The following is an unsolicited guest post from Brad Carlson, Director of Supplier Relationship Management at Source One Management Services.  Mr. Carlson was a panelist at last month’s NLPA Conference.

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Brad Carlson, Director of Supplier Relationship Management at Source One Management Services

At the end of September, I was lucky enough to attend the Next Level Purchasing Association (NLPA) Conference in Pittsburgh, PA. This year’s theme was sports related, “Where Procurement MVPs Are Made.” This made perfect sense, given our location in ‘Dahntawn’ Pittsburgh in full view of PNC Park and Heinz Field.

I’ve been to many procurement conferences over the years, and this one was unique. Rather than just a trade show where you are herded through a maze of vendor booths, NLPA creates an environment that made it easy to establish real personal connections with others. It was also more educational than any other conference I’ve been to. The speakers were fantastic, engaging, and very approachable.

NLPA President, Charles Dominick, kicked off the conference with a keynote speech entitled, “Every Team Needs X’s and O’s: The Magic of Using Models in Procurement.”  He reviewed how some jargon can be confusing for internal stakeholders as well as within the procurement profession itself. Charles stressed that you need a playbook and common verbiage to keep everyone aligned when transforming your procurement department and dealing with varying stakeholders and suppliers.

As the Director of Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) at Source One, this hit a chord with me. One of the most efficient instruments for an SRM program is a toolkit. A toolkit outlines the standard methodologies and activities used throughout an organization to monitor program performance, support program objectives, drive executive involvement and ensure ongoing collaboration. One element of a toolkit can be a glossary so that suppliers understand the terminology and can communicate more effectively.


Additionally, there was a session from David Hargraves, Vice President of Clinical Sourcing at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. His session was entitled, “Playing To Win vs. Playing Not to Lose: Take the Offensive with Strategic Supplier Relationships.” I learned a lot from David’s session, but most importantly, I was intrigued with his points about flipping the script as a strategic sourcing professional. Many of us may naturally take a reserved approach on projects – not wanting to ‘upset the apple cart’ too much in dealing with suppliers.  Through that approach, we are all selling ourselves short.  So much can be gained by developing a systematic approach to identifying potential suppliers.

I always preach that proactive supplier engagement is a fundamental element of SRM. David Hargraves was able to drive this point home. By challenging and engaging suppliers to think outside of the box, your company can reap greater value from their contracts. In fact, those who do not have an SRM program in place often see one of two scenarios:


1)    Suppliers can be essentially ignored, even after long and timely negotiations

2)    Suppliers are somewhat managed, but not enough to sustain any long-term value


Ultimately, by ‘flipping the script,’ your strategic sourcing team is supporting collaboration efforts and processes so that suppliers are engaged and aligned with your business objectives at all times.

Day 2 featured more great workshops including, “Suppliers as Partners:  Why and How Supplier Relationship Management Can Be a Competitive Advantage for Your Company” and “Your Team Needs Fans: How Procurement Can Win Over Hard to Please Stakeholder” by Ron Larimer. Ron took a unique approach – no power point slides. It was purely an interactive working session.

Day 2 sessions wrapped with “Be Prepared for the Game Ahead: A US Economic Outlook,” by Kurt Rankin, AVP Economist from PNC Bank, and “Getting the Lead Right Out of the Gate: The Decisions to Make and Pitfalls to Avoid in the first Six Months of a Procurement Transformation,” by Michael Dewitt from Highmark. Kurt gave great insight into the reasons behind the jobless recovery, while Michael spelled out a premier game plan anyone can use in preparing a procurement transformation.  Day 2 was capped with a perfect evening to take in a ball game at PNC Park.  Pittsburgh defeated Boston 4-0.  LET’S GO BUCS!

We started Day 3 early – on the bus for breakfast at Heinz Field.  Not only did we get a great insider’s tour of Heinz field, but we had two sessions.  First was “From Contender to Champion: Transforming Procurement from Good to Great,” by Dr. Soheila Lunney president of Lunney Advisory Group and co-author of The Procurement Game Plan.  The second was a panel discussion after lunch moderated by Dick Locke, featuring yours truly and Stephen Yuter Deputy Director of Acquisition and Acting Head of the Contracting Activity, US Department of Health and Human Services. 


2014 NLPA Conference

The main points of my presentation surrounded the value achieved through SRM and how its successful practice can lead to increased efficiency, cost savings, revenue growth, risk management, preferred buyer status, and innovation. During my time speaking at the event, I aimed to offer an explanation of how I’ve seen effective supplier management serve as an attribute in any business model.


Hands down this conference was a WINNER!   I can’t wait to see what NLPA has in store for next year…

The NLPA sincerely thanks Mr. Carlson and Source One for such a wonderful recap of an amazing event.


Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is an internationally-recognized business expert, legendary procurement thought leader, award-winning entrepreneur, and provocative blogger. Charles founded the Next Level Purchasing Association in 2000, oversaw its incredible growth, and successfully led the organization to its acquisition by the Certitrek Group in 2016. He continues to blog and provide advisory services for the NLPA on a part-time basis as he incubates his upcoming business innovations. Charles is also the co-author of the wildly popular, groundbreaking book, "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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