The Ideal Procurement Professional

In the wide world of Procurement Transformation we often cite a variety of pain points within organizations -some more prevalent than others. Oftentimes we find that it is an entire pillar (Organization/ People, Process, Tools/ Technology, or Metrics/ Reporting) that is causing the majority of roadblocks within Procurement, and other times it is more isolated. One area that we find causing the most challenges is within the organization structure itself. This is not to say that we always find incapable resources. It may be a blend of capability and capacity, or it may just be that the remaining pillars are so broken that the resources are inevitably unable to fulfill their roles. Ultimately, there are many reasons that the Procurement organization itself can create pain within the business. In my opinion, it all starts with Human Resources.


We often talk about the evolution of Procurement and how the function is beginning to be recognized as a more strategic entity that is critical to the business. In certain industries and businesses this concept is unfortunately still far-fetched. However, even where Procurement has started to make its mark we find that organizations are still looking at the recruitment process from the wrong angle. It seems obvious that if you need people to manage the day-to-day activities within Procurement, you hire Procurement-minded people. The problem with this premise is that those individuals with a Procurement-focused resume are typically going to be tactical resources. While there is a time and a place for resources that can manage the many ebbs and flows of the business, there needs to be a greater focus on hiring business minded Procurement resources.


When we talk about a top performing Procurement organization, it has many “arms”. Those primarily include Transactional (or Tactical), Strategic, and a Center of Excellence. The Transactional function is critical to the operational side of the Procurement organization, managing the buying of goods and services, inventory management, and being a go to resource (or feet on the ground). The Strategic arm of the business is mainly your Category Management function that oversees Supplier Relationship Management, Strategic Sourcing, and Contract Management. They create a partnership with the business and work together to proactively plan and manage at the category level. The Center of Excellence is the reporting arm, they act as the super users of the technology and are a support function to the Category Managers and Buyers.


Many organizations blur the lines between these functions, especially those companies that have grown over time and had to spread responsibilities over a lean team out of necessity. It is difficult to determine at what point a more segmented Procurement organization is needed, but when it is the organization will need to create very clear roles that are defined within one of those arms. 


  • The Transactional arm requires highly organized, process-focused individuals that can manage various task-based activities day-to-day. They need to be able to interface with the business at the plant level and understand their needs. This resource can be considered fairly tactical in nature, but they still need to have negotiation and management skills. While the Strategic arm of the organization is primarily responsible for Strategic Sourcing activities, there should be a threshold for what flows through them versus the plant-based resources.


  • The Strategic function requires business minded Procurement resources. For these individuals to truly understand how to meet the needs of the business, they need to have a business mindset. Procurement’s role is not to be the decision maker. They are there to support the business so that they can make good decisions. The ideal Category Manager should know enough about the category (ies) they manage to effectively source and manage the market, and to understand how to speak to the business about the category. This role requires resources that have excellent planning and forecasting capabilities, top negotiation skills, and the ability to manage people well. 


  • The Center of Excellence is more technical in nature in that these resources need to understand the Procurement technology in use within the organization well enough to develop and manage the standard operating procedures tied to it. They are responsible for training internal and external resources on the use and best practices within the tool. This function also manages the data going in and out of the tool, and is responsible for creating reports to support the other arms of the Procurement organization as well as the business.


The biggest takeaway with all of the arms of the Procurement organization is that you need to find the right mix of skills to effectively manage within each, with a clear segmentation of roles and responsibilities. When the lines get blurred between roles it is very easy to lose focus on the primary role within that arm of the Procurement function. If Category Managers get brought into plant-level inventory management, they do not have as much bandwidth to focus on category based sourcing, leaving opportunities to impact the bottom line untapped. Likewise when buyers are asked to run large scale sourcing events they lose sight in the management of the PO process which can lead to supply chain disruptions.


About the Author:  Jennifer Ulrich is an Associate Director at Source One Management Services, LLC. Procurement Transformation and Strategic Sourcing Expert and Supply & Demand Chain Executive Pro-to-Know, with extensive experience leading large-scale sourcing initiatives in both direct and indirect spend in industries including biotech, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, CPG, and more. Trusted advisor with cross-functional knowledge of Procurement and Supply functions. Develops Transformation Roadmaps as well as provides customized training on Strategic Sourcing, Contracting & Negotiations, Spend Analytics, Category Management, Procurement Process Improvement, and Supplier Relationship Management. 

Read More

Six Qualities Procurement Candidates Must Possess

We recently addressed attributes that hiring managers should probably steer clear of when looking to hire procurement professionals. Now, we’d like to flip that around and touch upon the qualities you should embrace in hopeful candidates. The list of top-mark traits is long, but let’s tackle some of the most important, and sometimes most challenging to find. 

You want candidates with a taste for tech. As with many industries, procurement is heavily dependent on technology and information systems that evolve rapidly and constantly. To that end, your company should be on the prowl for hopeful hires with a demonstrated record of tackling technology. This means they know much more than how to use the internet and social media, and how to whip up a spreadsheet on Microsoft Excel. If you ask about which P2P software and systems they’re proficient in, and they can’t rattle off any, or they ask, “What’s P2P?” you might want to move onto another candidate.

Seek people who grasp market dynamics. Thanks to ever-changing political structures, climate conditions, severe weather events, economic upheaval, and myriad other factors, procurement professionals need to be current on just about everything in order to do their job proficiently. The ability to understand, even anticipate, all of these factors that impact the industry you’re focused on and the conditions you’re facing day to day, is a vital skill any candidate you consider should have.

Flexibility, adaptability and innovation are key qualities. It’s not enough to understand, as mentioned above, that economic and market conditions are constantly changing. A supply chain procurement professional needs to react nimbly to shifting situations, adapt processes to best suit these new conditions, and come up with creative solutions to new and emerging challenges. A candidate should demonstrate a record of creative thinking, willingness to grow and a history of embracing changes to provide your company with the best advantage.

Career advancement is crucial. Consistency isn’t always a bad thing, but that isn’t the same thing as stagnancy, which rarely benefits a company. If you’re looking at a procurement professional’s resume and you don’t discern evidence of steady advancement, that could indicate the candidate is lacking in a few areas, including innovation, ambition, curiosity, and ability to perform at a level that would motivate their employer to reward them with promotions. 

Follow the leaders. People talk a lot about leadership being an important quality to have at most levels, but in procurement, the ability to forge and sustain professional relationships, inspire coworkers and colleagues, and manage people as well as they manage projects are especially important. The field is built on relationships, so when it comes to supply chain staff, it’s wise to seek out candidates that aren’t just personable but that are passionate about collaboration and encouraging others to give it their all—those are the people your other staff and your industry partners want to work with. 

They answer questions thoughtfully and thoroughly. You’ve determined a candidate looks good on paper and is worth extending an interview invitation to. Next comes the opportunity to find out how they operate under pressure and interact with other professionals. Come up with a list of appropriate questions regarding their experience, talents, strengths, weaknesses and more (read here for some inspiration on what to ask). It’s important that you listen not just to the answers, but how they answer them. If they hem and haw, appear to be dodging, or spout out rambling responses that don’t address what you asked, that could be cause for concern.

Again, the list of good attributes for a procurement candidate to have is long, and can vary depending on the company and specific position. That’s one reason why it’s good to have a specialized recruiter like MRA Global on your side—contact us and find out how our staff can harness our expertise and help connect you with the ideal candidates. 

Read More

Job Sites Don’t Cut It For Supply Chain Recruitment

Supply chain procurement is a specialized field calling for talent with a very specific set of skills. Finding qualified supply chain managers to fill a need at your organization requires a focused, informed candidate search, rather than casting a wide net.

Placing a spot on Monster, Indeed, CareerBuilder, LinkedIn and other mass-appeal “help wanted” sites has its appeal. Such sites are relatively inexpensive to list employment ads on, for example, and they’re fairly user-friendly on both the candidate and company sides. Sadly, the low price tag and effort required are directly proportional to the results your company is likely to land in its search. Engaging a specialized supply chain recruiting firm offers significant advantages over job site ads for reasons almost too numerous to mention, but here are three.

High Demand for Candidates

Retail firms like Target and Whole Foods, for example, advertise for job openings online because there frequently are more hopeful applicants than there are positions to be filled. The companies wanting to hire only need to put out the word using easy avenues like online job ads, and the candidates will come to them. With supply chain recruitment, the situation is reversed, thanks to the degree of skill, experience and specialization the field calls for.  In this tight market, it is crucial to cast a net over both active and passive candidates, something a job site cannot do.

Search Functions That Fall Short

The supply chain field seeks procurement professionals with a range of skills, and the job titles and descriptions it uses can vary greatly. If you open the Jobs page of the MRA Global website, you’ll find a rainbow of job titles, like “Consulting Manager, Sourcing,” and “Vice President, Supply Chain & Operations”—all falling under the “supply chain recruitment” umbrella. Now, try a little experiment: search for procurement jobs on one of the big-name jobsites. You’ll likely end up with a mishmash of positions that don’t fit, like general sales, retail buying gigs, trucking jobs and maybe a procurement ad or two mixed in and buried. Qualified procurement candidates are seeing the same weak results, so they’re likely to get frustrated and skip such sites when looking for work.


Lack of Location and Industry Focus

Depending on a company’s range of offerings, materials being sourced and other aspects, it could require a supply chain candidate be situated in a specific part of the world, or anywhere around the globe. The search could require a focus on one specific industry, or it could cover several. One trouble with online job sites and want ads is they don’t handle specialty or subtlety very well. A candidate with decades of experience in procurement for the packaged food industry, for instance, might log into Indeed and find positions in electronics, construction, automotive and other fields that aren’t necessarily her cup of tea.

Engaging a specialized supply chain recruiting firm, then, makes sense. Such organizations offer the resources, knowledge, experience, and global reach required to connect you with qualified, intelligent candidates. What’s more, experienced recruiters take the exhausting process of hunting down procurement professionals off your plate, enabling you to focus on what you do best: building your business. Contact MRA Global to find out how to elevate your procurement search process.

Read More

Relationship Building: How to Be More Than a Necessary Evil

Supply chain is often written off as an unnecessary evil when it comes to the inner workings of a company. Parts/services/assets flow through a predetermined process and at the end, an invoice and/or purchase order is cut for the specific product and/or deliverable that has been manufactured. Everyone needs a supply chain but nobody likes to think twice about it. Before you dismiss this blog as another article about developing good working relationships between suppliers and your business - hold that thought!

Before your product goes out to your consumers, it needs to go through the aforementioned ,boring. process. Let's talk about who is in involved in those processes. Managing your supply chain is more than ensuring all phases of the chain are operating efficiently. Relationships play a critical role within an organization's supply chain, and if they are not properly managed, ramifications can be felt from employees to suppliers, to consumers. Coming out of graduate school my mentality when it came to supply chain was that it's boring and routine. After spending several years working in regional and global supply chains for Fortune 500 companies, I've come to learn that it is anything but boring!

Multi-million dollar equipment, and complex manufacturing processes are the vehicles by which products are created, but it is the people behind machines and their respective working relationships with one another that really set supply chains apart from one another. Relationships I was able to forge with manufacturing leads on the production floor helped me get my products and deliveries out the door on time. If I had any quality issues, my colleagues in engineering would prioritize my requests over others. Why did they do this? Yes, it's their job but there were certainly other products, clients, and issues they could have addressed over mine. These are people that, over time, I forged a sound rapport with. Whenever they needed something from me I always tried to help out as best I can, and it paid off over time.

Over the four plus years I've spent working in global supply chains, I've really focused on client fulfillment, and the importance of relationships has become clearer to me every day. Here are a few tips on building relationships with your colleagues, counterparts, and peers as you go about your day-to-day responsibilities:



Sounds simple enough right? Well it's not. Too often we listen to reply instead of listening to the actual question. More often than not there is a legitimate reason behind the question and if you automatically tune out everything once the question is asked you'll miss out on the point. Are they reaching out because they need your help? Your advice? Is it something you can do? Do you know who can help them? There are usually multiple layers to the question, as well as potentially multiple reasons for reaching out. Listen to them. Understand their request. Respond accordingly.


Follow Through

Whether or not you're the right person to solve the problem, make sure you point them in the right direction or attempt to do so. You may not always know what to do or who to talk to, but the asking party will remember the effort you put in to help them the next time you reach out.


Be Polite

Again, something this simple can go a long way within your organization. I cannot begin to count how many times over the years I've sat in meetings or conference calls and encountered people who were just plain rude. How many times have you been in meetings and when a certain someone's name is mentioned you cringe due to the fact you know they'll be difficult to work with before you even pick up the phone! People remember those encounters. Always treat others how you would like to be treated when you reach out for help. It goes a long way. Just because everything appears to be going well on the outside doesn't necessarily mean things are as good as they can be on the inside. Respect the needs and contributions of your peers, and in turn they will gain respect for you. Ultimately respect is priceless, and will be the driving factor in adding value and substance to your professional relationships.


About the Author:  Nicholas Harasymczuk is a Senior Analyst at Source One Management Services. In his role, Harasymczuk helps clients optimize their supply management operations through strategic sourcing. With his deep understanding of supply chain and logistics and focus on stakeholder engagement and supplier relationship management, Harasymczuk is a proven asset in streamlining processes to drive sustainable cost savings.

Read More

Avoid Recruitment Red Flags

Sorting out procurement candidates can be challenging.once you start the outreach, you'll be buried in the resumes of hopefuls and left with the daunting task of finding the best one for the job. The job is demanding, your company works in a unique field and your managers are especially particular about whom you let into the fold. While selecting the right candidate is hard, it might be somewhat easier to spot the wrong ones, thanks to common resume .red flags indications that you may want to pass on this particular supply management hopeful. Here are some solid suggestions about characteristics to look for when on the hunt for talent. 


Typos, bad grammar and other errors

Not everyone is a stellar writer with a perfect grasp of the English language.that's especially true in the field of Procurement, where a significant number of candidates hail from overseas and don't call English their native language. However, imagine a resume, cover letter or other communication arrives riddled with spelling mistakes and missing punctuation.mistakes that even a non-native speaker or grammatically challenged person could fix with spell check or a little extra attention. If that's the case, the hopeful employee's professional communications to your valued stakeholders, both internally and externally, will reflect poorly on your function and your company.


Lack of attention to detail

Consider a resume dotted with sentence fragments that should have been caught with one last look-over before hitting the SEND button speak to potential carelessness. You also could encounter a missing number in an employment date range, or an incorrect job title next to a previous employer. In and of themselves, these little glitches aren't earth-shattering. However, considering how many intricate details a Procurement professional must pay attention to.if the candidate hasn't mastered such easy details in their job application process, can you really trust them to handle the complexities of your procurement team?


Gaps in employment

A years-long canyon between the jobs listed on a resume can be explained. You may receive a reason your firm can live with, such as serious illness, military service or family leave. However, if the candidate can't come up with a solid reason for the gap, or their excuse is weak, you're left wondering and worrying, and that isn't a good foot for the candidate to begin their career with you.


Moving backward

A professional's career changes in many ways through the years .that's as true with Procurement as it is in nearly any other field. Ideally, those changes should be upward moves, with titles and job descriptions indicating increasing responsibilities as they progress over time. If the candidate's shift in job titles indicates a lateral or lower move, it shouldn't necessarily be a deal breaker, but investigate. Lateral moves may occur after a company restructuring, the loss of a family member, the birth of a child or illness motivating them to tap the career brakes. However, a plateau or backwards motion could indicate the candidate has trouble handling additional responsibilities.


Problem following direction

You asked for a cover letter.the resume arrives without one. Your HR team requested the candidate provide three references.she provides only two, with no explanation. Your email specifically stated the conference call would happen at 2 p.m. PST; he calls at 2 p.m. CST. Mistakes happen, but if a supply management talent hopeful repeatedly fails to follow specific directions this early in the process, your hiring managers should ask themselves if the candidate in question might not be likely to make such oversights in the future.and if that's a risk your company is willing to take. Because supply chain recruitment is highly complex, it might be a good idea to turn to a professional recruitment firm with the experience and expertise necessary to spot and analyze potential red flags. Reach out to us and we'll explain how our resources and experience can work for you.

Read More

Talent Management - The Millennial Challenge

In my first blog, we discussed talent management and some of the strategies used by companies to address the same. Within this realm, the Millennials pose a unique and interesting dilemma for many organizations. As their numbers grow in the workplace, the ability to attract, motivate and retain this generation has assumed even greater significance. Some interesting trends pertaining to these young professionals are as follows:


  • According to a 2012 HBR study, young top performers are mobile workers with the highest turnover rates
  • The high achievers: are on average 30 years old and have good school and work credentials and leave employers after an average of 2.5 years
  • 75% of these young professionals admit to the following:
    • sending out resumes,
    • contacting search firms
    • interviewing at least once a year during their first employment
  • 95% said they regularly watch for potential opportunities
  • Two of the biggest reasons cited for leaving are lack of training opportunities and mentors in the workplace
  • Their savvy social media skills help provide easy access to job postings via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.


This raises the question of whether or not moving between jobs has now become the new norm? We find that frequent job changes carries far less stigma since the Great Recession and with the entry of this Generation into the workforce, people increasingly see themselves as free agents. Their perspective is that beyond loyalty and security, it's about the portfolio of skills that they bring and the value that they deliver. However, there is a fine line between job hoppers and fast-trackers. The former will be moving randomly on a fairly regular basis with an incoherent career story and driven by money. While the latter move to positions of increased responsibility that deepen their skills and are drawn by scope, culture and opportunities. The high potential Millennials get it that they're responsible for their careers and take a proactive approach. Some of the questions we ask as they move forward are the following:


  • Are you "comfortable" or feeling complacent?
  • Are you taking the path of least resistance?
  • Willing to let your boss manage your career?
  • Do you seek out good leaders and mentors?
  • Are you getting too caught up with titles vs. skills/experience?
  • Are you taking responsibility for gaining new skills and stretch assignments?
  • Do you get that performing well at one level doesn't guarantee progression?


Bottom line for them is that the breakneck pace of business notwithstanding, time is still on their side. They can take various paths as they advance and pick up critical skills that will prepare them for leadership roles. There's no one right way to move upwards  their focus should be on building capabilities for the long haul.

Read More

Before the Interview: Every Battle Is Won Before It Is Fought

Before the Interview: Every Battle Is Won Before It Is Ever Fought

According to MRINetwork, 75% of the hiring decision is based on the chemistry between the hiring authority and the job-seeker. The decision to hire someone can be made in a matter of minutes, with the remaining time spent supporting this decision. That being said, this blog is meant to educate prospective job-seekers on how to carry themselves with conviction, confidence, and passion. What you do and say during an interview can determine whether or not you land that career; therefore, like Sun Tzu says, the time and effort you invest in preparation is crucial.


An interview is like any other test: it is an assessment of whether you fit the role and culture of the company. An interviewer wants to see that you already identify yourself as part of the organization by demonstrating a thorough understanding of products, services, and competitors. Utilize your resources company website, Linkedin, trade magazines etc. to review current events, company statistics and company executives. If you know who will be conducting the interview, find ways to establish rapport. Do you share any connections on Linkedin? Do you have similar educational backgrounds? Are you from the same city/town? Do you share the same interests or expertise? Knowing your interviewer helps make the interview more conversational, less scripted, thus more genuine. Additionally, it is important to be familiar with the job description. It is in your best interest to convey how your experiences align with the responsibilities and requirements of the role. Lack of research will demonstrate indifference. Prepare for an interview the way you would prepare for a test: ample amounts of research will give you confidence the day of the interview.


Preparing for the interview seems an obvious step, yet the masses of potential job-seekers leave an interview unsure of their delivery. The most common mistake is not conducting enough research on the company; however, another mistake many job-seekers make is inadvertently misstating dates or statistics on their resume. Although everything may be on the resume for your interviewer to review, oftentimes they want to hear you highlight and expand on certain key areas. If you do not have a command of the information without looking at it, your interviewer may become suspicious of its validity. It is best to prepare two or three of your most significant career-related accomplishments and be able to articulate where and when these happened. Without a doubt, the interviewer will open the floor for questions. Strategic, open-ended questions are preferred, and never ask anything that can be answered by looking at their website. Worse than asking an obvious question is the mistake of not asking questions at all.


As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect. For most people, the first interview causes jitters and forgetfulness, exacerbated by unpreparedness. Practicing your response to some possible interview questions helps you ascertain what you are trying to convey. Be cognizant of areas for improvement. Practicing aloud illuminates your weak points. When you practice in the mirror or in front of someone else, you recognize your excessive use of um's and rapid speech. Furthermore, work on being concise and illustrative. In order to be successful the day of the interview, you must be proactive instead of reactive. As the philosopher Plato once said: human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge. When you research, prepare and practice in advance, you'll conduct yourself with conviction, confidence and passion.

Read More

Finding Your Dream Job - Made Simpler

Although the current job market looks to be much better than it did in the immediate post-recession years, finding a great job today is still no walk in the park. Many companies were forced to downsize during the Great Recession of 2007-2009, and while jobs are slowly beginning to come back, the number of qualified job-seekers today is still significantly greater than the demand for these employees. Many top companies receive as many as 250 applications for a single open position. Many of these applicants may be qualified for the job, but it is simply impractical for a hiring manager to interview every applicant in fact, studies have shown that fewer than 25% of applicants for a given position even get extended an opportunity to interview.

Unfortunately, in today's job market, simply being qualified for a position will not even guarantee you an initial interview, let alone a job offer. In order to give themselves the best shot at finding a position where all of their skills and past experiences will be put to use, applicants need to be creative and open-minded when job hunting. Although job hunters should certainly be looking at companies career pages frequently for posted positions, it is important to understand that about 80% of all available jobs are never directly advertised, according to Forbes.

A great way to break into a company is by working with a recruiting agency or staffing company, who have existing relationships and privileged insight into companies posted and non-posted open positions. Working with a staffing company to find a job offers several advantages. First, staffing companies typically have established relationships with cross-industry client companies, and they always have their ear to the pavement when it comes to new or urgent openings. They also have established contacts within their client companies. When you, as a job seeker, submit your application and resume on a company's job board, it sits in limbo for an undetermined amount of time until one day, if you're lucky, a recruiter reviews it. However, when a staffing company submits your candidacy for a role to their client, they usually do so directly to the hiring manager with whom they have an established relationship and who values their opinion. A good word from a staffing company will go a long way in making you stand out to a hiring manager.

Historically, there has been a negative stigma associated with temporary positions. They were viewed as unskilled roles that companies look to fill for a couple of weeks at a time and terminate when the immediate need is no longer there. However, the staffing industry landscape is changing, as many companies now view temporary positions as the perfect way to evaluate potential long-term employees. Accepting a temporary position with an employer for whom you would want to work long-term can be a great way to get your foot in the door. If you do your job well and show the employer that you can be a valuable asset, there is a greater chance that they will bring you on as a permanent employee after your temporary stint is over.

At any rate, it is always good to have options, especially when it comes to finding a job at which you will spend the majority of your day, week in and week out. Applying to positions posted on job boards and on companies career pages is a good strategy, but casting a wider net by working with staffing companies and recruiters may just be the thing that kicks your job search into high gear and helps you find that dream job you've been looking for.  


About the Author:  Boris Kopylov is a supply chain project analyst at Source One, responsible for developing and executing sourcing events to optimize the spend and operations of clients in the areas of supply chain and IT, working directly with the clients and their respective suppliers through all stages of the strategic sourcing project  from data collection, through selecting and conducting go-to-market strategies, to negotiation and contracting, to implementation. His experience and passion for driving client solutions has allowed him to become a well-read content producer on the Strategic Sourceror.

Read More

Globalization: Problem, Solution or Both

The first in a two-part series covering the current dynamics of globalization and some alternative strategies for companies to consider in their quest to become global conglomerates.   The rise of globalization and advanced technology has led to an ever increasingly interconnected world. Today more than ever, we are seeing a direct correlation between globalization and technology and becoming more knowledgeable, and I'd argue more tolerant, of other cultures. Through globalization, we regularly come in contact with people from other parts of the world, and have begun sharing best practices. Through technology, we watch videos and read stories about how our lives are not dissimilar from our fellow global citizens. This global sharing has had several positive impacts, especially on businesses not only here in North America, but across the world including several developing countries.

The theory of globalization is that it allows for countries to develop economically and distribute wealth, thereby allowing democracy and business to cohabitate and prosper. Although it can be supported that globalization has several pros, such as the way in which it accelerates growth and leads to more profitable companies, it must be recognized for its very apparent flaws as well. My perspective is this: companies should place less emphasis on utilizing globalization as a means of becoming a global powerhouse, and focus their corporate strategy on a tri-modal, holistic approach to success, targeting going green (sustainability), nearshoring, and people development.

Cons to Globalization Once upon a time, there were booming emerging markets i.e BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China); however, not many were able to bridge the gap, transitioning into sustainable economic performers, and many have entered into economic recessions, according to CSCMP's article Monetary Matters. Not only are these developing countries struggling, but well-established countries such as the US are seeing an influx of outsourced jobs to low cost countries, causing higher unemployment rates in the manufacturing sector. Mike Collins from Forbes supports this, arguing that in the US, we have run a trade deficit for more than 30 years resulting in an $11 trillion deficit, which acts as the single biggest job killer in our economy, particularly manufacturing jobs. This striking statistic is diametrically opposed to the proposed theory of globalization, as wealth is not being distributed and to take it a step further, our nation's debt climbs at a relentless rate. This incendiary topic continues to be at the forefront of political and economic debate.

Going Green in more ways than one When companies develop strategies holistically and roll them out across the entire enterprise, they often focus on cost savings and adding value to the bottom-line. Their supply chain is engaged to optimize operational costs while concurrently supporting the organizations quest for growth. Although globalization has oftentimes been at the forefront of these strategies, we should be cognizant of its collateral damage and utilize technology to find ways of controlling, or at the very least moderating, the effects of our carbon footprint. According to a report from Accenture and the World Economic Forum, supply chains should also be used to provide socioeconomic and environmental benefits. So, what solution aside from globalization will reduce company costs while having a lesser impact on the environment?

Going Green. Going green is not some esoteric concept; more and more supply chains continue to venture into data analytics, placing a greater emphasis on the concept of going green, and utilizing technology to do so. Some changes can be implemented quickly and easily. For instance, companies can lower their budget and reduce the materials used during manufacturing. In addition to trimmed operating costs, government programs are now offering incentives to organizations spearheading this environmentally friendly business strategy. Companies reducing emissions to comply with state standards may be eligible for tax credits and in some cases, tax exemptions.

In our social media dominated world, having an eco-friendly brand does not go unnoticed in consumer's eyes. Although this may not be the primary motivator for going green, these initiatives can increase an organizations popularity and strengthen their brand, acting as a differentiator. Kristie Lorette commented in her article Why Businesses Should go Green, Companies such as Wal-Mart and Target have incorporated green changes such as composting and recycling, changing transportation routes to save gas, reducing packaging, and stocking their shelves with greener products. As a result, these companies have seen customers respond positively to the changes, with green product sales alone jumping somewhere around 20 percent as of 2010. 

Instead of focusing on globalization, companies should apply green processes not only to save money and grow in popularity, but also to influence social change and help the environment.

Second part in series will be released next week. 

Read More

MRO - Controlling the Uncontrollable : Navigating

The materials related to Maintenance Repair and Operating Services/Overhaul (MRO) present unique challenges to procurement professionals. It is a spend category that companies all too often fail to gain proper control over. A category that is comprised of 1,000's of unique SKUs across numerous subcategories where recurring spend tends not to repeat on the item level. The items that are not reordered regularly are generally classified as spot buys. Procurement tends to struggle with the concept of a spot buy. It is an unplanned purchase that the organization may have never ordered before but must order now because there is an immediate need.

For example, a line breaks down and a specific roller bearing is needed for the repair. The company does not need this roller bearing for anything else and will only order a total quantity of one. The chance that this specific roller bearing will be needed this year or even next year is unlikely. Because of the nature of MRO, this scenario takes place quite regularly. The challenge for procurement is controlling this type of spot buying activity efficiently while reducing cost. The answer to this can lie within the data. Sure, at face value these spot buys appear to be random and, like I said, do not repeat at the item level. But what about looking at it more holistically -taking a look at 2-3 years of purchasing history.

In most cases the year over-year spend by manufacturer and subcategory will be fairly consistent. Sure there are going to outliers, especially if a significant repair or change within the organization is made, but by looking at the spend holistically you will be able to identify key consistent manufacturers or even key consistent manufacturers by subcategory. This is where your focus should be, and being able to illustrate this in a clear and concise manner to your suppliers will be key to negotiating competitive pricing.

Rather than purely negotiating on the item level, you should tailor your negotiations based on the spend history. For example, you spend approximately $1M annually on Electrical Supplies (category under MRO). After reviewing year-over-year spend it looks like approximately 40% of that spend is with one manufacturer and there are very few high repeat purchases, leading to a high number of unique SKUs. It doesn't make sense to collect pricing for specific items, rather to collect discounts for that specific manufacturer.

If the spend is substantial enough and the manufacturer allows it, you should be working with and negotiating directly with the manufacturer. With the end result being either purchasing directly from the manufacturer instead of going through a distributor or setting up a special purchasing agreement or tri-lateral agreement between the manufacturer and distributor. If the spend does not warrant these types of discussions you should be focusing on finding Tier 1 distribution channels for this specific manufacturer (Manufacturers grant their most favored pricing to their Tier 1 distributors) and negotiating manufacturer type discounts.

The point being, remember item level pricing isn't always your best bet. It is important to dive into the data and shape a solution based off what the data tells you. MRO is a challenging category and it will take a creative solution to effectively and efficiently capture spend while reducing your cost.


About the Author:  Michael Croasdale'is a Senior Project Manager at Source One Management Services, LLC. He leads sourcing initiatives in a wide range of categories for Fortune 500 companies and mid-market organizations, and acts as the direct interface between the client and the internal team. He manages a team of analysts through a strategic sourcing process that includes data collection and in-depth analysis, baseline development, RFP development, pricing negotiations and implementation.

Read More

New IT technologies to become airline companies best assets for cost reduction and efficiency a lesson from industry leaders

With oil prices forecasted to keep dropping, airline companies are seizing this opportunity to further increase investments in new technologies. While modernizing a fleet with new generation planes or fuel efficient engines can be difficult for companies with limited investment capabilities, cheaper options exist and can result in both optimizing operational efficiency and satisfying customer expectations with attractive services. This tendency is encompassed in a strategy to reduce costs and increase margin in order to maintain profitability in an industry growing more competitive every day.

As I've discussed in other articles (The Aeronautical Industry: ready for take-off!) the aeronautical market is experiencing booming growth due to an increasing number of passengers. Recent studies from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) show that the global airline industry has doubled its revenue over the past decade from $369 billion in 2004 to $717 billion expected in 2016. While the industry met shareholders expectations for the first time over the past decade, (return on capital is set to reach 8.6%, exceeding the industry's weighted average cost of 7%), this financial performance remains fragile as the profitability outlook for the year 2016 is fairly low with a forecasted net profit margin of 5.1%.

To maintain and reinforce such performance, airline companies have to define competitive strategy to ensure a steady growth. This can be achieved by optimizing operational efficiency, resulting in induced costs reduction, or by developing new services to attract more customers, and therefore increase profits. Airline companies have multiple options available when it comes to managing their spend and increasing profits, other than outsourcing their MRO services or modernizing their fleet.

Sourcing enhanced IT tools, better designed to answer specific needs, can be the solution to cut costs by streamlining processes and operating models. Take for example Flydubai. The airline recently equipped ground personnel with Windows 8 tablets using a customized application connecting to the back-end services of the company. These tablets, equipped with passport scanners and ticket printers, facilitate the customer check-in process. The use of tablets is a perfect example of an affordable solution that not only optimizes processes, but also improves business-customer interaction. Beyond tablets, other IT technologies exist to help achieve such goals. Sourcing new IT platforms, better designed to gather greater data and provide analytics reports aiming at better understanding customers needs, fit in a competitive strategy to increase sales and therefore profits!

Enhanced MRO software and new resources planning and allocation platforms are also available in the market, providing cheaper, less complex solutions than the ones developed over decades, using outdated processes and technologies. Zagros Airlines, for example, recently updated its existing Maintenance IT system with Alkym, an aircraft maintenance software developed by Seabury MRO solutions. Transitioning to this new IT software supports not only cost reduction strategies while driving operational efficiency, but also establishes a solid IT base prior to engaging in a fleet renewal program. Indeed, this type of MRO software system manages the flow of information across the entire airline companies organization, providing support in services such as maintenance planning and control, warehousing, or quality control. MRO operation services are thus managed more efficiently, facilitating the arrival of a new fleet while improving the maintenance operations of existing planes. This example perfectly highlights how IT projects can drive short term savings and be the base of long-term cost reduction projects.

Airline companies recent financial performance, coupled with new technologies designed to better answer organizational, operating and customer needs, offer real opportunities to engage in modernizing projects on multiple fronts. While IT projects appear to be an affordable solution for short term positive results, transitioning to such solutions is not an easy task for airline companies who's core business is not IT. This is where external resources, such as strategic sourcing firms with extended IT software migration experience, can be of help. Recognizing the need for new IT infrastructure and systems is the first step. From there, sourcing subject matter experts can work to identify your IT requirements and translate those needs into finding a best suited services provider.


About the Author:  Matt Chabanon is a Project Analyst at Source One Management Services- the exclusive sponsor of ISM2016's Exec IN forum, developing and executing sourcing events to help companies manage spend and optimize value in their supply chains. Prior to joining Source One, Chabanon was a Project Manager for ThyssenKrupp, specializing in inventory and maintenance planning and contract management.

Read More

Meeting to discuss another Meeting - and other forms of nonsensical resistance

Remember the book Alice in Wonderland? Do you also remember when Alice is at the Mad Hatter's tea party and it seems like every time Alice is about to drink her tea the Mad Hatter and the Hare say it is time to move to another chair? Poor Alice never got the opportunity to drink her tea. Now, while Alice in Wonderland is a fictional story, there are some unfortunate parallels and lessons that are relatable to consulting.

Take this scenario for example: It has been a month of back and forth with your stakeholders and administrative assistants, and you have finally somehow managed to find an hour on everyone's calendar to set up a meeting. After the first fifteen minutes of introductions, you, as the consultant begin to lead the conversation, however as time quickly ticks by, you are finding the group is solely interested in learning about the status of the project and the next steps and you haven't even been able to scratch the surface of your planned agenda during this meeting.

All those in attendance are still talking about the project at a high level, and instead of making decisions, they discuss what is going to happen in the future and what decisions need to be made to get the project done. You quickly look at your watch again and you're now five minutes from having to conclude the meeting. Now you have to discuss calendars and when the group can meet again. You have just fallen into the trap known as a meeting to discuss another meeting. Nothing was accomplished and now you are prolonging your timeline. Just like Alice in Wonderland you went to the tea party but were unable to drink the tea. When the stakeholders are not willing to engage in a detailed discussion and only want to meet to discuss the next time they will all meet again, you should sense that there is opposition from your client. Identifying and understanding resistance is one of the hardest parts of consulting.

Peter Block, the author of Flawless Consulting, dedicates a chapter to understanding resistance. He identifies fourteen different forms, however in my experience working with clients as a procurement consultant, there are four forms in particular that seem to be the most common.


1. No Time to Say Hello, Goodbye. I'm Late, I'm Late, I'm Late!

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you?

  • Your client states that they are unavailable to meet this week. Then when you finally schedule time with them to meet, the client cancels the appointment.
  • You send the client a calendar invite and...immediately get an out of office email.
  • The client has a week of vacation and then another week of mandatory vacation.
  • You call your client to ask a question, and they answer only to tell you that they cannot respond to you at this time since they will be training the whole week.


While it may be true that your client is very busy and it is difficult for them to find time to complete their own daily tasks in addition to those from you, if you continually are not getting enough time from your client, you are encountering another form of resistance. Time is valuable, and if your client is not giving you the time required to meet, the timing may not be right for you to proceed with this project. If you don't get the initial meeting on the calendar with your client, unfortunately you don't even have the opportunity to have a meeting to discuss another meeting.

2. Curiouser and curiouser! 

After you have presented the report on your assigned project, it is natural that the client is going to have questions. The client has hired you to solve a problem, partnering with you for your expertise and experience, however the client also wants to understand what you found. Of course the client may be pleased to review your findings and solution, however they want to also know the source of the problem, how it can be avoided in the future, and be able to present and explain your report to their colleagues or managers.

Drawing from experience, the client may ask questions like:

  • Where were these numbers derived from?
  • What was the conversion rate you used?
  • Did you take qualitative aspects into account?


These types of questions are understandable, and this type of curiosity is expected. If however, after the report is presented and you have addressed the client's initial questions, the client continues to request more detail, you should realize that this is a form of resistance.

For example, the client gets through the initial round of questions, and continues to say:  "That seems great, but can you provide me with the back-up data to show how you made these calculations?" or "Can you provide me with the invoices and data used to create your report?" This is essentially why you were hired in the first place; to help the client analyze the data and be a resource for them. If they are going to continue to ask for more detail and review all your work in-depth, you are going to constantly face resistance.

It then becomes critical for you as the consultant to address this resistance. It may be that your client does not feel fully confident in your abilities, or that they are afraid of losing control. Be sure to ask your client their reasoning for needing an immense amount of detail and how you can move forward in the project without getting bogged down on one particular detail.


3. Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop!

To really understand the heart of the problem, you have to know more about our company. Our company was founded in 1982 by John Strong and his son Doug.  The client continues giving you background on the company and not actually getting to the point. It seems like every time you ask a question the client tells you another story or gives you more detail than necessary. A simple yes or no question turns into a cost benefit analysis and you seem to be getting nowhere. It's time to face this form of resistance. While it may seem like the client wants to give you all the facts so that you can do your job, in reality they are prolonging the process and you need to get to the bottom of what is really going on.


4. Silence! Off with their heads!

You wrap-up your presentation to your client and it is quiet enough to hear a pin drop. This is quite the opposite of the client who asks lots of detailed questions or the client who wants to flood you with detail. This client is not giving you a response at all. While initially you might be inclined to see this as a good sign, don't take the bait. Just because a client is not saying anything does not mean that they are in agreement.

If for example you email your baseline report to a client and have not heard a response back, do not take that as a sign that they client agrees with your assessment. The client might not have had time to review your report or if they did review it, they may not want to address you on it and therefore you will not actually be receiving their signature anytime soon. In order to identify this form of resistance you have to ask yourself if the client was ever genuinely enthusiastic about your project or got involved in the process. If the answer is no, then silence is a form of resistance and it will become an obstacle throughout your project.

There is always going to be some type of resistance in a project. But, in order to keep your project moving and on the right track, you have to be adept at identifying the various forms of resistance. It is one of the hardest parts of consulting, but if you do not face resistance head-on, you will not be able to build a relationship with your client and your project will suffer as a result. So the next time you are in a meeting that is turning into a discussion about calendar availability and high level details of the project, identify this as a form of resistance and have an open discussion with your client. Just like Alice had to eventually get out of Wonderland, you too have to get out of your client's Wonderland in order to overcome resistance.


Author: Nicole Mahaffey is a Project Analyst at Source One Management Services, LLC. In her role, Nicole is adept in executing strategic sourcing initiatives; conducting comprehensive research, vetting suppliers, and developing RFPs with great attention to detail. She is a proven asset in providing detailed financial analysis and creative solutions for client cost savings.

Read More

Supply Chain Recruitment Calls for a Global Approach

Supply chain management requires knowledgeable, experienced professionals with a highly refined set of skills, so finding professionals to fill positions can be a daunting task. It would be wonderful if qualified procurement professionals stood on every corner, holding up signs reading Here I am! so you could simply scoop them up. Unfortunately, locating the right candidate is far more difficult. The staffing shortages we're seeing across the board in the function prove procurement pros are in high demand and hard to find. One significant factor that can close the gap between sorely missing a procurement candidate and welcoming the right one to your company: expanding your search from local and regional job sites and sources to taking a global approach. When you're on the prowl for someone with a very specific set of skills, the pool of qualified candidates tends to be smaller and spread out it's likely your dream professional is halfway around the world, and if you're going to connect with them and bring them on board, you have to be able to reach them.

When searching for procurement talent, many firms quickly discover that simply posting an ad on a general job-search site doesn't cut the mustard. The practice of throwing up a HELP WANTED ad on requires prospects to take a very specific path to reach you. If you don't finely craft the perfect ad with the right keywords, for example, it might not come up in their search. If your office is in Chicago and their geo search is centered on San Francisco, they'll likely miss you again. Then, there's the arguably biggest problem with expecting candidates to reach out to you, and not the other way around: they're not currently looking.

As we mentioned before, expert procurement professionals are in short supply and high demand and because of this, the most talented among them have little incentive to hunt you need to search for and reach out to this desirable talent, because they might not make that first move. Consider searching in the region where your supply chain is centered. It's true that procurement tends to require talent with a global sourcing perspective, and an ability to capably work with diverse people in various regions and cultures. However, if your firm's needs call for a heavy amount of activity in a specific region, acquiring a professional familiar with the climate, culture, infrastructure and other aspects of that region can provide an edge. For example, if you're looking to increase sourcing of your raw sugar cane supply from Brazil, hiring someone who knows the intricacies of the country's business culture, infrastructure challenges, political climate, major suppliers and other unique characteristics can provide an edge over hiring someone whose familiarity with the area is less intimate and more academic.

The biggest question, then, is how do you connect with these hard-to-find procurement professionals? Even if your company has international offices, it's obviously impossible to be everywhere at once. This is where the skills and services of a global supply chain recruitment firm prove invaluable. Just as a procurement professional offers a desirable set of skills, knowledge and contacts, a recruitment operation with contacts in diverse fields around the globe can deliver the resources to make that connection. MRA Global is part of the MRI Network that operates around the world with hundreds of offices and resources that MRA can tap to support their clients. MRA has contacts in a wide range of industries and has a successful track record of connecting talented professionals with motivated companies. If you'd like to learn more, contact MRA Global. Our global sourcing network is engineered to connect you with the right person for the job, no matter where they are.

Read More

Procurement Talent to the Rescue: Avoid Supply-chain Disaster

Even in the face of ideal conditions, supply chain management is a highly complex process, full of intricacies there's a huge number of factors to learn and master, from pinpointing and procurement of raw materials, to forging partnerships with global suppliers , to logistics, and beyond. Throw in the wildly disruptive force of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, earthquake, wildfire or other catastrophe and the process can become upended. The supply chain function saw this idea in impactful action recently, with hurricanes wreaking havoc in Texas and Puerto Rico. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) surveyed members of its Manufacturing and Non-Manufacturing Business Survey Committees in order to gauge their professional opinion on how Hurricane Harvey might impact several key business metrics, and how shortages of input materials might be affected thanks to the severe storm. The findings were notable:


  • Approximately two thirds (67%) predicted input materials pricing will be negative impacted over the next three months; 27% think prices will be negatively, or very negatively, affected.
  • Most (56%) believe supplier deliveries will be at least somewhat negatively impacted over the next three months, and 19% think deliveries will be negatively, or very negatively, impacted.
  • Respondents believe fuel, and petrochemical feed stocks and derivatives, could be in short supply for the next several months, affecting price and availability of things like gasoline, plastic resins, electrical components and more.
  • Out of the 36 industries involved in the survey, 27 indicated potentially significant shortages, including Food, Beverage & Tobacco Products; Plastics & Rubber Products; Wholesale Trade; Machinery; Chemical Products; and others.


Additionally, Hurricane Irma disrupted a number of supply chains, most notably pharmaceuticals. Drug giants like Astra Zeneca and Eli Lilly are facing months of downtime thanks to the devastating winds and flooding. Most of the approximately 50 plants in Puerto Rico have backup power, but surrounding infrastructure is wrecked and, with the rest of the island without power for another three to six months, there's no staff to run operations. Such large-scale supply chain disruptions could bring a company to its knees, without the service of top-notch procurement professionals. In the face of a disaster, a firm's supply-chain staff needs to:


  • Know the industry they're working in, inside and out
  • Be able to forge good relationships with stakeholders across the board
  • Anticipate potential disruptions in the supply chain (such as seasonal weather patterns)
  • React nimbly to a crisis and formulate possible solutions


Such incidents further reinforce the need to ensure organizations have capable talent that can manage risk and suppliers in these trying times. If you're looking to recruit supply management and procurement professionals that can help you plan for all contingencies and elevate the performance of your team, please contact MRA Global. Our specialized team understands the true value of your most precious assets, i.e. your people and want to help you stay ahead of all potential disruptions.


Keywords: global sources, supply chain management, supply chain, recruitment, procurement

Read More

Leveraging Procurement Professionals within IT and Telecom Departments

Finding personnel with the perfect fit can be challenging for any department. You can develop a set of requirements and job specific functions, but how do you really determine whether someone is qualified to address and fulfill your actual needs? And for IT and Telecom departments, recruiting can be overly cumbersome. In many cases, companies are more inclined to overly focus on technical skill requirements often leading to the WRONG resource being hired.


For example, I worked with a previously employed telecom carrier account manager who was hired as a telecom analyst. His role was to audit telecom invoices and identify areas for cost savings, optimization, and recommend potential technology upgrades based on specific requirements. This person advertised himself as a telecom guru who understood the market, technology, and supplier service offerings. He passed the interview process by throwing out industry trade verbiage and navigating some technical questions. Unfortunately after less than a week, it became clear the only thing this person knew was the definition of the services his previous employer was selling but not how it applied to business operations or its actual function within the commodity. He could not identify the same technology with an alternate carrier because he only knew the name of the services and products he previously promoted.


Lesson learned and recommended course of action: Consider looking outside the typical technical area of expertise and invest in a more strategic candidate. When hiring for a role within these departments, job postings usually target qualifications with keywords like: Technical support, network designers, engineers, support staff, analysts, IT, telecom background, project manager, security, web development and so on; but what is the underlying need within the department? There will always be a mandate for the technical person(s) who maintains business operations and can quickly assess, navigate, and manage troubleshooting in order to keep the lights on. However, these departments will need management and support staff who:


  • Objectively analyzes business processes
  • Makes recommendations for planning, budgeting, acquiring or implementing systems, and
  • Identifies overall improvements in all areas of department spending


One does not necessarily need to know how to design a network topology, program, or configure a phone system to successfully accomplish these tasks. So, why not challenge the status quo and balance the technical folks with resources who bring a consultative mind set and a different perspective to the team. One place to look when it comes to bolstering your team: Procurement. Procurement professionals can offer a more holistic and strategic approach to Telecom and IT Departments. Their methodology includes building a foundational understanding of the commodity they are sourcing or managing by:


  • Identifying all billing elements being invoiced,
  • Educating themselves of the competitive landscape and what the market is doing,
  • Navigating contractual best practices viable to supporting the need and improving business processes, and
  • Managing overall supplier relationships


The result is being able to speak intelligently about the commodity, identify areas for improvement both financially and operationally, and being able to acknowledge when a more technical resource is needed to support the initiative. Procurement manages and executes sourcing initiatives with both an analytical and tactful approach. The goal is to promote cost savings and procure innovative services to address not only short-term requirements but long-term company objectives.


When reviewing contracts, it is more than a validation of line item costs and basic terms, but a deeper focus on the fine print and overall value adds the supplier can offer. In my example above, the carrier account manager hired would not be able to traverse any alternate proposals, identify erroneous billing errors, suggest contract changes, or offer any insight how to grow the company into the future. Therefore consider posting a job that focuses more on skill sets and keywords including: Analytical, consultative, self-starters, self-managers, collaborative. Take a step back and ask yourself the following: What is the end result I am looking for in this resource request? Does the role really require decades of very specific experience? Or, am I looking for someone with a proven ability to think strategically about my departments operations to fill in the gaps and improve efficiencies?  


About the Author: Leigh Merz is a Consultant for Source One Management Services, LLC with over ten years of spend management experience. Specializing in telecommunications, administrative expenses, and small parcel, Merz helps clients reduce costs through strategic sourcing and expert contract negotiating. Beyond supporting client savings objectives, Merz is go-to resource delivering further value by enhancing supplier relationships and identifying outside the box solutions.  

Read More

Naseem Malik Featured in Supply Chain Management Review!

Naseem Malik, Managing Partner at MRA Global Sourcing, had an opportunity to contribute to the July issue of Supply Chain Management Review where he discussed how organizations can navigate this candidate-driven market and attract top talent. Click here to read the full article!

Read More

The Live Negotiation Part 1: Should you run an auction?

In 2017, technology is King. Whether you're part of an in-house procurement team, or utilizing the services of a third-party procurement provider, the use of online sourcing tools has rapidly increased in an effort to streamline the strategic sourcing process. Bigger firms who maintain an in-house team have begun developing their own sourcing tools or licensing existing tools on the market, while smaller companies tend to seek out the services of third-party procurement providers who typically provide their proprietary sourcing software as part of their overall service offering.

Procurement professionals and suppliers alike tend to have mixed feelings on the use of these tools; specifically in terms of the value they provide when training and allocating resources have all been factored into the bottom line. While there are several benefits to utilizing a tool for RFPs and other static quotes, if a decision is made to forgo the technology in favor of using a more traditional approach, you can typically expect similar results.

That being said, one clear benefit to utilizing a sourcing tool is for the Live Auction (eAuction) feature many tools have, which cannot be manually replicated. The thought of running a live negotiation can seem daunting initially; it requires strategic and focused interaction with each participant and simultaneous ongoing dialogue with a group of attentive stakeholders. The pressure to identify high savings on screen is certainly prevalent, as the use of a live negotiation provides the live market insight that essentially negates the need for second and third round bid collection. Basically, what you see is what you get and sometimes what you get is far more than what you have anticipated. The same mechanism by which a live negotiation tends to yield best and final offer (BAFO) pricing is the very thing that drives such competitive pricing in the first place: the insight into the competition.

In a standard reverse auction, a bidder will typically have visibility to the best bid for each item on which they are quoting. Other times, they will be shown their ranking (usually as a quartile % to mask the actual number of participants), and in some live auctions, called Dutch or Blind auctions, the price reduces after a predetermined amount of time and the bidder must accept the price to continue. So how do you know when to run an auction for the category you are sourcing? To ensure a successful eAuction and produce a room of happy stakeholders, your category should meet the following criteria:

1. Competition and Market Availability  Are the items readily available within a wide network of suppliers who are willing and able to participate in an online auction? If so, this is a good start in making the decision to proceed with a live negotiation.

2. Specifications  Obtaining crystal clear specifications for the products and services being sourced is not always a reality, unfortunately. Though in a live negotiation, the expectation is that the bidders are competing on the exact same item. To ensure an apples-to-apples bid, you'll want to provide bidders will clearly defined specifications, either through product drawings or a scope of work.

3. Contract Value  Suppliers tend to be wary of online auctions. One way to entice them and ensure participation is with a significant amount of spend on the line. If the above criteria are met, then conducting your negotiations live can be a great way to get stakeholders excited and drive true dollar savings in real-time without the need for several RFP rounds.

While savings can never be guaranteed, creating a competitive environment where the supplier is able to glean real-time market insight, with the added pressure of the prospective customer watching tends to get them to sharpen their pencils in a way that a traditional RFP simply cannot do.

Next up: deciding the right strategy. In part two of this series we'll take a look at setting up your competitive bid event for success.


About the Author:  Kristina Kaku is a Project Analyst at Source One Management Services, specializing in MRO, Transportation and Logistics, and Travel. Kaku is a trusted resource for helping companies achieve their cost reduction goals by executing customized strategic sourcing initiatives and conducting negotiations. Throughout her experience supporting dozens of sourcing projects, Kaku has not only helped clients achieve savings, but also improve efficiency through the use of procurement tools and supplier relationships by establishing transparent and best-in-class contracts.

Read More

Best Practices for New Hire Onboarding

I was recently part of a team tasked with reviewing the onboarding process at my company. Our goal was to ensure that we were setting our new hires up for success from day one. Even though it had only been a few years since the process was first developed, our company had grown and evolved significantly. Based on the changes our company had gone through  adding new services, growing our geographic footprint, updating our processes, etc.  we felt it was time to take another look and make sure that the way we approached onboarding still fit with the current state of the organization.

The first step we took was to talk to different team members and collect their feedback on their onboarding process. We made sure to interview team members from all different levels and departments to ensure that we had a good sampling of different perspectives. We asked for their feedback on their onboarding experience  the things they liked, the things that weren't very helpful, and the things they learned later and wished were included. Overall, there were a few common themes in what people would like to have added to the process, that could be applicable to any organization's onboarding process, including:

Length There are varying opinions on how long an onboarding process should take. Should it be one day to get ramped up on the basics and learn the rest through on the job experience? Or should there be a two week intensive training process before any work is handed off? Unfortunately, there is no correct answer; there is value in both approaches and individuals may have a preference for one versus another. Many believe that there is no better way to learn than getting started for yourself, while others prefer a more formal training process. Depending on the complexity of your role or requirements of your industry, that may dictate how long a new hire should be trained before they get started with the work. Otherwise, you should try to find the balance between training your team on the core skills and allowing them the opportunity to learn through experience.

Format Should training be one-on-one? Online? Lecture style? The format for which you share the onboarding courses should be based on the content of that course. For example, any content that is tactical in nature, navigating the internal drives and tools or how to use the phone system, can be explained through online training portals. However, content that is more complex or strategic around processes and best practices should have some degree of management interaction to ensure that the correct message is being conveyed and understood. Similarly, onboarding content around roles and responsibilities, career development, and performance should be communicated in person by that individual's manager.

Process/Best Practices Process training is essential to any onboarding process regardless of the industry. Making sure that the new team member knows how to do their job is one of the main reasons that an onboarding process exists. You should make sure that you have a clear training process for the various steps and procedures that are part of the new hire's everyday job function. Additionally, you should try to convey any information that could be helpful for them as they begin their work, including best practices, key terminology, helpful hints, etc. It is important to make sure that this information can also be available after the initial onboarding process as a reference as they begin their work.

Tools and Technology It is important to make sure that any new hire is made aware of the tools and technologies available to them. You should make sure that you are not only making the team aware that these tools exist, but also communicating why they may be used and how they work. Oftentimes there may be a software or program that is able to expedite a given task but is not widely known by all team members. It is important to make this information known upfront to avoid this situations, while also ensuring that those lists are updated regularly as new technologies are developed.

Culture Finally, any potentially most complicated, your onboarding process should start to orientate the new hire into the culture of your organization. The onboarding process should start to set the tone for that culture in everything from introducing the person around the office to the messaging used in all of the training materials. Culture can't be communicated in a slide deck, but you should try to incorporate pieces of what makes your company unique in those materials so that the new hire gets a feel for where they are starting to work. Employee engagement is vital to a company's success and engagement starts from the first day on the job. A key component to employee engagement is the ability to integrate with the organization's culture.

An effective and thorough onboarding process is essential for the success of not only new hires, but also the organization as a whole. We should always make sure that we are preparing our employees so that they are ready to begin in their new role and able to continue to grow in their careers. Luckily for my company, we didn't need to start from scratch with our onboarding process, but there were areas that we could improve to make sure that our employees were ready to hit the ground running from the start.

About the Author: Megan Connell is a Spend Management Consultant at Source One Management Services and a proven asset in leading and executing strategic sourcing and budget optimization strategies. She is a leader in providing clients outside the box solutions, through detailed stakeholder collaboration and engagement. Her high level of analytical skills and vendor management expertise helps streamline clients operations and drive sustainable cost savings.

Read More

MRA Global is partnering with a Fortune 100 company

MRA Global is partnering with a Fortune 100 company in IL as they bolster up their new Indirect Sourcing team. MRA was asked to connect them with a top notch Professional Services sourcing group lead from a top tier company, and we introduced them to an indirect sourcing executive with strong transformational experience, people management skills and who is proving to be an excellent culture fit! Congratulations to this individual and our client on their new venture!   Whether you are a company looking for the top talent in the industry, or a professional looking to advance your career, connect with us on LinkedIn, or e-mail us at Be sure to visit our most recent career opportunities!

Read More

Guiding Millennials in Your Workplace

Ah  the term Millennial ; the stigma associated with generation is so palpable that you can sometimes feel it before you finish saying the word itself. We're a hotly discussed demographic  even appearing within the agenda at the Institute for Supply Management's Annual Conference, where one of my colleagues will be moderating a panel of millennials in a discussion titled, Should I Stay or Should I Go? Socially, millennials are a unique breed that continues to forge their way into today's society by being progressive and outspoken. However, when it comes to the workplace many millennials require certain circumstances within their environment to truly excel. Being someone who is right in the middle of the millennial age range, I've evolved as a professional throughout my various experiences in Corporate America and in privately held firms. As I begin to mentor new hires and call young millennials colleagues, I've learned that there are a few key elements that today's leaders need to know about this potion of today's workforce.


No matter how open minded, talented, intelligent, and gifted millennials are they need some sense of structure in their workplace. Allowing millennials free range to figure out everything themselves is not the best way to have them contribute effectively. They need to see an end goal, and (more importantly) a feasible path on how to get there. Do not confuse this with holding their hands. When given proper direction, the resources needed, and enough time, the work will get done. Those with a good work ethic and drive will figure out how to fill the gaps during the process, but mangers need to be able to point them in the right direction before cutting the cord.

Over Communicate

One big knock against this generation is that they attempt to find all of their answers in numbers and statistics, and they lack the social and emotional intelligence (EI) needed to maximize their impact in the workplace. Think about our constant need to turn to Google for the immediate answer to our questions, and our reliance on text over face-to-face communication. Millennials are now fully engaged with the baby boomer generation in the workplace, and this young generation needs to be able to clearly communicate with their colleagues, managers, and clients beyond a spreadsheet. My experiences have taught me that you can never be too certain, and that documenting instructions can prove to be a life saver in the name of accuracy and efficiency. Managers need to make sure their instructions are clear, and understood by said millennial. Having them repeat the task/goal is a quick and easy way to ensure your message hit home, and will not result in wasted effort.

Concentrate on Leading

Millennials are the next generation of leaders. In order to groom these new leaders, current executives and managers need to focus on leading. Merely providing someone with the resources needed to grow is not enough to fully push them over the top. Demonstrated leaderships and a willingness to listen and learn from your workforce is a good way to get a millennial employee to buy in to what you're doing at your company. Lead them, direct them, and listen to them.

Work-Life Balance

Before you roll your eyes  understand that gone are the days of working 70 or 80 hour weeks to this generation. They work to live, not live to work. If you expect a millennial to work much over 40-45 hours a week, you may be in the market for a new employee, because they ll leave. They do not identify themselves with how they pay their bills. Allocating your resources and workload across your workforce evenly allows a proper work/life balance that millennials can enjoy and not feel overwhelmed. Instead, make sure you are doing what you can as a leader to ensure they are working those 40-45 hours each week in the most efficient manner possible. That way your company gets a better ROI and you don't burn out employees. Millennials are here to stay. Just as we do in all other aspects of our lives, we must prepare for change and be open to any and all processes. The world is evolving, and we need to make sure that this section of the workforce (soon to be the majority of the workforce) is well prepared to take the reins and lead. Keeping the above mentioned themes in mind is a positive step in establishing a foundation to help propel millennials into the rest of their careers.


About the Author: Nicholas Harasymczuk is a Project Analyst at Source One Management Services. In his role, Harasymczuk helps clients optimize their supply management operations through supplier identification, strategic sourcing, and contract negotiations. With a deep understanding of supply chain and logistics, Harasymczuk is a proven asset in streamlining processes to drive sustainable cost savings.

Read More

Effective Timeline Management During a Sourcing Project

One of the first steps in any sourcing engagement is to develop a timeline or project plan. Without a general understanding of the timing surrounding your project there is no starting point. However, what happens when that project plan changes during the course of your initiative and gets extended, potentially indefinitely? Not only have you been put on hold, but you run the risk of greater issues with engagement, savings potential, and meeting expectations. The longer the sourcing process goes on, the supplier you're working with may lose the initial excitement they had about your project when you first reached out and introduced the initiative.

As you continue to postpone next steps or delay the decision-making process, the suppliers may start to interpret your actions to mean this is not a real opportunity and disengage from the process. Other opportunities may come up for those suppliers and resources can no longer dedicate the time to your project when things do start to move again. The same can be said of your stakeholder team, they may lose the momentum they originally had for your project. You may also face internal resource constraints as time goes on and priorities change, especially as you enter busy seasons or year-end activities.

Depending on the background of your sourcing initiative, another concern may be in missing savings targets tied to your efforts. Your project may have been projected to achieve a certain savings figure based on negotiations being complete by a certain date, but with your delay you are left with only a few months left in the year to have an impact. This is especially concerning if budget adjustments have already been made based on your original timeframe and projections. Finally, there is the possibility of losing negotiation leverage once a final decision has been made.

Typically when building out timelines there is a buffer between when a decision is made and when the supplier needs to begin work; however as timelines are delayed this buffer period is reduced. If there is a hard deadline for when a supplier needs to be identified and the supplier involved in the process are aware of this, you lose leverage during the negotiations process as that deadline date approaches. Suppliers recognize the fact that you need a supplier in place by a certain date and could take this into consideration when responding to negotiations. Regardless of why your project is delayed, the potential impact on your project could be substantial. As such, it is important that we make every effort to effectively manage timelines and expectations throughout the process. Below are some tips to avoid timeline delays and manage these situations if they occur:

1. Make sure you have all of the right people on your team.

When you are beginning your data collection process and forming the project team, ensure that you have all of the key team members and decision-makers involved in the process. If a new team member is added midway through the project it is important to meet with them and inform them of the progress thus far and gain their buy-in to avoid potential issues down the line. A common reason a project is derailed is because of a new player joining the team with new ideas or who needs to be brought up to speed on the project before moving forward. This person may be a key decision maker who does not agree with the strategy you have been pursuing or could be someone who has a different perspective on your approach that causes the team to rethink their stance. Whether a new team member is added because they are new to a position or because they were overlooked during the initial development of the project team, adding someone new can be disruptive to the process if not managed properly.

2. Don't just focus on the here and now, ask about future strategies.

During those initial meetings with the team to collect information on the project and formulate your strategy, it is important to ask questions about upcoming changes to forecast or strategy that could impact your project. Another common reason for project delays is changes to strategy based on future needs or new directions/strategies. While your strategy may have been applicable for the current state of the category, the strategy for next year may be entirely different meaning your approach is no longer applicable and you have to redo the work you have done to date.

3. Develop a clear scope of work.

Developing the scope of work for your project is one of the most important steps in the sourcing process, if your scope is unclear or missing information it could mean conducting multiple rounds in order to collect an applicable proposal. It is essential that you dedicate the time to collecting all of the data needed to develop your scope and review it with the entire team to make sure nothing has been overlooked. While it could potentially mean taking more time than originally budgeted to develop a comprehensive scope, it will be worthwhile in the end when only one round of proposals is required.

4. Have check-points with the team.

In order to keep your project on track, consider having regular status meetings with the team, during which time you could proactively address any potential issues/roadblocks that could impact your timeline. In the event that a project is delayed these check in meetings can be used as a way to keep your team engaged and continually discuss next steps. If you are not having regular meetings with your team and there is a delay, make an effort to stay in contact as frequently as possible to ensure your project does not fall off their radar. Even if the responses are not resolutions to the delay, information on what is happening will be helpful to gauge when a decision could be made.

5. Update the suppliers whenever possible.

If your project is delayed, one of the best things you can do is to be as transparent as possible with all parties involved. You will more than likely be receiving numerous calls and emails from suppliers looking for an update on the status of your project, you will need to manage these situations in order to keep them engaged. Try to empathize with their situation and give them as much information as you can about what is happening. This is not always possible given the circumstances, but if the suppliers feel that you are putting them off this may lead to disengagement.

There are a number of reasons why a project could be delayed, whether it be strategies changing or priorities shifting, but the result of that timing change could be detrimental. One of the biggest concerns from delays is disengagement, both supplier and stakeholder, as a result of an extended timeline. Similarly, the results of your initiative could be in jeopardy due to a loss of negotiations leverage or not having sufficient time to meet projections. Therefore, managing timelines effectively is an important component of any sourcing project. There are a number of steps that you can take before and during a sourcing engagement to potentially avoid timeline delays and keep your project moving smoothly. No matter why your project is delayed, changes to the timeline can have a significant impact on your project and should be managed accordingly.


About the Author:  Megan Connell is a Spend Management Consultant at Source One Management Services and a proven asset in leading and executing strategic sourcing and budget optimization strategies. She is a leader in providing clients outside the box solutions, through detailed stakeholder collaboration and engagement. Her high level of analytical skills and vendor management expertise helps streamline clients operations and drive sustainable cost savings.

Read More

A Word of Advice to the Young Procurement Professional

Supply Chain Management, specifically procurement, is becoming a popular career choice for many young professionals. Aside from the field having such a high demand, many people choose to get involved in the procurement side of Supply Chain Management because they enjoy data analytics, the thrill of negotiating, engaging clients and suppliers, and for many, they just have an overall love for business. Procurement has been capturing the attention of many individuals over the past few years as it is rapidly expanding and rising to popularity. As one young procurement professional to another, I'm going to lay out five tips that will lead entry-level employees to success as they begin a career in procurement.

Tip #1: Do your research: When you start a new job, it's understandable that you're not going to know everything. What would be the point in taking on a position without an opportunity to grow? With the idea of continuous learning in mind, research is going to be the young procurement professional's key to success. Working with different stakeholders in a variety of business units, doing your homework will not only prove that you're ready and willing to understand your internal or external customer, but also improve your performance on the project. The more context you build, the easier it will be to engage internal stakeholders or clients and suppliers. Ultimately, performing the necessary research will not only further your education and build subject-matter expertise, it will also make the process much smoother if you know what we're getting into before you get into it.

Tip #2: Pay attention to detail: In procurement, there are a ton of moving pieces, between communicating between clients and suppliers, evaluating data, keeping the RFx process in motion, and identifying process improvements along the way. Not only is it important to be organized with all of the information we are exposed to, but it is crucial to be especially mindful of details. Details such as invoice information, scopes of work, quotations, bids, and contract information are going to be very important to have when it comes to moving into the various stages of the procurement and sourcing processes. If we are fully aware of the details involved in our projects, we can lay out a better, more effective strategy that will have a stronger impact. This will result in greater savings and a more efficient supply chain.

Tip #3: Be clear, concise, and professional with everything: Keep a professional tone with every phone call and email you send to clients, suppliers, potential clients, and supervisors. This tip applies to nearly all career choices, not just in the procurement field. There is a lot of emphasis on establishing and maintaining supplier and customer relationships in procurement, which means clear and professional communication is a must. By maintaining excellent communication, it's important to be direct rather than beating around the bush in almost all scenarios. As it is in many fields, there are countless deadlines that must be met, and it's a best practice to be direct. People are not mind readers. This is especially important during the negotiation phases so strategies are optimized and information is clear for both parties involved. As a young procurement professional, keeping communication clear, concise, and professional will only be beneficial.

Tip #4: Treat suppliers like strategic partners: Suppliers play a huge role in a supply chain. In fact, without them, a supply chain may be very hard to manage (depending on the industry and product). In many cases, companies cannot make every single product in-house. With the help of suppliers, the process is much easier and can become more cost efficient. If a company wants their supply chain to be successful, they will recognize that their suppliers are capable of being strategic partners and they will work to develop and maintain strategic relationships with them. In the world of procurement, we are encouraged to help enhance these client-supplier relationships and as a result, the process will become much smoother. With larger suppliers, it can be beneficial to have a strong relationship with them because if a company feels a cost reduction initiative is necessary, the supplier will be more willing to work and fight to keep the client's business due to the well-maintained relationship.

Tip #5: Be creative when developing strategies: Similar to many situations, there is no one way to accomplish a project in procurement. One strategy doesn't fit all scenarios, nor does one strategy apply to all client needs. For employees in this field, it is going to be highly beneficial to build a creative mindset, especially when it comes to developing strategies to achieve savings. Developing a sense of creativity within our work will allow us to stand out from the crowd (and the competition) by being able to come up with innovative and customized strategies to accomplish goals. When developing creative strategies, it's a good idea to establish a general strategic process, which can be applied and adapted to fit every project while maintaining a level of customization for the client's varying needs. As young procurement professionals dive deeper into their careers and gain more experience, they will uncover many other factors that will contribute to their success. These five tips are great for those who are in their first year or so of professional work. Speaking from experience, these tips are some of the first lessons I learned in my first few months as a young procurement professional. With time, exposure, and developing subject-matter expertise, they can lead young employees to success in the procurement world.

About the Author Samantha Hoy is an Analyst at Source One Management Services. A recent graduate of Penn State University where she received her B.S. in Business with a concentration in Supply Chain and MIS, Hoy is an early talent on the Source One team helping companies optimize their supply management practices. Passionate about data, Hoy is a proven resource in enabling companies to make informed purchasing decisions through strategic sourcing.

Read More

Happy New (Employee) Year! Workplace Trends to Watch for in 2017

If we’ve learned anything from the 2016 political climate, it’s that we cannot always count on predictions to accurately foretell the future. Still it would be foolhardy to ignore the collection of trends that is shaping the modern workplace. Indeed, the steady transformation of the contemporary workplace is perhaps one of the few things we CAN count on. The whiplash-inducing changeups in technology, growing millennial prevalence in the workforce and the powerful draw of an employee centered workspace are all contributing to the evolution of a compelling new picture of employment. With that, three hiring and workplace trends to look out for in 2017:

The Fluid Concept of Office

Generational concepts of a traditional office may differ, but nearly all can agree that that the concept of one shared office space where all employees gather for a 7, 8 or 9 hour workday and then make their way to home is irretrievably gone. Statistics from Forrester Research’s US Telecommuting Forecast indicate that 34 million Americans work from home, and the trend only continues to build. The concept of an actual workday is also far more fluid now that employees have the often implied permission to contact, sell, create, complete and manage at any and every hour. The benefit in exchange for this near constant attention to work is the freedom to conduct that job from wherever an employee is able, as long as goals are met.

The Evolving Role of HR

With a workforce that is more and more on the move and willing to move on, HR will find itself evolving to accommodate employees whose wants and needs have taken on new, dynamic directions. With a less traditional office set-up on the rise, so too comes the reimagination of fair and compelling compensation. Health care, transportation and education reimbursement, sabbatical leave and flextime are among the elements at play in the hiring and retention of quality candidates. Human Resource professionals will be required to keep their fingers on the pulse of the nuanced needs of their employees, requiring the development of a more nimble process in responding the collective employee voice.

Gig Economy

Over the past two decades, the “gig economy,” defined by employees operating as independent contractors in short term assignments, has evolved to the point that those jobs are expanding with much greater speed than traditional permanent/full time employment, as outlined in a study by a Brookings Institute study released in October 2016. The willingness (and eagerness) of so many to take on contract roles opens an opportunity for companies to pinpoint more specialized and short-term project needs, and hire for those positions on a short-term basis. The prospective benefits of hiring to address uniquely targeted needs on an ad hoc basis has not gone unnoticed. Neither has the benefit of mixing salaried employees with a revolving set of specialists who might inject fresh ideas and skill sets into the work atmospheres they inhabit. The anticipation of what 2017 holds is heightened now as prognostications pierce the collective desire the read the future. In the absence of practiced soothsayer, let’s say this: 2017 may well be the year of the human-centered employee experience.

Read More

Musings from MRA Global Sourcing: Follow Your Recruiters Lead

Stay up-to-date on the latest musings from MRA Global Sourcing as featured on The Strategic Sourceror, powered by our partners at Source One.

Read More

Salary Negotiation

A few years ago, a friend of mine decided to quit her job. She had a few other options and avenues she wanted to pursue, and so she met with her boss. She explained that she had decided to leave the company and her boss asked what it would take to keep her. Surprised by his response, she blurted out that it would take a 50% pay increase and the ability to work from home. He agreed without question! Shouldn't we all be so lucky?. Let me clarify that this is not the norm, nor do we typically encourage taking a counter offer. The truth of the matter is that unless there are extraordinary circumstances, salary negotiation must be a nuanced conversation with an employer, rather than a one-sided position presented to the employer.

Research Homework is vital. While it is important to recognize and believe in your worth and the value you bring to a company, it is essential to know what this and comparable companies actually pay. Your approach in any salary negotiation must be rooted in economic reality first and foremost. .Try to compute the potential value of every component you bring to the table, including your management experience, employment history, education and .soft. skills, and what this combination commands in the marketplace.

Relationship Salary negotiation contains an inherent opportunity to continue the conversation about what you will bring to the company. Your energy, your talent, your knowledge in exchange for a work environment where you will feel valued. Let this be an exchange rather than a debate, because ultimately, it is a relationship that you hope will be productive and rewarding for everyone involved. That is not to say that you must accept the first number offered (and don't be the first to offer that number if you can help it), but let that be a starting point for a dialogue.

Remember the bigger picture Maybe the salary is not quite the number you were hoping for, but the benefits are fantastic, the commute is brief and office hours are flexible. The quality of life benefits associated with perks like these should not be underestimated.

Reflect Ultimately, each position you consider taking will be multi-faceted. What do you stand to gain, financially and in terms of experience and continuing education, by accepting the role and the associated salary? What do you stand to lose by potentially walking away from the offer? .By reflecting honestly on your short and long-term goals as they relate to the company and the position, you'll likely find that the numbers you do or do not settle on, feel just right.

Read More

Congratulations to our global Consulting client on securing a top-notch Manager!

Our global Sourcing and Operations consulting client was in need of a strong leader to impact the strategic direction of the company. The challenge was to find a professional with both Sourcing and Engineering experience, as well as the ability to build and cultivate new client relationships. Our candidate was formally trained in Engineering and had several years of both consulting and sourcing experience. Additionally, this successful candidate was an innate relationship builder, and looked forward to growing the company's presence in North America. We wish them both the best of luck! Whether you are a client looking for the top talent in the industry, or a professional looking to advance your career, connect with us on LinkedIn, or e-mail us at Be sure to visit our most recent career opportunities!

Read More

MRA Global and Spend Matters Address how to Prep for a Procurement Job Interview

MRA Global is uniquely positioned to share both candidate and client perspectives as they pertain to Procurement job interviews. SpendMatters asked MRA Global what questions Procurement professionals should be preparing for and what their responses may reveal about their skills and culture-fit. To read the full article, click here.

Read More

7 Characteristics of a Successful Consultant

As college graduation season has come to an end, there are a ton of recent grads entering the job market unsure of their future career path. With variety in day-to-day responsibilities and projects, attractive salaries, and continuous learning, a career in consulting can certainly be appealing. But, what does it take? First, consider what the definition of a consultant is. According to Merion Webster's online dictionary a consultant is A person who gives professional advice or services to companies for a fee. Sounds like a fairly simple definition. However, taking this definition to look at job searches can make the simple definition a much more complicated task. 

To start, there are multiple types of Consultancies, including, but not limited to, Management Consulting, IT Consulting, and Finance and Procurement Consulting. In addition to the numerous types of consulting, there is also the need to consider the size of the consulting firm to join. They range significantly from small niche firms of less than 50 people up to the Big 4 that employ thousands. Again, the choice here stems from what the applicant deems as the best fit for them. However, no matter what type of consulting area a person would like to enter or what firm they would want to work for, there are several key characteristics that every successful consultant should possess: Having self-confidence, be a good listener, be a team player, easily cultivate and gain client trust, exhibit humility, have good communication skills, and be able to showcase expert knowledge.

Have Self-Confidence When meeting with clients, be sure to not show or sound uncertain in the responses to their questions. Speak with authority. Specifically, when discussing client sensitive matters, present yourself as confidently as possible and avoid sounding unclear or unsure in your response.

Exhibit Humility Humility is not thinking you are better than other people. Do not be boastful or arrogant when working with stakeholders. Remember, the individuals you are working with may have been doing the job you are now tasked to remedy or improve. Always keep in mind the client is the star in this equation and your job as the consultant is to help the client shine.

Be a Good Listener Listening to what the client is stating their needs and problems are is the most helpful way to ensure you are going to be able to solve their problem as easily or quickly as possible. Do not assume you know everything about their challenges or business even after doing research or if you had tackled this same problem before. In addition to being a good listener, ask relevant, open-ended questions. This allows the client to realize you are listening to them and are understanding their current situation.

Be a Team Player Development of a collaborative relationship with peers and clients is imperative to being a great consultant. Working well with others not only strengthens your skills, but it also can allow for growth of your consultancy.

Have Good Communication Skills Communication skills are both oral and written. The ability to be a good speaker is just as important as having the ability to write clear, concise emails and presentations. Since consultants are often viewed as Subject Matter Experts, the ability to deliver a message either written or aloud is critical to being a successful consultant.

Be Able to Showcase Expert Knowledge  Again the idea of a Subject Matter Expert (SME) arises. Your client has hired you (or your firm) because they expect you to have more expertise than their company's internal teams or because they do not have the bandwidth of resources or time to solve the problems at hand. In all interactions with your client ensure to exhibit the knowledge you have for this particular area of expertise.Continuous education is also imperative to remain competitive and at the top of the game. You should always be reading articles, blogs, whitepapers, etc. and networking with other industry professionals to learn and maintain the knowledge that is expected from the client. Additionally, consultants should be able to take a solution from theory to realization and show their clients how to complete and maintain that solution in their environment.

Easily Cultivate and Gain Client Trust  All these skills ultimately lead to this final characteristic of gaining your clients trust. Your engagement will not be successful if the client does not feel a sense of trust from you as the consultant. The ability to calm the concerns and show value for the money being paid by the client is imperative to the success of the engagement and the ability to earn future business from this client or by their recommendation to their network. If consulting is an area that you are interested in, keep in mind, no matter the discipline, it is a people driven business and having and developing key characteristics you can have a long, rewarding, successful career.

Author: Tracey Horrocks is a Project Manager at Source One Management Services, LLC with years of experience in procurement and strategic sourcing in an array of categories including Professional Services, Marketing, and Facilities Maintenance. In her role, Tracey serves as a pundit for developing RFPs and executing strategic sourcing strategies. Her detailed approach to supplier identification and vendor management helps clients achieve sustainable costs savings and operating efficiency.

Read More

MRA Global and Spend Matters Collaborate

In the second installment of MRA's recurring blog series with SpendMatters, we break down a few skill sets atop the wish list for organizations hiring Procurement talent. Some of our findings may surprise you! You can catch our post here to read further!

Read More

MRA Global Featured in Spend Matters!

Our team recently had the opportunity to contribute to Spend Matters, the largest website in the procurement and supply chain arena, for the first time in what will become a recurring series. In our post, we discussed the importance of developing and maintaining a personal brand, and gave key insights regarding how best to solidify yourself as an expert in the function. We enjoyed collaborating with such an innovative group, and look forward to sharing more blog posts in the future!

Read More


Imagine this scenario- one day you get a call out of the blue from a recruiter who wants to talk about the perfect position for you. You've heard this one before except this time- it actually appears to be true. Sourcing Director at X Fortune 500 company! The role is your ideal vehicle out of middle management: the chance to hire and lead a large global team, double the spend management and decision-making responsibilities of your current role, and a tangible career path that allows for rapid advancement within a growing, yet established organization. Not to mention, this role offers a hefty bump in pay. Opportunities like this don't come along often, but there's a catch the position is on the other side of the country! Nevertheless, you decide to interview. Fast forward a month or so- you have just completed the interview process and now your interest level is at an all-time high, when you receive word that a job offer will be coming soon! All signs are pointing to an acceptance, but there's one question left to answer- will you relocate your family for the role? Relocating for a new job can be a scary topic to broach. Like any major change, moving to a new area is a risk- one that can pay off or come back to bite you.

When faced with a situation like the one above, there are several factors at play when you consider making a move. A few big ones come to mind like cost of living adjustment, landscape (major metro, suburbs, rural), and future growth opportunities within the organization or elsewhere in this location. When family is involved, those questions/concerns can multiply: school rankings and safety, quality of life, career opportunities for spouse, proximity to parents, etc. all are important. That's certainly a lot to swallow so it is important to discuss the implications early and often with those affected by the potential move to gauge whether it's feasible. Looking at it from the other side, top talent is hard to find and companies often have to look out of market to find it. By doing so, they incur a lot of risk as well by often making significant investments in relocation assistance and taking a chance by transplanting someone in hopes that they'll flourish in a new environment. We are seeing companies and prospective employees both take the risk because it can be worth it.

When all of the factors we've discussed on the candidate side have been evaluated, the internal stakeholders are on board, and an opportunity truly fits, relocation can be an EXCELLENT move for one's career. From our experience, most Sourcing executives have changed cities, states and sometimes even countries throughout their careers as they've accepted progressing roles, citing those diverse experiences as key to their personal and professional growth. Meanwhile, employers often receive much more motivated and committed employees, since they've invested a lot by uprooting to join the organization, who in turn may be more talented than potential candidates from the local market. In conclusion, relocation is not a decision to be taken lightly- it should be treated as an ongoing conversation and looked at holistically. That being said, it can be an excellent strategic move and in some cases, necessary for an individual's growth.

Read More

A Hiring Managers Guide to Finding Right-Fit Candidates

Statistically, hiring managers pick candidates whose qualifications most closely match the exact criteria/job description for their role or whose background and personality is similar to theirs.  This trend often leads to confirmation bias, the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one’s preconceived notions, leading to statistical errors and mis-hires. Although this reality presents a serious snafu when best fit, top talent is passed on, it also provides an opportunity for companies to improve how they filter, interview and engage with talent. Here are some suggestions to find the right-fit candidate:

Focus on value investing. To a Hiring Manager’s dismay, there is no such thing as hiring the perfect candidate.  Oftentimes, Hiring Managers get tunnel vision, scanning a resume for the exact project they want to roll out at their organization (be it an implementation or specific cost savings target) and eliminate candidates who haven’t already achieved this.  The catch 22 to this scenario is this: what a candidate did for their former employer yesterday, doesn’t affect what they’ll do for your organization tomorrow. In order to get close to a perfect candidate, Hiring Managers must be willing to develop the candidate’s skills through mentoring and training.  Therefore, a Hiring Manager should remove the blinders that bind them, and take a more holistic approach to assessing fit.  To hire more successfully, do not solely place value on present accomplishments.  Focus more on mentoring and coaching; a successful onboarding program helps candidates assimilate into the company culture, and helps facilitate their success and potential future growth.

Go beyond the resume. When interviewing a candidate for a role, it’s important to take their personality into consideration. Most skills can be acquired, but personalities and an intrinsically motivated drive for success cannot be.  On several occasions we hear Hiring Managers glow about their successful hires.  What attribute do they accredit this success?  Sure, they will mention the candidates’ analytical prowess, but the number one attribute revolves around emotional intelligence; the ability to build rapport and influence critical internal and external stakeholders.  To clarify, we do not encourage hiring a very sharp analyst-level professional with a fantastic personality for a VP role.  What we are saying is that within the parameters of the required years of experience, a Hiring Manager should go beyond the job description and make social intelligence an equal priority in the interview process.

Ask better questions. Yes, it is important to ask enough standard questions to determine whether the candidate is prepared and capable of the career in pursuit.  That being said, the interview shouldn’t stop with the typical technical checklist.  Non-traditional questions allow the candidate and Hiring Manager to determine whether there is a bidirectional fit.  For example, by asking what the candidates short-term goals are and how this position fits in with their long-term goals, a Hiring Manager can determine whether the candidate will achieve personal growth, while still making significant contributions to the company’s financials.  An out of the box question can be whom the candidate admires most and why.  This alludes to the qualities a candidate finds valuable and can help determine alignment between their values and that of the companies.  Similarly, asking their preferred management style can quickly provide insight regarding what motivates them, and whether there may be a disconnect between their preference and the current managers style.

Think Big Picture. At the end of the day, the consequences of a bad hire could potentially be insurmountable, as both expenses and productivity take a hit.  By focusing on the big picture and looking outside the checkboxes, set criteria, or even out of your industry, you may short list an equally qualified, more diverse talent pool, resulting in a “best-fit” scenario between the HiPo candidate and your organization. The most important criteria to consider is making sure there is alignment between the company and the Hiring Manager in regards to the business rationale behind hiring, what skills and qualifications the candidate has to offer the company, and if the additional headcount will produce the desired result.  Of course there is some risk in hiring outside of the job description, since non-traditional backgrounds lead to unpredictable results, but a fresh perspective can be the strategic advantage a company needs to survive today’s volatile market.      

Read More

MRA Global Sourcing at Procurement Leaders Americas Congress

Our Managing Partner,Naseem Malik, was hand-selected to lead two roundtable discussions at this year's Americas Congress conference by Procurement Leaders. The invite-only event hosted several innovative CPO's and Executive Procurement leaders in Miami, FL. To learn more about the roundtables or key takeaways from the meeting, feel free to reach out to Naseem directly, or read on to see what our partners at Source One Management Services had to say.  

Read More

What is a Freelance Management System?

As the contingent workforce continues to grow, the complexities of managing the spend and the talent become a continual challenge for both HR and Procurement teams. To assist with the management of contingent workforce spend, Managed Service Provider (MSP) and Vendor Management Systems (VMS) have become more popular over the last decade. While these models help with managing traditional temporary labor and Statement of Work or complex staffing, little has been done to manage Independent Contractors or Freelanced positions. To effectively manage this growing area of the workforce, it is important to understand the different technologies available to your organization. Specifically, looking at how the emerging technologies coincide with the growth of more independent, non-traditional staffing models, targeting the freelance market with a Freelance Management System (FMS). Recently, Gartner released a report titled, Getting Ready for the Next Generation Workforce and the Impacts of the Freelance Economy which takes a look at emerging technology to coincide with the growth of these more independent, non-traditional staffing models, specifically targeting the freelance market with a Freelance Management Systems (FMS).

What is a FMS and what type of workers fit into this subcategory? A Freelance Management System (FMS) is a cloud-based workforce solution that helps companies manage their independent contractors and freelancers. The FMS will support independent workers that do not want to become W-2 employees of a staffing agency and instead choose to be paid by 1099 (in the US). According to Gartner research, this type of worker has been growing steadily in the US and is currently around 30 million workers.

Why is this model of employment so attractive to today's workers? The biggest reason for the increase in freelance workers is flexibility. An employee is not tied to a company, a desk, or even a specific job while working as a freelancer. They make their own hours and often times determine what their pay rate will be. Additionally, the independent worker does not need to utilize a 3rd party staffing agency to find placements and therefore, are able to retain a larger percentage of the salary they are earning, especially in a high demand position. There is also a risk in taking on this type of work, but to most of the younger workforce (who are the largest demographic of freelancers), this is a risk they are willing to take. The 2 biggest risks include, not receiving a steady paycheck and difficulty of breaking into larger companies to obtain projects. Both the positive and the negative for the worker can be impacted by utilizing a FMS.

How does the FMS benefit companies? As with most new technology solutions there are positives and negatives. Currently the FMS will not replace your existing VMS, however, it will allow for a more holistic management of your contingent workforce. Included in the holistic management, is the mitigation of risk associated with bringing on independent/freelance workers to your organization, making it easier to find and onboard qualified workers. For example, in the US, hiring an Independent Contractor or Freelancer has tax implications and legal consequences if done incorrectly. Employers are not required to pay social security or Medicare taxes, paid time off, or health insurance for independent workers. If classifications of independent workers are incorrect, companies may be liable for back taxes and even have been required to pay millions in back pay or benefits to previous independent workers. By using a FMS, freelancers are put through a thorough screening process to determine if they are truly able to classify themselves as freelancers.

Now that the risk has been mitigated, what other advantages could utilization of a FMS produce? First, it will allow for a reduced cycle time for candidate sourcing. With access to a system of pre-approved freelancers for your organization, choosing the talent becomes more streamlined. Managers will be able to log-in and query on the specific requirements of a position and length of assignment. From that search, the potential candidates profiles are listed, including candidate profile details such as background checks, right-to-work paperwork and tax ID number verification. Additionally, utilizing a FMS system will enable buyers to rate individuals and review performance write-ups, which are posted anonymously, to assist with their hiring decision. Some systems will also allow for the storage of previously completed work for review by the potential buyer or hiring manager. Finally, management of spend of the freelancers is contained within the system. Invoice consolidation is also possible with a FMS. By having all spend in one system of record, faster turn-around on payments based on deliverables through an escrow account is accomplished, as well as the ability to track deliverables and ensure you are paying for services received. This makes both the worker and the buyer happy.

Is there any downside to a FMS? The biggest downside to using freelanced workers is there is no staffing agency to act as the workers employer. Without using a 3rd party as the employer, it becomes even more important that the workers are classified correctly and all work is running through the system.

Who should be using a FMS? The ideal candidate for a FMS would be a company using around 100 or more Independent Contractors or Freelancers per year. The most widely used areas for this type of work is in IT and for creative work within agencies or internal marketing teams. However, highly specified skill sets are being targeted for freelance work even outside of the IT and Marketing space. Overall, managing a contingent workforce can be an arduous task for both HR and Procurement and is a growing topic of discussion among organizational leaders, including at the Institute for Supply Management's Annual Conference. If you are already using a VMS, then having the added layer of FMS is the logical next step. If you are not using a VMS, do not shy away from looking into different ways to manage your contingent workforce and spend. By utilizing new tools your organization as a whole will increase your ability to find highly skilled talent, mitigate risk and ensure correct payment for the talent you need to take your organization to the next level.

For more on freelance management, Source One the exclusive sponsor of ISM2016's Exec IN forum, will be sharing additional insight as presenters during the annual conference, discussing how to manage responsibilities and effectively succession plan by leveraging new tools, market data, and on-demand resources in an increasingly contingent workforce.

Author: Tracey Horrocks is a Project Manager at Source One Management Services, LLC with years of experience in procurement and strategic sourcing in an array of categories including Professional Services, Marketing, and Facilities Maintenance. In her role, Tracey serves as a pundit for developing RFPs and executing strategic sourcing strategies. Her detailed approach to supplier identification and vendor management helps clients achieve sustainable costs savings and operating efficiency.

Read More

Procurement Leaders: Americas Congress 2016 - Miami

At the recently held America's Congress 2016, I had the good fortune of chairing a couple of roundtables around the perennial favorite topic of Talent in Supply Management. Specifically, around managing the unique talent issues on this now fastest growing segment of the workforce and secondly on how the transformation of skillsets is affecting talent requirements. Both topics drew a large and energetic audience to these sessions. The room was abuzz with Procurement Leaders (pun intended) milling about and sharing their experiences informally and learning from their peers. It was good to see this type of networking both before and after the sessions at this conference.

The first roundtable on managing the Millennials was off to a rapid fire start with participants providing a quick intro and jumping into wha's important. An interesting thought from a CPG executive was made when she said that since we realize that our current and future buyers and customers are and will be Millennials, we definitely want to attract similar talent. This generational common denominator was being capitalized upon in a smart manner that was helping them identify and execute on ideas faster than they would have otherwise and compared to their competitors, or they hoped. 

There was a former IBM executive amongst us and he mentioned how they were focused on opening new office centres in booming cities all in the name of securing top talent. Everywhere from NYC, to London and Shanghai with Buenos Aires and Mumbai thrown in for good measure was just a short list of offices where they had Millennials working. And not just working on stodgy old programs, but in exciting platforms like cloud-centirc technologies (think Watson) and cutting-edge analytic tools. Another game changer with this generation was how they all are allowed to bring their own devices to work, i.e. smart phones and tablets and IBM would have to figure out the security and connectivity protocols. Not to mention, these Millennials don't want to use legacy tools and apps you may have, but instead they prefer Dropbox, Slack and WhatsApp. Yes indeed, the working world is changing and adapting a lot more from my heydays of working in the late 90's!

Flexibility in the workplace was a recurring theme from the participants at the table. A leading global beverage company sends their talent from South America to the US and vice versa and they were proud that their team members didn't miss a beat in the process. They had ping pong tables and were provided Fitbits to keep track of their health and recreation regardless of where in the world they may be. The concept of hot-desking is also quite in vogue as several companies cited how that helped increase productivity and lower costs too. 

The mentoring and career path component was brought up towards the end when the roundtables shared their discussion with the group at large. The Millennials that happened to be participating were quick to mention that they are independent and value hard work with positive feedback. They said to not consider them fragile tea cups but strong assets that use their tech savvy and acute social media awareness skills for both professional and personal benefits.

The second session provided an equal amount of animated conversation where we dug into how to attract, develop and grow the right skillsets to move forward. What came to light was the increased significance companies are placing on the process of successfully on-boarding talent. Preceding this of course should be a robust hiring process so they can move on bringing in talent with a smile on their face and immediately pairing them with internal partners to help the cultural assimilation. The decreased tenure of Millennials at their employers has prompted organizations to help reduce the learning curves and get them integrated and adding value.

The value of rotating Procurement professionals across the function and throughout the organization was discussed at length. An Australian based global manufacturing Procurement Leader stated that his group is now perceived as a Talent Incubator throughout the enterprise. Talent from other functions seek to come into Procurement just as much as Procurement talent is pulled into other roles. As a result, their HR group liaises closely in developing Hi-Po lists and managing their talent pipeline. They find it effective to have these Hi-Po's paired with an Executive Sponsor to facilitate their career growth and development.

Of course I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that in the debrief afterwards for this session almost every table stressed that work life balance was of utmost importance. This can be provided in a myriad of ways, i.e. from letting their people go to the gym at whatever time they pleased to covering transportation costs when they work late. However, what worked the best was when the employees felt that their employers were investing in them in the form of trainings in the function to exposure into other functions and learning from stakeholders, all the while solidifying their collaboration and influential skills.

And last but certainly not least was the interest on compensation. It was amusing to see one table categorically state that they didn't address the money question and it was by design. As for the others, it was brought up and views varied from recognition to dismissal in terms of how much of a factor this was in attracting and retaining top talent. Based on the input, it seems personal perceptions and company culture played a key role in how aggressive they were when it came to coughing up the big bucks.

Point stressed overall was that the pool for top talent is growing more scarce by the day and we compete with other functions in attracting these talented individuals to our world. There was unanimity on the notion that loyalty to a company was replaced with loyalty to personal performance and self-branding, and compensation played a minimal part either way. Excellent discussions, invigorating participants and a great experience overall!

Read More

Speaking the Same Language: The First Step to Aligning Marketing and Procurement

Marketing and Procurement have a storied history of not working well together. There are various opinions on why this may be and what can be done to improvement. Rather than focus on the root causes for why these two don't always play nice together, I'm going to share with you one area both Marketing and Procurement can improve upon to help work together more effectively  communication. In order for these two departments to align effectively, communication is critical. Coming to the table speaking the same language is the first step towards aligning the two departments.

Procurement and Marketing speak two very different languages. Terms like AOR (agency of record) and creative brief are foreign to Procurement, while the phrase cost reduction is equivalent to saying Voldemort for Marketing. The language barrier between these two departments can lead to inefficient communication and other roadblocks during the sourcing process. So what can be done? For Procurement professionals, it means learning Marketing speak. Marketing departments are equipped with their own goals and metrics. Procurement professionals can build their credibility and work more effectively with marketing by getting familiar with Marketing terminology. Before jumping right in to a cost cutting initiative, understand the many facets of marketing and the terminology.

The key terms and phrases you will need to know will vary depending on the category you are working in. For instance, if you are working in Direct Mail, you should know terms like mail list, cost per piece (CPP), and lettershop. Whereas, if you are reviewing a Digital agency, you should know what UX, landing page, and SEO mean. Understanding these functions not only builds your credibility with your marketing department, but will also be useful when evaluating an agency during the sourcing process.

But how does Procurement go about learning the right lingo? There are certain key terms that Procurement should know before speaking with anyone in Marketing. However, even amongst Marketing professionals there is disagreement on term definitions, so much so that they created a dictionary. Or a more effective alternative is to read industry publications and stay up to date on trends through the same sources Marketing references. Industry sources are consistently posting on best practices, how to's, and other content that Procurement professionals can use as a basis for understanding Marketing speak. Along the same lines, the marketing landscape is constantly changing as trends fluctuate and new technologies are developed, and therefore, so is the glossary of marketing terms. By staying up to date on marketing trends through industry sources, you are learning the terminology alongside Marketing professionals.

While learning to use Marketing lingo is important in improving communications, Procurement also needs to make changes to their own terminology. As already mentioned, the phrase cost reduction does not resonate with Marketing, but budget optimization does. By changing this phrase, Procurement is able to more effectively communicate their objectives with Marketing in examining their agency relationships. Another example would be that there is no such thing as a specification in Marketing, but there are creative briefs that provide similar information on requirements. Overall, Marketing and Procurement share many of the same objectives, it is the terminology that differs.

For Procurement, it is important to know what terms to use when speaking with Marketing and what to avoid using. The terminology changes based on the category you are working in and is continually evolving as trends change. By keeping up to date on industry trends and the overall marketing landscape, Procurement is able to learn first-hand what terminology will resonate best with Marketing. Unfortunately knowing the difference between branded and unbranded content will not completely bridge the gap between Marketing and Procurement, it is a step in the right direction.


About the Author: Megan Connell is a Senior Project Analyst at Source One Management Services and a proven asset in developing RFPs and executing strategic sourcing strategies. Megan is competent in conducting research to produce detailed reports related to competitive markets, sourcing strategies, cost savings opportunities, and benchmarking. She is a leader in providing client solutions through out of the box thinking and problem solving. Her high level of analytical skills and supply chain expertise helps streamline clients operations and drive sustainable cost savings

Read More

Key Factors in Successful Client Management

Every client interaction is unique in its own way; some clients make your job incredibly easy while others make you question your sanity at times. However, all clients want the same thing: successful project and program completion. Keeping these key factors in mind will make those conference calls go by a bit smoother.

Reasonable Timelines

Establishing timelines with not only your internal team, but with your client builds credibility and accountability. If you're working in an agency environment, no two days are ever the same. The day (and your Outlook calendar) becomes filled with client deliverables and last-minute demands. Before project startup, a proper kickoff meeting with the internal team, consisting of setting expectations and establishing key milestones will pave the way towards efficiency. Once finalizing your internal timeline, you can confidently assure your client that your team is working in harmony to deliver high-quality product in a timely manner.

Constant Communication

Effective communication only increases your dependability, but also your value in the eyes of your client. Clients depend on you to keep them informed on the status of their project and any delays along the way. This often means sharing valuable information before clients realize it themselves. Addressing problems head-on, taking ownership for them, and forming solutions prevents major snags in the project and maintains your high level of responsibility. An example of excellent internal communication consists of timely status updates and proper tracking of deliverables to ensure that your client is receiving accurate updates about their project.

Stay within Scope

A client/vendor relationship begins with an agreement- a contract or statement of work (SOW) that serves as the foundation of a working partnership. This contract also serves as a guideline for your project; it outlines key deliverables and an estimated timeline in which you are to carry out the project and almost serves as your project Bible of some sorts. This is important because when you're working within an agency environment in which processes are heavily based on client preferences, your first instinct is to automatically say yes to all client requests, some of which may stray outside of scope. Having a respectful conversation with your client to reinforce the outlined terms in your contract can avoid any surprises for your internal team, maintain your established timeline, and set expectations. Experienced PMs can take it a step further and capitalize upon a client's business need by including more hours and resources in a renewed contract, thus organically growing their account.

Becoming a Subject Matter Expert

When pitching a proposal to a potential client, the most important thing to emphasize is your expertise in your industry. If your potential client is willing to outsource a particular task or program, they are obviously going to choose a vendor who needs as little hand-holding as possible. Becoming a subject matter expert in not only your industry, but your particular project and/or program type establishes a foundation of trust and reliability between your company and the client. What do your other clients do? or Does this usually happen in other projects your company manages? are very common questions that you can expect, especially if your client contact does not have experience managing similar projects. Providing a high-level benchmark gives direction to your program and solidifies your role within the industry in the eyes of your client.


About the Author: Vishal Sheth is a Senior Project Analyst at Source One Management Services. Experienced in a wide range of categories including healthcare and life sciences, Sheth is adept at influencing, engaging, and advising various stakeholders to drive efficiency throughout the sourcing process. He regularly helps clients achieve their savings goals, conducting supplier identification and qualification activities, leading RFX processes, and managing vendor negotiations.

Read More

Take the Leap from Corporate to Free Agency

Most of us start our careers with aspirations of work that speaks to our souls and often of job titles that start with C. Climbing the corporate ladder seems like the natural path to that end and we spend our time honing our skills, mastering corporate politics and managing our climb to the top.

What if it turns out, that the corporate route leaves you physically stressed, frustrated that you can't contribute significantly enough and generally unfulfilled? Have you leaned in enough that you are ready to fall over? There is another route to a corner office  your own.

In today's professional environment, more and more people are walking out of the boardrooms and corporate offices and into free agency. Working for yourself is fabulous. It is also very stressful if you're not thoughtful about when and how you make the leap and how you manage your business in the first couple of years. I'm going to share with you five key things that I learned over the past couple of years.

1. Time it right and have savings to fall back on

The first months, maybe years, of being independent will be wildly unpredictable. You are building a name for yourself in a new capacity and are largely unknown as a free agent. The ideal thing to do is to line up a project before you leave your permanent job. This will give you immediate income and start building your reputation as an independent.

Whether you just walk out and wing it or even if you start with a project in hand, there will be periods where you have no work (meaning no income). Having 6-12 months of living expenses covered by a savings account will let you sleep at night. My husband and I had made it a priority to have an emergency fund so we were ready for me to leave my corporate job and become a small business owner.

2. Network

You have met hundreds, maybe thousands, of people throughout your career. There's a great chance that many of those people respect how much you know and how you work. They are also in positions to hire you or help you get work. Make the time to stay connected to the people you know. Set up those lunches to catch up with a former colleague. Call to touch base with your old boss and ask how their kids are doing. Do it for reasons other than just to talk business and you will further develop an already good connection.

There are also plenty of people out there that haven't met you yet that could benefit from what you do. Put yourself in opportunities to meet new people. Take that speaking engagement at a local industry group event. Go to conferences and meetings where people in your, or related industries are getting together. Get to know account executives from other companies. They have good knowledge of their clients challenges and also connections they could make for you.

Engagements come from all kind of places and by creating a wide network, you put yourself in the best position to capitalize on the highest number of potential opportunities.

3. Don't be shy about telling people you can help

This one is tough for a lot of people  me included. When I started out I assumed that people who knew me would be clamoring to get me to help them run projects or transform departments. The reality is that people are mostly busy and dealing with their own challenges. They may not realize how you can help until you tell them.

4. You don't have to spend money to make money

Operating as an independent is remarkably easy and cheap. You can hire someone to develop a fancy website, file in your state for LLC status, get a company bank account  but you don't have to. As a sole proprietor all you really have to do is make sure you follow the IRS rules for your particular situation which usually means paying your estimated taxes on a quarterly basis.

As your business grows and you take on more clients, and potentially employees or other contractors, you will need to get more involved in the administrative side of things. You will need to manage billing, and time and expense reports and payments.

Be judicious about what spend to manage your business.Remember that every dollar you spend on a bookkeeper or attorney is less you keep. For me, I do all that work myself on Sunday evenings  and spend the majority of my week on billable work.

5. Persistence pays off

This is perhaps the biggest thing that I have learned in my short journey so far. You will find your self in competitive bid situations that you will lose.You will be ready to start on Monday and the client loses funding for the project on Friday. Things change rapidly so don't get too disappointed when they don't go your way.

Have confidence in yourself and your ability to generate revenue. You will get the extra project out of a client that loved your work. You'll meet someone at a conference that just happens to need your services due to employee turnover. As many things will go right as go sideways.

And you will get job offers from thrilled clients.Today's career paths aren't straight trajectories upward. Whether it's working for a fantastic company or providing your expertise to many clients on a project basis, the important thing is to be happy.


About the Author:  Rebecca Karp is a founding partner of Sourcing Synergies. She is a sought-after consultant on organizational transformation, category management best practices and procurement technology. She has over 20 years of experience leading procurement teams for companies of all sizes and across multiple industries.

Read More

The Value of Procurement throughout the Business Cycle

Those of us in procurement have most likely seen the ebb and flow of priority placed on our function as business and economic conditions have shifted over the years. When markets are crunched and spending and production are down, procurement rides in like a knight in shining armor to slash costs and keep the business afloat. While it's great to be the hero, this can be exhausting for staff and is generally unsustainable. Procurement leaders need to take off their buying hats (and borrow a few tips from the supplier sales reps they speak to on a daily basis) to sell the importance of procurement for any and all business conditions.

Contraction: Sales are down This is the easiest value proposition, right? C-level executives start emphasizing the need to cut costs and consequently elevate the procurement function to all-time-high importance. Sales revenue is decreasing and the simple way to keep profits stable, or at least not drop as drastically, is to decrease costs. Business units start falling in line as penalties and processes related to rogue spend and non-essential expenditures become more stringent. During this time, procurement needs to work with business units to standardize on key contracted suppliers and review what constitutes essential versus non-essential spend. Going beyond cutting costs, procurement is also in a position to identify additional revenue channels. For example, in the manufacturing world there may be opportunity to reduce inventories of excess raw material supply that can be sold back to the market, ramp up scrap recovery and selling efforts, or perhaps take advantage of unused facilities to sell electricity back to the grid. Regardless of industry, take the opportunity to identify excess within the supply chain and consider alternative uses and markets outside of the traditional use case.

Recovery: Sales are stable When coming back from a few bad years of sales, the focus on the role of procurement starts to slip a bit; often times the goal in this period is to keep costs stable and prevent suppliers from raising prices. Procurement needs to ensure that supply is ready as purse strings begin to loosen and production or sales increase. During recovery, procurement has the opportunity to examine where efficiencies and improved ways of sourcing different commodities can be introduced. For example, if the Free On Board (FOB) point for materials or products is at the supplier's warehouse or facility, freight optimization can go a long way in ensuring that site locations are aligned with suppliers locations in the most efficient manner. Also, while pricing pressure is not as high, it is a good time to bolster your quality and specification testing to ensure service levels and specifications are being met, especially as the volumes being purchased begin to increase.

Boom: Sales are up During the boom period, procurement tends to get put on the back burner at any organization; compliance becomes less important and management's focus on the department dwindles as long as costs aren't increasing comparative to sales growth. While there may be less pressure on the sourcing function during these prosperous times, procurement can continue to drive supplemental value to the organization. By doubling-down on savings efforts and sourcing compliance, profit potential can grow exponentially. While there is available budget, procurement should take a look at systems and programs that can automate and monitor these processes in order to focus the department on more strategic work. Procurement can also support the growing market by identifying opportunities to bolster supplier and consumer relationships by investing in new communications tools, spend management and supplier management tools, and consumer marketing and outreach.

As a company moves through different stages of the business cycle, its priorities as a business and the perceived value from procurement will shift. Procurement needs to portray its value internally in a way that aligns with the priorities of the organization and its position within the business cycle, e.g. don't focus on incremental cost savings during a boom period; don't focus on investment and supplier innovation during a period of contraction. In order to have a finger on the pulse of the business and know how to react to those changes in priorities, procurement professionals should establish a category management strategy that is aligned with the strategic goals of the company and business units that they support.

By establishing a thorough category management program and partnering with stakeholders, sourcing and purchasing activities will shift from reactive to proactive as procurement becomes an integral part of the forecasting and planning efforts. In order to gain a seat at the table, be sure to share the procurement success stories (via newsletter, case studies, lunch-and-learn sessions, etc.) with business owners and upper management across the company. Gaining the support of these two groups will make the promotion and use of procurement by other departments that much easier. The key is to begin documenting and tracking these additional efforts that procurement undertakes in order to make a clear case for why the department should always be top of mind for the organization, no matter the business conditions.


About the Author: Torey Guingrich is a Senior Project Analyst at Source One Management Services, LLC with years of experience helping global companies drive greater value from their IT and Telecommunications investments. Torey is a trusted resource for helping clients optimize their and IT and telecom infrastructure through innovative cost management solutions, implementing best-in-class contracts, and monitoring ongoing supplier performance. She is a proven asset in her abilities to leverage her deep industry knowledge and experience, mitigate risks, and deliver results.

Read More

Source One Management Services LLC

Source One Management Services LLC is a leading strategic sourcing, supply chain, and procurement consulting firm. With over 20 years of experience, Source One optimizes performance and profitability by supplementing client resources with cost reduction, strategic sourcing services, and spend management solutions. Source One also has the temporary, on-demand resources to staff short-term procurement, supply chain, and sourcing initiatives or to act in an interim capacity in the absence of your full time employees. With our network of highly skilled procurement, supply chain, and sourcing resources, we can provide solutions that suit all the strategic sourcing, supply chain, and procurement needs of your organization.  

Read More

Sourcing Synergies

Sourcing Synergies is a full service Procurement and Sourcing consultancy specializing in cost optimization, risk mitigation, and implementation of sustainable practices. Our focus is to solve problems, reduce costs, and optimize processes. Our mission is to promote enhanced client competencies, and deliver the knowledge and tools for self-sufficiency.

Read More

Managing a Contingent Workforce

Freelancers, independent professionals, temporary staff, contactors, and consultants  in one form or another we've all encountered contingent workers; a portion of the workforce that is growing. A rising hiring trend, contingent staffing offers a number of benefits for companies including: flexibility in type and amount of labor resources as needed, cost savings in benefits and taxes, immediate access to expertise not present internally, and a decrease in spend across long term compensation.
While, these types of non-employees may seem like the answer to many of the challenges your organization may face, the contingent workforce is not without their obstacles, such as a lack of loyalty to employer, disruption to company culture, and a high turnover rate. However, the key to driving the most value out of your talent investment is effective management. Contingent Workforce Management (CWM) is the strategic approach to managing an organization's contingent workforce in a way that it reduces the company's cost in the management of contingent employees and mitigates the company's risk in employing them.
As the shift in the workforce continues to be equal parts full time employees and non-employees, companies must first work to understand the different types of contingent workforce classifications and how managing them effectively can aid in business operations and drive cost savings and optimization. There are 3 different classification of a contingent workforce, traditional, complex and Independent Contractor (IC).
Traditional: The most common understanding of a contingent worker is the traditional category. The traditional contingent worker is sourced from a staffing agency and typically supports low to mid-level job openings for short time periods. On average, these positions tend to be quick to fill and last only for a few months.
Complex: The complex contingent worker will perform more project based or statement of work (SOW) roles. These workers are placed at a company by third party agencies to complete very specific projects with clear milestones and deliverables. Additionally, expenses may be incurred which will need proper management.
Independent Contractors: IC's tend to have more specific, high level skill sets, which the company does not have staffed internally. The IC tends to have their own company and are their own employee. This can lead to more risk to a company compared to the other worker classifications.
What does all this mean and where do you go from here? It means that the contingent workforce has changed and the population has increased and with that the total workforce has been completely altered. Internal HR and Procurement teams have to manage multiple agencies, placing various types of workers into every department within their organization. A task that can seem both daunting and unmanageable. Fortunately, as the landscape has changed so have the resources available to assist with this change.
The idea of total talent management has been introduced as well as consulting practices with a Managed Service Provider (MSP) and a technology/software solution utilizing a Vendor Management System (VMS). Through the implementation of a MSP/VMS, companies are able to understand percentages of workers that are achieving their goals, who the workers are and where they are working within the traditional model. In the complex role, the ability to track when milestones and deliverables are met and, in turn, paid appropriately. Thereby, allowing for projects to run more smoothly and cause less change order management from the hiring managers.
For Independent Contractors using a MSP/VMS model will assist with regulatory state and federal compliance by ensuring correct classifications of the workers. In doing so, reducing the risk of co-employment and audits in the future. Ultimately, by addressing the contingent workforce, no matter which type, will lead to better management of resources and result in cost savings for the company. All this can be accomplished without compromising the quality or delivery of the service that is needed.
About the Author: Tracey Horrocks is a Senior Project Analyst at Source One Management Services, LLC with years of experience in procurement and strategic sourcing in an array of categories including Professional Services, Marketing, and Facilities Maintenance. In her role, Tracey serves as a pundit for developing RFPs and executing strategic sourcing strategies. Her detailed approach to supplier identification and vendor management helps clients achieve sustainable costs savings and operating efficiency.


Read More

Media and Publications

Procuring High-Quality Talent

In the latest edition of ISM Forward Scan, our managing partner, Naseem Malik, examines how CPOs can succeed in their quest for quality talent using their expertise of supply management. He explores how simple procurement practices, including early supplier engagement for products and services, combine with human resources to identify the drivers that help discover and develop talent. Valuable insights into how talent management parallels with procurement, and how it can have a positive outcome in your organization. Read the full story here.  

We post various media and publications in order to provide up-to-date functional knowledge. Through our podcast series, MRA Global provides a comprehensive overview of industry trends, leadership insights, retention strategies and hiring landscapes. Our publications span a wide array of Supply Management topics written by Naseem Malik, Managing Partner at MRA Global. Naseem currently writes and presents for several organizations including the Institute for Supply Management. Please browse the podcasts and publications below and subscribe to our YouTube channel. Have an interesting topic we haven't covered? Contact us at to send us your ideas!


In this podcast, Scott Ottenheimer, Vice President of QBE North America, discusses his take on innovation and procurement optimization strategies. Scott will co-present at the ISM2016 conference during his track, titled 'The Leadership Fast Track.'



In this podcast, Howard Levy, VP of Global Sourcing at Zimmer Biomet, discusses the panel he will moderate at the ISM2016 Conference titled 'Transformation Superchargers-What Private Equity is expecting from Sourcing'. Howard discusses his perspective on the conference with our partners at Source One, and the distinctive educational advantage of each session.



Second in a two-part series in which Nick Lazzara and Kaitlyn Krigbaum wrap up their discussion with Source One regarding the Hiring Process including advice for both candidates and Hiring Managers.



First in a two-part series in which Nick Lazzara and Kaitlyn Krigbaum explore some of the recent hiring and recruitment trends.



Second in a two-part series highlighting the niche focus of our firm and how we develop mutually beneficial relationships with our candidates.



First in a two-part series highlighting the niche focus of our firm and how we develop mutually beneficial relationships with our partners, including Source One.


CPO Reality Check: Are You Really Adding Value?

The concept that today's CPO has finally arrived and is adding value to the overall organization is one that is definitely in vogue. CPOs realize that gone are the days when delivering cost savings is enough to keep them seated at the senior management table  where they have long sought to be. Supply management executives have to harness these important capabilities and the value they can bring to the company while also staying ahead of the curve in terms of technology, skills and risk mitigation. Read the full story here


Career-on-Demand Generation  How to Connect With the Always Connected

What exactly does the term career-on-demand mean, and how does it impact supply management leaders and their organizations? It simply applies to the Millennial generation  those who are an integral part of today's workforce and supply chain organizations. Also known as Generation Next or Generation Text, these young workers are considered the Always Connected Generation. Regardless of how they're characterized, it's critical for supply chain executives to understand what motivates these young professionals and how best to work with them as they aggressively seek to land jobs with both lateral and vertical growth. Read the full story here


Sharing Value With Suppliers

Without a doubt, the economic downturn was difficult on everyone. But when sparks of life began lighting up the dark financial atmosphere in late 2009, it proved too late for some suppliers to recover. Significant cutbacks in production left thousands of smaller suppliers struggling to remain in business. Overleveraged and financially wounded, many of these suppliers were unable to survive even as their customers began ramping up production. Read the full story here


Front and Center in U.S. Healthcare Reform

The seemingly endless debate currently underway in Washington D.C. and across the United States revolves around healthcare reform. It is fascinating to note the commonality between the practices mentioned for reform and what we use in our world of supply management. Regardless of your political affiliation or opinions on the pros and cons of the current administration's proposals, our supply management function's establish ways will be an integral part of the eventual solution. Read the full story here


Leading All Over the World

In this issue of the ISM Forward Scan, Naseem Malik discusses effectively leading teams in an environment of constant change and expansion of organizational and geographical presence. Talent management is crucial to your success as a leader and involves everyone from corporate headquarters to supply management colleagues situated across multiple countries and functions amidst a variety of work and social cultural norms. Without the right talent capable of navigating through innumerous horizontal and lateral challenges, organizations will ultimately see the effects on their bottom line. Read the full story here

Read More

The Theory of Motivation

In this time and age of increased competition and opportunities in the job market, job satisfaction plays a major role in retaining talented professionals within mid to high-level companies. Hiring authorities and potential employers are incorporating proven measures and best practices to identify, attract and engage top talent. From reevaluation of hiring/recruiting efforts to offering competitive salaries, employers are revamping the whole process to provide desirable work opportunities to specialized candidates.

Psychologists like Frederick Herzberg, Douglas McGregor, and Gregory Moorhead have made great contributions to industrial and organizational psychology in terms of their research and theories. And these are still relevant in their application to the human resource function. Motivation, by definition, is the desire and action towards goal-directed behavior. It can be either intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from within the individual  accomplish goals because one feels competent at doing so, whereas extrinsic motivation can come from external factors such as paychecks, non-monetary benefits etc.

Not surprisingly, currently this concept has been a fairly important one in growing organizations and startups as the market is candidate-driven and therefore, tight for high-potential professionals. For example, in his two factor Motivation-Hygiene Theory, Herzberg refers to motivation as the factors that lead to career growth and personal satisfaction. Without the presence of either, candidates are more likely to choose other job offers with substantially better and competitive compensation package and benefits.

According to McGregor's motivation in the workplace theory, he has described people falling under two categories; Theory X and Theory Y. He believed that Theory X workers are people that are not ambitious, and that only want to complete tasks for job security. On the other hand, McGregor listed Theory Y workers as highly motivated people that are creative and gain satisfaction from work. He believed if employers and managers identify which group the candidates belong to, they can meet them on their level and use correct strategies to motivate them.

Another fundamental contribution to organizational psychology was made by Gregory Moorhead in 1989, where he highlighted the philosophy of rewards system. He believed that rewards are at the disposal of managers to retain and motivate employees. Moorhead classified these as time rates, payments by results, bonus and profit sharing, gain sharing, stock option plans, performance related pay, skill based pay and flexible benefit system.

Interestingly, this concept spans across multiple generations, especially with the Millennials. Incentives like bonus sharing, PTO, flexible working hours etc. are a big hit amongst these young professionals. And of course, there is no doubt that with technological advancement and global awareness, todays Millennials can add a lot more to these theories of motivation and how they have evolved over time.

Read More

Whither Company Branding?

As trite as this concept and term may sound, it remains as important as ever to both companies and employees. In a time where brands are just as important as branding, companies realize they will be well served to harness the power of both when it comes to attracting and retaining their top talent. In this current era of decreased unemployment, it's no secret that we're in a full-fledged candidate-driven market. That coupled with the heightened usage of social media and data-driven Marketing analytics, it's imperative that companies remain ever vigilant in how their brand is perceived potential employees. Candidates now are much more marketing and brand savvy than ever before.

Despite the plethora of data out there, word of mouth is still the most credible way of gleaning company and culture info for candidates. Companies typically claim they want current employees to find a person like yourself to as them they are their best ambassadors. Having emphasized this, along with asking for employee referrals, companies need to be cognizant to ensure the impact and impression is nothing short of positive. The number of touch points for candidates is more than ever before so it can certainly be a double-edged sword.

Another key distinction is that employer brand and company brand can sometimes be mutually exclusive. A Fortune 100 company may have a great product or service but that doesn't mean their culture is the best. In fact, many a times we find small to mid-size organizations regularly on best companies to work for lists. Therefore, the smart candidates are sensitive to perception and reality being aligned. If there's a disconnect, word will get out and employees are likely to take notice. Granted there can be reviewer bias, i.e. sour grapes in the form of poor performers that have been cut. However, it doesn't absolve companies from striving to be authentic in their values and not merely talking the talk but walking the walk as well.

Progressive companies will embrace all kinds of feedback available. They will view the feedback not as a critique but data that should help them improve their business. Beyond tools and data, these progressive companies also don't lose sight of the actual experience with their candidates as well. Starting from the first time they encounter them during an interview to the on-boarding process, the transition from candidate to employee is a seamless one and further reinforces the candidate's decision to join the new company.

We'd be remiss if we didn't state that the changing demographics are also driving these trends, i.e. the Millennials. These young professionals have upended the former archaic practices and introduced an element of transparency as it transcends websites and social media tools to perhaps even a simple coffee klatch in where a company and its culture is being dissected.

One of the capabilities in the vast arsenal of these Millennials is the tech savvy focus they bring to the table. They can help identify internal brand metrics as wells as external metrics and trends that should be tracked. And more importantly, these young professionals will also help make sense out of all this information. Armed with data, this will turn them into the dynamo Brand Ambassadors companies seek and need to stave off the competition.

Read More

The Transition from Consulting to Industry

One night in March of 2011, I was sitting in the First Class lounge of the Denver airport when I received a phone call from one of my former consulting colleagues, Hey Scott! Let me know when you would like to get off of the road and join me at QBE. He continued to explain that there was a Team Leader/Manager position available at his current company called QBE, one of the world's largest insurance companies. The job was to help build and grow the procurement department. I thought back to how I started my career as a consultant for Huron Consulting Group.

During my tenure, I worked with some of the smartest people to assist hospitals, law firms, and corporations improve operational efficiencies through non-labor cost reduction, process redesign, and technology implementation. Like many consultants, I would be in a city one week and another city the following week. As a young professional, the perks were amazing: first class airline upgrades, choice of any rental car on the lot, and frequent stays in the nicest presidential suites. I felt on top of the world! At the time, I couldn't see myself doing anything else. Sitting behind the same desk at the same office, doing the same work every day was just not in my DNA.

Then, I started to think about the corporate opportunity from my former colleague. I ended up going through the interview process and was fortunate to receive an offer. Naturally, a number of questions went through my mind. If I accept, am I taking a step back for more money? Am I going to be bored at an industry job? Consulting was not easy to get into - if I leave Huron, will I ever be able to get back into consulting? Will I be challenged? Will non value add politics consume my life? Will I need to be a corporate politician like some of my clients were?

Like any nerdy consultant, I created a weighted scorecard to identify all of the pros and cons associated with leaving Huron for QBE. Ultimately, I made the decision to take the leap and leave the consulting world for industry. The first six months of my transition into industry were difficult. I had to learn the insurance industry and understand corporate culture.

I was accustomed to using detailed data to make a decision, but some of my stakeholders had no interest in making changes, regardless of the data. This was not a new challenge for me though. Many of my consulting clients were hesitant to making changes as well. However, as a consultant, we would often have upper management's ear. At QBE, I didn't have this luxury. I assumed that since I was in-house, my stakeholders would automatically agree with me based on the data I was presenting. I couldn't have been more wrong.

The procurement team was very new and I quickly learned that if I was going to be successful at QBE, I needed to earn my stakeholders trust. As a consultant, I would develop a relationship with a client by taking them out to dinner, for example. I started doing the same thing at QBE. It was clear to me that in order for me to be successful in helping our company decrease costs and increase performance, I would have to run my team like an internal consulting firm.

Fortunately, my boss at QBE was a former consultant, so when it was time to build the team, we looked for candidates who either had consulting or problem solving experience. Parallel to the consulting world, our team has the privilege of a flexible working arrangement. We travel when it makes business sense, work remotely, and can transfer between offices. We have a work hard, play hard culture within our group and have avoided the typical corporate politics. On my team, we focus on getting our job done. Similar to consulting, one week we work 80 hours and another week we work 38 hours.

The procurement team that I lead analyzes spend pertaining to claims and it is crucial that we look at total cost of ownership as opposed to just price. One major benefit of being in industry, rather than the consulting world, is we are able to see our implemented strategies over a long period of time. I absolutely loved implementing new strategies for many different companies as a consultant, but it is exciting to implement a new strategy in industry and see how it plays out two, three, or four years down the road. There is definitely a pride of ownership when things go right as well as accountability if the strategy wasn't successful.

I strongly encourage everyone to take control of their career. While there are many factors that cannot be controlled, don't be afraid to take risks when moving into industry from consulting. If there are data to back up your recommendations and the team is hitting their targets, it will be easier to move up the corporate ladder. I started as a Team Lead/Manager, but by working hard, applying what I have learned in consulting, finding the best people to work on my team, and seeking innovative ways to reduce costs without impacting quality, I have been able to move up to Vice President in a relatively short period of time. I can confidently say that I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for my consulting experience.

Transitions are not always easy, but it is important to maintain the consultant mindset, continue to learn the soft skills and hard skills, stay close to the data (yes, even as a VP, I still analyze complex data sets), and keep current with new technology in order to achieve success in industry.


About The Author: Scott Ottenheimer is currently a Vice President at QBE North America, a top 25 Insurer worldwide, where he heads Claims Sourcing and Procurement. Previously, Scott worked as a Consultant for Huron Consulting Group, where he used his data-driven approach and strategic sourcing methodologies to deliver value across multiple F500 organizations in various industries. He is an expert in change management, and improving bottom-line efficiencies. Click here to learn more about Scott!

Read More

Finding and Keeping Top Talent in Procurement

What comes to mind when you think of procurement? Is it a negative connotation? Historically, procurement was a department that measured success based on the hard-dollar savings. While procurement is still concerned with savings, the typical procurement department is now much more concerned with creating value throughout the entire organization.

For a procurement department to be successful, several initiatives must be undertaken. Executive leadership must align the internal stakeholders, and you must then market the department as attractive and value-generating. Now that you're a master at the internal and external marketing of your procurement department, it is time to consider your efforts for retaining top talent.

Ideally, you will have potential employees emailing and calling you day and night for a chance to join your organization. You must ensure that prior to releasing any job postings, the positions are aligned with your organizational objectives. Furthermore, coordinate with HR (and other departments) on how to streamline hiring processes to ensure that only the most suitable candidates are considered.

When considering new hires, pay careful attention to your internal stakeholders, including the suppliers who already know and understand your business. However, be wary of culture when considering bringing someone onto the team. Your application and pre-interview processes should vet candidates appropriately, guaranteeing that you are receiving excellent candidates with great skills and excellent self-awareness.

Prior to the interview, the procurement executive(s) should work with the talent manager to ensure that they are evaluating potential hires based on their cultural fits in addition to their qualifications. In fact, according to RoundPegg, a culture and management platform that looks to quantify corporate culture, 89% of hiring failures can be attributed to a cultural mismatch.

Like in any business discipline, a familiarity with the process or a different experience comparable to that of procurement does not necessarily demonstrate qualification. It has been demonstrated repeatedly that top salespeople do not always become great managers, or that strong negotiators don't always excel as supplier managers.

When it comes to attracting top talent, the hiring process is only the beginning. An important statistic to consider is that the cost to replace the average millennial is $24,000. Keep that dollar amount in mind when looking for employees. 65% of those new hires want personal development (UNC), 80% want on-the-spot recognition (UNC), 95% want work life balance (Urbanbound), and 43% aren't concerned with finding a new job immediately after leaving or being terminated (UNC).

With some of these startling statistics in mind, it becomes even more critical to interview and hire only the best fits. Frequent turnover, negativity, or a cultural mismatch will hinder your procurement department, having a detrimental impact on your organization. Suppose you have navigated these waters and found a good match for your program. Congratulations! Aside from the typical onboarding process, consider including a comprehensive mentorship program that allows your high-potential hire to be a high performer.

Historically, chief procurement officers have cited mentors who helped shape their careers and instill the importance of strong execution. Working alongside competent and skilled teachers, mentors, and colleagues provides invaluable insight for new hires. A modern phenomenon in mentoring is referred to as reverse mentoring. The reverse refers to both mentors and mentees participating in the process of imparting knowledge. While industry knowledge and insight will come from an executive, a new hire may bring fresh perspective, or familiarity with new tools and software that they can teach the executive.

According to Wharton, mentorship programs are present in 71% of Fortune 500 firms, demonstrating their value. Furthermore, a case study completed at Sun Microsystems showed there were retention and monetary benefits associated with mentoring. Participants in the program were more likely to see their salary grade increase, and were 20% more likely to stay at Sun.

In addition to a mentorship program, consider the creation of a custom educational initiative. While formal trainings and certifications are beneficial, it will be more worthwhile to adapt certifications from, for example, The Institute for Supply Management. By custom tailoring programs, you can ensure that you are preparing your employees for senior positions while also advancing your organizational objectives. Clearly outline the skills required for employees to advance and succeed, and ensure that you are providing all the resources necessary to allow and encourage development.

A process that many of the most successful businesses implement is management rotation. Historically, procurement might not have been considered worthy of the most talented managers, but executives are rapidly rotating into procurement positions. Why? Well, for the same reasons that new employees should consider procurement as a career. It is multidisciplinary, allowing executives to develop commercial, operation, analytical and collaborative skills- all in the same department!

The rotation also assists with internal marketing efforts, instilling awareness of the value that procurement can provide. This is beneficial in creating relationships with other members of your business, and can position procurement as an exporter of talent. Furthermore, it bolsters the image of procurement as a destination department, where members of the business can test their skills in a dynamic department.

The primary concern any manager of a procurement department needs to ask is, Is procurement a rung on a ladder to something more, or is it a career destination? Initially, how do you market a program as such, but more importantly, how do you train and retain talent to advance the department and the overall organization? While no two programs will operate exactly the same, it is my hope that this article provides your executive team with a loose framework that can be adapted to fit your individual needs.


About the Author: Peter Portanova is a talent management enthusiast and Project Analyst for Source One Management Services. He is an expert at developing RFPs and executing strategic sourcing strategies for clients in a wide array of industries, specializing in navigating the complexities of the Marketing spend category. Click to learn more about Source One's Marketing Category expertise.

Read More

Performance Appraisals : the Continued Debate

Once a year you wake up with what can only be described as butterflies or a ball of knots in your stomach depending on what you ate for breakfast mind racing, reminiscing over your accomplishments while simultaneously regretting all of the things you could have done better this year. Do you know what I am referring to? Today is the day of your annual performance appraisal. An annual appraisal highlights an employee's work as it relates to the overall contribution to the company. In contrast to performance evaluations, performance appraisals usually determine pay raises and bonuses, and have a fixed date on the calendar.

Intended to serve as a motivator and guide for employees by clearly defining goals, identifying challenges, and implementing development solutions, appraisals sound great in theory; however, there is still much debate over their effectiveness in terms of accuracy and objectiveness. What remains constant is that employers and employees alike seem to be questioning its value more and more. As an expert in behavioral and cognitive psychology, I have done an ample amount of research on work-place biases. While the debate may often focus on whether or not to conduct annual performance appraisals, I think the focus should be on avoiding common pitfalls. By eliminating these, appraisals can be mutually beneficial for both employer and employee.

The Psychology behind Performance Appraisals
In an annual appraisal, both the employer and employee perceive the exchange as a two-way conversation in which the employer explains decisions regarding rating, raises, promotions and future projects while the employee openly receives and comments on the feedback. This exchange of dialogue is meant to maintain or improve employee performance. On the contrary, if performance appraisals are not accurate, then employee's performance suffers. Although there are various methods for the performance appraisal, I will expand on two of the most commonly used within the workplace.

The Critical Incident Method involves a manager documenting specific situations in which the employee demonstrated a particular strength or a need for improvement. Employees like this method because the feedback they receive is specific. A significant problem associated with this method is that negative incidents are more noticeable and thus documented more often. This is due to what psychologists call the negativity bias. Neurologically, our brain is built with a heightened sensitivity to negative news. This heightened sensitivity makes us take notice of the bad, and more heavily influences our attitudes towards others.

To avoid negativity bias, managers should document positive strengths demonstrated by the employee right away, and review them a few times. This primes the brain to focus more on the positive rather than only the negative. Although this method can be demanding on management, done right, this method can be a key to success. Employees appreciate the attention and coaching as it demonstrates a commitment from their employer to their overall development. It is also perceived as a more accurate documentation of their performance, as the incidents tracked relate to the progress throughout the entire year.

The Rating Scale Method is also commonly used for annual performance appraisals. This method is useful because it allows for quantitative comparison; however, many managers accidentally fall into two common mistakes psychologists like to call the halo effect and the recency effect. Oftentimes, a manager's overall perception of an employee effects their evaluation of them across multiple assessment categories. Therefore, someone who receives a high rating in one particular area may also receive high ratings in subsequent areas. The opposite is also true: if an employee receives a low rating in a particular area they are more likely to receive lower ratings across multiple areas. This is due to the halo effect, the most common bias in performance appraisals.

The recency effect is when the employee's most recent behavior becomes the primary focus prior to their annual performance appraisal. This of course can be a good thing, if the employee demonstrated his or her highest performance level near the time of their appraisal, but it can also skew an employee's rating. For instance, an employee may have performed well throughout the entire year, except for the last month preceding their annual appraisal for circumstantial reasons.This employee may then be rated lower than a coworker who throughout the year had lower productivity, but performed very well for the last month. If the manager falls victim to the recency effect while rating these employees, then these employees will not have been accurately rated in terms of overall performance.

Again, when the rating scale method is utilized properly, it can be a highly effective means of tracking where an employee stands in multiple categories. These scales are easy to use, less demanding on managers, and easy for employee's to understand.



Whichever performance appraisal method a company uses, they must focus on evolving a system that encourages development by providing consistent, objective feedback. It is important to remain cognizant of the type of method used, and how it may impact retention of top performers. For instance, if a company has lots of high performers and uses a forced ranking method, this may eliminate high potential employees who ultimately get weaned out, or lose motivation and seek employment elsewhere.

It is important to note that in any method, the most effective feedback immediately follows a great or poor performance. According to Forbes, regular coaching is the key to alignment and performance. Annual appraisals may need to be reevaluated and possibly replaced by coaching, professional development, quarterly reviews, or weekly check-ins.

Read More

Master Procurement with Kindness

There I was, sitting in my manager's office, having recently been promoted to a Purchasing Manager position being told, If you want to be successful in Procurement, you will need to be less nice and more aggressive. Dumbfounded, I couldn't help but think his statement was absurd. My view on business has always been about building relationships and growing partnerships to help my company reach its goals. Don't get me wrong, no one wants to be a push-over, but aggressive just isn't my style.

However, it was this conversation with my manager that continued to haunt me as I transitioned into my new role. I began to worry that I would need to become someone I wasn't in order to survive this career choice. Thankfully, one day, a Senior Executive recommended a book to me called The Power of Nice, How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval. After reading the book I immediately felt empowered and at that moment decided that being aggressive would not work for me. I could use being nice to my advantage.

Throughout the book, the authors discuss the idea of developing positive impressions and that little gestures yield great results. This idea proved to be a very successful one for me and my company. While I was executing an RFP, shortly after reading the book, I realized for the first time that using nice strategies was working to my advantage.

I was searching for a new print supplier for marketing collateral and business cards. In sourcing this spend, I conducted an RFP with 4 national providers. I approached the process collaboratively, aiming to achieve a "win-win" outcome with the providers. Working with a business development manager of one of the suppliers caught my attention. With each interaction he repeatedly stated how impressed he was with my collaborative and friendly approach to this event. He appreciated how I engaged him as a potential business partner, actually understanding his perspective and identifying ways to come to an agreement ideal for both my company and his.

As a result, the business development manager continued, throughout the entire process, to go above and beyond with his availability, responses to my questions, pricing structure, and account management practices, etc. He positioned his company as a best-in-class provider and strove to win the business because of the relationship I was building. I recognize that as a sales person, his goal was to win the business but he also knew that I was not the final decision maker. We both believed you get more flies with honey and as a result, the stakeholders chose his company. They became a strategic partner for our marketing team and were the easiest supplier to work with, making vendor management a breeze for my team, as well as saving us money.

Ultimately, niceness can work to your advantage in business and in life. I can tell you from the original conversation with my boss, I did learn that sometimes difficult decisions are necessary, but you can be stern without compromising your kindness. One style doesn't fit all, especially in procurement. Don't be afraid of figuring out a work style that suits you best, and be flexible when situations require you to change your approach.


About the Author: Tracey Horrocks is a Senior Project Analyst at Source One Management Services, LLC with years of experience in procurement and strategic sourcing in an array of categories including Professional Services, Marketing, and Facilities Maintenance. In her role, Tracey serves as a pundit for developing RFPs and executing strategic sourcing strategies. Her detailed approach to supplier identification and vendor management helps clients achieve sustainable costs savings and operating efficiency.

Read More

Advice for Emerging Professionals in Supply Chain/Procurement Function

Do you love going to work every day?....ok well how about most days? First off, if you aren't happy at what you're doing, you need to re-think your approach, whether it be a new project, or role within your current company, a completely new opportunity, career change, additional schooling, the options go on and on, but you need to do something! You aren't helping anyone if you aren't happy. So let's say you are actually happy and you LOVE supply chain/procurement. Good keep reading.

Are you an Emerging Professional or are you a Millennial, do you get as confused as I do when people refer to you as one. You can be Emerging at a profession regardless of age, you can emerge your entire career - it is an evolution after all. You can only be a Millennial if you happened to be born between 1982 and early 2000's  so pick your poison, chances are you are one or the other, or both like myself.

This is directed at those folks who are emerging in this industry at any age. This is going to be short and sweet, you need to network. Update your LinkedIn, polish off your resume, and explore local affiliations of Supply Chain/Procurement you can enroll in. Start to work on your personal brand. You never know what your network will bring you, could be your next job, could be your next hire, could be a reference for a supplier, RFP help, etc. I can't tell you how much my network helps me, but I use it every day. They are my best asset.

Hub & Spoke Approach I have a core network that represents people of a diverse background of skills, industries and even functions. Then the network fans out, like a hub and spoke the HUB is my lifeline. If any of them called me and needed help, I would drop everything I was doing. They don't know they are my HUB, but that's ok, because I may be their SPOKE, it's all about the balance between them. You need to look internally and figure out who are your core folks that can be the foundation for your own brand. The thing about creating a personal brand is that you need a team. You can create as many spokes as you want and your hub depends on your needs.

Regardless of what approach you take, building your network is essential. I would take the time to mentally write down who you believe is currently in your core network and who you desire to be in your core network. Just thinking about it is a start. Then start to see how you can connect with them further, this might be a simple connect on LinkedIn, or asking them for a reference or vice versa. It's ideal to establish a reciprocal relationship with them, so that you can demonstrate the value being in your HUB means. There will be people in your network that only have a one-way relationship, may be one-off asks, may be never, these are your spokes. You need them as well.

Riding your Brand Once you have the foundation of your network set up, the possibilities are endless, you can keep growing it or you can develop multiple hubs, it's dependent on your needs and ability to manage. Your brand is an investment, so when you expand your network, you're investing, when you update your resume, you're investing, when you update your LinkedIn profile, you're investing. Keep focusing on your development as you are emerging.


About the Author: A 2014 recipient of 30 Under 30: Rising Supply Chain Stars Nick Ammaturo is currently the Director of Procurement & Profit Improvement for the Hudson's Bay Company (Lord & Taylor, Saks 5th Avenue, Hudson's Bay & Home Outfitters), where he is responsible for developing the strategy of and leading the Special Projects group, Project Management Office, Contract Management team, Procurement Systems team, Travel, IT and Financial Services Categories. Previously he was the Manager of Global Sourcing and Supply Chain for Avon Products inc., where he drove sourcing process improvement initiatives around the world. In addition to process improvement, Nick was leading efforts for North America Supply Chain, Distribution, Logistics, and Packaging as part of the Supply Chain Transformation Avon was undertaking. Prior to Avon, Nick served as a Senior Procurement Specialist at FM Facility Maintenance, where he specialized in facilities commodity sourcing and workplace transformation. He drove significant cost savings at food retailers throughout the Northeast through process change management and cost reduction initiatives. Prior to FM Facility Maintenance Nick served as a Senior Buyer for PepsiCo, where he managed categories such as corrugate and plastics to drive significant cost reduction and partnered with R&D to implement product line standardization and quality improvements. Nick is a graduate of Villanova University, ISM-7 Counties President and Sponsorship chair, and has spent a good amount of time abroad - both in his studies at the London School of Economics & Political Science and during his tenure as a Finance/Marketing Analyst for Ipsos in Beijing, China.

Read More

Three Simple Steps to Creating a Culture of Recognition

Three Simple Steps to Creating a Culture of Recognition

When it comes to retaining top talent, best-in-class companies are realizing the need for employee recognition. One of the most effective ways of reducing turnover and increasing engagement is simply recognizing employees and their contributions. Bersin by Deloitte research indicates that effective recognition lowers turnover rates by 31%. Additionally, recognition is considered an employee engagement driver, and according to Towers Watson, a 15% higher employee engagement rate correlates with 2% increase in operating margins. 

While there are many methods and tools for recognition, there are simple steps companies can take to create a culture of recognition. 

Say THANK YOU: The least expensive way to recognize employees is expressing your gratitude with a simple “Thank you.” It is also an easier and more frequent way of authentically recognizing colleagues compared to formal internal tools with automated responses.  Research conducted by Gallup suggests that the number-one reason most Americans leave their jobs is that they don’t feel appreciated. Being consistently polite and expressing thanks creates a culture of appreciation that can be perpetuated throughout every level of an organization.

Reward Behaviors: Focus on behaviors you want to reinforce within your organization instead of focusing on titles and departments. Are there behaviors key to business results such as agility, creativity, or team work? Highlight those key behaviors when giving praise and recognition. Reward those behaviors with methods as complex as a formal award program or by simply providing positive feedback that calls out what action an employee took that displayed those behaviors. In doing so, you are rewarding behaviors critical to your company’s success and establishing incentives for other employees to exhibit those same behaviors. According to Globoforce, 79% of employees feel that recognition gives them a stronger sense of a company’s goals and objectives. 

Understand Individual Needs: Just as everyone has their own unique work styles, each person is motivated by different forms of recognition. Knowing what type of recognition best motivates an employee can be critical for showing meaningful appreciation. For example, some employees may thrive on public accolade. Providing effective recognition for these colleagues may mean calling out their successes during team meetings and conference calls. Others may prefer private praise and acknowledgement, through personal exchanges (written or verbal) that are between the employee and the person providing the recognition. The best way of gaining this insight is to simply have a conversation to learn what forms of recognition will not only make the employee most comfortable, but also have the most impact.   

Without a doubt, research is proving that recognition has a major impact on not only on employee happiness, but also on company productivity. Best-in-class companies are realizing this and taking measures to create a culture of recognition in the workplace.  Taking these simple steps may be the secret to unlocking employee potential and achieving lasting results. 

About the Author:  Caroleann Boyle is the Marketing Content Strategist at Source One Management Services, responsible for driving Thought Leadership, content creation, and social media presence for the industry-leading procurement services provider. Her previous experience includes talent marketing and employee engagement for providers of business operations and customer relations software and solutions.

Read More

Formula for Successful Leadership in Procurement

I would like to share the leadership philosophies that I believe to be most effective in leading a strategic function such as Procurement:

  • Build a winning team
  • Set clear strategic direction
  • Empower team to deliver outstanding results
  • Identify, mentor, grow and develop top talent
  • Establish results orientated, meritocratic culture


Implementing these formulas seems simple; however, in reality it is not. Below are some of my thoughts. It's not exhaustive and can be tailored to meet particular organizational needs.


Key elements in building a winning team are:

  • Assess capability of team to establish current and optimal mix of A, B and C players. Transition C players out and replace with mix of A and B+ players.
  • Have a clear view of what you're looking for in right candidate and find a recruiter that understands Strategic Sourcing so no time is wasted.
  • Screen CV's not only for content, but also structure and presentation which tells you a lot about a candidate. Look for quantified achievements in CV.
  • Design interview questions to inform you of capability relative to what you're looking for. As an example for negotiation skills you could ask tell me about a negotiation you pursued in your personal life that left you most satisfied. The answer should tell you whether candidate has passion for and ability to negotiate.


To most effectively set clear strategic direction strategy must be:

  • Designed to deliver on the vision of overall organization and the division that Sourcing is part of.
  • Clear, simple, easy to communicate and understand.
  • Developed and executed with support from a Strategic Data Analytics resource, including development of tools and performance metrics.
  • Tied to quantifiable performance metrics (against which team members will be measured).


To most effectively empower team to deliver outstanding results:

  • Empower team to create and execute category strategies.
  • Appoint individual team members to lead specific corporate wide, global and/or cross category initiatives that have potential to deliver significant value to the business.
  • Support team by establishing effective peer group and cross functional networks within organization to help overcome potentially roadblocks to delivery.


To identify, mentor, grow and develop top talent:

  • Align responsibilities to match growth potential, personal development plan and career path of team members.
  • Encourage periodical 360o feedback to feed into personal development plan (subject to right organizational culture).
  • Invest time in personal and career development of staff.
  • Calibrate individual performance with peer group and communicate accordingly.
  • Clearly communicate additional experience and skills that need to be developed to make the next step.
  • Support targeted training program designed to support the development of additional experience and skills required to make the next step.
  • Advertise individual's achievements amongst peer group and executive leadership.
  • Establish robust succession plan.


To establish a results orientated, meritocratic culture:

  • Establish practice and culture of fact based decision making, critical thinking and analytical approach.
  • Praise individuals publicly for outstanding accomplishments, recognizing and celebrating achievement.
  • Facilitate exposure of high achievers to executive leadership.
  • Recognize outstanding performance through remuneration and promotion.
  • Ensure that staff treat people with respect and meet ethical standards in pursuit of outstanding results.


By James Thorpe, Vice President Global Strategic Sourcing, ACCO Brands

Read More

Ignore Your Performance Evaluation

One of the more ubiquitous rituals in Corporate America is the performance review process. Having gone through this at several companies, I'd like to share my varying experiences at places like RR Donnelley, Navistar International Truck & Engine, Ariba (FreeMarkets) and others. I'll refer to the places I've worked at as Company A, Company B, Company C, etc. The reason why it is a valid assumption that one can ignore a company's performance evaluation process is that it in most cases process integrity is not maintained. It becomes more of a popularity contest than an objective evaluation. 

The grand and lofty expectations of objectively quantifying how one lives the company's values and achieves superior results usually go by the wayside for any number of reasons. It could be an economic downturn or that things are humming along fine so there's no need to expend much effort on this mundane HR process. Or it could be that you do not have the right chemistry with your boss and that will cause objectivity to suffer. However we choose to view it, more often than not it will turn out to be a subjective exercise.

At company A, I had an interesting experience, i.e. a complete reversal of fortune within the span of a year and a half. My first review was a few months after I joined and it was above expectations stating that I was doing great. Incidentally, the company was amidst unprecedented growth. Fast forward a year and everything had fallen off a cliff. Now that a precipitous decline was underway, nothing anyone did on the team was good enough and ratings plunged.

At company B this process actually seemed to be as painful for HR as it was for the employees. Interestingly enough, it didn't seem to matter whether the company was performing well or below par. There was no interest in making this a worthwhile effort beyond the perfunctory two-page form to fill out. What I found truly horrific was that most managers would simply put I concur next to the self-appraisal done by the employees on the evaluation form. Talk about barely lifting a finger! All of this despite having an official 10-page guide on how to come up with SMART (stands for: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) goals and assessing objectively.

At company C, I was told that I basically walk on water. Now to be fair, this company had the most robust performance assessment process of all my former employers. Not only was everyone challenged to put forth SMART goals, but they were public as was its tracking for all to see in our department. Once a quarter we had a one-on-one meeting with our manager to review performance and ensure we were on track and come up with plans if we were not. Now the fact that I was categorized as a high-potential and high performing employee did not do either me or the company very much good considering I was told all of this after I had given my notice to leave. Since my manager had already done my performance evaluation he wanted me to have it. While I appreciated the glowing words, it was unfortunate that it had to come to the fact that our company was in the middle of a merger with many people departing that they began the process of trying to retain their people. While I was generally aware that I had exceeded my performance targets and was given the periodic pat on the back, there wasn't any discussion of a career path or potential next roles during the course of the year.

At company D, I was told by a quirky boss that I was outspoken and that my sense of humor was perceived and construed as being abrasive. Since this was a dynamic, start-up environment we all had revolving managers and direct reports. None of my other managers pointed out these particular traits as an area of improvement. Point being that my performance itself was not in question. As a result of which I did not let one person's subjective view affect my confidence or style. In fact, in subsequent years and at most places, my sense of humor was usually singled out as an asset in building team rapport and business relationships.

At company E, in a course of a few months I went from being told that I have a lot more strengths than development needs to being told that I did not have a great year, just plain mediocre. What made this especially appalling was that in this instance leadership never took the time to come up with realistic and practical goals. When the company realized that there wasn't really any career path and wanted to save on bonus payouts then suddenly this annual performance evaluation ritual took on a lot more importance. Since goals were not reset or recalibrated during the year, this painful exercise in futility became all the more transparent for employees.

Having shared the above, do I think that the performance evaluation process is completely without merit (pun intended)? Probably not. However, I do not let these performance reviews define or label me. The value I have derived from these is limited to the extent that it helped increase my self-awareness. This in turn helped me improve myself and my team. While it may be tempting to write this ritual off completely, it would probably be unwise to do so. In most of my experiences there is usually some sort of financial remuneration tied to this exercise. In some cases you may find there is more at stake than you'd like and thus you have to ensure you go through the motions to the best of your ability. If for nothing else than to take the opportunity for self-reflection and learning. Most of these performance evaluations have a self-appraisal section and I felt that I owed it to myself to take the time and effort to elaborate on what I've accomplished, where I fell short, and what I want to achieve in the future.

There is one other aspect I am cognitive and conscientious of when it comes to this ritual. And that pertains to my role as an appraiser. All the examples cited above have helped me learn what not to do in the realm of performance evaluations. And I have strived to incorporate these important lessons by trying to do the opposite whilst evaluating my team members. If leadership and team development is important to you, than there's no easier way to show your people indifference than to put forth a half-hearted and shoddy excuse of a performance evaluation. 

I admit that it is sometimes difficult to motivate oneself when the vast majority can't be bothered about this process. But if it's done sincerely it will come through and perhaps even be appreciated. At the end of the day, similar to other aspects of corporate life, this too is a trade-off. You do not want it to become an all-consuming and all-important yearly exercise. But you also don't want be callous about it to the point that it has monetary consequences. Because let's face it, when does one ever get asked to show their past performance appraisals to a future employer? Probably never. At least that's been my experience.

Read More

Procurement Interview Best Practices

Having managed recruitment at a procurement services consulting firm, I've seen all types of interview behavior: the good, the excellent, and the not-so-sterling. From my perspective, procurement is a unique line of work that requires an interview candidate to be both analytical and creative. Of course all the common interview etiquette is essential, but with such an industry, there are some additional areas worth prepping for.


1.  Put Yourself To The Test Whether an organization is seeking a buyer, analyst, or purchasing manager, people need to be experienced in data management tools like Microsoft Excel or a data management platform. Anyone can say Yes, I've used that frequently, so employers need concrete proof. A procurement skills test is an option that many employers pursue to assess a job applicant. To prepare yourself, brush up on simple formulas to the best of your knowledge. Review functions like v-lookups and pivot tables to keep yourself sharp for the chance these skills will be tested.

A word of caution  you shouldn't necessarily ask your point of contact if there will be a test  they're not likely to tell you if they haven't already, and they want to see if you already have the skills necessary. If a test is presented and you don't know an answer (or many), don't run from the interview you'd be surprised how frequently I've seen this. Stay calm, give it your best shot, and emphasize that you're a quick learner with examples of similar tools you've picked up seamlessly in the past. It's likely that the employer has been in your exact shoes in the beginning of their careers, and they get it.


2.  Watch Your Mouth! Of course you know to keep your language clean, but there are certain phrases to completely avoid if you're looking to impress the qualifier. Some no-no's include:

  • Coordinated day to day activities: You are no ordinary candidate. Prove it! Use strong language that shows you took charge and delivered unique value.
  • I am a hard worker and I did well : Show this, don't just say it. Use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method to demonstrate your achievements and use quantifiable results to dictate the quality of your effort.


3.  Play Up Your Uniqueness There are a lot of procurement practitioners out there. Regardless of what others did in your professional experience, show that you are able to think outside of the box and push for improvement in the procurement process. Be specific and make it known that you aren't afraid to push for innovation when appropriate. These are only the beginning of some ideas to prepare for a purchasing/procurement/strategic sourcing-related interview, but they can help you understand some qualities that interviewers are seeking foremost. Most of all, relax and take deep breaths. You've worked hard to get where you are, so trust that if the opportunity is meant to be and you prepared diligently, everything will fall into place.  


About the Author:  Heather Grossmuller is a Marketing professional at Source One Management Services, LLC, a Philadelphia Business Journal People on the Move Recognition Recipient, an advisory board representative of La Salle University's Association of Women MBAs, and all-around marketing enthusiast. As Marketing professional, she oversees Source One's efforts in internal/external communications ranging from social media management to recruitment.

Read More

When Is It Right to Write?

Our parent company, CDI Corporation, recently released this great article by Joe Seiders, CDI's Chief Legal Officer and Chief Compliance Officer, addressing how electronic communication and it's ability to remain long after its sent is affecting individuals both personally and professionally.

When is it Right to Write?

What does it mean to write ? It used to be easy. You took a pen and put words on paper. You were writing. Then along came the typewriter and things changed. A little. You put words on paper by pushing keys. The pen was gone but the paper remained. And whether you used the pen or pushed the keys, the person who held the paper was the one  the only one  who could read your message. Destroy the paper and your message disappeared.Then along came computers. And electronic communication. And things changed again. A  lot.

Writing now means emails, postings and tweets. You still push keys to make the words  but the paper is gone. And therein lies the problem. Electronic communication is different. It can live forever. No longer is the life of your message linked to the life of the paper on which it's written. And with the simple pressing of the forward key, or the posting on a social media website, your message can be read by people you never intended to see it. So not only can it live forever but it can go everywhere and be seen by anyone. It's pretty clear that many people don't think about that when writing in electronic format.

It's as if they think that emailing, posting or tweeting isn't even writing  that somehow it's private, like writing the message on a piece of paper that, after being read, is destroyed by the recipient. But it isn't. It isn't like that at all. We've all read the stories of how an email, posting or tweet has come back to bite the writer. Embarrassment, loss of friendship, loss of jobs, loss of job opportunities, loss of lawsuits  all have been results of writings that got into unintended hands. Writings that never needed to be written. And never should have been.

So, in this world of electronic communication, how do we know when it's OK  when it's right to write. Here's a dozen guidelines for when it's not:

  1. If you're angry don't write it.
  2. If it's derogatory or defamatory  about a person or a company don't write it.
  3. If it's something about a person that you wouldn't say to that person's face don't write it.
  4. If it's confidential  to a person or a company don't write it.
  5. If it's something you would whisper don't write it.
  6. If you'd wink when you say it  don't write it.
  7. If you'd first ask Can you keep a secret? don't write it.
  8. If the tone of your voice would be important to understanding it  don't write it.
  9. If you'd first close your door before saying it . don't write it.
  10. If you'd say I'm only kidding after saying it don't write it.
  11. If it's vulgar or profane don't write it.
  12. If it's something that might trigger or be involved in a lawsuit or some other legal process don't write it.

That last guideline is admittedly somewhat general but the point of it and really, all of these guidelines  is to think about what you're about to write before you decide whether to write it. Emails and other electronic communications are key items of evidence in today's lawsuits and government investigations  generally to the dismay and detriment of the writer and the writer's employer. If there's any chance that someday you'd wish you hadn't written it  don't write it!

The solution? Give thought to what you're about to communicate and then communicate the old-fashioned way. Use the telephone. You still need to be careful about the content of your message but at least you won't be carving it in electronic stone. Those people (and, in many cases, their employers) who had all the problems stemming from their e?mails,posts or tweets would not have had those problems if they had just used the phone. Don't think it will happen to you? ...It happens all the time.

Read More

Before the Interview: Every Battle Is Won Before I

According to MRINetwork, 75% of the hiring decision is based on the chemistry between the hiring authority and the job-seeker.  The decision to hire someone can be made in a matter of minutes, with the remaining time spent supporting this decision.  That being said, this blog is meant to educate prospective job-seekers on how to carry themselves with conviction, confidence, and passion.  What you do and say during an interview can determine whether or not you land that career; therefore, like Sun Tzu says, the time and effort you invest in preparation is crucial.


An interview is like any other test: it is an assessment of whether you fit the role and culture of the company. An interviewer wants to see that you already identify yourself as part of the organization by demonstrating a thorough understanding of products, services, and competitors. Utilize your resources—company website, Linkedin, trade magazines etc.—to review current events, company statistics and company executives. If you know who will be conducting the interview, find ways to establish rapport. Do you share any connections on Linkedin? Do you have similar educational backgrounds? Are you from the same city/town? Do you share the same interests or expertise?  “Knowing” your interviewer helps make the interview more conversational, less scripted, thus more genuine. Additionally, it is important to be familiar with the job description. It is in your best interest to convey how your experiences align with the responsibilities and requirements of the role.  Lack of research will demonstrate indifference. Prepare for an interview the way you would prepare for a test: ample amounts of research will give you confidence the day of the interview.


Preparing for the interview seems an obvious step, yet the masses of potential job-seekers leave an interview unsure of their delivery. The most common mistake is not conducting enough research on the company; however, another mistake many job-seekers make is inadvertently misstating dates or statistics on their resume. Although everything may be on the resume for your interviewer to review, oftentimes they want to hear you highlight and expand on certain key areas. If you do not have a command of the information without looking at it, your interviewer may become suspicious of its validity. It is best to prepare two or three of your most significant career-related accomplishments and be able to articulate where and when these happened. Without a doubt, the interviewer will open the floor for questions. Strategic, open-ended questions are preferred, and never ask anything that can be answered by looking at their website. Worse than asking an obvious question is the mistake of not asking questions at all.


As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect. For most people, the first interview causes jitters and forgetfulness, exacerbated by unpreparedness. Practicing your response to some possible interview questions helps you ascertain what you are trying to convey. Be cognizant of areas for improvement. Practicing aloud illuminates your weak points. When you practice in the mirror or in front of someone else, you recognize your excessive use of um’s and rapid speech. Furthermore, work on being concise and illustrative. In order to be successful the day of the interview, you must be proactive instead of reactive. As the philosopher Plato once said: human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge. When you research, prepare and practice in advance, you’ll conduct yourself with conviction, confidence and passion.

Read More

5 Tips to Improve Your Resume

If you are an active job seeker, the resume can be the most important part of your job search. Even for the candidate sought by recruiters, an updated resume can still be a blessing or a curse in obtaining that new opportunity. Every day, we receive resumes upon resumes upon resumes... and the thing they all have in common... they break one of the following rules. Check out the below tips to bring your resume up to speed and through the HR gates.

1. Formatting is important

I found a great Business Insider article discussing software-friendly resume must haves, and the overall message is this: Make sure it is legible, has enough white space to feel clean, and each page is over 3/4 full.



Many career boards allow you to submit your resume in a multitude of documents - MS Word, PDF, Text files, etc. Should the option be available, I ALWAYS suggest utilizing PDF. You work so hard to make your resume look just right and through program manipulation and differences in software, it is all for naught. The two biggest offenders are resume importing software and variances in Microsoft applications - 2007, 2010, 2013, Mac versions, Linux versions, Google Docs, etc.


3. Peer Review

Spell check has it's advantages - it checks grammar and does a bit of autocorrecting too. BUT what it doesn't do is verify you've correctly stated industry specific acronyms, notice words that have been accidentally omitted, or how to best portray your responsibilities.


4. Everyone's Objective: To Get a Job

Omit the objective statement. If you are applying for an opportunity, the recruiter / hiring authority can assume it is your objective to take on a role like this one. We currently have an opening for our internal team as an administrative assistant and I received a resume with the objective .To obtain a laboratory technician position. Where I might have been open-minded to their diverse background before, their lack of attention proves to me they didn't take the time to edit their resume before applying and that simply won't do. No statement is better than a .I forgot to change it statement, or worse a vague statement.


5. What have you Accomplished?

Many people will make their resume mimic a job ad . describing day-to-day tasks but without specificity or tangible results attached. This is a trap even the most seasoned employee can fall into. See below examples and decide which sounds more exciting to you.

  • Handled company marketing and social media program

                                                   - OR -

  • Initiated and led company re-branding campaign through both social media marketing efforts and development of our new website - increasing monthly visitors by 400%

Everyone has achievements but not everyone can recognize and articulate them. Sometimes, this takes a little digging, for what seem day-to-day tasks to us can be very impressive to others. The key is to show how you made the company better and many times this equates to a few scenarios: How did you save them money, how did you make them money, how did you save them time, or how did you make them look good.

Recruiters and hiring managers alike like numbers, percentages, and other quantifiable data. If you are on the market, I highly suggest connecting with a resume service to best market yourself.  TheLadders job board provides a great guide to selecting a resume writer. If you prefer to try your hand at it first, try to remember the 5 tips above, as well as our Pinterest Board. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at

Read More

Talent Management Series

Supply Management executives routinely and consistently cite top grading, transforming or building out their teams as an important priority. All this is necessary to keep pace with their dynamic business requirements and the constantly shifting talent landscape. Regardless of industry, company or geography, the challenges remain the same. How do we find, attract and retain these human capital assets that will be vital to our success in the future?


Some of the biggest challenges in talent management confronting companies are the following:

  • Attracting talent with niche capabilities.
  • Keeping key resources challenged . finding next development opportunities.
  • Providing educational development during shrinking training budgets.
  • Keeping new college graduates engaged.
  • Turnover also remains a pressing issue as companies strive to become employers of choice.


Some of the strategies put in place to address these challenges have been:

  • Structured recruiting and on-boarding.
  • Formal Internship and People Development Programs.
  • Collaborative Education.
  • Membership and Certifications.
  • Increased communication between key resources and mentors.
  • Frequent and timely communications.


While these are actions that can be taken today, progressive organizations are also looking to the future and attempting to build institutional capabilities within when it comes to talent management. One model that piqued some interest pertains to a "Talent on Demand" framework, i.e. akin to a just in time manufacturing approach. This perspective relies on principles that address the risks in estimating demand and supply uncertainty when it comes to talent management. We'll get into these interesting operational principles with a supply chain perspective in our subsequent discussions.

Read More

The Foundation to Recruiting Success

As the most recent addition to MRA Global, I have done my fair share of research as to what distinguishes a good recruiter from a great recruiter. The article that resonated with me the most, Want a Job in Recruitment? 6 Must Have Skills by Jorgen Sundberg, summarizes what the author believes are the top skills necessary to "make it" in recruiting. Although I can surely attest to some of these sentiments, I feel it is lacking when it comes to depicting the more genuine side of recruiting. A recruiter can become highly successful with only three key components: transparency, listening skills, and an inquisitive nature.


1. Transparency The first skill the article speaks of is having a salesy nature; however, selling the candidate on the job, or selling the candidate to the client, is not of utmost importance if it becomes obvious there is not a perfect fit. I have carefully observed my peers get the vacancy from the client, gain interest from the candidate, and make a placement, all while operating with full transparency. Although it is their job to gain the interest of candidates/clients by assessing and identifying their needs, they do so by building rapport and instilling trust. They will not attempt to convince a client that their candidate is the best fit, or convince the candidate that the job is their ideal opportunity, if this is not true. Ultimately, a great recruiter CAN sell an opportunity or candidate, but WON'T if it does not benefit both parties involved. Therefore, rather than stating salesmanship as the most important ingredient for success, I would confidently say that transparency is the most important key to success.


2. Listening, not just hearing While I agree, being a .matchmaker. is an integral part of the job, it is important to expand upon what makes a great matchmaker. Whether setting up blind dates for friends, or pairing the ideal candidate with the ideal client, the key to matchmaking is knowing what each is really looking for. How do you learn what someone's perfect match is? By listening to what they are saying! Ever tried to set up your two friends because you really like them both, only to realize they have nothing in common except for you? This is a common problem when decisions are made based on what you feel is right, versus listening to what the other person really needs. A great recruiter listens to clients and candidates alike, and becomes well acquainted with what each needs in terms of a best-fit scenario. Listening is what ultimately makes placements that last.


3. Inquisitive Nature In this profession, I feel it is less necessary to .talk the legs off a donkey. as it is to ask a lot of questions: A LOT OF QUESTIONS. In order to stand out and create relationships, it is important to get to the root of their problem, ask the "whys" and gain perspective rather than talking their ears off attempting to sell your services. In this profession, the clients and candidates will teach you everything there is to know if you are not afraid to ask. This helps increase your knowledge in the space, as well as create open dialogue. Although not everyone may dream of one day becoming a recruiter, the high-impact nature of the career is perfect for many individuals seeking to help others. It is as equally challenging as it is rewarding, and requires full transparency, perfected listening skills, and an inquisitive nature in order to succeed.

Read More

Category Depth vs Breadth - Which is Better?

If you're familiar with MRA, you know that we primarily place Supply Management leadership positions, with a sweet spot within Procurement and Strategic Sourcing. I've spoken to many practitioners with diverse backgrounds and at various levels, ranging from Buyer to VP Procurement. Some of these folks know all there is to know about one specific commodity/category and others have sourced everything from fasteners to benefits services.

One trend we're seeing is that many Procurement organizations are transitioning to a category management structure. Within this model, we've found that companies have a tendency to only interview and hire candidates with deep experience in the specific category each position would manage, at least at the Manager level and below. There are several pros associated with this school of thought. For example, hiring a category specialist. makes a lot of sense from a company's perspective; the learning curve will be minimal, thus setting the stage for this individual to hit the ground running in their new role.

From a practitioner's viewpoint ' if he/she can develop a niche within a category over the years, it can make him/her very marketable to any organization seeking that expertise. For example, we had a talented young woman on our radar who made it her personal mission to be the go-to Travel services procurement person. She became a subject matter expert, joined Travel-related professional associations and obtained a GTP (Global Travel Professional) certification. As a result, she has held Travel procurement roles for several companies and experienced rapid career advancement! There's also a downside to being associated with a specific category as a Procurement professional.

While being a specialist does make you marketable for certain roles, it can unintentionally create a low ceiling for you when it comes to leadership or executive-level roles (ie- CPO, VP, Director Procurement). This thought hadn't crossed my mind until we had unearthed the perfect candidate. for a Marketing Sourcing opening we were working on. He fit every checkbox our client sought, was at the right experience level and showed consistent career growth in two previous Marketing Sourcing roles! When I asked about his interest level for this position that was seemingly a perfect fit, he explained that he was uninterested. Puzzled, I asked Why?! He explained that he wanted to broaden his skillset and didn't want to be viewed simply as a Marketing category specialist, since he had aspirations to be a CPO one day.

Due to the broad responsibilities and diverse teams executives manage, he added, companies seek candidates with a breadth of category management experience (among other things) rather than someone who has spent 20+ years focused in one area. In closing, there can certainly be a case to be made for both standpoints in terms of whether it's better to have breadth or depth. Ultimately, I think having a more well-rounded background will pay dividends in the long run, even if it means losing out on a few opportunities on the way.

Read More

Meet Nick Lazzara, Search Consultant

Hey there! My name is Nick Lazzara and my position with MRA Global is Executive Search Consultant. My role focuses on managing the recruiting process from end-to-end, with an emphasis on the "candidate" side, and successfully placing supply management executive level openings for our clients. I grew up in Chicago and graduated from the University of Illinois. My experience as an undergrad helped me discover my passion for networking and helping others. In an attempt to find a career that incorporated both of those aspects, I gave the recruiting world a try and have been thrilled with my choice thus far! I enjoy the personal aspect of the job, like building strong relationships, learning about people's motivations, and conversing about current supply management and recruiting trends. As a result, these are some of the things I'll tend to blog about. If you'd like to reach me, feel free to connect with me through LinkedIn:

Read More

Meet Naseem Malik, Managing Partner

Hi there and thanks for stopping by! My name is Naseem Malik and I'm the Managing Partner of MRA Global Sourcing. We're an Executive Search firm specializing in Supply Management, a function I had the good fortune of spending 15 years in and is definitely near and dear to me. I've worked in numerous roles in a variety of industries, providing a multitude of experiences - including implementation of global supply strategies, product and process cost reductions, and supply chain improvements. While working at major Fortune 500 companies, had the opportunity to build and lead global teams that were both high-performing and high potential. Little did I know that I was gaining valuable know-how and insights on how to attract and retain top-notch talent for a future career!

While I enjoyed the global exposure to a multitude of businesses during my time in corporate America, becoming an entrepreneur was always something that was of interest. Thus I took the plunge and embarked on a new career path that incorporated the best of both worlds. The function I love coupled with my goal of helping match top talent with the best opportunities - and so began MRA Global Sourcing. This has been a rewarding change as we help Supply Management professionals advance their careers and improve their lives in the process.

As an active member of the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) and various Purchasing Councils, I have authored articles for Inside Supply Management magazine, as well as others, and present on topics relating to talent challenges in the global marketplace. My blogs will provide a platform to access these publications, current industry news, and of course, my two cents on just about anything related to sourcing human capital. If you'd like to reach me, feel free to connect with me through LinkedIn:

Read More

Top 3 Ways to Get the Most out of a Recruiter

The best part of being in the recruiting world without being a recruiter myself, is that I get to observe the sheer optimism these enthusiastic individuals start each day with. Many of them join this industry with the goal of wanting to help people.


So why is it that a group of individuals, whose ideals are to help other progress in their field, have such a bad rap? The feedback I've received from a variety of professionals address two top causes: a misunderstanding of how agency recruitment works and that there are a few bad seeds out there making the rest of us look bad. I can personally testify for our recruiters. good-natured intentions, as well as many within our MRI Network. And while I could walk you through the processes and expertise required to make a "good" recruiter, it seems more suitable to advise you on how to get the most out of a good recruiter when they call! And the key to a better relationship with a GOOD recruiter: Be a GOOD candidate!


1. The Right Attitude If you are a professional who is constantly contacted by recruiters, CONGRATULATIONS! With the increasingly candidate-driven market, clients are coming to recruiters in droves to find top talent. These annoying calls and emails...they mean we think you ARE that top talent and we want to help you advance your career! Sometimes, the opportunity isn't a fit...and that's ok, but remember that poor individual you just slammed the receiver on called to build a relationship, network, and explore YOUR career interests. Being disrespectful or unprofessional with a recruiter could potentially hurt future opportunities for advancement...You never know when an interesting opportunity may come along.

2. Be Honest. Period. As mentioned above, recruiters call because they want to help you. It's true. We truly hope that every person we match with an opportunity is able to climb the next rung up the ladder, find the work-life balance they're looking for, and dare we say, do so with a few extra dollars in their pocket. So be honest with us. Are you actually a Director or are you a Manager? Do you or do you not have experience with sourcing resins? Is your salary just under $100K or is it $85k? A good recruiter will maintain your information, as well as your next opportunity preferences, in a confidential database to either match you with current opportunities or those that come up in the future. If you are honest, the calls will be more beneficial to your career and your networking relationship. In addition, when you do get that new opportunity, salaries, previous employment and degrees can be verified through background checks - a fact many forget in the first phone call.
3. Patience Recruiters receive 100s of applications a week, so when you don't get a call back right away it doesn't mean you aren't qualified. If you don't receive a call back this week, it doesn't mean you aren't a strong professional in your field. Typically, agency recruiters work on only very specific projects for clients and have limited resources to contact all applicants. If after reading the job advertisement you truly feel you are a fit and it's been a week since you applied, follow up with an email citing your interest in the position and why you believe your candidacy to be fit. Take the opportunity to highlight any achievements not mentioned on your resume and ask to schedule a brief call. But please DO NOT apply for the same job multiple times or call multiple times a day, the recruiter will be sure to know your name - but not for the reason you want.
In close, as we tell both candidates and clients, this process has to be a two-way street. Our goal is to create a collaborative effort, resulting in a true win-win environment for all. To learn more about what makes a good recruiter, check out Kaitlyn's blog.

Read More