Building a strong team should be the number one priority for procurement leaders, CPOs told an event.
Patrick Dunne, director of group property, FM and procurement at Sainsbury’s, told delegates: “Hire well, but fire well, when you need to.”
Speaking at CIPS Procurement Futures in London on lessons learned, Dunne said: “Make sure the team are performing at a higher level.”
He described how at Sainsbury’s he had added a new team of buyers on higher pay, which had delivered more benefits.
Malcolm Harrison, group CEO at CIPS and former CPO, and Abbie Brown, CPO at media and creative company WPP, concurred.
“You need to put the best team together you can,” said Brown.
“You have to build those [stakeholder] relationships and you have to understand the business – you will live or die by those two things.”
Harrison agreed. “Never underestimate how long it takes to understand an organisation.”
He described how in his previous role at packaging company Rexham “challenging” customers meant the organisation needed to invest in factories but shareholders were demanding a return on capital investment.
“Financially it didn’t make sense to invest, but because we had to invest to satisfy customers we sold the business to owners who were going to make those investments.”
He added: “Understand where stakeholders are coming from.”
Harrison emphasised the importance of understanding the bigger picture. “Whatever you do, always remember the context. The context changes and you as a leader have to change. The more senior you get the more aware you have to be of context.”
He recommended taking roles in different functions. “If you have experience working in other functions you are so much more credible as the leader of the procurement function.”
On stakeholders Dunne said: “In the beginning every stakeholder is difficult because they think they know more than you do.”
He advised those looking to become leaders: “Be so ambitious you are riding on the crest of a wave where you think, ‘I could get fired for this’”.