Friday 13 March 2015

Inspirational Role Models for the Procurement Profession

By Sarah Clarke

I was fortunate enough to be invited to join a table at Wednesday night’s CIPS Annual Dinner, and even though I felt a little weary from a fascinating BravoSolution Real World Sourcing Series briefing that I’d attended during the daytime, I’m very pleased that I drank an emergency Red Bull and made my way to the Hilton on Park Lane for the event.

Babs Omotowa, CEO of Nigeria LNG and our current CIPS President, gave a moving speech on the importance for procurement professionals to raise their voice and raise their game – his presidential theme for the year. Omotowa started his career in purchasing and now leads an organisation that is not only responsible for 4% of Nigeria’s GDP, they also supply 10% of the world’s liquid natural gas resources. 

In a shift away from the format of previous years, the after-dinner speaker slot was replaced with a live interview with Sam Walsh, CEO of mining giant Rio Tinto, and led by the BBC’s breakfast business editor Steph McGovern.

Sam Walsh started his career as a trainee buyer at General Motors. He joined Rio Tinto in 1991 and was appointed as the CEO in 2013. 

Three things struck me from the interview with Walsh, and all three revolve around the relationships we have in our businesses;

1 – Internal Business Relationships: The Procurement message needs to move beyond cost reduction and towards value creation. You should know the objectives of your business, you should be engaged with your boards and you should be able to eloquently communicate the value you bring to your business objectives. "I’m talking about serious value, making game-changing decisions. Sticking your neck out, understanding your business, understanding what’s going to make a difference” said

2 – Supplier Relationships: Procurement plays a central role in the innovation that suppliers bring to a business. In Rio Tinto, engaging closely with their suppliers has helped bring both innovation and competitive advantage to the group. Walsh told the audience “Who would have thought three years ago that we would be using big data in the way we make purchasing decisions? Without suppliers we would not be running automated trucks. We rushed out and bought 150 of them to stop our competitors getting them.”

3 – Team Relationships: Walsh echoed the presidential theme for the year and encouraged the audience to not only push themselves to do more, to do a better job, to go the extra mile, but he also reminded the profession not to create a vacuum behind them; Make sure that as your role develops and grows, and you take your turn to move up in your organisation, make sure that you’ve brought your team with you and that you’ve created the talent to step into the shoes you’ve out grown.

So to sum up my night: Three critical business relationships to nurture, two inspirational speakers to admire, and one exceptional night – Bravo CIPS!

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