departments as a weak link which can be easily marginalized. Since Mark trains thousands of salespeople on how to increase their productivity, it is important to not only understand his perception of procurement but the work that must be done in the future by your procurement department in order to successfully fulfill its mission and fiduciary obligation to your company.

While his entire article can be found on his website, http://www.powerhomebiz.com, I will pull a few excerpts and comment below:

“One of the most difficult parts of a salesperson’s job is dealing with purchasing departments. Whether you are a new salesperson or a seasoned veteran, you likely will agree that dealing with a purchasing department can create a tremendous amount of stress for a salesperson. Unless you are truly unprepared, there’s no reason for anyone to fear dealing with a purchasing department.”

“A purchasing department is nothing more than a group of individuals assembled for the sole purpose of trying to save money for their company…..”

* Rarely does the purchasing department have huge amounts of power in a company. This means they’re not at the top of the food-chain. As a result, they can’t afford to upset those above them….

“Purchasing agents love to bluff people….”

“(purchasing knows) how expensive switching to a new supplier can be.”

If you are involved in a purchasing role or responsible for a departmental, business unit or division’s bottom line, this type of “trash” talk should really get your attention. The article reduces your procurement process into a ‘price only’ play and actually encourages salespeople to do an end around the purchasing department. Further, it creates an adversarial atmosphere between suppliers and purchasing which we know is totally counterproductive.
After all, a company is only as strong as its weakest supplier.

Before I go further into the role of purchasing, I want to point out that Mark is correct in his analysis that there are companies which do not adhere to best practices of management and the type of activity he describes has become their de facto behavior. And this “bad” behavior is not confined to small and medium firms. Some of the most respected larger companies which have installed the latest and greatest versions of Oracle, SAP, Ariba and other platforms have failed to embraced a culture which properly blends the business operations knowledge of a department manager with the third party detachment of an independent purchasing authority.

What do I mean by this statement. Good purchasing requires adherence to best practices, leveraging core competencies and sourcing solutions so the outcome is a positive return on investment for the company. And it may be said that any given department of a company has needs that are unique to that department and those needs can best be solved by subject matter experts who work within that department. That’s right – the answer to a business problem oftentimes lies within the department and not in purchasing. So why do we even need an separate purchasing department? You might think that (purchasing) is probably going to get in the way like some type of government red tape. And this would be true if purchasing is only allowed to become involved only at the very end of a transaction, after the problem was allegedly solved and a supplier was selected. Purchasing would only have price to dicker about and perhaps delivery or payment terms to negotiate as their only function and you can only toy around with these variables so much until you get an inferior product or put the supplier out of business.

Purchasing exists because there needs to be structure within a company that ties company mission statements, goals and budgets to the needs of each department in a way that gives value to the company and its investors. After all, it would be unheard of for a department head to hire a manager without going through human resources. Or a salesperson to offer a new product feature set without the blessing of marketing, manufacturing and operations. In a similar manner, purchasing leverages the best practices of buying goods and services by creating a organized medium for bringing new suppliers into the company, setting delivery, quality, terms, supplier expectations and hundreds of other variables which would be impossible for each individual department to pull this off in a standardized way.

And remember that most department member(s) are constrained by the amount of time they have to invest on trying to figure out how to solve purchasing and logistics problem and oftentimes have to cut corners in their supplier sourcing, bidding and negotiations. Many choose to rely on suppliers they have used at previous companies, friends or a quick internet search. So they either propagate a previous bad decision, put themselves in an awkward situation or blindly accept Google’s paid search results.

So take the points that Mark made and my comments as your marching orders. The procurement function today is more important than ever – don’t let anyone marginalize it.

Opportunities in Marketing Procurement March 26, 2010

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in 1, Business Improvement, Increase Profitability, Marketing, Procurement.
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Thanks to Robert R. of New York City for his question, “Steve, I am a CFO of a medical supply manufacturer. Our marketing spend has spiraled out of control. What suggestions can you provide to help put this cost center in check?”

Great question, Robert. Marketing spend oftentimes represents a large portion of a company’s indirect spend. Without specific targets or a look at your detailed spend, I am going to provide a generalized list of items that you can focus on.

1) Rank marketing spend by dollars.
2) Focus on top 20% of spend.
3) Use agencies and outside creative ONLY for idea generation and development of concepts whenever possible. Never use them to outsource printing, video production, web-design, etc. unless you want to pay a large 25% or more premium. (Note – even though agency commission might be 10% they will always use the high cost provider (since they make a percentage of the final price).
4) Create an in-house agency to take advantage of agency discounts.
5) Resource top 20% of spend – print, video, web-design, seo/sem, etc. And source out to 7-10 supplies instead of the industry standard of 3 potential supplies. The advantages of engaging multiple suppliers in the quotation phase are based on statistics – you cannot locate innovative, competitive, and quality-oriented suppliers with a small sampling.
6) Require that all completed digital files are supplied to the marketing department including original files, fonts, images, etc. This way your in-house graphics/video person can repurpose graphics and video at no additional charge to your organization. (When I use the words “original files” I mean the original source files (such as a flash .fla file or layered photoshop file) instead of the completed file (flash video .flv or .swf or merged photoshop file). The reason for this is that you can only edit the source file. My experience is that you must require this to be done when you place the original purchase order.
7) Marketing has a tendency to go with who they know and oftentimes they have a personal relationship with many of these suppliers. Sometimes this can be useful but once a supplier knows there is no competition you can guess what happens – price creep (and it never creeps down).
8) In the web-space be careful of trying to reinvent the wheel. Chances are that someone has created that special widget or function that is needed. There are great sources for inexpensive quality code, Search Engine Marketing and Optimization, and other web services. Make sure to be careful when creating the scope of services document so nothing is left to chance and make sure to involve multiple suppliers. Even if you are in a major metropolitan area, you will need to conduct a national search. Research can help you target your sourcing.
9) Take the time to understand and document your company’s marketing strategy. Early involvement by Finance and Procurement can eliminate any rush procurements which is used as a tactic to avoid best practices.
10) Never allow marketing to unilaterally select suppliers and negotiate with suppliers. This is true with all departments, not just marketing so don’t think I am picking on marketing folks in particular.
11) Consolidate suppliers whenever possible to leverage spend.
12) Create a preferred supplier list of suppliers who provide quality service at approved pricing.
13) If you shoot video, this category has huge potential for savings. The economy and technology have produced a wide variety of talented individuals and equipment who can take your (or your agencies) concept to successful completion. Even if you are in a small market, a few phone calls can lead you to a wide variety of suppliers. Hint: Stay away from suppliers who use hardware based Avid suites or non-digital solutions Currently the best bang for the buck are editors who use Apple’s Final Cut Pro Studio.
14) Limit long-term contracts for marketing services – that means not signing any agency contract – business is tight and competitive so you as a buyer are not compelled to limit your options.
15) Develop strategic partnerships with suppliers – concentrate on value-add services, payments terms and other benefits that they can provide.

Yours in Supply Chain,

Steve

Remember what the Aberdeen Group says……….

“For a typical enterprise, it takes an increase
of $5 in sales to equal the impact of
a $1 reduction in procurement costs.”

Solutions is happy to complete a complimentary audit of your firm’s expeditures. Just call or write to get started.

If you have a topic of interest you would like me to discuss in our blog, “in-person”, or if you find a typographical error, just send me a comment or email me directly. I would like to hear from you!

Respectfully,

Steve Gordon
Senior Consultant
Solutions Business Consultants
http://www.costavoidance.org
__________________________________
”Bringing Service, Value, and Efficiency to the Supply Chain”

steve@costavoidance.org
(865) 356-3575
Skype: stevegordskype
Blog: https://innovativeconsultant.wordpress.com/
Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevegordonthecostsavingsguy

The Death of the Conventional Advertising Agency March 2, 2010

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Accountability, Business Improvement, Increase Profitability, Marketing, Procurement.
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Twenty years ago, while I was running a printing plant, I was told that printing on paper would be a thing of the past. Today, printing isn’t dead but successful printers have had to find their niche, take advantage of the new business fostered by e-commerce and work smart to find their competitive advantage.

I will go out on a limb and predict the end of an era – the Conventional Advertising Agency. I define the conventional agency as one that has makes its real profit on services beyond that of an innovative think-tank that takes the most mundane of products and turns them into consumer must-haves. Times have changed and no longer are agencies needed to send unneeded people to garner billable hours on photo-shoots, commercials, printing, web-site designs and other outsourced projects. The sophistication of the modern marketing director understands that a good photographer is a good photographer without regard of who hires him or her.

The idea of charging fifteen, twenty percent or more on outsourced projects is a procurement nightmare. With a cost-plus methodology, no agency is interested in competitive billing. In fact, when you are making a commission, the higher the check the better. I have audited agency billings that would make you cry and even laugh – but it’s not so funny when it is your money. The abuse in some cases is nothing short of gouging the company. And some of the agency contracts are specifically designed to remove the choice of purchasing control from your firm.

Their will always be a place for idea men and women. People who can create compelling campaigns to bring top-of-mind awareness and develop strong brands. But they should take a hint that today’s modern cost-aware companies are going to look unfavorably on those ad firms who do not first and foremost, employ a fiduciary responsibility to their clients.

Yours in Supply Chain,

Steve

Remember what the Aberdeen Group says……….

“For a typical enterprise, it takes an increase
of $5 in sales to equal the impact of
a $1 reduction in procurement costs.”

We will do a sample complimentary audit of your advertising agency expeditures. Just call or write to get started.

If you have a topic of interest you would like me to discuss in our blog, “in-person”, or see a typo, just send me a comment or email me directly. I would like to hear from you!

Respectfully,

Steve Gordon
Senior Consultant
Solutions Business Consultants
http://www.costavoidance.org
__________________________________
”Bringing Service, Value, and Efficiency to the Supply Chain”

steve@costavoidance.org
(865) 356-3575
Skype: stevegordskype
Blog: https://innovativeconsultant.wordpress.com/
Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevegordonthecostsavingsguy

How to Manage the Barrage of New Suppliers Knocking at Your Door January 1, 2010

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Improving Personnel Performance, Increase Profitability, Procurement.
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I receive hundreds of solicitations “to buy” every week. Some are directed to me, others are forwarded to me by clients. The amount of time required to answer phone, cell and email solicitations is significant. Fortunately, the solution to this barrage requires little in the way of resources and time. I implemented this idea in several engagements and in each case it was monumental in payback. Try this method and save hundreds of staff hours each year.

Every Tuesday, we institute “Open Vendor Day”. Actually, we put aside one or two hours depending on response and had a procurement staff member (we rotate between everyone in the department) conduct five minute meetings with potential suppliers. The format was simple and was given out to the suppliers in advance so that they would not be caught off guard. This technique was conducted on an “in-person” or “conference call” basis depending on the supplier’s location.

Here is what we ask:

1) What products/services do you sell?
2) What is your company’s competitive advantage (i.e. what can you do that others can’t or won’t)?
3) How is this going to benefit my company – what’s in it for me? (i.e. streamline process, cost savings or avoidance, value add, etc.)
4) We expect a proof-of-concept or a “try before we buy” before we will do business with any new supplier and we prefer a transparent relationship – do you have the resources and willingness to do this.
5) Provide us a price list of services and recommendations from other satisfied clients.

Yes, there are a lot of other great procurement/purchasing questions, but we really wanted to keep the meetings short and productive. This is why we sent the questions out before the meeting along with the assigned call-in time. While we could have sent the questions via e-mail, I have found that personal communication is important to gauge the knowledge, sincerity, and culture of the supplier, and it is key for relationship building which, as you know, is the cornerstone of all successful supplier relationships.

Call-in times were actually scheduled 10 minutes apart to allow for time overages and note-taking.

Suppliers that survived this gauntlet would then be invited back for a more in-depth discussion with the appropriate category buyer. It should also be noted that suppliers love this idea. Oftentimes, new suppliers have no way to reach a decision-maker in your company. On more than one occasion, we were able to speak to suppliers who had been previously blocked and whose services we desperately needed – a true win-win.

Remember what the Aberdeen Group says……….

“For a typical enterprise, it takes an increase
of $5 in sales to equal the impact of
a $1 reduction in procurement costs.”

If you have a topic of interest you would like me to discuss in our blog, “in-person”, or see a typo, just send me a comment or email me directly. I would like to hear from you!

Respectfully,

Steve Gordon
Senior Consultant
Solutions Business Consultants
http://www.costavoidance.org
__________________________________
”Bringing Service, Value, and Efficiency to the Supply Chain”

steve@costavoidance.org
(865) 356-3575
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Use the current economy to your advantage December 11, 2008

Posted by solutionsbconsultants in Business Improvement, Increase Profitability, Procurement.
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The current business downturn can be used to your advantage in analyzing your vendor pool and encouraging greater competition.
Take a look at your procurement processes. To begin, generate a quick flow chart on how goods and services are being ordered.
1) Do you have a procurement card system – how is it structured, monitored and audited?
2) Is 85% of purchases competed and approved in a hierarchial manner and does the procurement department have veto power? Are all big ticket items, $5,000 or more competed on a regular basis among seven or more suppliers and approved by the procurement department.
3) Is there an ROI generated on all capital purchases.
4) What percentage of purchases are turned down.
5) Is expense reimbursement conducted according to a defined company policy and IRS rules.
6)Do executives utilize their credit cards in a responsible manner (see #5 above)

If you no on any of the above questions, you have (or will have) problems in the future. There are additional questions which can also be asked and independent oversight needed –  I recommend both an independent committee (audit committee) as well as an outside consultant.

The independent committee allows financially minded people to vaidate the company is not only focusing on their stated strategic direction but also is being fiscally responsible doing it. The consultant allows an independent perspective unbound by internal business politics or the “boss” pressure.

Take advantage of the current economy by validating spend and resources. In the long-term it will be the wisest investment you can make.

Solutions Business Consultant specializes in maximizing the efficiency of your company. Fees are reasonable and are based on your specific goals. Send us an email today at steve@costavoidance.org.