Published: 14 Jan 2010
The real dealers
Good procurement people are worth their weight in gold and are key to keeping a company in profit. Gail Hunt reports
The 2009 Purchasing & Supply Rewards research from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS) and Croner Reward shows that purchasing professionals trump salaries for equivalent roles in sectors including marketing, finance, IT and HR. Indeed, a 3.3% average increase across the board has been reported, with senior and middle-ranking managers more likely to benefit from larger salaries and directors receiving the highest increase of 13.3%. However, it’s not all good news, as those in procurement have to work harder than ever before. Hours invested have risen in every area of the role and the average purchasing director works between 51 and 60 hours a week. Senior and middle managers work between 40 and 45 hours a week and junior managers enjoy similar hours. But while hours have got longer, 57% of procurement professionals reported good or excellent satisfaction ratings with their roles – a rise of four per cent from the previous year’s survey. “No-one is recession-proof but good procurement people are worth their weight in gold,” says a spokesman for the CIPS. “There is little movement in the recruitment market but that’s because smart firms are hanging on to good procurement teams.” Rachel Cooke has enjoyed her time in two very different purchasing roles at Cadbury.
As part of her graduate training scheme she spent time buying ingredients but also has experience of procuring capital equipment. “Buying at Cadbury is an exciting role, as it combines shopping and chocolate, which is a dream job for anyone,” she says. She thinks the skills you need to fulfil a procurement role include a head for figures and spreadsheets and legal knowledge to help understand contracts. Competent negotiating skills and a good personality are useful for working closely with suppliers. Jolian Pollock, procurement and logistics manager at Alara Wholefoods, says: “You need to be a bit cheeky in buying to get the best price without driving your suppliers out of business. You also have to work out what’s the best value rather than just best price.” Vicky Gray, category manager for indirect goods and services at Northern Foods, says there’s a lot more to buying ingredients than price. “It’s much more about engagement, especially when the market is constantly changing,” she says. “It is vital to be willing to learn as you must know more about your market than anyone else in the business. You also need to be able to make quick decisions, work under pressure and be flexible.”
Previously part of Northern Foods’s ingredients buying team, Gray is now involved in purchasing advertising, media and human resources, as well as related goods such as medical insurance, cars and loyalty cards. Given that purchasing embraces so many spheres, those working in the area need broad shoulders, says Pollock: “You have to take responsibility for buying at the wrong time and admit your mistake if this happens.” For this reason, procurement is clearly not for the faint-hearted. But all in all, he believes it is the foundation of any firm and it predicts the profit levels at the end of each year.