Six months on of Meet the Buyer
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Six months on of Meet the Buyer

21 November 2018 By Gillian Askew, Head of Procurement Services

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Those of my colleagues who have known and worked with me for some time will know I am a die-hard procurement advocate, passionate about the power of really great procurement. It’s a game changer!

I would also tell anyone that as a procurement professional spanning both private and public sectors for 25 years that I understand then the power of our supply chains. I respect, empathise with and am committed to my vendors. I am a supply chain champion working hard for our suppliers to be able to develop, grow and deliver better than ever before.

Doing business with the public sector is not always easy. It can be bureaucratic in the extreme at times, slow, cumbersome and if you’re trying to develop new business relationships, it can be a closed door.

When I joined YPO as Head of Procurement I was determined that YPO as an organisation would attempt to buck the trend. We would try hard to lead the way if we could on making it easier to do business with a public sector organisation. I wanted us to be accessible, open not just for business but to new ideas of how we can transform markets going forward.

I have a vision that in board rooms across the land, when businesses are discussing growth in the public sector, they will identify YPO as a good starting point. An organisation that will listen and support, be straight talking about timing and validity but that would at the very least have a robust way of learning about what supply chains have to offer. In doing this, I wanted to put YPO on the map, become the go to place for business development in our sector, an organisation that businesses sought out to showcase transformational ideas. Suppliers are after all, at the very heart of every good procurement professionals tool kit. And if they aren’t, they should be. Great things don’t happen in isolation of our supply chains, they happen because of them.

And so ‘Meet the Buyer Monthly’ was born. One day per month (every third Wednesday) YPO opens its doors to talk to businesses we haven’t met before. Every month, our categories set the day aside to meet vendors, introduce YPO to new businesses, learn about market capability and start the relationship development process. Since launching this in May this year we have talked to over 150 businesses we may not have spoken to had it not been for this process.

Obviously Meet the Buyer doesn’t replace the bidding process; we, like other public sector organisations, take our governance and compliance requirements seriously. What it does however, is give suppliers access to our organisation long before the competitive process kicks it. It levels the playing field, meaning you don’t need to be an existing supplier to talk to us. It helps us learn about solutions, ways of working and in effect gives us a much broader knowledge base from which we can write better procurements.

It has been so successful that last month Yorkshire Ambulance Service and the Yorkshire and Humber Police Force’s Regional Procurement team joined us and between us we’re speaking to hundreds of potential new suppliers every month! We think this model could work anywhere and we would encourage other public sector organisations to consider doing this also. We’d be happy to share our experiences and the processes we use should other organisations be interested in putting something like this in place.

Is it perfect? No, of course not. Does it take a lot of work? Yes, changing something like this was never going to be free of effort. Does every supplier move forward at pace? No, some don’t move forward at all, some are slow burners and some speed ahead! Do we learn lessons every month? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely, unequivocally yes. We’re a better procurement team for doing this.

Finally, has it achieved my vision? In the main yes. I still have a real bee in my procurement bonnet about the actual process of competitive bidding and how prohibitive it can be for suppliers, especially smaller businesses and so that will likely be the next thing we try and address. I want us to remain compliant, transparent and fair but have quicker and simpler ways of getting there. But way before the bid process is at play, this process of meeting new suppliers is allowing YPO to learn about and understand what our supply chains have to offer. What ideas they have, what they’re passionate about and crucially how our suppliers can help our customers deliver better than ever in the future. And that can’t be a bad thing can it?

Categories: Procurement , Frameworks , YPO

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