Elite procurement professionals seemingly possess a Swiss Army knife of diverse skills to excel in their job. It's a position that requires a keen understanding of several angles of the production process to know what goals to set, as well as the goals business partners will need met. It commands fighting through constraints to find sweet spots, appropriate tradeoffs and accurate calculations of the unknown.
If this is the life you've chosen or if you've been saddled with finding a candidate for this position in your company, here is the "Most Wanted Skills List" for the most dangerously good purchasing managers in the world:
1. Detail Orientated
To thrive as a procurement professional, you don't have to just be detail oriented; you have to be able to spot the minutest of details in the details. Every cent, every atom of material change, every passing second, can be the difference between a product becoming a smashing success or an all-out disaster.
2. Time Management
The ability to prioritize and to ten-hut to the activities that will give your company the biggest bang for its buck is critical to prospering in purchasing. Nothing is more detrimental to future success than doing things in a particular manner because "they've always been done that way."
3. Judgment and Decision Making
Good judgment is about never acting on a whim or being jet-propelled by emotion. The best purchasing professionals are pragmatic and assess their decisions by the process and not by the randomness of events.
The purchasing role knows all too well that the first answer or offer you receive is almost always quite short of ideal, and often times bordering on impossible. It's up to you to keep attacking the problem from every which angle until you find a path to a result that will fall in line with your production goals.
5. Flexibility and Adaptability
Any adjustments in product design or fluctuations in markets can have an instant ripple effect throughout your operations. How well you roll with these unexpected guests will determine if your department itself stays on a roll.
6. Relationship Building
Relationships can be a double-edged sword. Your ability to build and nurture relationships is essential to getting the best situation and fulfilling your needs. However, the mere existence of a long-term and comfortable connection is not enough to justify it in perpetuity. Relationships should be regularly reviewed to ensure familiarity and attachment isn't causing you to get taken advantage of.
7. Communication and Active Listening
You may have cracked the code and pinpointed the perfect scenario for mutual benefit, but if you cannot effectively articulate this information with who you are collaborating with, your discovery might as well not exist. And if you aren't being receptive to the cues that the other person is shining back at you, then what you're offering needs to be taken back to the shop to be revised before even attempting to express it.
Every great purchasing manager knows how to accurately assess what the other guy or gal value and how to tie that reward to a desired outcome. The best negotiators are not only persuasive, but are gifted at creating the perception of scarcity and win-win even when reality suggests their presence is unclear.
9. Creativity and Problem Solving
There is no book or perfect formula to procurement perfection. Every situation is unique; every circumstance will contain a different mix of constraints, personalities and markets. Your ability to take these ingredients and bake the best strategy cake available will rely on how well you are able to tap into the creative cookbook of your mind.
Like anything else in life, if you don't have an unrelenting gusto for it, you cannot be elite. Others with that level of vigor will lap you into the mean or below. But if you do have that fire inside for purchasing, along with some of the above traits, then you will have what it takes to be someone who people look up to as a gold standard in your field.