Adnams appoints finance guy as head of procurement – is that legal?

We mentioned last week that the current issue of Supply Management was strong, with some good interesting articles. That included a short piece from Stephen Pugh,  the CFO of Adnams, a successful, family owned brewery in Southwold, East Anglia, and brewers of one of my favourite beers in the world, the strong ale Broadside. The Adnams brothers, George and Ernest bought the brewery in 1872*, but George was not cut out for country life in Suffolk so departed for South Africa, where he was eventually eaten by a crocodile!

Back to today - Pugh talked about their recent move to appoint a head of procurement for the first time. He didn’t disclose what the annual spend is, but what was impressive was the mature approach he and they had to the purpose of  procurement. Often when firms first look at professionalising the activity, it is driven by a cost and savings agenda. But here, as he said, Adnams do not want to compromise their strong values, and that it is “important that we build professional long-term relationships with suppliers, that have benefit to both sides”.   

Another interesting point was their choice of procurement head – they appointed  Andrew Brookes, one of their management accountants, who has also retained some of his finance responsibilities alongside procurement, but now reports to the Operations Director rather than the CFO.  Although this wasn’t said explicitly, my guess is that they valued having someone who understood the culture of the firm, and knew the key people, over and above someone with professional technical procurement experience. Let’s also assume Brookes has good influencing skills to go with his inside knowledge.

But how do we feel as procurement professionals about this? Shouldn’t Adnams have recruited a proper, qualified procurement professional to join and run the nascent function? That’s what the CIPS ‘licence to practice’ idea is all about, after all.

Presumably, the legislation CIPS is seeking in support of the licence idea would make it 'illegal' for Adnams to appoint Brookes to that role? Interesting, given it is a private firm, and hard to imagine that such a law could really apply here. Is David Noble, CIPS CEO, going to tell Jonathan Adnams, the Chairman, and a member of the family that has run a successful business for 150 years, that they can’t choose their own procurement manager?  

I believe we need to understand that whilst technical procurement skills are important, so are other personal skills and capabilities. And understanding of the organisation and key stakeholders gives a head start to any insider, whatever their experience, particularly in organisations with a strong, distinctive culture.  I wouldn’t criticise Adnams  for this appointment, without understanding better their own situation and thinking about this role, and I’d suggest it would be very presumptuous for CIPS to do so.

*Brewing has taken place on the site since before 1345, amazingly