The following article was prepared by Mike Taylor, C.P.M. for
distribution to NAPM affiliate newsletters.
This profession is most valued for being able to find
the unfindable, locate the obscure, track down arcane information and generally
do the impossible. Supply Chain professionals bring a broad body of knowledge,
skills and information to the table. Six users all wanting their oddball
material delivered yesterday is not unusual and this challenge makes our job
Old timers will say that the difference between a great
buyer and a good buyer is as much who you know, as what you know. Knowing whom to
contact often solves the unsolvable problem. For this reason, the people we meet
and relationships we establish can make a world of difference in our career and
By establishing realtionship with buyers in other
companies, we can build a "resource library" of friends. People we can
call on when ll else fails.Here are a few examples of relationships that can
the job done:
- The buyer who buys for a
large pharmaceutical manufacturer can point us to the small lab supplier
stocking an uncommon reagent.
- The salesman for a pulp
mill can suggest a trucker with some extra time to take a back haul.
- The retired pump
salesman who is happy to look at the requisition and point out what's
missing or which requirement makes the pump model proprietary.
- The Engineer in a local
engineering firm who can decipher an ancient installation diagram and
identify which model controller fits in the old space.
- The traffic manager in
an aerospace company can recommend a good import agent.
- The computer programmer
who remembered an article about technical glitches in a software program
we were just about to purchase.
Old timers in every organization probably have dozens
of war stories like these. Stories about calling just the right person who bailed them
out of a difficult problem.
Great buyers have a reputation for doing the
impossible. They are the busy ones who have connections and know how to use
them. The old rolodex with identifying smudges in just the right places, the
business card file that goes back to one of the first salesmen you ever met and the
electronic contact list organized by categories are all indicators of someone
who understands and values relationships.
These people go out of their way at trade shows,
programs and events to meet everyone they can, exchange business cards and chat
with new acquaintances. They ask lots of questions about what, how, who and
where. They talk about work and squirrel away names of their newfound contacts.
They sit at tables with people they don't know, examine company names on rosters
and seek out likely contacts.
"I may never have bought a left-handed winkle
before, but the first rule of purchasing says someday I'm going to need to buy
one in a hurry. When that happens, hopefully I'll know someone who buys them all
So how can I do a better job of cultivating my network?
Here are some ideas:
- When you travel or attend purchasing events, go out
of your way to meet people. Sit with people you don't know at meals. Ask
questions. Think of it as a job interview in reverse. a. Who; do you work
for; do you buy for; do you buy from; do you work with? b. What; do you buy,
do you use; do you sell? c. How; do you decide; track; obtain; procure;
contract? d. Why; do you like it; do you hate it; do you do it that
- Carry, distribute and collect business cards. Lots
of them! The Japanese may a ceremony of exchanging business cards and almost
everyone has a card. You might even want to order some inexpensive business
cards in your own name and home email to use when you are not working on
behalf of the company.
- Don't just file the cards away in pristine
condition. Mark them up, write the meeting date and occasion on the back,
add notes about items of special interest and highlight important
- File the cards topically, not just by the person's
last name. File cards by category, commodity, specialization or some other
key element that means something. Putting a salesman's card for the Zebra
company in the "Ss" because his last name is Smith won't help you
find a zebra when you need one.
- Mark or tag the really important cards. I once had a
card with a greasy green smudge on it for the company that sold special
grease we used. It was the only way I could ever find it.
- If you have one of the electronic business card
scanners, use it. Put it next to your desk and let it scan while you eat
lunch. Note: A good friend of mine had a business card scanner that was
buried in un-scanned cards. I think this was less-than-effective use of the
scanner and the cards.
- Use Outlook or some other good contact management
software that lets you store and sort contact information by category. I'm
talking about Outlook, not Outlook Express. Use the same program at home
that you do at work, then what you learn one place you can use at the other.
hmmmmm. I'll bet
there are some people reading this who will say that they don't have time to
learn how to use software. They refuse to read manuals or guides. These are
probably the same people who still use carbon paper because the copier is
too hard to figure out. It's O.K. with me, it makes my next job search less
Here are some Outlook tips:
- Drag an incoming mail message to the contacts
folder. It will automatically set up the contact for you with a copy of the message
in the notes. Update the fields for company, address, phone etc.
- Cool trick: In Outlook 2000 if you have the address
included for a contact, open the contact and click on the yellow road sign
on the toolbar. Outlook will connect to an online map showing the
- If you have a scanned image of a business card or a
picture of the person you can also paste it into the contact notes.
- Paste copies of email messages about address changes
into the contact notes as well.
- Assign categories to each of the contacts. Open the
Category window for contacts and select the MASTER CATEGORY LIST to create
your own custom categories (e.g. pump suppliers). You can also assign
messages to categories. Don't forget important categories like
"potential employers", "potential employees" and
- Use the VIEW > CURRENT VIEW > VIEW BY CATEGORY
to display, select and send messages to everyone in a specific category. You
can do an automatic mail merge from Outlook to Word and create form letters
to a group of contacts. Here's an article that describes how. http://www.mltweb.com/tools/clicknotes/mailnews.htm
- Use the same software at home and at work so you can
share the contacts. Forward a contact created on your work computer to home
and drag it into the contact list.
- Create personal mail folders for messages related to
a specific event or activity. This relegates all of the contacts related to
that event in one place.
- Take a quick look at the Outlook Tips page and see
if any of these activities would help. http://www.microsoft.com/office/previous/tips/ol2000.asp
People in our profession who establish and cultivate
relationships understand the true value of a network to themselves, their
company and their careers. Do you?
is assembled and maintained by Michael L. Taylor, C.P.M.
||Materials and articles
prepared by Mike may be shared for purchasing education provided that this
source is cited and no fee is charged. The rights for any other use are
||Copyright; Michael L.
||Last Updated: 11/26/2016