Fabienne Lesbros of Britvic – Procurement Provocateur (part 2)

Continuing our “procurement provocateur” interview with Fabienne Lesbros, Chief Procurement Officer of Britvic. Part 1 is here.

 What advice would you give a young procurement professional?

Well, first of all, you should make sure to get the basics right. Know your trade and your technical skill set. You will have to develop your soft skills but the professional content is key. Then move around as much as possible to work on different categories, get exposure to different issues and ways of working. But if you can do that within one good organisation, that's fine - I think people move around between organisations too much sometimes. I don't like to see cvs with people changing firms every two years. But of course over your career you can try different sectors - the skills are transferable.

Focus on creating value for your stakeholders - but bear in mind they don't always know what they want! And if you can bring something that is valuable to them, but they didn't know they wanted it, you will be an even better "business partner" (I prefer that term to stakeholder).

 

Why should organisations care about procurement?

"If you don't buy well, you can't sell well" - that is certainly true in manufacturing, and in retail of course. We affect profitability so much, we address the margin, impacting the bottom line. It is different in different sectors , the argument changes a little in high margin organisations , but even there, do procurement well and the firm will make more money. Then in categories like marketing services, it's about innovation and getting more for your money. We can bring brand value, and sometimes we might spend more if a supplier can provide real innovation and value for us.

Where is procurement going?

The name doesn't help! People don't understand what it means. "Commercial sourcing" maybe. (Editor’s note - I mentioned “External Resource Management” as an idea at this stage –and she liked that!) And we need to promote procurement better in schools and universities. I am positive about the CIPS idea of a licence - everyone thinks they can buy, even if they haven't studied the subject at all. When I educate people around the company to the work of procurement, they can't believe how complex it is! We have to be legal experts, negotiators, financial analysts. We need to be recognised at degree and Masters qualifications, not just CIPS.

I want to see procurement working more with sales teams. We can get more from sales data and from understanding how our products or services work in the market - talking to customers can help procurement understand better what we have to buy. From that, we can have some real business discussions at the top with the executive team, about issues that are critical to the business. That means innovation, market intelligence as well as margin improvement - if we can show how critical we are to the future of the company then we will get that seat at the Board we always talk about!

 

That’s it from Fabienne Lesbros - she was very easy to talk to, and the expression "iron fist in a velvet glove" came to mind. She is very open, personable, even charming - but you can see the steel beneath the surface. To succeed in environments like engineering, electronics and GSK you must have that. And her vision of procurement - highly business focused, very strong on influencing, yet also with that underpinning of hard professional domain knowledge, is a powerful one. Thanks to her and congratulations to the whole team at Britvic for the way in which they have clearly put procurement high on their corporate agenda.

 

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