NLPA President shows off two bumper stickers - one for half-marathons and the other for earning the SPSM

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This weekend, I completed my first half-marathon. While completing the 13.1 mile run in a time that surprised even me was fulfilling in and of itself, with me being who I am, I couldn’t help but draw parallels in my mind between earning a purchasing certification and training for this event. I’ll dedicate this post to exploring how these two pursuits compare.

First the similarities…





  • All achievement starts with a goal. Whether pursuing your purchasing certification or training for a half-marathon, you start by defining exactly what it is you want to accomplish. For some, it may seem easy. For others, it may seem like an impossible challenge. Deciding that you have something you want to strive for is the first step in accomplishing anything that you will be proud of later.
  • Achieving anything beyond what you can do now requires at least some sacrifice.As a business owner and a father of two children (one of whom is a special needs child), I’m a busy guy.It would be easy for me to use the “I don’t have time” excuse for almost anything outside of my work and family.So, to run the half-marathon, I had to make time.That meant getting up early while my family was still sound asleep.On mornings where I ran long training runs, sometimes “early” meant before 5AM.That wasn’t always easy and sometimes it meant going to bed early when I would have liked to watch the end of a baseball game.Earning a purchasing certification requires sacrifice, too.It might mean studying when you are normally chillaxing in front of the TV or getting up a little early.But now that I have the satisfaction of saying that I ran a half-marathon, do you think I am saying “Boy, I really wish I would have slept in those days three weeks ago?”Heck, no!And once you have those credentials after your name (e.g., SPSM) indicating that you’ve earned your purchasing certification, I doubt you would miss that sleep either.
  • You can prove (and be proud of the fact) that you’ve met a standard for excellence. A five-kilometer (5k) run is relatively easy. You see people of all ages, in all conditions, with varying degrees of experience run 5k’s. But with half-marathons, you see mainly people in very athletic condition and whose bodies are well-sculpted. People who know what they are doing. People who have been running a while. Completing a half-marathon means that you’re serious about what you do – you’re no amateur. In the purchasing profession, there are many people occupying purchasing positions who simply landed in those jobs by accident. But to earn a purchasing certification requires much more than simply “landing” in a job. It requires being serious about your profession. It shows that you are no amateur. It shows that you are on the same level as the “well-sculpted” members of the profession. If someone asks how you know that you are a good runner, what do you think is more convincing, saying “Because I think I am” or “Because I completed a half-marathon?” Pretty easy answer, right? Well, if someone asks you how that you know that you are a good purchasing professional, what do you think is more convincing, saying “Because I think I am” or “Because I have earned a purchasing certification?” I don’t think I have to tell you the answer to that one!

Now, the differences…

  • Earning a purchasing certification is painless. During my training – and certainly after the half-marathon – I had to soak in a tub of cold water to relieve the pain in my knees. I could be found hobbling around the Next Level Purchasing Association headquarters like an old man with my stiff gait. Quite frankly, some days it hurt to train! Studying for a purchasing certification doesn’t hurt one bit.
  • When earning a purchasing certification, you don’t get penalized for getting ahead of schedule. I started training for the half-marathon using my intuition before I consulted a professional plan. And I kind of wore my body down too early. I found that you’re only supposed to do three training runs in excess of eight miles. I did seven. And I felt it! But race day is race day, I couldn’t do the race sooner. In contrast, with a self-paced purchasing certification like the SPSM®, if you get ahead of your plan, that’s OK. You can take the exam sooner. You don’t have to wait for race day. And you don’t have to feel like you have to keep on training beyond the point that you are ready.
  • Achieving the next level of a purchasing certification doesn’t require re-doing all the work of the first level. Now that I’ve completed a half-marathon, what’s the next big thing I could do in running? That’s right, run a full marathon! That’s 26.2 miles. Twenty-six point two new miles. My 13.1 miles from this half-marathon don’t count. Quite frankly, I don’t think I could physically do 26.2. I might do another half-marathon, but it hurt too much to consider doing a run twice that distance. Well, if you earned the SPSM® Certification, earning the SPSM2® Certification doesn’t require re-doing the SPSM® which is a prerequisite. You just move on to the SPSM2® Program and test on just that new material. That’s so much more attractive than doubling your running mileage!
  • Finishing a half-marathon in the past gets less relevant as the years go on. If someone came up to me and claimed to be in as good as shape as me because they ran a half-marathon 40 years ago, how believable would they be? Not very, right? You have to continue to work hard to sustain your running proficiency. When you earn a purchasing certification, sure it will expire, but maintaining it through recertification is relatively easy. In the case of the SPSM® Certification, that simply involves earning 32 Continuing Education Hours in purchasing and supply management topics from approved sources every four years. So, it’s relatively easy to stay a champion in purchasing compared to staying a champion in running.

I’m sure I’ll think of more similarities and differences between the two achievements and, when I do, I’ll post them in the comments below.

To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
Struggling To Have A Rewarding Purchasing Career?
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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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