Happy Valentine’s Day!

No other day of the year screams “love” quite like Valentine’s Day.  So, let’s talk about love and procurement.

Specifically, let’s talk about whether stakeholders think you “love” an incumbent supplier too much to be unbiased.  Many stakeholders are often suspicious that you choose the supplier that serves them based on “personal” reasons, not just business reasons.  Here are things they notice that could arouse such suspicions:

  • Sweets.  Just like you might get a box of chocolates from your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day, your office may get cookies, donuts, or the like delivered from – or even personally brought in by – a supplier.  If you’re a true procurement professional, you know that you would never allow a chocolate dipped French cruller influence you to make a sub-optimal business decision.  But, some snarky stakeholder might think you would.  Be aware that, even if gifts like sweets fall under the $25 limit of your ethics policy, they still may create the perception that you are being unethical in your behavior.  That’s why some organizations replace gift value limits with strict no-gift policies.
  • A Less-Than-Modestly-Dressed Sales Rep.  If you’ve been a male procurement professional for any length of time, you’ve seen her:  the flirty female sales rep.  You know, the one whose skirts are a little shorter than those of the average business suit skirts?  The one who always has that one blouse button that could have been buttoned, but isn’t?  That style of dress is no accident on your supplier’s part.  Again, no eye candy is going to influence you to make a bad business decision.  But you know that your stakeholders are thinking that it does and that there’s no way you’d ever give bad news to a “hot” woman.  It would be pretty uncomfortable to tell a sales rep how to dress.  But what you can do is behave like it doesn’t make a difference if she was wearing a snow suit or Valentine’s Day lingerie:  maintain eye contact, don’t allow your demeanor to become flirtatious, and treat her organization as you would any other supplier.
  • Lunch Dates.  When suppliers take buyers to lunch, some stakeholders can act like you’ve just accepted a life-altering bribe.  Doesn’t matter if you just went to Denny’s and had a meal that gave you gas for the rest of the workday.  Again, the perception is that something unethical is happening.  What can you do?  You can decline lunch meetings and meet in the office instead, you can pay for your supplier’s lunch rather than the other way around, or you can invite the suspicious stakeholder to join you with each party paying for their own meal.

I hope this post got you in the mood…to have an ethical Valentine’s Day in procurement!

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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