From Stalwart to Wunderkind: 5 Procurement Role Models

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Your spreadsheet can wait. Take a quick break from the mundane day-to-day and get inspired by our round-up of men and women from different decades and walks of life who have brought innovation to procurement. Think of them as procurement’s role models.

The Mentor

One of today’s supply chain stars, Mickey North Rizza started out as a buyer, before moving up the career ladder to take on procurement executive roles. When she left Gartner to join BravoSolution as VP of Strategic Services in 2012, Jason Busch covered the news here on Spend Matters (“This is a headline I’m sure many of BravoSolution’s competitors do not want to read”).

After four years at BravoSolution, North Rizza left for another executive role at IDC. She has credited her career success in part to her curiosity and willingness to go the extra mile. But what makes her a true procurement hero is her dedication to mentoring younger women and helping them get ahead in their careers. One tip? Join forces and help each other succeed.

The Stalwart

Rick Hughes, the former CPO and Vice President of Procter and Gamble, was an easy pick for this piece. Hughes retired in 2014 after 30 years with P&G, only to go into a new consulting role at GEP. After a six-year stint in the U.S. Army and an MBA, Hughes took a procurement job with P&G. In an interview with Peter Smith, looking back upon his 30-year career, Hughes credited his success partly to advice that he got early on, to “focus on gaining and demonstrating [his] real procurement expertise.”

And so in that vein, Hughes’ advice to young procurement professionals is to work on competence first. In other words, focus on having substance (the flash will come later). Hughes also advises young professionals to trust their bosses when they give career guidance.

The Influencer

Gene Richter’s name is one that is pretty frequently mentioned on Spend Matters. The late procurement innovator spent a decade at the helm of IBM, whose turnaround has been partly credited to Richter’s leadership. His influence has gone beyond his own legacy, however. If anything is a true sign of a procurement hero, it is the fact that Richter is often cited by other big figures in the industry as a source of inspiration, including Rick Hughes. As mentioned before on Spend Matters, many of the executives who reported to Richter have gone on to become CPOs themselves.

It is quite appropriate then that Richter’s name has lent itself to scholarships and awards in the supply management field. Since its inception, the R. Gene Richter Scholarship Program has awarded scholarships to more than 100 students enrolled in supply management programs, with the aim of identifying future leaders in the field and mentoring them into careers in the field.

The Wunderkind

Frank Ho is one to emulate for young and ambitious procurement professionals who dream of making it onto those “30 Under 30” lists. Last year, at only 35, Ho was promoted to vice president of indirect procurement at Rite Aid. Before Rite Aid, Ho worked in management consulting and held positions at Accenture and American Express. His formal education was not in procurement or supply chain but rather computer science and math, along with an MBA from Columbia University.

As Spend Matters’ Jason Busch wrote last year, “for those looking to becoming a CPO before 40, follow Frank’s steps.” At the time, Ho had been working in Rite Aid’s indirect procurement department for almost seven years, and this deep knowledge of Rite Aid, combined with 15 years of procurement experience, certainly helped Ho get promoted. In other words, tenacity and talent will help you get ahead in your career, no grey hair required.

The Innovator

No “procurement role models” round-up would be complete without Peter Kraljic. In 1983, the then-consultant for McKinsey published an article in the Harvard Business Review titled “Purchasing Must Become Supply Management,” the ideas in which eventually formed the bedrock of modern strategic sourcing. The Portfolio Purchasing Model that Kraljic created is still in use, more than 30 years later.

Today’s outstanding purchasing companies that demonstrate innovation and respect for the environment and society can be nominated for the annual EIPM Peter Kraljic Awards, organized by the European Institute of Purchasing Management. But there remains no 21st-century version of Kraljic, an “individual in a firm that stood for truly rethinking the profession and did something about it.”

Missed one of your procurement heroes? Tell us in the comments below.

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