Being a CPO – five things I wish I’d done as a procurement leader (part 5)

I’ve been struggling a bit to decide what to include as the last of my five “things I wish I had done”, as a CPO, but let’s go for this.

I wish... I’d become CEO of a mega-successful outsourcing firm!

When we were in the midst of fighting off – unsuccessfully as it turned out – the takeover bids from RBS and Bank of Scotland, NatWest came up with all sorts of crazy ideas to try and impress the City and investors. One, which I don’t think ever got to public discussion, was the idea of setting up a new procurement outsourcing company, as a joint venture between NatWest and one of the very large consulting firms.

It would have been innovative –  it was just about at the same time that David Andrews was devising the first "enterprise partnership" between Xchanging and BAE Systems. And there had been one somewhat similar venture which the consulting firm in question and Thames Water had entered into. The idea was we would move all of NatWest’s procurement delivery into this new organisation, which would then sell its services externally, as well as contracting back to NatWest to provide services.

Now, I was never sure to be honest that it was right for NatWest, and given the constant struggle we had with internal compliance, I was a bit uncertain that we could get buy-in to this from budget holders. On the other hand, we might have been able to get ahead of Xchanging,  Proxima and others, and be early entrants into a market that has grown steadily since then.

And I was going to be CEO of the new firm, with share options and everything! Of course, there’s a fair chance I would have been fired after 18 months as my sales skills might not have been up to the job. But there’s also a possibility that I'd now be a multi-millionaire like some friends of mine, who got into the outsourcing boom at the right time (not thinking of anyone in particular, like a certain CIPS President of my era...)

If only.. rather than sitting in Camberley with my cup of PG Tips and a chocolate digestive,  I could be writing this from my yacht in Cannes harbour, surrounded by the beautiful people, sipping my Latour '45...

A bit of a selfish wish to finish this series then. I'm not sure what the "learnings" are for anyone else, to be honest - maybe just that life has many twists and turns, grasp opportunities when you can, but be flexible because you never know what's around the corner. I was happy at NatWest, actually thought I might be there for the rest of my working life, but it wasn’t to be. I certainly didn’t see myself spending the next 15 years as a consultant, writer, blogger, etc.

Might we have changed the direction of the procurement outsourcing market with our bold ideas, if it had come off? We'll never know.  But I guess I should probably thank Fred Goodwin for diverting my career into many interesting by-ways, although it didn’t feel so great at the time!

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