Chris Bell FCIPS, commercial director at City of London Corporation, spoke to Supply Management
How did you get into procurement?
I was part of the Supplier Development Programme Scotland to help SMEs win public sector contracts, and had a crash course in procurement, learning from Scotland’s leading chief procurement officers.
What was your big career break?
Landing a role at London 2012, where I was the buyer engagement manager for three years, was pivotal.
How did you get your current role?
At Accenture, I worked on the transformation of procurement with City of London Corporation. When it went live, I was appointed head of procurement. I became the first ever commercial director in 2016.
The best part of my job is…
The diversity. Which other organisation has a local authority, police, culture and arts, wholesale markets, private schools, property, public realm, ports, animal reception and Tower Bridge within its remit? Every day is a school day and a personal challenge.
What’s the biggest thing that’s gone wrong in your working life, and how did you fix it?
Earlier in my career I landed a role as a marketing director, with no marketing experience. It was a jump too far, too soon. I fixed it by leaving, and it was my first huge career lesson: it made me focus on what I was good at and what I had to learn.
What advice do you have for junior professionals?
Be inquisitive; ask people why they’ve made decisions, they are always keen to share wisdom. Focus on soft skills – the ability to communicate, influence and gain trust are key to being successful. Don’t be shy to practice those in front of a mirror.
And the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Never assume or jump to conclusions, always take time to be as well informed as you can be.
What is the proudest moment in your career so far?
Winning the CIPS Supply Management Professional of the Year and receiving the Freedom of the City of London in 2016 are highlights. What makes me feel warmest is seeing people who’ve worked with me or for me go on to have impressive procurement careers.
What’s at the top of your bucket list?
To cycle through Europe on a four-person bike with my best mates. We started planning it over a drink once, but then life took over.