Don’t Miss These 4 Pearls of Wisdom from a Leading CPO, If You Want to Be a Great One


Spend Matters welcomes this guest post from Naseem Malik, managing partner at MRA Global Sourcing.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a Procurement Leaders forum where a renowned chief procurement officer (CPO) shared his top four attributes that made him successful over the course of his four different CPO assignments with four world-class Fortune 500 companies.

His CPO experience ran the gamut from a leading-edge transportation and supply chain company to a top chemicals company, and then back to back in a leading construction equipment and global diversified manufacturer based in Europe. He recounted his 36 years of procurement experience, during which he had a total of 17 direct line supervisors over 12 different jobs and relocated 8 times during his career.

He provided straight talk that came across as authentic and highly informative on what this CPO learned and what his advice would be for the upcoming executives in the profession. He approached it from a top-down perspective, i.e. how to win support from top management to enable and ensure success as a CPO.

Here are the top four pearls of wisdom shared by this CPO:

Engage with the Top 50

It’s critical to get to know and spend time with the top echelon of your company’s management, usually the Top 50. These are key players that run businesses and have important functions and also have the ear of their CEO. While you now have a seat at the table, there’s a certain pecking order so be cognizant of that. He warned that you may not be part of the CEO’s inner circle, so understand whom best to align with and ensure you develop those relationships. This will help you properly gauge the support of the Executive Management team when it comes to the Procurement function. Once you have identified the next leadership level (i.e. Business Segment leaders, etc.), then take the time to understand their business and win their trust. In his experience, if you win this group over, you’ll win with the Management team as well.

Get Yourself a Consigliere

This was an interesting perspective that initially seemed a bit contrarian. While conventional wisdom may suggest to find someone that thinks differently and can challenge you, this CPO stressed finding someone that shares your vision and is process-connected like you are so they can help drive initiatives. Give this second-in-command support and preferably a team so they can cut across business units and functions as appropriate. This Sourcing leader of yours will have the ability to empower and engage all stakeholders in the organization.

High-Impact Initiative

Finding high-impact and high-visibility projects was important as this CPO took over the reins in his assignments. He advised to select a project that may not be so obvious but had good potential and ROI for the company. Staying engaged and keeping everything on track in a speedy fashion was his preferred MO. Ensuring Finance was on board and validating the numbers was integral. Most importantly, he emphatically emphasized that you have to implement, implement and implement!


His final advice was to remember that every time you embark on this CPO role, you are the newbie. So it’s important to maintain your humility as you start off. He recounted in one of his early assignments he came in thinking he knew the answers. Even though it resulted in scoring some quick points with his CFO, this cavalier approach inadvertently put one of his biggest stakeholders on the spot so he had to make amends for the rest of his tenure. Humility leads to credibility and he never forgot that moving forward.

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