Using your procurement skills in everyday life – does it happen?

We’re about to buy a television. This is an unusual event in the Smith household because whilst we spend what many people would consider a lot of money on certain things (wine, good restaurants, CDs and live music in particular), we are pretty cautious when it comes to large capital items.  Cars have always seemed to me a particularly distressing purchase given the depreciation, so our two vehicles are now 11 years old between them, with no immediate thoughts of replacement. And when we told the nice man in the Panasonic store in Camberley what model of TV we currently watched, he did actually laugh out loud.

Yes, it is one of those ‘heritage’ television sets that is deeper than it is wide. And personally I think the 1990s were a great time for TV equipment, even if it does take two minutes to warm up and the picture is at times slightly – how can I put it - mauve.

So now of course I am expected to negotiate a great deal on a new set. To use my market research, supplier analysis and strategic sourcing skills to make the most amazing purchase possible.  But you know, sometimes I just don’t feel like it. And going through all that for what – maybe £20 or so off the price?  Is it worth it? When you’ve negotiated billion pound contracts, can you get excited about taking a bit of margin back from Panasonic ?

But I do wonder if we suffer, as a profession, from the “cobbler’s children have no shoes” syndrome? If we’re doing procurement all day, thinking about it constantly in our jobs, do we find we’ve lost the energy or desire to do the same in our personal lives? I have sometimes just mentioned what I do for a living to position things before a negotiation or commercial discussion in my private life. Just explaining that to a salesperson has helped at times!  But then I also look back on examples such as buying our current house, where I missed a negotiation signal that I’m sure cost us £10,000.

So, here’s a special Spend Matters pre-Christmas competition.  Let us have your story of either:

a. How you used your procurement skills to do something good or clever in your personal life – it could be buying something, or I guess it could even be in your private life (I once heard a very interesting and ultimately successful negotiation through a bedroom wall in a shared house... but that’s another story altogether).


b) A non-business event or situation, preferably not too serious, where your procurement skills didn’t work or weren’t used properly...

Two prizes then, one for each category if we have good entries. We can keep your entry anonymous if you wish, but you’ll have to let me know where to send the prizes if you win! I’ll work out what those prizes are soon, but they will certainly include a signed copy of my book. Plus something more valuable as well.  Please enter via the “comments” or email me at psmith (at) if you’d rather.

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Voices (6)

  1. IanR:

    Wendy – as far as I’m concerned your husband should consider himself a lucky man!!

    This week we allocated our secret Santa names amongst the team, we have a slightly different bent on the usual secret Santa in that we put on the piece of paper what gift we would like, to avoid the situation where someone may get a jar or spreadable body chocolate or other inappropriate gift.

    My recipient had asked for one of two Blu Rays. Being someone who generally thinks that Blu ray was invented stem the falling costs of DVD’s and offers not much else to justify the additional cost I had a quick look on Amazon and discovered that I could buy my colleague both films on DVD for the price of one on Blu Ray. Therefore she is now getting more than expected – not sure she’ll see it that way but, hey!

  2. Wendy B:

    I very nearly didn’t get married when my husband-to-be discovered that I had produced an evaluation spreadsheet that I wanted to use when narrowing down the shortlist of proposed wedding venues. Everything we wanted the suppliers to provide was listed and weighted, as were the prices. We conducted vists to their premises and sampled their offerings. Everything was filled in on the spreadsheet, which duly told us that one particular venue was way ahead of the others in terms of quality and value for money!!! This supplier won the contract, the wedding went ahead and I brought the entire wedding and honeymoon in on time and under budget!!!!

  3. Sam Unkim:

    Cheers then to Paul Flowers, whose excellent use of negotiation skills have reinforced the claim of purchasing practioners, to being the world’s second oldest profession.

    though everyday-life is a strech

  4. Final Furlong:

    I negotiate pretty much everything. In fact, I’m probably slightly more aggressive in my personal life than in my professional one, recognising that, in the latter, more often than not, I’m building long-term relationships, so those negotiations include a dynamic which relates to value. I even ask for discounts when I’m in a major retailer, and, often, they provide one. No-one usually asks, and they don’t offer. Every year, I ”tender’ everything – fuel, phone, TV, broadband – the lot, and save hundreds of pounds (or contain costs). The only exceptions are charity shops and local SMEs. My personal adoption of ‘demand management’ is truly aligned to world class standards and very little gets passed a robust, strict (tried and tested) transparent set of controls, levers, incentives and penalties. I’m married.

  5. Trevor Black:

    Many years ago when working as a Senior Buyer in the automotive manufacturing sector I made a conscious decision to separate work from my home environment. So when leaving the factory in effect, put on another ”head”. The reason for this is very simple in that if I had continued negotiating and wheeler-dealing into my private life I would have become completely barking mad and been committed to an institution. I am fortunate to be married to someone who is financially astute and also hates shopping. So leaving such decisions to my wife has made us both happy and I find that people don’t avoid me at parties as I have no boring stories to relate as to how much I have saved etc………. while maintaining my sanity.

  6. Nick @ Market Dojo:

    Hi Peter,

    This is a great point. I can only imagine that the majority of other professions use their skills at home. The thought of Heston Blumenthal serving supermarket-bought ready-meals at home would seem bizarre! Or perhaps Laurence Llewelyn Bowen living in a dilapidated shack.

    So yes, procurement professionals should their skills (and technology) at home more. On that note, I’d like to put forward my case for part a) of your competition – my domestic eSourcing event. I wont document it here, as it is covered in 3 parts on our blog, but here was the final result:

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