Overcoming Challenges: 5 Ways Procurement Can Cope with Adversity

By Hugo Britt | September 7, 2021

Natural disasters, trade wars, higher tariffs, product shortages, economic instability, and global pandemics… In recent years, procurement professionals have seen it all.

Guest speakers on The Sourcing Hero podcast have shared several tips on how procurement professionals can remain positive and productive during the most challenging and disruptive times. 

Overcoming challenges by celebrating the good news

In Episode 24, host Kelly Barner was joined by Scott Luton, Founder and CEO of Supply Chain Now.

Later this year, Scott will host the 2021 Supply Chain and Procurement awards along with the rest of the team at Supply Chain Now. Referring to the Unsung Hero award, he spoke about why it’s so important to celebrate those professionals who don’t usually find themselves in the spotlight but are consistently recognized by their peers, colleagues, and network for contributing something really important. 

“Recognition is a powerful force, it can move mountains,” he said. “Think about all the folks who make global supply chains happen – the truck drivers, picker packers, planners, retail clerks, and all the folks on the frontline who – pandemic or not – went to work to keep us all moving forward.” 

During these tumultuous times, celebrating good news on a global scale can be a huge morale boost, and it’s also a great way to elevate the profession.

“Beyond recognizing how important these practitioners and people are, we also have to think about the awareness it creates for the generations coming up through schools and colleges and make them aware of all the ways you can contribute to society by working in supply chain and procurement,” Scott said.

Help those around you

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, procurement professionals have repeatedly stepped up to support the needs of their team members, key stakeholders, and suppliers – managing disruption and mitigating risk.

When times get tough and pressures start to rise, it’s important to remain calm, centered, and grounded to best support the people around you.

In Episode 21, Kelly was joined by Dr. Dred Scott, President of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kansas City. Working to support Kansas City’s at-risk youth, Dr. Scott knows a thing or two about helping those in need.

He warns against trying to affect change from the outside: “I think it’s about being connected to the needs that exist across our community,” he says. “What we try to do is keep our ear to the pulse of the community, be cognizant of where the gaps are, what the needs are and, to put a positive spin on it, the things that are going well and should be appreciated and celebrated.”

Staying closely connected to the people around you during these tumultuous times will enable you to effectively manage these challenging circumstances and respond to their very real needs. 

Continue to innovate

In a bid to keep their businesses afloat and mitigate risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations opted to abandon their long-term goals and aspirations in favor of familiarity and stability. But is it possible to embrace the uncomfortable while continuing to innovate?

In Episode 15, Dawn Tiura, President and CEO of Sourcing Industry Group (SIG) shared, in her view, that innovation is crucial, no matter what the circumstances. “It’s ok to get stuck, but it’s not ok to stand still,” she says.

“Venture off from your safe spot and take a step this way to the left. If that doesn’t feel good come back and then go straight, and then right and then go behind you. Just don’t stand in one spot. Try things and keep taking steps until something feels comfortable to you.”

Responding to a disruptive situation with a “wait and see” mentality, could signal the death of your organization. Dawn urged professionals not to put everything on pause or wait it out when disaster strikes. Get creative and find ways to make the best of a bad situation.

Prioritize collaboration

In Episode 13,  Sarah Barnes-Humphrey, founder and CEO of SHIPZ and host of Let’s Talk Supply Chain spoke about how procurement collaboration won 2020.

She notes how amazing it was to see professionals within the procurement and supply chain community supporting and rallying around one other throughout the pandemic. “We’ve seen resiliency and we’ve seen [professionals] overcome adversity,” she says.

Most surprising to see was the collaborative nature between competitors, which helped ensure everyone was able to weather the COVID-19 storm. Sarah sincerely hopes this collaboration between buyers and sellers is here to stay. “Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite saying is ‘collaboration is the future of business.’ If anything, in 2020 that’s what we’ve seen. We’ve seen people come together, collaborate and provide win-win scenarios.”

Incentivize suppliers to be your biggest support system

In Episode 22 of the podcast, Kelly was joined by Mickey Schulte, Executive Director of the Savvik Buying Group. Mickey believes that suppliers can do an awful lot to support their customers, but only if they really want to.

The pandemic has shown just how important it is for procurement to establish a loyal network of vendors. What can professionals do to incentivize their suppliers to deliver an impeccable service, through the good times and the bad?

Depending on the customer’s needs there are a lot of ways suppliers can add value. “It could be a larger buyback on used equipment, or they might be able to offer free warranties or discounts. There’s usually something there you just have to ask for it in the right way,” Mickey said.

Overcoming challenges is no small feat but it is possible with the right tools and resources. Listen to more episodes of The Sourcing Hero and subscribe anywhere you get your podcasts.


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