Being a CPO – things you don’t want procurement to hear!

My US colleagues Jonathan Messinger had a good idea last week for Halloween and although that has been and gone, I thought it was worth highlighting it here for a light-hearted start to the working  week. We will have plenty of more serious stuff to come this week, I promise...

So Jonathan asked all the Spend Matters team for examples of "things that procurement people really don't want to hear".  As a practitioner for 20 years, I could have filled up his site for some time with my experiences, I suspect!

But here were some of the examples I contributed. All actually things I did hear in my CPO career from internal stakeholders.

  • “I met this supplier at an exhibition ….”
  • “Do verbal contracts count”?
  • “So I told the supplier, I’d have a new budget next month of £5 million for this project so I wanted him to come in and see us soon..
  • “The CEO wants to talk to you about this friend of his who runs a consulting / training / marketing / IT business…”
  • “I think I’ve ordered 1,000 units instead of 100 on the system - but it was from a framework contract so can I cancel it?”
  • “So I told the supplier, we’re more interested in service and quality than cost…”
  • “The CEO wants you to talk to someone senior at British Airways. His Apple Strudel was cold on the flight last night”.

The apple strudel one was a classic – absolutely true, a very senior executive had his PA call me to complain that his dessert was cold on the flight back from Vienna. He wanted me to “do something” because he knew we had a corporate deal with BA. I pointed out to her that not only didn’t this seem a matter of huge importance, but also Strudel was sometimes served cold.

“I know”, she said. “But I daren’t tell him that”!

So what did I do? The pragmatic solution, of course. I apologised to my BA account manager, but suggested that, as this was an important chap, a nice letter from her might help the relationship and keep a good customer. What else can you do?

You can see the full list at Public Spend Forum here. And I'd love to hear examples from readers in terms of those heart-sinking comments, questions or discussions we've all had...

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Voices (4)

  1. RJ:

    “Could you just add this new supplier to the system and sort out the contract, please. It’s quite urgent because they started work three weeks ago and need their invoice paid.”

    Bit of a regular one for me at the moment, I’m afraid.

  2. Ian R:

    It’s 4.55pm on a Friday, the phone rings………..

    “Our supplier hasn’t done x,y and z – get them here now to sort it out!”

    “When did the supplier promise x,y and z would be done by?”


    This has happened twice now.

  3. Dan:

    It cuts both ways though.

    As an underling, what you don’t want to hear from your (newly appointed) CPO is ‘whats procurement?’

    Ah, the joys of local government.

    1. bitter and twisted:

      A heart-sinker from your own side is 100x worse than a dumb stakeholder.

      Fighting is exciting and you might win. But being ordered to be stupid is soul-destroying.

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