Anyone who has been in business for any length of time has been wrong at least once in their career.  Learning from our mistakes is how we grow, right?  One of my personal growth opportunities was a senior manager in strategic procurement for a Fortune 100 company.  Outside consultants had sold management on their leading us in an accelerated commodity strategy process combined with a ‘free markets’-style Internet auction.

I wasn’t happy about it and I wasn’t alone. I’m a “do-it-myself” kind of guy and I don’t need other people taking care of my business. We had a lot of good people. We knew our commodities. We were taking cost out at a competitive rate based on the commodities, but I couldn’t argue that our business was in trouble from a profitability standpoint and needed help. No one was getting a vote on this and it was up to all of us to get on board and move forward.

To make a long story short, it was a very successful undertaking. We saved more money and we found more new suppliers than we would have doing business the same old way. The outside consulting group helped us in a lot of ways.  They added people to the mix that allowed us to do things faster than we could have on our own.  Yes, those outside people needed to be brought up to speed, but that could be said about anyone we would have put into a special task force initiative like this. The consultants value add was process knowledge.  They had been through this drill before.  On different commodities and in a different line of businesses, but it was successful all the same because the process really doesn’t change all that much.  We knew the process, but had run it  less aggressively and at a more relaxed pace with team leaders and members that were taking time out from the day to day tactical side to drive this strategic initiative. We learned how to do it better and faster than we had before.

One very important factor in my mind, was that by bringing in someone from the outside with strong top management support and visibility, it sent a very strong signal inside and outside the company that the game was being changed and pushed people outside of their comfort zones.  Current suppliers responded more competitively than they had in the past.  The aggressively competitive bids of outside suppliers could not be ignored and forced us to add suppliers we may not have considered as strongly in the ‘business-as-usual’ process.  The next time your business needs a strategic kick start, don’t be shy to engage outside talent. I know I won’t.


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