Congratulations you have worked hard and gotten that new purchasing position that you were chasing. Whether the position is a lateral move, a promotion or a move to a new company here are some tips to help you start getting results:
- Build understanding the internal landscape
- Identify the key people in the company who you will be interfacing with on an ongoing basis. Go meet with them to understand how their roles interface with yours, their priorities, their plans for achieving and what success looks like when they do? Ask: How can I help.
- Get to know the supply base
- Meet with all of the major suppliers. Ask them to come to the meeting with an introduction to their company and a list of all of the open issues between your company and theirs. Use the meeting to understand their products, why they do business with your company, what issues exist and what they want to achieve in the future. Remember this is a get to know you meeting. You are under no obligation to put forth positions on issues. If pressed to do so, just state the obvious: “I am the new kid on the block and will need time to understand all aspects of the issue prior to talking in depth about it.” Follow up with a question to get more information: “This must be important to you since you are seeking a quick resolution. Why?”
- Get to know the products you are buying
- When you are meeting with suppliers and internal stakeholders ask questions designed to help you gain knowledge on the products you are buying. I have always thought that the best purchasing managers and buyers understand enough technical detail with engineers and operations to be able to understand how the technical details play in the value equation and weigh in on questions like: “Will the design change bring more value than the amount it costs to implement.”
- Build a 30/60/90 day plan
- Once you have built knowledge on the product, suppliers and internal requirements lay out 30/60/90 day planned objectives and actions. What issues were uncovered that need to be resolved? What opportunities? How should you go about achieving them?
- Review your findings with your boss
- I put this as the last point for a reason. If you go to the boss on day one and say: “I’m here, what do you want me to do?” You are setting yourself up for getting a task list. Instead tell her about your plan to learn about the internal requirements, suppliers and products to build a 30/60/90 day plan. Say, “Your input on the plan is the most important so I want to get it once I have talked to the others. Do you have suggestions on who I should talk to and items I should investigate?”
So, my five tips involve a lot of time spent asking questions. If you are concerned that asking a lot of questions will make you look stupid, don’t be. There is a quote I am fond of using from Voltaire “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” In order to gain an understanding of what we are buyer, who we are buying it from and what issues and opportunities exist we need to ask a lot of questions. The quality of those questions will in large part determine our success moving forward.