Could you be a Procurement entrepreneur?

(We asked Julian Trent, MD of Peto, a start-up business we've featured over the last few weeks, how it feels as a procurement professional who has become an entrepreneur. Here's his response).

What is a Procurement Entrepreneur? My interpretation is someone who has developed their career as a procurement professional and then used those skills to build a new business with the aim of improving markets. You could also extend this to those that don’t directly build a business but do provide seed funding.

Julian Trent of Peto

Over 22 Years I have worked in a number of sectors - metals and engineering, telecoms, procurement outsourcing, management consulting and now technology services. And, if you asked me 10 years ago did I expect to be the Managing Director of an organisation implementing a product and price comparison website into the Public Sector (Peto), I would have told you it was as likely as meerkats becoming a cult figure!

So what is it that enables someone with a procurement background to transition to being an entrepreneur? I think the answer is straightforward. I have always believed that the vast majority of procurement, with the exception of technical areas such as Legal and EU Compliance, is based on the ability to draw out powerful insight and make sound commercial judgements. If you can do that, then aside from needing the right business idea, the only thing stopping you being an entrepreneur is your attitude towards risk and the will to challenge the status-quo!

In the three start-up businesses I had the privilege to be a part of, they all shared one common goal – to create value by disrupting and evolving the existing practices:

-          Xchanging Procurement Services, where another Procurement Entrepreneur, David Rich-Jones, played a major role, proved that if you make indirect procurement your core business, customers then benefit from a level of expertise, focus and ROI they could not achieve themselves.

-          Avail Consulting became a leading alternative brand to the Big 4 in the provision of support services to the public sector marketplace by offering disruptive features – a commercial model that challenged the existing market price and flexibility to approach each customer with bespoke solutions.

-          Peto, a technology services business providing the NHS and soon wider Public Sector with their first independent Product Comparison Marketplace to enable a completely new way in which buyers and sellers can engage – reducing suppliers’ cost of sales and providing the basis for buyers to understand value on a much more transparent and consistent basis.

Good commercial judgement comes from drawing on experience, information and data, opinion (often driven by personal values) to create insight for decision making. A former boss once said to me,  "Julian we are paying you for the insight you bring, not your ability to run a procurement process," the point being the process wasn’t what added the value.

It was then that I really started to recognise the potential for my career and growing appetite to contribute to a much wider set of business issues. This led to 7 very enjoyable years working as a Management Consultant - and boy were my eyes opened! Having left the world of procurement outsourcing in the Private Sector I found myself fully immersed in the Public Sector. Anyone who thinks the transition from Private to Public Sector would be easy should really think again – the most challenging but equally rewarding environment I have worked in. Initially advising clients from my core expertise in commercial and procurement issues, I took on a broader portfolio as the Partner at Avail responsible for the Health practice, comprising strategy and business planning, performance improvement and procurement.

I learnt valuable lessons then in understanding ‘what doesn’t work’ but most importantly ‘why’. In my experience the three most common problems were a lack of understanding of real behaviours, absence of up-to-date useable data, and business processes – in particular processes that include actions and decisions that rely too heavily on preferred, but not necessarily common, behaviour types.

With this insight developing, the concept of Peto suddenly became very obvious, and I took the decision to become a procurement entrepreneur myself!

Finally, my view on the must haves for anyone considering an entrepreneurial future in procurement:

-          A game-changing innovation to draw the best investor interest

-          Able to demonstrate a track record of good commercial judgement

-          A passion for what you are doing to be able to convince others

-          Some appetite for risk otherwise the business will only be a hobby

-          Be comfortable and able to live with periods of uncertainty

-          Enough resilience to stay true to your beliefs

And if you do decide to take the step - good luck!

First Voice

  1. marketdojo:

    Wish you every success Julian. Absolutely love the concept of Peto and the clarity of the website. I would like to think us procurement entrepreneurs stand the best chance to succeed!

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