Procurement Leaders – End of an Era …

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A tweet from Mark Perera two day’s ago, founder of Procurement Leaders (PL), took us all by surprise: “End of an era for me, as I step down from the board of @ProcurementLDRS - it's been an incredible 15 years.” This was soon followed by his LinkedIn post explaining that his co-founders are stepping down too. Just last night news broke (not surprisingly) that the firm has been sold.

Procurement Leaders has developed itself into a true force of nature within the procurement community, we have always admired their creativity, dedication and leadership. Our ex MD and founder, Peter Smith, who has known PL from the beginning, shared with us some personal thoughts on the PL era:

"The news that the founders of Procurement Leaders have stepped back from the firm and sold their shares to World 50 (a global business and executive membership and networking firm based out of Atlanta in the US) took me back some 15 years.

I chaired one of their very early events, in Amsterdam, and I remember being very impressed by the firm’s young(ish) founding team. The very charming and capable young woman managing registration turned out to be a “moonlighting” Masters student and girlfriend of one of the founders, and whilst I guess they were watching the pennies in terms of employing staff, the event was very high quality, better organised and focused than CIPS and other equivalents at the time, and the delegates clearly appreciated it. That focus on professionalism and quality has continued through the years at Procurement Leaders, and the firm’s growth has been impressive to say the least.

PL has had a major influence on procurement, bringing together firms to learn and network in a very positive manner, and sprinkling a bit of stardust on our sometimes rather dull procurement world! I hear some solution providers complain about the amount they’re charged for participation, but the fact is they pay up, which is down to the strength of the practitioner-side network PL has developed, with an unparalleled list of big corporates as members.

It hasn’t all been easy though – indeed, the last annual accounts (for 2017) show revenues of around £12 million, up 8%, but profit before tax declined from a very healthy £900K in 2016, with the firm making a loss of around £200K in 2017. (However we understand 2017 numbers don't reflect impressive bottom and top line growth since then.) That was mainly because of currency effects and a small decline in revenue from events, which may be in part because of the consolidation we’ve seen in the procurement software industry. Firms such as Jaggaer, Coupa and Proactis have acted as aggregators, which presumably means fewer separate firms to buy sponsorship at PL events. But membership income was up, and that no doubt will have helped the firm’s sale valuation, as such income is seen as more reliable then selling event sponsorships.

Building this business from nothing has been a great achievement for Mark Perera, Alex Martinez and Richard Pope, and indeed the many others who have helped them over the years. The founders did this without making many enemies too, unusual really in a cut-throat world! Pretty much everyone (including me) would describe them as “good guys,” as well as smart and insightful thinkers about procurement and indeed business more widely.

Alongside the many positives, if I had one criticism, it is that PL perhaps could have done more beyond its own network to promote the procurement profession. It has felt at times like a closed shop – inevitable, when so much of the revenues comes from member firms, I guess, but there must be so much great IP sitting within the network, perhaps that could have been used more widely for the “greater good.” Having said that, there is more useful information openly available on their website than most people probably realise (here, for instance), and the commercial focus of the firm is probably not that different to CIPS these days anyway!

However, developing Procurement Leaders has been one of the most impressive entrepreneurial achievements in our sector I’ve seen in my working life, and I wish the three founders and the team who will take the business forward now all the very best for a successful and happy future. Aside from the founders, the CEO Nandini Basuthakur and leadership team is still in place, so customers/members shouldn’t be worried – in fact Nandini describes the news as:

'..  a partnership that will support us to continue our journey and vision to be the world’s most valued global procurement network and beyond. We will continue to offer our unique suite of insights, applications and connections that accelerate global and cross functional transformation to our customers. This will now be further strengthened by the pairing of World 50’s powerful access across the broader C-Suite.'"

We wish them well …

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