22 May 2008
About two thousand buyers convened in St Louis, USA for the Institute of Supply Management conference. Paul Snell reports from the 'show-me' state
The official nickname of Missouri is the "show-me" state, and the region had plenty to show-off when the 93rd annual Institute for Supply Management (ISM) conference touched down in St Louis, earlier this month.
The range of topics on display varied from "How to save $100 million" to "The emergence of women in supply management", offering practical advice from those within and far removed from the profession.
The focus was, naturally, US-centric but this didn't mean the lessons on offer were only of value to those based in North America. Global issues affecting the profession worldwide, such as supplier relationship management (SRM), getting support from your senior leadership and sustainability featured heavily on the agenda.
However, many of the buyers SM spoke with said they obtained the most value not from those in the profession, but speakers tackling broader business themes.
Retired US Brigadier General Nick Halley urged buyers to take a leadership role in their organisation and create an environment for talent to flourish. Business author Daniel Pink challenged his audience by explaining how the traditional logical and linear approach to business is being superseded by a more creative and emotional attitude. And Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Dominique Dawes urged buyers to demonstrate what they stand for and create a personal mission statement.
Economic uncertainty and the changing social and political face of the country was an issue for many of the US delegates, but the message about the future of both the country and profession was optimistic.
One workshop revealed how injured veterans returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is creating a new minority supplier market, with the US government looking to significantly increase the amount it spends with veteran-owned businesses.
And according to JP Morgan economist David Hensley, economic conditions, pressed by tightening credit markets, the housing crisis and rising inflation would remain tough for the rest of the 2008, but the following year would be brighter.
There was more good news for US buyers as the ISM's annual salary survey revealed another boost for salaries. The average procurement wage in the US was up from $88,380 (£45,565) in 2006, to $92,165 (£47,514) in 2007, a rise of 4.3 per cent.
However, leaders in the profession saw their average pay fall 48 per cent compared with 2006, from $247,685 (£127,648) to $128,821 (£66,390). This was attributed (somewhat oddly) to a rise in the number of purchasing leaders taking part in the survey.
An interesting point is that, while it is increasing in the UK, the disparity between male and female salaries in the US is falling. In 2006, men earned an average of 38 per cent more than women, but in 2007 this came down to 27 per cent. However this is still a larger gulf than the gap of up to 25 per cent found in the UK.
The best rewarded buyers were found in the arts, entertainment and recreation (such as museums), sector with an average of $152,254 (£78,275). Buyers working in education were paid the least, with an average of $68,867 (£35.406).