Fabienne Lesbros, CPO of Britvic – Procurement Provocateur

Fabienne Lesbros is Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) at Britvic, a leading soft drinks company, with brands such as J2O and Robinsons amongst many others. She's unusual, as we will see, in settling on a career in procurement from the very beginning of her career, unlike most of us who wandered into the profession accidentally!

She also won the CIPS Purchaser of the Year award at this year's CIPS SM event, based on the significant impact she's had on the function at the firm in the five years since she joined as CPO. Here is our “procurement provocateur” interview with her, held in the colourful and lively Britvic offices in Hemel Hempstead (it looked like a brilliant working environment, I should say).

 

When did you decide procurement was for you?

From the beginning really! I went to Business school in Pau in France, then did an MBA in the US. On completing that, I was offered a job working on the Channel Tunnel project, in the supply chain area. Immediately I saw that this was an opportunity to get involved with every area of the business, which appealed and fitted well with my general business MBA. I also liked the commercial aspects of the supply chain role, and the way I could add value very quickly.

That challenge of taking a spend area and finding something new to make a difference is what I enjoyed through my career. After the Tunnel, I joined an electronics firm (Future Electronics) that was a distributor of electronic components ; a little like retail buying. I worked in Montreal first of all then in London to run the procurement function. I learnt a lot about inventory and stock control, as well as working with many suppliers and partners in the supply chain.

Then at GlaxoSmithKline, I had a chance to contribute in different ways. In production procurement I worked with the business to question specifications and deliver value; in the packaging category, I developed the sustainability agenda . So I have just enjoyed procurement from the beginning of my career really.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career?

Andy Bertinelli at the Channel Tunnel taught me that succeeding was about the people, not the technical side of the job - if you remember that, you will always do well, he said. Then at GSK, Joe Foley, who headed up capital and engineering procurement, was a big influence. He was a real manufacturing person by background, and when he came into procurement, he read our category management material and said "this is about selling as much as buying." He put his whole team onto a sales training course! Willie Deese at GSK was also very inspirational.

How did you become a successful procurement professional?

Curiosity! I think that is the main characteristic. I have always looked to understand the category area and the stakeholder environment. Can I meet the business needs and give the stakeholder something they can't live without? I have always kept in mind the business needs - but sometimes you can change or challenge them. But always talk from a business perspective. I try not to use procurement jargon. It is about influencing, telling the story and gaining buy-in. I think I am a good listener too - that is important.

We’ll be back with part 2 of our interview with Fabienne Lesbros tomorrow...

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