How Procurement Can Think Like a Startup

Explore how procurement can think like a startup, even within a big organization, and reap the benefits that come with it.

By Hugo Britt | June 4, 2024


Imagine a humble but bustling startup with a small team of passionate individuals working hard to bring their innovative idea to life. They operate with agility, adaptability, and a burning desire to disrupt the market. Now, picture a large organization with an established procurement department, operating in a traditional manner, focusing on stability and risk aversion.

What if the procurement team in that organization could think like a startup? What if they could embrace the same entrepreneurial mindset, drive innovation, and achieve remarkable results? In this article, we explore how procurement can adopt a startup mentality, even within a big organization, and reap the benefits that come with it.

Why think like a startup in procurement?

Startups have several advantages over large, established companies that can enable them to innovate, adapt, and compete more effectively in certain areas.

Some of the key advantages that startups have include:

  1. Agility and Speed: Startups are typically smaller and more agile than large corporations, allowing them to make decisions and implement changes quickly. They can respond rapidly to market trends, customer feedback, and emerging technologies without being bogged down by layers of bureaucracy.
  2. Innovation: Startups are often founded on innovative ideas or disruptive technologies. They have the freedom to experiment, take risks, and think outside the box without being constrained by existing processes or legacy systems. They often have a culture that encourages experimentation, collaboration, and continuous learning.
  3. Focus: Startups can focus on niche markets or specific customer segments, tailoring their products or services to meet the needs of a particular audience. This focus allows startups to deliver more personalized and targeted solutions compared to larger companies with broader customer bases.
  4. Entrepreneurial Spirit: Startups are driven by the entrepreneurial spirit of their founders and employees. This passion can fuel creativity, determination, and a willingness to take risks that may be lacking in larger, more established organizations.
  5. Flexibility: Startups have the flexibility to pivot their business model, change direction, or explore new opportunities as they arise. This adaptability allows startups to quickly adjust to changing market conditions and customer preferences.
  6. Cost Efficiency: Startups typically have lower overhead costs compared to large companies, allowing them to operate more efficiently and allocate resources more effectively. This cost efficiency can give startups a competitive advantage, especially in the early stages of growth.
  7. Access to Leadership: In startups, founders and key decision-makers are often more accessible and involved in day-to-day operations. This direct access to leadership can facilitate faster decision-making, clearer communication, and a stronger sense of purpose and direction.

Depending on your organization’s structure, technology, bureaucracy, and culture, some of these benefits may seem out of reach for a procurement team operating in a large organization. But by adopting the mindset of a startup, you may be able to shift the needle in several of these areas.

Now it’s time to start thinking like a startup.

There are several advantages startups have over larger organizations, including agility, focus and increased flexibility. Procurement teams can adopt the same mentality to reap the benefits, as well.

Embrace "intrapreneurship"

Intrapreneurship is the practice of cultivating an entrepreneurial environment within a larger organization. It involves empowering employees to take risks, explore new ideas, and pursue innovative projects. In the context of procurement, this means encouraging the team to think creatively, experiment with different approaches, and challenge established processes.

By fostering a culture of intrapreneurship, organizations can tap into the entrepreneurial spirit of their procurement team, enabling them to identify and seize opportunities that drive value.

Make the most of a limited budget

Startups are famed for operating on shoestring budgets, forcing them to be resourceful and frugal. Procurement teams can adopt a similar mindset by maximizing the value they extract from every dollar spent. This involves conducting thorough market research to identify cost-effective alternatives, negotiating favorable contracts and pricing terms, and exploring innovative procurement strategies such as group purchasing or consortium buying. By optimizing their budget, procurement teams can deliver significant savings without compromising on quality or service levels.

Make the most of a small procurement team

Startups often have lean teams where everyone wears multiple hats. Similarly, procurement teams in large organizations can achieve a lot with a small team by encouraging cross-functional collaboration and knowledge sharing. By breaking down silos and involving stakeholders from different departments, procurement professionals gain a holistic understanding of the organization’s needs and can identify opportunities for collaboration.

This not only enhances the effectiveness of procurement initiatives but also builds strong relationships. Learn how to do more with less in procurement here.

Make smart technology investment decisions

With limited budgets, the wrong technology investment can spell disaster for startups. Luckily, Cloud-based subscription models offer a low-risk opportunity to try new tech before committing. Similarly, procurement teams should adopt a startup mindset when evaluating and implementing procurement software solutions. They should focus on solutions that offer scalability, flexibility, and a rapid return on investment. By leveraging technology effectively, procurement teams can optimize processes, reduce administrative burdens, and free up time for strategic activities.

Harness the power of strategic partnerships

Startups often rely on strategic partnerships to help them scale their operations and access new markets. Similarly, procurement teams in organizations of any size can leverage a partnership with a group purchasing organization (GPO) like Una to unlock significant benefits. A GPO leverages the collective buying power of its members to secure discounted prices and favorable terms from suppliers. By collaborating with a GPO, procurement teams can access a wide network of pre-vetted suppliers, drive huge cost savings, and gain access to industry expertise and best practices.

Thinking like a startup in procurement within a big organization can revolutionize the way procurement operates, unlocking innovation, agility, and cost savings. The startup mindset encourages a culture of continuous improvement, adaptability, and a cost-conscious approach to spending the organization’s dollar. So, go ahead, get intrapreneurial, and unleash your inner startup within the procurement realm.

Una works with procurement leaders like you to optimize your procurement strategy in a way that leads to increased cost savings and better overall spend management. Learn how you can boost business growth with a GPO:

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