Friday Rant: Applying Newborn Strategies to Managing Corporate Procurement Expectations (Part 1)

My wife and I welcomed the latest addition to our family last Friday evening, a happy and healthy little boy. Since this is the third time around, I'd like to think we've learned a thing or two about infant parenting (and how to attempt to stay sane and get rest). Yet it's amazing how much you can forget in the years between having kids. As a refresher, I went through my old mental notes I had tucked away a couple years back for the next time around, and what I found between shuttling the older kids around and changing diapers was that newborns can provide a lot of lessons when it comes to getting more from procurement to realize greater returns. Consider the following:

Enlisting the help of others -- As it is with engaging the business on different cost take out initiatives, from strategic sourcing to spend aggregation to supplier development, enlisting the help of others when it comes to infants (and infant executives) is key. Now, in the case of a baby, the help is most appreciated at around 1:00 AM. But even if you must work within the confines of others' schedules, an extra set of hands is always appreciated (even when it's the "mother-in-law type" for a spend category in the business, or in our case, the actual mother-in-law herself). When others help, there's also a side benefit -- it helps those around you feel like they have their own stake in the game, so to speak, which makes it easier to go back to them for additional support requests in the future. Done right, the help request, fulfillment and re-request is a virtuous cycle. But do it with a smile (and hopefully, a non-screaming infant).

Feeding -- Feeding the business savings is a bit like feeding an infant milk. Once either starts to nurse, they can -- and should -- feel dependent on you. But just as you should with a baby, be sure to wean them from a single source as early as possible, lest they require one person to stay up at all hours of the day and night. Find the metaphorical "bottle" in the business to give yourself and your team a break. You can always lean on a consultant (as some parents do with a night nurse) for a period of time, but in my view, it's best to build out a longer-term sustainable model and system for giving the baby (and the business) what it craves. If you succeed, you'll get directly to the next point below.

Changing diapers -- No one likes to have their diaper changed. And some might argue that certain people in the business deserve to walk around with, well, something in their pants that I won't mention -- the remnants of poor spending and supplier management decisions of the past. All I can say to this is that while it is tempting to let the stink develop to make it easier to come in later when you're needed even more, it's best to clean up the businesses' soiling as quickly as possible, including the application of proverbial "butt cream" so the rash does not spread. When it comes to the disposing of corporate spend diapers, this too presents an issue. My advice in this regard is to quickly size up the situation, and depending on circumstance, take out the diaper genie immediately (or ideally, see the first recommendation, above, and enlist the help of someone else to do it for you). And don't forget to wash your hands afterwards!

Check back next Friday for Part 2 of this slightly sleep-deprived rant.

Jason Busch

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