For procurement professionals’ success is as much about personal branding as it is doing a great job!
The other day I read an article by James Williams titled “The importance of your personal brand in procurement.”
Williams’ suggestion that while “We all know the importance of building a strong business brand and the benefits that will bring,” he went on to say that “many do not understand the value of their own personal brand.” This last point was particularly insightful.
As someone who is familiar with the procurement world, I have often heard the lament by those in the profession that like the old Rodney Dangerfield line; “I get no respect,” their contributions are not recognized by senior management.
Based on the assessment of a May 2006 article (How to Speak Like a CFO), and a corresponding 2007 Aberdeen study, one might reasonably conclude that at least in part, these sentiments have a degree of merit. Specifically, the article’s reference to the fact that “Too often, finance executives in Corporate America simply don’t believe that purchasing departments are really bringing in the savings they claim.” What does that mean? Simply put, because “financing and purchasing do not speak the same language, the value of the work being done by procurement professionals are not recognized.
Here are some additional findings from the Aberdeen study that should also serve as a wake-up call:
- Less than 20% of CFOs consider the work of CPOs and their staffs as having a very positive impact on competitiveness.
- On average only 46% of CFOs feel that the procurement team has contributed to enterprise growth.
- Only 57% of CFOs feel that procurement contributes to enterprise profitability.
Even though the profession as a whole has made some important inroads over the past few years in terms of reversing the above attitudes, it is painfully clear that on an individual basis many procurement people are still operating under the Oliver Twist “please sir I want some more” mindset.
In this regard, you need to learn how to toot your horn without feeling uncomfortable.
A great way of doing this is to share what you are doing with excitement, talking about results that make you feel proud.
Meeting a senior executive in the elevator, hallway, or while leaving the building can also provide you with a 30 second chance to share what’s exciting. This will strengthen the procurement brand and bring the personal recognition that is so needed.
In terms of establishing your brand as a go to person, focus on how you can help stakeholders to see you as a critical partner to their business success as opposed to being just a service provider. This is essential in that so many people think that procurement is just to monitor, stifle decisions or at best, fulfill an order. Your knowledge in the marketplace is wonderful provided you share what you know; and not just when asked. Being proactive is better than having to be reactive.
It is also important to recognize that expanding your brand outside of work is no longer optional. We would be foolish to think our present employer is our lifelong partner. Networking is about giving, which is what I talk about by being an information and connection broker. Make networking always about giving and helping.
In short, you have to become a change-agent and visionary to elevate your brand . . . And not just for today, but on an ongoing basis.