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One of the interesting things about consistently reading and hearing content from quality sources is that you start to notice trends. It is amazing how often the same topics arise at the same time in different places. We use this blog as a way to help you stay on top of the major themes in procurement and supply chain management.

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When we run an initiative, we invite suppliers that are well known in the industry as well as a few that we may have used in the past. But who are we missing out on? What golden nugget is being left out?

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We all love shortcuts – how can we get something done faster and easier, without as much effort. Sometimes if there is not a shortcut but you are trying a different path, HOPING it will be one, may mean you forget an important step and the result it not what you intended.

My father was very fond of fishing. Most times he did not catch anything but he enjoyed being out in the boat and absorbing his natural surroundings. As a child, I only enjoyed it if I caught something. One vacation when I was 8 or 9, we were camping on an island. For 3 days, we caught a fish every few minutes. It was exciting. Most of the time they were too small and we set them free but what excitement for all of us!

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We have just finished our 'to do' list for the weekend. It has much more on it than we can possibly do in the time we have. We also have to add some 'fun' to that list. However, there are not any big projects on the list. Those keep getting pushed to another time.

In the northern hemisphere, Fall / Autumn has begun. With that comes the harvest and in particular, apples! However, we are not going to talk about the fruit but about the technology company, Apple.

Every year my organization has a summer outing with some component of team building. The goal is to break down silos, energize the group and renew understanding across the organization. There is large component of fun along the way as well.

There is an inspiration story about millions of starfish stranded on the beach and how an old man walking along keeps tossing a few back into the water. There is no way to save all the starfish. However, for some of them, the man picking them up and putting them back in the water does make a HUGE difference.

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When our son was young, he would go through a cycle that was amusing to all of us. He would nod his head up and down while saying “uh huh” and then side to side “nuh uh” and repeat this many times. He was outwardly arguing with himself but not over any particular topic. We would ask him who won. The response was “me of course”! We would laugh.

Not that long ago, that quote would have only meant you were a Star Wars geek and referencing the two robots in the movies – R2D2 and C-3PO. Now of course it means your Android smart phone. Hopefully nothing is wrong with that!


Everyone loves a good surprise. Maybe is it an unexpected birthday present. Or perhaps it is a visit from a dear friend that you have not seen in quite some time. An unforeseen professional opportunity is offered to you that would open up new growth and financial rewards. There are so many events that pleasantly surprise us and we do look forward to those.


Common sense is not that common. Everyone has heard that before. Good Customer Service is not that common either. When you are told as a customer that something will occur on Thursday and then it does not, what type of impression does that leave?

My daughter is a runner and I am NOT. I recently started a training program “Couch to 5K” in preparation for a 5K race with my daughter. The name of this program is quite appropriate for me. I will admit I have started “Week 1” about 4 times over a period of 4 months.

Rube Goldberg is best known for a series of popular cartoons depicting complex gadgets that perform simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways. My father was a do-it-yourselfer to the max. Many times he would fix something. It may not be pretty but it worked. He would often say “Rube Goldberg would be proud of this!”.

Our family loves to play all types of games – cards, board games, volley ball, croquet and so on. This summer we have played a good deal of cribbage. It keeps the ‘mental math’ gears going as well as developing the various strategies and approaches. Of course, sometimes it is just about the luck of the cards you are dealt.

I know when I get back to work after a vacation, I have a tough time getting up and running again. There is a backlog of work to catch up on. I miss the carefree schedule of the vacation and being with friends and family.

The year of 2013 is half over. We wanted to highlight the most popular blog of the year - Promoting Yourself. 

As the world is watching and praying for the health of Nelson Mandela, there is no question he has inspired many and has demonstrated significant leadership qualities.

This week’s blog is from the Washington Post. It is a thought-provoking summary of the leadership examples of Mandela. The eight lessons that have been widely shared are:

  1. Courage is not the absence of fear — it’s inspiring others to move beyond it.
  2. Lead from the front — but don’t leave your base behind.
  3. Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front.
  4. Know your enemy — and learn about his favorite sport.
  5. Keep your friends close — and your rivals even closer.
  6. Appearances matter — and remember to smile.
  7. Nothing is black or white.
  8. Quitting is leading too.

A few years ago, the movie Invictus was released, sharing a true story of Mandela’s leadership utilizing the World Cup Rugby Competition to unite his country. I was interested in why that title? Mandela frequently read the Invictus poem by William Earnest Henry to maintain his determination while in prison and after. It is an inspiring poem, ending with:

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.       

What an inspiration and example of what is possible. It makes you pause to reflect and ask what would you have done in similar circumstances.

Clearly Mandela has mastered change management (quite an understatement). As we work through various professional challenges, some of these lessons can be very helpful. We often get stuck on the same track that is comfortable for us. If we take the time to step back and review some of the approaches Mandela used, we might find that a better, stronger solution evolves.

Have you had any examples of using one of the leadership lessons noted above? Were you surprised at the outcome?



Negotiation is everywhere. At home, at work and with our friends. It is a skill that some are much better at than others. And also some people enjoy the game of crafting the negotiation.

When i came across this blog in the Harvard Business Review, it reminded me of some key tactics that are very useful.

Who Keeps Their Eyes on The Prize?

This article discusses the negotiators that are most successfully stay focused on the best outcome and keep that in front of their strategy.

The Bold Opener

Have a strong opening bid. Be bold and aggressive. You can always modify it but start strong.

Making The Pie Bigger For Everyone

Not every negotiation has to be win-lose. Some can be beneficial to both parties. Consider those options as you are working through the discussions.

How You Can Become More Promotion-Focused

During your preparations, review all the possible benefits and work towards those. Stay away from the concerns about what you may lose.

Have you found any of these approaches to be helpful in your negotiations? What did you learn as you went through the process?


People are very nervous when giving presentations. As procurement professionals, we hear many presentations from suppliers. There are some that hit it out of the park and others that are a snooze fest. Internally, we are often in the spot light for sharing information to a large group.

My experience has been that if I practice OUT LOUD several times and really know the topic, the rest falls in place. I do that even if it is presentation that I have given many times before. It gives me confidence and freshens it up in my mind.

I enjoyed the SmartBlog on Leadership post on 'Simple Steps to Successful Presentations'. It affirmed some of the tricks I use but gave me some more ideas as well.

1.Start with a bang. This year I had a short presentation for about 100 people. I started with a great story about my son that had just happened the night before. It had some humor, got people laughing and helped me to get started. Once you are going, the nerves calm down.

2.Get focused. Plan your message and stay on topic. We all have heard people who ramble and it gets confusing and frustrating.

3.Know your audience. I have witnessed presentations where they have missed the mark. I was in one last week and the supplier lost the audience and probably the business.

4.Know your stuff. This is a must and has been such a help for me. I do the homework and I practice. It is ok to say you don’t know but you will find out. However, overall you should know the materials.

5.Weave in examples. Your audience will remember your presentation and your message with examples

6.Don’t read. If you are prepared, you won’t have to read. You can tell the story behind the words. I have found that when someone is nervous or not prepared, they default and read the slides. Don’t. Period.

7.Have a Plan B. Things do go wrong so try to anticipate what that might be and prepare for it. Even if it doesn’t happen, you will be more confident overall.

Do any of these hints sound familiar to you? Have you any others that either you use or you have noticed others using?

Children ask a lot of questions. It is a great way to learn. Often they are ‘why’ questions. When my daughter talked to her grandfather, she almost always started the conversation with “Guess What?”. After a while, that became his nick name for her. 

Many organizations are using some situational interview questions in the process. This helps to determine the fit of the candidate, specifically in how they communicate, problem solve and make decisions. Consulting houses have been using this approach for a long time. A classic question was “How much does a 747 airplane weigh?” It was not the answer that mattered but the process and method of communicating that response that was the key.

Similarly, when in your procurement role and working with suppliers, asking questions of them can really help differentiate their capabilities. Charles Dominick of Next Level Purchasing has a blog “Three Supplier Interview Questions that should be included in your discussions with them.

  • How will doing business with your company instead of your competitor(s) make my organization more profitable?"
  • "What have been the biggest operational challenges that you have faced recently?"
  • "What changes do you see in your industry in the next few years and how are you preparing for them?"

One question that I use and find extremely helpful, both in my profession and in personal interactions is “What have I not asked you that I have missed, based on your experiences?” That is always an eye opener and a great way to wrap up the meeting.

Have you used any of these approaches? What technique and questions do you find helpful?



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