Where’s the Beef? A Lesson for Sourcing, Procurement

This post asking “Where’s the Beef?” isn’t about the beef supply chain, or the purity of the beef that you source, but yet another post about the pitch. We’re latching onto Wendy’s classic catchphrase because its message is easy to remember and one that you should never, ever forget! Especially when you are being sold something that sounds better than it is, or what you are being sold is better than what you expect from the organization providing it.

Why must we talk about this again and again? Because it’s too easy to get suckered into a deal that is too good to be true or without substance. It doesn’t matter how big and fluffy that sesame seed bun is, how fresh that lettuce is, or how juicy that tomato is if there is no hamburger patty or it is mostly seaweed.

As proof of how easy to get suckered in to something that sounds better than it is, we point to the news (no, not the fake news) and the new round of coverage of the 2017 Fyre Festival fiasco as a result of recent documentaries that highlighted how hopeful attendees who were promised luxury meals, lavish accommodations, and the music festival of a lifetime actually got pre-packaged sandwiches, FEMA rescue tents and the sound of the sea.

But it’s not just a crooked festival promoter you have to look out for. It’s also sales reps who will send you their top-of-the-line product as the “demo” from their brand-new factory when you actually get the bottom-of-the-line knock-off produced in their most outdated factory which has a 50/50 chance of short-circuiting when you flip the power switch. Or consultancies that trot their junior partners and senior talent in during the dog-and-pony sales show for your big platform implementation/customization project but then switch them out for recent college grads with no experience in your industry when you sign on the dotted line (as the junior partners were just the “project advisers” who don’t actually do any of the work). Or domain experts who scrape content from industry expert sources (like my blog, Sourcing Innovation, and Spend Matters), repackage it, and pretend it’s their own and sell you niche advisory sourcing or I2P management services they actually know nothing about.

In other words, it’s very important to not only ask “Where’s the beef?” and get to the core requirements of your sourcing and procurement project, but also "Where is it coming from?" — because, otherwise, you don’t know if you’re getting Grade A Calgary Steak, Yield 5 Utility Beef from Mongolia or Eastern European Horse Meat. And only one of these will ever be accepted by your luxury restaurant customers.

So just like reporting should be based on facts, sourcing should be based on facts. Who is providing the product or service, from where, when, how, what production measures are being used and what quality measures are in place, and why, from an objective viewpoint, is it better. Otherwise, you could get sucked in by the fancy demo, the unrealistically low price point, the bundled services or something else that is actually without value to your supply chain and customer — and then end up spending more money in the end on warranty costs, transportation costs, auxiliary support costs, and so on.

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