A procurement professional pointing to his brain to indicate that he has an idea

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At the end of another hectic day in the life of a procurement manager, Bob was about to shut down his computer and head home. As he usually does before logging off, he checked to see if any new email had arrived.

Sure enough, there was a new message waiting for him. It was from Rick, a procurement specialist from a company across town in Western Pennsylvania.

Bob had known Rick for about three years.The two had met – and frequently saw each other – at the monthly meetings of the local procurement association.

As Bob read Rick’s message, he couldn’t help but feel disappointment. Bob was really excited to share what he felt was a helpful article he got from Next Level Purchasing, entitled “A 21-Point Negotiation Checklist.” So, he sent a link to the article to Rick earlier in the day.

Rick’s disappointing response?

“Thanks, Bob, but I already knew all those things. See you Tuesday.”

It reminded Bob of a feeling he had the last time he had seen Rick. It was at the previous month’s procurement association meeting. Bob had brought a copy of a book he loved – Supplier Evaluation and Performance Excellence by Sherry Gordonso he could show and recommend it to Rick.

After taking a quick look at the table of contents and leafing through a few pages, Rick handed the book back to Bob, saying “Looks like a good book, Bob, but I already know that stuff.” Despite being surprised by Rick’s somewhat rude response, Bob just shrugged it off and kind of forgot about it.

But hearing this same type of response in today’s email? It rubbed Bob the wrong way.

The weekend passed and, once again, it was the third Tuesday of the month. Time for the local procurement association meeting.

As was customary for the past three years, Bob and Rick met at a table near the back. This time, it was Rick who brought a resource to share – handouts from a presentation that Rick did for his company’s senior management. According to Rick, this presentation was what “sealed the deal” and got Rick’s department the authorization and funding to implement an eProcurement system.

Sure, implementing eProcurement in 2011 wasn’t exactly cutting edge – it was becoming common practice a decade earlier – but Bob was glad to hear that his friend’s procurement department was making progress. Bob had heard many a story throughout the years about the failure of projects that were intended to modernize procurement at Rick’s company. Rick’s company seemed to be firmly stuck in the 1980’s when it came to things like supply chain technology, sourcing strategy and best practices.

At the end of the meeting, the association’s president announced the workshop that would be held at the next month’s meeting. The workshop would be covering purchasing project management, including an overview of all the project management best practices that are being adopted by the most advanced procurement departments. Bob was certainly excited about this topic!

“Can I count on seeing ya hear next month, Buddy?” Bob asked Rick. “It sure sounds like an amazing workshop.”

“Nah,” Rick replied. “I already know that stuff.”

Bob let out a disgusted sigh and looked away. His irritation was palpable to Rick.

“What’s the matter, Bob?” Rick asked.

“Nothing,” Bob replied.

“C’mon, Bob, you can’t fool me,” Rick retorted. “I read suppliers’ body language all day in negotiations and your body language is telling me that you are ticked about something.”

“Well, Rick, it’s just…it’s just that I’m a person that believes that you can never learn too much and you…you act like you know everything sometimes,” Bob said, almost sheepishly.

“You gotta understand, my friend,” Rick spit defensively, “When I first started my job 10 years ago, they put me through some intense purchasing training – I probably had 30 hours of training that first year. So, I kinda know a lot of stuff.”

“Dude!” Bob said at a near shouting level. “Things change. You’re excited about implementing eProcurement in 2011! Modern companies are doing things way beyond that. What you do in your company is behind the times and yet you know everything?”

Rick had heard enough. He violently turned and left the meeting facility without uttering another word to Bob or anyone else.

That was the last time Bob saw Rick although he kept tabs on Rick’s whereabouts through a mutual acquaintance. Rick had spent another two years at his company. The eProcurement implementation went relatively successfully. And the company brought in a consultant to help establish a strategic sourcing plan. But, even then, the company had no green procurement program, no supply risk mitigation plan, and no other best-of-breed procurement technology.

Rick then moved to his home state of Wisconsin to be closer to his parents after his elderly mother fell ill. Unfortunately, Rick had no luck when applying for purchasing jobs there. Even when he got interviews, Rick couldn’t sufficiently articulate any significant level of expertise in the areas valued by employers, which ironically included negotiation, supplier evaluation, and purchasing project management.

Meanwhile, Bob continued to build his educational credentials and got promoted to Director of Procurement. Bob never regretted having an open mind and learning.

Moral of the Story:If you think you already know everything, challenge yourself to prove that thought wrong.You can learn every day.

For additional procurement parables, see:

Execute, Da**it, Execute!

Hiring Buyers With Potential

The Procurement Promotion That You Lost (But Didn’t Even Know That You Were Considered For)

To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
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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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