The Point

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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    “Procurement’s role shines particularly when strategic cost management receives the highest priority for many executives.” (p. 197)

     

    Leading Procurement Strategy (Kogan Page, 2014) is a group study of the ‘brave new world’ of procurement. The three primary authors, Carlos Mena, Remko van Hoek, and Martin Christopher (and three guest authors), address an ambitious list of trending procurement and supply chain subjects. Rather than causing problems with voice or style continuity, this large group of contributors makes it possible for the book to cover a wide range of information in depth without losing momentum or focus.

     

    Although the authors have decades of experience in procurement, they are not mired the ways of the past. In fact, they discuss many of the new approaches being considered by procurement (e.g. agility, supplier collaboration, non-savings performance metrics). They also acknowledge the objections procurement is likely to face in response to attempts at evolution and provide methods to constructively overcome them.

     

    According to Martin Christopher, who wrote the chapter on Global Sourcing, procurement can expect an increased emphasis on agility. This translates into a shift in how supplier relationships are built and how contract management strategies are executed. In fact, agility may provide an escape route from the savings trap that confine many procurement organizations. When operational agility is prioritized over cost savings, supplier selection and agreement terms must change. “The guiding principle should be that the best sourcing decisions are those that keep the most options open. There will usually be a price to be paid for these options but that price should be seen as an investment in supply chain flexibility.” (p. 90) In other words, if the entire organization can see (and quantify) the opportunity associated with agility, they will not only request for procurement to change their priorities, they will demand it.

     

    Helping other functions focus on total cost rather than price elevates the perspective of the entire organization and brings the internal implications of supply decisions into greater focus. For instance, procurement may want to start initiatives by demonstrating the relative costs associated with non-flexibility or lost opportunities in research and development or new product introduction. “Strategic cost management should be part of new produce and service design, so that the most cost effective highest-value products and services are introduced in the marketplace.” (p. 104)

     

    If procurement expects to expand the perspective of their internal stakeholders, they must be willing to do the same themselves. More procurement activities should be tied to consumer and market demand. Just as wanting to collaborate with a supplier is not enough to make the effort a success, wanting to bring procurement into closer contact with the consumer side of the business will not make it so. The organization must be open to the idea and positioned to benefit from the resulting changes.

     

    In my opinion, the best quote from the book is a definition of complexity, found in the chapter on Supply Chain Risk Management:

    “‘Complexity’ describes a condition of inter-connectedness and interdependencies across a network where a change in one element can have an effect on other elements – often in unforeseen ways.” (p. 134)

     

    The role of complexity, and procurement’s ability to make positive contributions to how the organization handles it, will be a primary driver of how much access procurement will be given to customers and whether or not it therefore makes sense to take a less cost reduction focused approach.

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    Supplier Relationship Management (Kogan Page, available Oct. 28, 2014) is the third book I have reviewed by Jonathan O’Brien, a Director and co-owner of Positive Purchasing with over 20 years experience in purchasing. As we have come to expect of O’Brien’s work, this book provides an extensive look at the metrics, relationships, and change management considerations associated with supply base collaboration.

     

    It is true that supplier relationships, innovation, and collaboration are among the topics du jour in procurement, but O’Brien proves himself well versed in the associated opportunities and challenges.

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    Warehouse Management: A Complete Guide to Improving Efficiency and Minimizing Costs in the Modern Warehouse, 2nd Edition (Kogan Page, 2014), by warehouse management and logistics specialist Gwynne Richards, is a comprehensive guide to all considerations for managers looking to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their warehouse operations. In fact, that title does not do the book justice, and “Complete” is a term not to be brushed over in this case. A Guide to Modern Warehouse Safety, Automation, Sustainability, Outsourcing, Systems, Picking, Equipment, and Performance Management Strategy is more accurate but not concise or catchy enough.

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    “By 2020, procurement’s role will have become even more important for sustaining constant supply, best cost, reduced volatility, faster and improved innovation, and clean corporate-brand image.” (p. 179)

     

    Procurement 20/20: Supply Entrepreneurship in a Changing World is a team effort by four members of McKinsey’s Global Purchasing and Supply Management Practice: Peter Spiller, Nicolas Reinecke, Drew Ungerman, and Henrique Teixeira. If you were at the Institute for Supply Management’s conference in Las Vegas this May, you might have even picked up a copy for free. (Thanks to Cottrill Research’s Jeanette Jones for grabbing my copy!)

     

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    Supply Chain Risk, by John Manners-Bell, provides a structured look at risk by establishing a series of intersecting dimensions. First the author outlines external risk categories: Environmental, Economic, Societal, Security, and Technological. Each has several sub categories that provide additional detail and clarity. Then he delves into a number of industry sectors to consider their resiliency factors and concerns: Automotive, High tech, Consumer goods/retail, Food, Fashion, and Pharma/healthcare.

    The coverage from both perspectives is equally detailed and illustrated with numerous case studies. In their intersection, for instance where Economic risks intersect with the Automotive industry, any supply chain professional will find the information they need to quickly come up to speed on key areas of concern as well as strategies for assessment and mitigation.

     

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    Can China Lead?

    Reaching the Limits of Power and Growth

     

    Can China Lead?, by Regina M. Abrami, William Kirby, and F. Warren McFarlan, asks a question that can not be definitively answered but is well worth asking. The authors seamlessly combine their knowledge of China’s history, people, and politics to advise companies looking to engage in commercial interactions with one the world’s second largest economy (As ranked by GDP by the United Nations, 2012). As the authors state in their Introduction, “Chinese businesses compete globally, now going head-to-head with North American and European corporations in telecommunications, heavy machinery, and renewable forms of energy.” (p. x)

     

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    Negotiation for Purchasing Professionals is the second book by Jonathan O’Brien that we have reviewed. Earlier this year we reviewed Category Management in Purchasing. While each of the books has a different focus, they have more in common than just an intended audience. The most striking similarity is a clear desire to improve the knowledge and capabilities of purchasing professionals by capturing O’Brien’s considerable experience and communicating it in a straightforward manner.

     

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    Buying and Selling Information, by career salesperson Michael L. Gruenberg, is a guide to help buyers of information services (think subscription-based online databases). Beyond this very specific case, Gruenberg has good advice to offer buyers and sellers of any product or service. He is a salesperson who ‘gets it’ – or understands the need for buyers and sellers to work together for their mutual benefit, and for the benefit of their organizations. In his own words, “It’s all about equal footing, momentum, and success” (xviii).

     

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    One of the best things about having good relationships with publishers is that I end up reading and reviewing titles that range beyond procurement or spend management. And yet, there is no question that the value and competitive advantage of a well-managed supply chain runs right through the center of all business strategy books.

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    The rise of mobile technology requires that procurement solution providers and practitioners be innovative about potential opportunities for improvement and problem solving. Through virtual team models and global supply chains, the applications and requirements of mobile technology are coming, whether procurement drives the implementation or not. In a July 2013 article on ThomasNet’s imt Procurement Journal, Pat Toensmeier referenced a study about the expected adoption rates for mobile technologies in procurement. “A study by AnyPresence Inc., a Reston, Va., company that specializes in mobile business processes, products, and services, finds that 31.5 percent of respondents have deployed or will deploy mobile apps for procurement, among other functions, in the next 12 months. An equal proportion will do the same with apps for supply chain partners and shipping and distribution.”[1] As we approach the end of that 12-month period, no developments have surfaced that look likely to reverse the trend.

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    The Moment of Clarity was a joint effort by ReD Associates founding partners Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel B. Rasmussen. Their careers have focused on studying human behavior, problem solving, and innovation. In this book, they apply what they have learned and observed to the challenges faced by businesses today. It is apparent to the reader that they are avid readers in their own right, and their bookshelves clearly hold titles representing a wide array of fiction and non-fiction topics.

     

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    Kaizen Kreativity is the fifth book by Dr. Tom DePaoli, and the third one I have reviewed. Like his other books, Kaizen Kreativity combines examples from his diverse professional past with easy to comprehend definitions and background. His lack of pretension is particularly appreciated since he often relates cases about Lean and Six Sigma. For anyone without experience using these methodologies, the terminology can be off-putting at best, and in the worst case scenario may deter people from realizing their benefits altogether.

     

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     Despite the fact that Marcy Phelps’ Research on Main Street is not necessarily written for a procurement audience, it offers invaluable advice as well as links to the resources required to carry that advice out. The idea of ‘local’ is not limited to the location of the researcher, but rather the information being sought. Another way of looking at it is point-point information, highly specific to a business need and detailed enough to motivate a decision.

     

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    “Very few organizations manage sourcing so well that there is no room for big gains. Category management is about changing sourcing in a radical way or a way that gives radical improvements.” (p. 33)

     

    This quote from Jonathan O’Brien’s Category Management in Purchasing neatly sums up not only the idea of category management as he defines it, but also the full use of the content in his book, which is to support purchasing or procurement teams with a desire to significantly improve the way they manage sources of supply. The book provides all the background, strategy and tactics to stage a successful procurement transformation along category lines.

     

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    I have read and reviewed a number of business publications, most of them directly related to supply management, but The CPO is truly a unique creation. This book captures the adventure of procurement by outlining principles and concepts for success – not through dry or prescriptive chapters – but through the very engaging story of a fictional CPO and the challenges he faces on the job and at home. Thomas Sutter, the main character (dare I say hero?), captured my attention immediately and held it right through the final pages. I’ll even admit (my apologies to the authors for cheating) that at one point I was so wrapped up in the interpersonal dynamics of the story that I peeked ahead to read the end so that I might relax and absorb the full message of the book as I went.

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    When we think about the concept of branding from a corporate perspective, we think of the associations consumers and stakeholders have formed in response to our company, products, logo, etc. From a procurement perspective, brand or reputational risk is one of the most important things we are stewards of when we make decisions about the supply partners our company will form relationships with. But the value of building, having, and maintaining a brand extends far beyond the corporate level.

     

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    Sustain Your Gains, by Michael McCarthy, is ultimately a guide to human behavior in the face of change. Although the initial sections of the book serve as a primer to Lean and Six Sigma methodologies, hints of what is to come in later chapters pull the reader forward to see the application of Process Behavior Maintenance (PBM) in action.

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    Supplier Relationship Management in the Supply Chain by Stuart Emmett is accurately titled – it is in fact a book about the importance and execution of supplier relationship in the supply chain. But because so many organizations do not have SRM programs (or would benefit from being more supplier-centric) it is more importantly a book about change. In order to get different results, we must think and act differently. This is a simple enough idea, but bringing about such changes in an organization is complex enough that few of us have reached our desired level of SRM maturity.

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    For anyone who has read the other books in the Vested Outsourcing series, Getting to We (published in August 2013) is the logical next step in the pursuit of more collaborative, value-based relationships between supply partners. A better way to think of the book might actually be as a ‘prequel’ to the others, stepping back in time to explain how to reach the point where you are working in a Vested relationship. Getting to We is the connection between the vision of Vested Outsourcing and the negotiating tactics necessary to turn the vision into a reality.

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    The End of Competitive Advantage by Columbia Business School Professor Rita Gunther McGrath provides a perspective on the way businesses should develop and maintain their strategy to remain competitive. Gone are the days when companies could achieve a leadership position in a market and then continue to dominate for decades without significant changes. Innovative companies develop products across traditional sector lines, making the industry-based model of competition assessment obsolete. McGrath advises defining competitive strategies based on arenas, which she defines as smaller market segments defined by consumer behavior and geography as well as the product or service being sold.

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    “The skills for becoming a champion caliber negotiator are acquired skills. Nobody is born with great negotiating skills. You are born with the skills of crying and breathing, all other skills you acquire throughout your life.” – Soheila Lunney

     

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    “The skills for becoming a champion caliber negotiator are acquired skills. Nobody is born with great negotiating skills. You are born with the skills of crying and breathing, all other skills you acquire throughout your life.” – Soheila Lunney

     

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    Good old Kenny Rogers, he gave us some great advice through the lyrics of the ‘The Gambler’: advice that stands true beyond the gaming table. Sometimes the best advice comes from the least expected place, and I have some advice for procurement professionals – from sales(*).

    Every week, I take a break from supply management topics to learn about sales through webinars, white papers and blogs. Officially, I do it for ‘The Flip Side’, a Buyers Meeting Point resource that helps procurement professionals better understand their sales counterparts. Unofficially, I do it because creativity and objectivity can be elusive, and listening to sales’ perspective helps.

    This perspective has changed the way I see the role of the individual procurement professional, the role of the department, and how we should leverage non-traditional approaches in search of better than usual results.

    We are all in sales.

    I used to see sales people as professionals compensated for closing deals. But contracts are a side effect of an effective sales process. The core of the sales process is quickly and accurately diagnosing opportunities for improvement and then winning over prospects to the recommended solution.

    Procurement does this all the time – or at least we should. We ‘sell’ finance on a new opportunity to drive efficiency. We ‘sell’ the executive team on the strategic advantage we represent as an in-house dedicated function. We ‘sell’ internal stakeholders on the merits of a new supplier or a standardized specification that will save money.

    The key is to be a quick study, sometimes adapting mid-meeting, in response to organizational requirements. We must prove we understand the challenges at hand, sometimes to colleagues that don’t have a clear perspective themselves. Once you accurately articulate a problem, brainstorming can begin on solutions to be ‘sold’ to internal customers.

    Sales people believe buyers have the advantage.

    I benefit the most from the Q&A that takes place during sales webinars. What do sales people really think of procurement? What kind of advice do they get from their mentors?

    I’ll over-generalize to make a point: sales people see procurement professionals as a steely cold bunch. (One webinar participant commented that procurement conference rooms and offices are the coldest places on earth…) Our poker faces have apparently done the trick, because many sales people would like to check our backs for control panels to make sure we are human.

    Sales believes procurement holds all the cards in the negotiation process. I have heard our advantages repeated multiple times from different sources: “Procurement already has access to so much information that we struggle to appear well-informed about our own market.” “We can’t enter the sales/buying process until they decide it is time for us to start participating.” “Procurement is so active in their use of social networking during the purchasing process that we are outpaced by our customers.”

    Sales can compete on value creation.

    We know that negotiating cost savings is no longer enough. We need to create value for the organization. We hear it from executives, associations, publications, and thought-leaders. Knowing how to get started is a challenge because every situation and opportunity is different.

    Successful sales organizations evolved in response to the need for value creation a long time ago. With strategic sourcing came apples to apples comparisons on price alone. Suppliers couldn’t refuse to provide pricing, so they tried to influence the decision-making process by proving themselves of such value that they broke the mold.

    The time has come to recognize supplier innovation. The increased focus on value by our corporate leadership, and the ability of sales to speak their language, will either open a door for procurement or clear a path right past us. If a sales person sees an opportunity to bypass procurement and reach the right execs, they will take it. Capturing value does not mean surrendering in the battle over price, just balancing costs and benefits. In that scenario, I want to be the one holding the scale.

    Looking back and ahead.

    The big-picture realization from my year of visits to The Flip Side is that the procurement/sales relationship is not about us v. them but about all of us. They feel the same stresses we do, and often see us in the driver’s seat when we think they are driving. They aren’t terrible people (mostly) any more than we are bloodless cost reduction zombies.

    We can’t fully collaborate with sales in every category, but when the conditions are right, partnering with a supplier is the only way to a better solution. It goes against most of what we know about creating competition and harnessing the forces of the market, but recognizing opportunities for collaboration can be the difference between tactical and strategic category management. After all, ‘Every hand’s a winner, and every hand’s a loser … the secret to surviving is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep.’

    (*) Note: This post originally appeared as a guest post by Kelly Barner on Procurement Inisghts.

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    If you watched Peter Faulk play the character Lieutenant Columbo in the thirty years ‘Columbo’ was on television, you undoubtedly saw him break a case by turning back at the last moment and asking, “Just one more thing…”, a question which always ended up breaking the case.

    Maybe procurement need to stop and ask another question or two as well. In a recent blog post, ‘What Questions Should Your Clients be Asking’, sales blogger S. Anthony Iannarino talked about the challenges sales people face when they are not able to communicate the value of their solution because the buyers they work with are not asking the right questions. His advice provides some techniques for redirecting the conversation or asking the missing questions so that the necessary information gets across.

    While we want to have a complete picture of each solution so that we can accurately compare our options, we’ve all made the mistake of asking questions that are so open ended that sales people talk ad nauseam about something we can't compare across the suppliers in contention. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t pieces of information we are missing out on.

    Buyers Meeting Point’s long time advisor The Sales Guy has always advocated asking sales people something about their compensation package or their company's business development priorities so those factors can be brought into a thorough evaluation. What else should we ask?

    Here are a few questions that The Sales Guy suggests working into your face-to face supplier meetings. Some are relevant for incumbents and some for new companies you are evaluating, but all of them will allow you to put together a better category management strategy and contract.

    1. “If you are selling to my competitors what products and services are they buying more of and what is the value provided?”  “What are they buying less of?”
    2. “We are spending $XXXK dollars with your company on an annual basis.  If I was to spend that same amount differently what changes would you recommend and why?” 
    3. “What can our companies collaborate on that would help your company bring new products to market and provide competitive advantages for my company?”
    4. “What business model changes is your company introducing and how might they be advantageous to my company?”

     

    If you have a question for The Sales Guy, click here to submit it and we will get you an answer!

  • Posted by - 0 Comments

    “Reverse auctions are loved by corporate purchasing managers, loathed by suppliers, and rarely discussed publicly by anyone involved.”

    – Max Chafkin, Inc. Magazine

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    Sometimes the most interesting part of a blog post is the comment thread that follows it. Such was the case with a recent blog post on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network.

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    This week’s trip to The Flip Side is based on a post written by Reed Holden on his blog Pricing With Confidence: ‘Procurement: Kings or Jokers’. Holden has written a number of books on pricing and negotiation. His primary focus is helping Fortune 1000 B2B companies in a number of industries maximize their growth through setting optimal go-to-market strategies.

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    This week’s Flip Side coverage comes from last week’s webinar on negotiation hosted by Think! Inc. The primary speaker was Brian Dietmeyer, CEO and President of Think! Inc and author of several books on negotiation including Strategic Negotiation. Although this event was predominantly geared to a sales audience, negotiation is negotiation. If you aren’t sold on the connection to procurement performance, read on to learn more about the ‘moment of truth’: when a sales person is facing their procurement counterpart across the negotiating table. 

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    On July 10th, Value Selling Associates hosted their monthly sales training webinar on Deliberately asking good questions. If you are interested, you can listen to the event on demand (without registration) on their site. VSA President and CEO Julie Thomas opened the event by describing the Socratic method, a problem solving approach that involves asking a series of questions to arrive at an answer.

    The connection between the Socrates’ philosophy and the modern sales process is the idea that it is possible to be regarded as wise without having all the answers. In other words, you can ask a lot of questions and still be perceived as knowledgeable.

    There are obvious benefits to the approach known as ‘Socratic Selling’. The more questions they ask, the more talking we do, the more information they collect – allowing the supplier to craft a proposal that more closely meets the goals and objectives of the buying organization. On the other hand, not all products and services lend themselves to this method. Transactional, price-driven category decisions don’t require a supplier to impress us with their deep thoughts – just to have the information we need to compare options and make an informed choice.

    Tim J. Smith, Ph.D., and Chief Editor of the Wigleaf Journal (dedicated to Sales, Marketing, and Entrepreneurship), wrote a piece on this topic called ‘Pedantic or Socratic?’ where he compares two approaches to demonstrating wisdom in sales: one where the sales person effectively ‘tells’ the buyer what they need, and one where the sales person leads the buyer to a desired conclusion with a carefully crafted set of questions. Both can be effective in the right circumstances. 

    Pedantic Selling

    Pedantic selling approaches are easy to recognize: presentations full of details about features and functionality that clearly communicate availability, pricing and benefits.

    This approach works perfectly well with traditionally purchased indirect categories like office supplies or janitorial services. There are no deep dynamics to uncover, just an office full of professionals that want to have pens on hand and clean workspaces.

    Socratic Selling

    Socratic selling, also called consultative selling, are focused on uncovering information about the buyers motivations and needs, both to inform the sales team and to help the buyer better understand their own position.

    When a category is associated with a change in strategy or will enable operational change, deeper probing is in order for both sales and procurement.

    Knowing the Difference

    Many sales organizations are trying to move to more Socratic or consultative models, because they believe that such an approach will result in increased trust, longer contracts and larger deals. Regardless of the prospective size of your purchase, you are likely to encounter some open-ended questions early in the sales/buying process as the supplier rep works to ‘qualify’ the deal: to figure out if and when it may happen, and how large the opportunity is.

    As you get further through the process, however, a Socratic sales approach can actually be a red flag. Is the sales person trying to build a foundation on which they can either up sell you or secure a longer contract? If the questions being asked seem to repeatedly lead you from the product or service you are focused on to a complimentary offering, beware of how it affects your buying intentions. Determine up front whether your category is likely to be relationship-based and don’t let anything short of a full internal team meeting change your course.

    But if your purchase is strategic in nature, and if it will require the long-term cooperation of the solution partner you select, learn to appreciate and benefit from a Socratic sales person. Take the opportunity to learn as much as you can about what your organization really needs and what will ultimately motivate an award decision and a solution choice. Just remember that you don’t have to answer all of the questions out loud to benefit from them being asked…

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    Last week’s webinar on reading income statements, hosted by The Executive Conversation, provided a great overview of one of the most common financial statements. You can watch an on-demand version of the audio and video without registering by clicking here.

     

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    Of the many causes of communication breakdown between procurement and suppliers, one of the most contentious is the statement of requirements. Before an RFP or RFQ is issued, procurement spends considerable time with internal stakeholders understanding category requirements as they stand and then probing deeper to determine what are really requirements and what the stakeholder just wants.

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    Last week I attended a webinar run by the Sales Management Association on the topic of social media and sales operations. This event gives us a second look at the topic we first considered last week with the TAS Group’s ‘Enabling Social Enterprise through Sales’.

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    Last week I attended a webinar run by the TAS Group called ‘Enabling Social Enterprise Through Sales’. The focus of the event was to look at how much time sales professionals are spending on various social media sites and what kinds of activities they are engaged in.  If you are interested in experiencing the content for yourself, you can view the webinar on demand (registration required) or view the slides on slideshare (no registration).

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    One of my favorite sales blogs is, ‘The Sales Blog’ written by S. Anthony Iannarino. He is a sales executive and coach that believes in the value sales people can add during the buying process.  Since we are mentioning him this week on the Flip Side, I’d also like to extend our congratulations to him on recently hitting a milestone 1,000 posts.

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    As a buyer, have you ever noticed how much effort sales teams put into the training, strategy, and education of their people? If you type "sales training" into Google, you get well over FOUR MILLION hits. In order to put that figure into perspective, typing "procurement training" into the same search engine pulls only 235,000 results.

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    This week’s Flip Side post takes us to a sales article on ‘Selling to the Four Temperament Styles’ by John Boe.

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    This week on The Flip Side, we look at a blog post from SalesTrainingAdvice.com on The Most Underutilized Strategic Advantage. With such a promising title, the answer to the question must be something big – huge even to be THE MOST underutilized strategic advantage.

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    As the economy starts to rebound and leverage positions change, becoming a ‘customer of choice’ is being discussed in many procurement conference rooms. You would think that us sitting around discussing how to be the most fabulous customers possible would be music to a sales person’s ears!

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    Last week, I attended a ValueSelling Associates webinar called ‘Closing the Gap: Your Sales Process and their Buying Process.” In this event, VSA looked at the differences in timing and expectations between the supplier and buyer sides of the procurement process. Two types of value come from this kind of event.

    • We get a window into Sales’ perception of procurement professionals and our process, and
    • We learn how to improve our performance by hearing which parts of our process may be preventing us from accessing potential value or innovation.
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    In this week’s Flip Side coverage, I want to take you through a sales-oriented post from a blog called The Pipeline on ‘Selling to Procurement’. The Pipeline is written by Tibor Shanto, Founder and President of Renbor Sales Solutions Inc., and creator of Objective Based Selling.

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    On July 22, Chip Scholz, Head Coach of Scholz and Associates, Inc. posted ‘Executive Presence: Stronger with Leadership Storytelling’ on his site.

  • “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”  John Fitzgerald Kennedy

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    IBM's Institute for Business Value (IBV) just released the largest, most comprehensive Chief Procurement Officer Study ever conducted, with participation from 1,128 CPOs from organizations with annual revenue in excess of US$1 billion. According to the study, “Companies with high performing procurement organizations have profit margins 15 percent higher than the average company and 22 percent higher than those of companies with lower performing procurement organizations.”

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    Many of us have taken the Myers-Briggs personality test, either in school or on the job. One of the core principles is that there are no bad personality types. Taking the test is supposed to help you know yourself better, understanding your natural inclinations. That way, when you are under stress, not only will you be able to predict how you are likely to react to different situations, you may be able to alter your reaction to reach a desired result.

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    Last Saturday, Cindy highlighted a blog post by John Maxwell, a leadership coach, on how to fail successfully. There is much to be learned from our failures, and in many cases they are the price of admission to the victory celebration at the end of the journey. Thomas Edison is a fantastic, if complicated, example of success despite setbacks. We all know how many tries to took to make the light bulb a reality, especially because of the quote Cindy used to open her post:

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    In order to help procurement better position ourselves and communicate through all of the channels available to us, Buyers Meeting Point reached out to a colleague with a background in marketing and experience in the procurement space. Sheryl Johnson is the founder of BD-PRo Marketing Solutions and focuses on implementing creative marketing and business networking strategies for small and medium sized businesses, as well as a professor of marketing at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania.

    Click here to read more about the 'Marketing of Procurement' series of posts on Buyers Meeting Point.

    Click here to read our last post in the series, Why Having a LinkedIn Account is Critical in Today's Business Environment.

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    In order to help procurement better position ourselves and communicate through all of the channels available to us, Buyers Meeting Point reached out to a colleague with a background in marketing and experience in the procurement space. Sheryl Johnson is the founder of BD-PRo Marketing Solutions and focuses on implementing creative marketing and business networking strategies for small and medium sized businesses, as well as a professor of marketing at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania.

    Click here to read more about the 'Marketing of Procurement' series of posts on Buyers Meeting Point.

  • Today’s eSourcing Wiki-Wednesday topic is How to Find a Good PSP.

    When we have had to hire someone to do work on our house, we got references, interviewed multiple contractors and of course reviewed their proposals. While it is not just about the money, that is clearly a key factor. I am sure that drill sounds familiar to many of you.

  • Today’s eSourcing Wiki-Wednesday topic is Managed Services is not Tradtional Outsourcing.

    Managed Services works with the client on strategic areas that the client can not do for themselves either from an expertise or resource perspective. There are also areas that are high volume and transactional in nature which is another strong candidate for Managed Services.

    I came across this article from a few years ago but it does still hold true today. ISM has published a short article, When Procurement Outsourcing Fails: How to Sidestep Easily Avoidable Blunders.   

    Authored by J. V. Kelly, he spends some time looking at the evolution of the procurement role and how that has played into the outsourcing trend. In most organizations, purchasing is no longer just a transactional function but takes a more strategic approach to the process and the results. Like any other relationship, setting the appropriate expectations is key. Here are some unrealistic ones that Kelly mentions:

    Unrealistic Expectations

    • 50% cost savings in the first year? Highly unlikely.
    • Reduction in cycle time to 1 month on all sourcing engagements? Not realistic.
    • Expertise in every category of spend? Many outsourcing firms do not offer this.
    • Complete demand management with no maverick spend? Mandates don’t work, buy-in is more effective.

    They article warns against outsourcing all procurement functions. They recommend keeping the strategic areas internal.

    What has your organization done in this area? What expectations were set and how much of your sourcing is done internally versus externally?

  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, first published in 1989, is a self-help book written by Stephen R. Covey. It has sold more than 25 million copies in 38 languages worldwide, and the audio version has sold 1.5 million copies, and remains one of the best selling nonfiction business books.

    The approach continues to be pertinent in every day life at work and at home. Buyers Meeting Point will be reviewing each of the Seven Habits over the next few months.

  • Today’s eSourcing Wiki-Wednesday topic is The Basics and Advantages of Procurement Outsourcing. This is something that has been reviewed and utilized for several decades at this point.

    Many organizations realized they should outsource administrative functions such as payroll and accounting and IT/Telecom. This allows the key resources to focus on the core business strategy and really drive them to the next level. The same can be said of the procurement function, either in part or as a whole.

    If a company is going to do that, they must be careful to arrange it properly to truly take advantage of the benefits and not to get bogged down with inefficiencies. this article offers Six Top Tips and is focusing on IT outsourcing. However, I feel it can be utilized for any business function.

    When done correctly, the various individuals truly work as a team. If you look at the picture above, you can not tell who is an internal associate and who is an 'outsourced' resource.

    Top tip #1: Define SLAs and OLAs

    A service level agreement (SLA) is the foundation of any outsource contract and provides the standard for expected service levels. This must be agreed on between both the outsourcer and client, and once established, will outline the requirements such as time-to-respond and mean-time-to-repair.

    Top tip #2: Communication – a two-way street

    Communication is an important component of a successful outsource contract and should be a ‘two-way street’ whereby feedback is given from both the outsource provider and the client. If communication is not clear and well-structured from all sides, issues and problems may ‘slip through the cracks’ and impact the business. This in turn will impact service delivery, which may fall below expected levels, resulting in poor outcomes.

    Top tip #3: Appropriate skills levels

    It is vital for the outsource consultant to have the appropriate skills when engaging with a client. If consultants are not equipped with the required skills to match the needs of the client, they will not deliver the required services efficiently or effectively.

    Top tip #4: Culture fit

    If the culture fit between the client and outsource provider is not aligned, it can lead to poor service delivery. Outsource providers should also be flexible and sensitive around the issue of culture fit, and if there is a potential problem, to proactively remedy.

    Top tip #5: Measurement of service

    All aspects of the contract, including the SLA and OLA, should be monitored on a regular basis to ensure the highest levels of overall satisfaction.

    Top tip #6: Maintain the management of the contract

    Customers who maintain control and incorporate regular communication around this will typically receive higher levels of service and greater value than organisations that don’t.

     

  • Many cultures celebrate the harvest and offer thanks for a bountiful season. As the United States enjoys their Thanksgiving, we felt it was appropriate to thank those who walked along with us this year on our journey. No one succeeds alone and we are certainly aware of that!

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    Today’s eSourcing Wiki-Wednesday topic is Harnessing the Power of Community. This is the last of 21 strategies for innovation in procurement through next generation sourcing. If you are interested in the rest of the series, you can read them on our Wiki-Wednesday news page.

    This topic is well timed, as the United States plans to take a short break for the Thanksgiving holiday – we stop and take a moment to realize just how many people are critical to our successes. While it has always ‘taken a village’ and there has never been an ‘I in team’ these days our communities are increasingly virtual. Associations that were previously regular meeting spots have moved online. Our personal and professional networks are larger, but we bear responsibility for making sure they run just as deep. It means very little to have 500+ connections if you don’t know who any of them are well enough to leverage their knowledge and experience.

    Since Buyers Meeting Point is a virtual entity, we’ve gotten pretty good at building and maintaining productive relationships with people we will probably never meet. Here are a few of our tips for virtual collaboration:

    • Book time on your calendar to join discussions on LinkedIn. This doesn’t have to mean a daily or weekly time commitment. Once a month, allow yourself an hour to browse a few of the groups that are large enough to be interesting but not so big that they aren’t being moderated effectively.
    • If you have a good exchange with someone via email (or other social media channel) find an opportunity to jump on the phone. It may only take 15 or 20 minutes, but making the effort to introduce yourself ‘the old fashioned way’ will not only make an impression on the person you’ve connected with but will pay dividends in terms of what you can accomplish in email moving forward.
    • Do a favor for someone. This can be as simple as retweeting something of interest or giving a #FF (FollowFriday) where you think your followers will be interested. Take the simple step of “Liking” a post or a discussion with your Facebook account. People who make an effort to put good work forward will appreciate the simple gesture and you may be able to open a door to a better connection.
    • Remember to ask for help when you need it. If you find yourself stuck, look through your network to see who might be able to help you out. People love to be regarded as knowledgeable, and the fact that you respect their experience enough to ask for their opinion will make them regard you positively in return.
  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, first published in 1989, is a self-help book written by Stephen R. Covey. It has sold more than 25 million copies in 38 languages worldwide, and the audio version has sold 1.5 million copies, and remains one of the best selling nonfiction business books.

    The approach continues to be pertinent in every day life at work and at home. Buyers Meeting Point will be reviewing each of the Seven Habits over the next few months.

  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, first published in 1989, is a self-help book written by Stephen R. Covey. It has sold more than 25 million copies in 38 languages worldwide, and the audio version has sold 1.5 million copies, and remains one of the best selling nonfiction business books.

    The approach continues to be pertinent in every day life at work and at home. Buyers Meeting Point will be reviewing each of the Seven Habits over the next few months.

  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, first published in 1989, is a self-help book written by Stephen R. Covey. It has sold more than 25 million copies in 38 languages worldwide, and the audio version has sold 1.5 million copies, and remains one of the best selling nonfiction business books.

    The approach continues to be pertinent in every day life at work and at home. Buyers Meeting Point will be reviewing each of the Seven Habits over the next few months.

  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, first published in 1989, is a self-help book written by Stephen R. Covey. It has sold more than 25 million copies in 38 languages worldwide, and the audio version has sold 1.5 million copies, and remains one of the best selling nonfiction business books.

    The approach continues to be pertinent in every day life at work and at home. Buyers Meeting Point will be reviewing each of the Seven Habits over the next few months.

  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, first published in 1989, is a self-help book written by Stephen R. Covey. It has sold more than 25 million copies in 38 languages worldwide, and the audio version has sold 1.5 million copies, and remains one of the best selling nonfiction business books.

    The approach continues to be pertinent in every day life at work and at home. Buyers Meeting Point will be reviewing each of the Seven Habits over the next few months.

  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, first published in 1989, is a self-help book written by Stephen R. Covey. It has sold more than 25 million copies in 38 languages worldwide, and the audio version has sold 1.5 million copies, and remains one of the best selling nonfiction business books.

    The approach continues to be pertinent in every day life at work and at home. Buyers Meeting Point will be reviewing each of the Seven Habits over the next few months.

  • This past week, the world lost one of the inspirational leaders and mentors when Steven Covey passed away. There are quite a few blogs and articles posted that are asking how did Steven Covey’s books and seminars impact you. For me, I was first exposed to his teachings in a course I took called “What Matters Most” It was a phenomenal time management class that helped identify priorities and the way we spend our time in our WHOLE life – both work and personal . I particularly remember the exercise to write the speech that someone would give about you on your 80th birthday. I was in my 30’s at the time so of course that seemed like so far away. But it certainly made everyone pause to reflect on what was really important.

    I was so moved by the tools and the class, I recommended everyone on my staff attend the class over the next year as part of their performance objectives. Pretty soon, it was a class required for all management in our organization.

    I then read the “7 Habits” book that of course millions of others have as well. I use his phrasing in my every day speech such as “First things first” and “Sharpen the Saw”. I had the opportunity to hear Steven Covey speak during one of his seminars. He was so approachable and normal. I was impressed that he could be a father of nine and balance that with his speaking schedule and writing books too.

    I remember the week after I heard his lecture, I was in a parking lot and witnessed a confrontation between a truck driver and a passenger car. I utilized the "Seek first to understand and then to be understood" approach and it worked like magic. It was beautiful and amazing all at the same time.

    What I find most refreshing is that nothing of this is too complicated and very easy for all of us to understand and implement. Of course that is what differentiates one from another. Do they apply these simple principles? Some days yes, and other days not so much.

    I have found a great deal of value out of Steven Covey's books and philosophies. It is very fitting that Steven Covey's organization merged with Franklin (of Benjamin Franklin of course!). I am sure if they lived in the same era, they would have had some very interesting conversations.

    The "7 Habits" has been out for over 15 years. If for some reason you have not read it or you are new in your professional life, I would highly recommend it. The book is entertaining, thought provoking and easy to read.

    Steven Covey will be missed. His legacy will impact many for years to come.

    Tagged in: Steven Covey
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    Recently, there was a task that I was to follow up on. I missed it and several months passed. The customer was quite agitated. I contemplated how to respond and repair the situation. I decided the best option was to accept responsibility and sincerely apologize.

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    I returned from a 3 day business trip to a day with back to back meetings. It can make anyone dizzy. Does that sound familiar to you? Thankfully, not every day is like that. Sometimes I actually have a full day with no meetings….shhhhh ….don’t tell anyone!

  • For a very long time, procurement has been challenged with keeping costs down, finding a quality product or service at the best possible price. The impact to the bottom line was the critical measurement. And it still is, but there is more we can do!

  •  We are in a small project of replacing our shed which is over 30 years old, had a major patch job about 10 years ago and now it is time to start over. Like any project, it is more involved than you plan. Surrounding the shed on two sides is a lot of brush, saplings and infiltration of the forest bordering our property. Today we ‘pushed back the tundra’ to make room for the bigger, better shed.

     


     In essence, we had a deforestation project on our hands. With that on my mind, I came across this article about sustainable practices on the Supply Management website, Its time for all Businesses to Adopt Zero Deforestation Policies.

    This article discusses that consumers are requiring companies to utilize sustainable practices while providing quality goods at a reasonable price. It suggests that in order to maintain a sustainable consumer base, organizations must adopt sustainable business practices throughout their supply chain. One major practice revolves around zero deforestation. Asia Pulp and Paper is highlighted as one organization that has stopped forest clearance for the last 18 months. That is not an easy task for a paper company.

    This week Cargill announced at the United Nations climate Summit that it would extend their deforestation policies to all product lines. Previously, it was only for the palm oil line that it produces. Now it is for sugar, soy, cattle and cocoa as well. This policy will lead the charge for improving the environment and fighting climate change.

    What has your organization done for sustainable practices? Have you instituted a zero deforestation policy?

    Share your thoughts by commenting below or tweeting us @BuyersMeetPoint.

     

     

     

     

     

  • Alibaba launched on the NYSE Friday which was a much anticipated event. They hope to be larger than Amazon and eBay combined. It is quite a story about an English teacher starting this company in 1999 from his apartment. Now they employ over 25,000 people.


    When you look at Alibaba, they are changing the face of procurement. They offer services around sourcing, supplier research, as well as negotiation and purchasing. The sourcing professional can reach a broader network for their supplier and market place knowledge. It also reveals options from additional geographic regions that may not have been available in the past. The pick of the week is a page from Alibaba's site where they describe all their services that sourcing and procurement professionals can utilize.

    They are promoting themselves as a one-stop-shop. You can purchase an individual item or in bulk. It can be used for personal purchasing or B2B commerce. The flexibility of offerings is amazing.

    It is the number one mobile app in China and growing throughout the European market. The ease of use and accessibility adds to their success.

    As a procurement professional, have you used Alibaba for your market research? How about getting pricing and transacting purchase orders? What has been your experience and has it become a major part of your toolkit?

    Share your thoughts by commenting below or tweeting us @BuyersMeetPoint.

     

     

  • You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. This is a very common phrase often used to describe a ‘change management’ situation. You can give someone all the resources but you can’t make them use them.

     


    In procurement, we often have processes and technology to help complete our tasks effectively and efficiently. However, some of the staff may not be utilizing it as best they could to get the most out of it.

    With new technology, people fall into four buckets. There are early adopters who wait in line for hours for the next generation of the iPhone. Then there are the early majority who probably get the new phone within the first month or two, the late majority and the laggards who may not even have a smart phone yet. As a procurement professional, your goal is to get your team through this curve quickly and have the organization reaping the benefits of the esourcing technology.

    In the Tejari Blog, With best practice tools comes best practice use, they review the reasons that some are lagging behind in adopting the technology and give suggestions on ways to overcome it.

    The first one has to do with change management. In many organizations, the staff is quite content doing their work the same way it always has been done. The author recommends gaining some internal ‘experts’ to help all the others understand the benefits and value. Offer a great deal of support so that over time, the new system becomes the ‘comfort zone’.

    Another difficulty is when the staff waits until the last minute to load the Rfx into the tool. There is frustration and they give up. The recommendation is to create drafts a week or two before and put them in. Then you can always modify it as the time gets closer.

    What have you experienced for obstacles and how did you resolve them? Do you have your 'team of horses' feeling refreshed after having reached the oasis and utilizing the new technology?

    Share your thoughts by commenting below or tweeting us @BuyersMeetPoint

  • None of us can read minds. Sometimes we try to based on our knowledge of the situation or the individuals involved. It is obviously much easier if it is clearly communicated on a timely basis but that is not always the case.


    From time to time it is important to understand what the executives in your organization and in your industry are thinking. What issues keep them up at night? Some leaders will communicate to their associates on strategies and goals and others do not.

    This article, 8 things on the minds of Supply Chain Executives was in the Material Handling and Logistics publication last week. Here are the highlights from the article.

    1. Talent: Finding and retaining the right people is critical to a company’s success.
    2. The customer: Understanding what your customer’s needs are and help them know where the costs are to comply with their requests.
    3. Agility: There is a strong desire for increasing agility in the supply chain.
    4. Technology: Keeping their team equipped with the latest technology and processes is very important.
    5. Cost: This continues to be a focus for supply chain and procurement. However, in addition to containing or reducing costs, the expectation is for creativity and improved service.
    6. Regulations and Infrastructure: The list keeps growing and the need to stay current is critical.
    7. Risk: With global sourcing, there are many more risks to the supply chain. Unexpected interruptions can occur and organizations need to have a plan to manage them.
    8. Sustainability: This is an area of concentration for many supply chain executives. What is the strategy and how should it be implemented?

    Do any of these items surprise you? Did your team concentrate on any one in particular in 2014?

    Share your thoughts by commenting below or tweeting us @BuyersMeetPoint

  • As our summer season is winding down, the weather is cooling off and the school busses are rolling again. New clothes, new supplies and new routines all become part of the process. Even for those without school age children, you can’t help but notice this event.


    For Procurement, this activity was the focus months ago in order to prepare for the product or service being available at this time. It is second only to the winter holiday volume. According to an article in the Jacksonville Business Journal, the back-to-school market in the US is worth $75 Billion. That is big business by anyone’s definition.

    The ripple effect of this season goes through marketing too as the advertising agencies and circular print providers are promoting various trends and gadgets for the upcoming year. Restaurants around schools, particularly high schools and colleges are extremely busy and thrive after a quieter summer. The Auburn Journal discusses the excitement and benefits of all the “swarms of teenagers” coming to local establishments for lunch and after school gatherings. I know there is an ice cream shop near our school that is packed with young customers right after school, especially on Fridays.

    How does back to school impact your role in procurement? Does your organization benefit from this autumn ritual?

    Share your thoughts by commenting below or tweeting us @BuyersMeetPoint

  • If you are like us, you ask that question frequently. We have just returned from a wonderful trip for summer vacation. We had a glorious time and found it very relaxing. Now that we are home, we are asking that same question even louder! We did not really spend THAT much did we? How could we?


    The same holds true in our professional lives. We spend a great deal of time forecasting and budgeting and then trying to understand where all the money is going.

    Many organizations use spend analytics to categorize their expenditures and then monitor for compliance. It certainly helps in that regard. The blog pick this week is from Rosslyn Analytics, “Five Things You Didn’t Know Your Spend Analytics Could Tell You”. The five things you might not be using your spend analysis solution for are:

    • Contract compliance – are associates buying from the proper source? Do you need to re-communicate the preferred suppliers and contracted pricing available to them?
    • Cash Flow – are you taking advantage of payment terms when it makes the most sense? Does it improve your cash flow?
    • Tail end expenditure exposure – a few months ago we posted an article, “The last 20 percent”, highlighting the benefits of giving some attention to the tail spend.
    • Overpayments – It happens. The key is catching it and resolving the issue.
    • Supplier Diversity – Spend analytics can help you identify what types of suppliers you are working with.

    Have you found spend analytics to be helpful in the ways listed above? Was one area more impactful for your team? Was your 'wallet' looking healthier at the end of the process?

    Share your thoughts by commenting below or tweeting us @BuyersMeetPoint

  • We have a golf driving range near us that had gone out of business. They have now turned it into a solar farm with acres of solar panels. I am guessing it is more profitable than the driving range business was and certainly is a sustainability initiative.

  • In Massachusetts there is a small supermarket chain known as Market Basket. They are currently in a dispute over the leadership. The employees are so loyal to the ex-CEO (Arthur T) that they have walked off the job at the warehouse, at the office and at the stores. The customers are also boycotting the stores. Without deliveries, the shelves are empty. This has been going on for several weeks. It is amazing that employees are giving up their livelihood and their paychecks for this executive. Clearly he is adored by the associates.

  • Do you save coins in a jar? Over time, the jar can become full to overflowing. It won’t necessarily lead to early retirement but it can make a difference. Sometimes we have then cashed it in for something special which would not have been done otherwise. A little here and there, without using up much time, can add value to your bottom line.

  • One of my favorite movies is Camelot. I love the story and the music. One of the songs is the Seven deadly Virtues which mocks all the good things in someone's character such as honest, courage, humility and so on.

  • Years ago, my husband and I decide to wallpaper the dining room. The first and last time we made that decision!! Thankfully the trends are now to paint and not wallpaper. Whew! The roles we took were for me to measure and cut and for my husband to paste and hang. Neither one of us had the right role. I cut backwards from what we needed and he would cause more wrinkles than you can imagine. So we switched and it was like magic! It was a life’s lesson that we refer to now many years later. Know what you are good at and get others to join the team that can cover your weaknesses.

  • Recently I had a great customer experience when someone who said they would call me back that afternoon actually did. Why did that surprise me? Because it is so rare.

  • We have all had the experience when we asked someone for something or a call back and it did not happen. It always is a surprise and feels good when a person actually does follow through on what they said they were going to do. We certainly set that expectation on others so if you turn that around to yourself, how do YOU do with the follow through?

     

  • There was a fantastic fourth grade teacher that emphasized two areas throughout the year. The first was current events and public speaking. Every week, each student had to speak in front of the class about something that had happened in the world. It could be about a sporting event, a weather report, it really did not matter. The key was to get them comfortable with sharing their ideas in a public forum and to become aware of a world beyond their home, school and community.

     

  • All hotels provide you with toiletries such as bar soap, shampoo, etc. For business travel, we are often only there for one or two nights. One area that has always bothered me is the waste for a basically brand new bar of soap which will be thrown out after just a few uses. It’s just a little thing but multiplied across many hotels, it exponentially becomes a huge issue. So how can we change that? What can we do to increase sustainability, one bar of soap at a time?

  • We spent a good deal of our last weekend planting our gardens. We had some plants and some bulbs. We watered, weeded and fertilized. We really tended to what hopefully will make them grow and become a beautiful back yard retreat.

  • When we are expecting guests, we pay attention to putting away the surface clutter and cleaning the general area that our guests would be in. If they are coming for an overnight, there is a greater area involved. However, we often are not focusing on the extra areas such as closets or under the beds. That would the last 20 percent which is most often skipped.

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