29 September 2008 | Paul Snell
Purchasing chiefs should pay as much attention to developing and retaining "core talent" as they spend on future leaders.
According to Andrew Douglas, visiting professor at Bristol Business School, and director of procurement applications at Oracle, cultivating your whole team is just as important as developing those who are expected to lead in the future.
"You must look out for core talent as much as your leadership talent," he told delegates at a conference in London. "You have a range of different types in your organisation and it's easy sometimes to be blinded by the two or three rising stars."
The key skill leadership needed, he said, was to be able to have a vision of where they want the procurement function to be, and where the company needs it, in the next few years.
But, he added: "I have met between 500 and 1,000 purchasers in the past five years. No more than 20 of them have that clear vision, and perhaps another 100 know they should but haven't got there yet."
However, other business areas can be a source of new talent for buyers. "Bringing people in with commodity and business expertise and giving them purchasing tools and techniques is easier than parachuting somebody in who has purchasing skills and getting them to blend with the department," he said.
And buyers should be encouraged to move around. "Get people out in your support functions. Cope without them and let them form relationships because they will need them later on."
And he encouraged chiefs to consider their legacy: "Make it that you've left some talent behind you."