Brexit: 'Now is the time to step up'

The Brexit crisis has provided procurement professionals with the opportunity to show how they can add value to their companies.

Buyers, when asked by SM in a straw poll how fellow professionals should approach the situation, said this was a “great opportunity to become cross functional”.

A separate SM Twitter poll, in which 57 took part, found 65% of people were worried that Brexit would affect their work. 

“Churchill is credited with the pithy reminder one should never let a good crisis go to waste,” said Stuart Brocklehurst, CEO of B2B marketplace Applegate. “Your CEO is looking for fresh minds and steady hands. Now is the time to step up.”

Respondents said by making the most of existing supplier relationships and exploring new sourcing options, procurement departments can ensure their companies don’t sacrifice quality in their attempts to cut costs or mitigate risk in the face of the unknown.

“Managing uncertainty and complexity has always been at the heart of trained and experienced procurement and supply chain managers,” said Brian Grew, SVP commercial partnerships for Live Nation.

Having existing relationships, knowledge of suppliers and good negotiation skills will all be essential as supply markets react to Brexit, said Grew.

“This isn’t a job for amateurs,” he added.

There is a risk procurement departments could start to focus on cost cutting, as companies “scramble to ensure they’re fit to weather potential economic storms”, said Brocklehurst.

“It’s vital, absolutely vital, that procurement does not allow itself to be put back into that box,” he said. 

Identifying savings is important. But procurement teams can go beyond saving and add value to companies by assessing new growth opportunities available to replace lost of business is if the economy starts to recede, said respondents.

“This is where procurement can, should and must play its true strategic role: demonstrate how the supply chain can deliver innovation, identify routes to rapid entry into new markets,” said Brocklehurst.

Richard Masser, CEO of distribution company Crestwood Group and CIPS president, said anybody who compromises on quality or service to minimise currency issues risks coming unstuck. “Those who can hold their nerve will continue to drive value,” he said.

“This is a great opportunity to become cross functional within your organisation, talk to all departments in your business as a team. Be holistic,” he added.

Procurement and supply chain managers should also remember suppliers do not hold all the cards.

“Bear in mind that suppliers need to supply otherwise they go out of business,” said Tony Morris, head of procurement at Bupa Home Healthcare.

“I have had two [European] suppliers contact me after the referendum vote asking if we are still going to use them after Brexit... On talking to them and understanding their issues and nervousness around Brexit it was clear that they did not want to lose our business,” he said.

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