Achilles – not a heel in sight (sorry….)

"I think many people in procurement think we are three guys based over a Dominos Pizza somewhere in the West Midlands".

That was how Colin Maund described many people's perception of Achilles when I met him and Luis Olivie, his Chief Operating Officer, last week.  Colin has run Achilles, which was founded in 1990, since 1993.  I go back far enough to remember them in the mid 90s, when they dabbled in training, recruitment, and consulting.  I knew they had got out of most of those areas, and were now more highly focused; but they are still pretty low profile.  In fact, the low key and unassuming style relates back to their Norwegian founder; being based just off the A34 near Didcot is also a good way of not letting success go to your heads!

Anyway, I probably wouldn’t have said 3 guys; but maybe 23?  33?   No. Over 600 staff, in 23 countries; growing rapidly in South America for instance. I would have guessed their turnover at a few million; it is £40 million this year.

Their business now is all around accreditation, information, risk and performance management of suppliers.  They're not a software house; nor a consulting firm. They are a 'solution provider' in the true sense of that expression; as they put it themselves,

“Achilles identifies, qualifies, evaluates, and monitors supplier information on behalf of major organisations worldwide”

The core business model is to work to develop a ‘community’ of major organisations in a sector or market (oil and gas, or utilities perhaps). Achilles then sets up and manages information and accreditation processes for suppliers in that market, to help the community manage the supply base better.  This is not merely a simple supplier registration process; what sets Achilles apart from some other providers in the market is the rigour of their supplier assessment and information gathering processes. For example, they conduct over 8,000 supplier audits a year.

As well as commercial success, they have a firm belief that their processes contribute to the greater good.

“We’re particularly pleased when we can track a factor such as health and safety in a particular market and see that our intervention – supporting our buying community of course – has measurably driven up performance” says Colin.

Colin also has a lifelong love of public procurement law (he describes this as a 'sad affliction’ but I am with him on this) and is a really interesting guy to meet and talk with generally. His and Luis’s thinking about a whole range of procurement issues was refreshing and stimulating, and 3 hours passed very quickly.  I intend to write again about their thoughts on product traceability in the supply chain and why supplier management is such a hot topic; but for now, no jokes about Didcot; just memories of a really good morning!

PS I told Luis that Spain would be OK against Germany because the Octopus said so...and so it was proved!

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