Tough economic times call for some tough questions
The Chinese saying that “heroes (leaders) are made over turbulent times” has never been more appropriate. We have a new political reality taking shape. We have an economy that needs to be dealt with. And at some point, you as a procurement professional and expert will be asked what the future holds for your organization.
How are you going to find out what you don’t know? Where is your crystal ball? It’s time to look into that cloudy sphere! If that doesn’t work, start with your basic training in procurement.
Who do you look to for answers? Within your own organization, hopefully you have a master plan, a detailed breakdown of the next several years’ planning. Check in with your major clients; find out what they are doing and how they are going to deal with the financial and operational aspects of the future. Will they continue capital programs and initiatives regarding growth? Are they reducing or eliminating programs, or postponing them until the economy recovers?
Your material suppliers are a good source of information. Ask them how they are dealing with their suppliers. Do they have the financial health to stay in business in a manner that will support your organization? What are their suppliers and industry experts telling them to do? If you suspect that your current suppliers are weak, do you have backup plans or other suppliers you can go to? If not, you’d better start doing some research!
If you have human services contracts, how are your contractors dealing with the current crisis? Do they have the staff to sustain their contracts with you, or are they in the same situation as your material suppliers?
Do you have sole sources that need to be investigated? Do your sole-source suppliers have the financial health and business acumen to stay in business? If they go out of business, what is the impact on your organization? What is your backup plan? What is your plan to back up your backup plan?
What is the impact on your own department? Are there economies of scale that you can suggest to help you deal with the current situation? Are your stock levels adequate, or can they be adjusted? What will happen to your training budgets or staff development? What will you be doing to set an example for the rest of your organization?
What are your historic bid prices telling you? What are the trends? What do you notice from your purchasing statistics that would lead you to act differently in the coming months? Have you thought about succession planning? Where will your department be in two to five years?
Have you asked your own experts (that group of peers you rely upon for advice when things get tough for you) what they think? Where is your professional support group, and what are they doing? How are they coping?
What is going on in your city, state or region that may be different than the rest of the country? What factors will make your area unique and how will you cope with them?
These are tough questions and you will hear varying answers. It’s best that you conduct your own research, come to your own conclusions and have the professional confidence to deal with the problem.
Be careful of the answers you give, as anything within the realm of credibility will be accepted as fact. And once you are considered an authority on the subject, your expertise will be accepted as fact.
Get moving, and good luck!
Frederick Marks, CPPO, VCO, is a retired purchasing officer who has held positions as a supervising buyer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as well as director of material management for Northern Virginia Community College. Contact Marks at [email protected].