Jamie Levy founder pdnhub speaks with Stuart Griffin – experienced CPO and Interim – about the following:
- How he got into procurement and why he moved into consultancy
- Targeting procurement teams top down vs bottom up and his views
- Is procurement changing or is it just a blip?
- Finally a quickfire round of questions
procurement, organisation, moved, people, programme, business, contract, big, question, consultancy, role, savings, conversations, years, bit, change, spent, risk, find, buy
Related Article: Jamie Levy With Nick Kozmin
Jamie Levy, Stuart Griffin
Jamie Levy 00:00
So, Stuart, Good afternoon. Good morning. Good evening. Nice to speak to you. Nice to catch up. And thanks for your time for this podcast today.
Stuart Griffin 00:10
There’s no worries, it’s It’s evening over in the UK. So what is it late morning with you? Yes,
Jamie Levy 00:17
coming up to 11 o’clock in the morning here. And you know, it’s really good, you know, as part of the PDM hub development, what we want to do is try and deal with some of the conversations that I think we all need to have that we’ve we’re hearing about different things that are going on in the marketplace at the moment. And, and it’s good to get people like yourself, you’ve got a really strong background, you know, work to CPO in many different locations, you know, got a big career in procurement worth getting your opinion on some of these things. So thanks for giving up your time.
Stuart Griffin 00:51
Always, always happy to share. Okay.
Jamie Levy 00:55
So, you know, obviously Stuart, the one of the first things we always ask is, you know, tell me, let’s, let’s explain who you are, obviously, our audience are coming because they know Pdn we’re here to you know, help train help mentor, and help provide, you know, development for procurement people or non procurement people, as well. So tell me a little bit about your background.
Stuart Griffin 01:19
Okay, uh, depends how far you want to go back, but relevant, so Okay, so I’m, I’m a farmer’s son, a dairy farmer’s son from the UK. And what that did was give you a hell of a grounding in figuring out answers to complicated problems, when you were 1213 1516. moved on from there into a university career. And I studied applied microbiology and joined the brewing industry. I spent 10 years in various operational roles across breweries for a company called bass that really doesn’t exist any longer across the UK. And then I then moved over into into the dark side of procurement. But the time I spent in manufacturing gave me a hell of an insight into figuring out organisations, how they work, how they fit together, what their problems are, and how to solve them. So I didn’t have a traditional line role in the brewing industry. So I didn’t just do say team leadership in the, in the fermentation operations or running a canning line. I kind of got moved around to do all kinds of things as part of the Management Development scheme that bus used to run in those days.
Jamie Levy 02:48
Okay. And then and then you and then you, you wandered into the procurement world, how did you move into the procurement world? Was it just an accident? Or was it choice? What happened to you?
Stuart Griffin 03:02
I know it’s like it says on LinkedIn, it was it was it was kind of deliberate. Back in or back in, show my age now. 1989 2000s there was a chief executive join bass brewers, the bid, I worked in the bus group, because in those days, we own holiday ends, leisure, retail, etc, etc. Essentially, he made the statement that you’d never be a senior manager in the business unless you spent time in sales. And me being a little bit of a, I’ll prove you wrong kind of character. I decided instead of following the bass brewers management scheme advice, which was go off and run a patch, do sales, etc. I won’t blow stuff up. I’m going to go back up the supply chain. And I had a very brief spell in the central planning team before I moved into procurement. I’ve moved into procurement actually, at the same time as a fella called David he’d, David, he was the director of sales for bass brewers. And he moved into procurement because he is he was proposing that many of the skills that sales had were also necessary in procurement. And he wants to go and prove it. And he and I were not lumps out of each other really verbally, because I was your proper dyed in the wool. I’m a brewer. And he was your proper dyed in the wool. I’m a salesman, but actually, we were saying many of the same things that you’ve got to take skills from other places and bring them into procurement. Because there was in those days, too many procurement people that just, you know, they were buyers, they sat there for 20 years, I became a senior buyer. They did that for 10 years, they retired or they became a senior manager in the procurement team. David’s view was a it was different. My view was different. But we were from other sides of the coin.
Jamie Levy 04:52
Right? And then I see you kind of you’ve kind of done the same as myself, which is, you know, and it’s interesting to see There’s some similarities there in terms of moving from a line role in procurement to a more consultancy contracting role. And whether it be into consultancy or contracting and then consultancy and contract. How did you find the variation between the two?
Stuart Griffin 05:20
Well, let me ask you the first piece, which is why did you move into into consultancy? Well, I always wanted to eventually run my own business. So I knew that I could either sit in the brewing industry, wait on the guy literally above me in the chain to retire, and then get his shoes in his chair and go and stand on issues and sit in his chair, or I got to go and do something different, something radical, something, something unusual. Um, so the first thing I did is I went from drink to drugs to money. So I did, I worked a bus, then I moved to GlaxoSmithKline in the pharma industry. And then I moved over to Abby, in financial services. And at that point there, it became kind of apparent that the idea of sitting in the Procurement Office, you know, sending your emails with a chair, a jacket on the back of the chair, you know, with your briefcase next to your table wasn’t the way it worked. You need to get off your backside, you need to get out there, knock on doors, talk to people, people buy people. So, I was I was, I was kind of classic in some ways that I had two jackets. When I work for rb, one on the back of my chair in the Procurement Office in Northgate house, in the middle of Milton Keynes. And the other one on my back, getting the train down to trying to square to work with the marketing teams, the brand teams because I was I was the head of the team that looked after what was called customer propositions. So that was our B code for marketing. So after a wee while in that role, you know, it was there was there was quite a lot of tension around taking that approach. Although I had I had the marketing teams, the sales teams go and this is brilliant. You know, somebody wants to talk to us and understand us, the procurement team kind of go in, what the hell do you think you’re doing? And so there’s a bit of tension there. And I fell into a few conversations with peers that I know from my MBA who said, Well, why don’t you go to consultancy? So I moved over to IBM as a as a team member in their supply chain practice. in IBM business consulting services, it was called back then. And yeah, moved over to woodloch work with the likes of Unilever, British energy, Lloyds TSB, you know, some fairly meaty names, but actually it was it was the same or different. It was get off your backside. It was go and talk to people figure stuff out, bring a different perspective, but it was a different perspective that was appreciated by business. Not you know, who’s that mad guy in the corner talking about doing things differently? Now, in that consultancy world, you are able to express yourself and your opinions a little more readily. or certainly I did. Not always appreciated.
Jamie Levy 08:19
Yeah, I know, we I think we want all know about factors, especially being in the procurement world, but also know that fact when you’re in the consultants world, and it’s definitely a fun and challenging place to be, and how have you found it changing over the time that you’ve been in consulting and contracting.
Stuart Griffin 08:44
From from the, from the perspective of doing the job, forget all the political stuff around the rise and changing the taxation regimes in the UK and how it’s driving consultants and contractors, and interims and independents in different directions. What I’ve found is that over the years, it’s been for me personally, a swing. So when I worked for the likes of the IBM’s of the world, it was very much advisory consulting. So you know, your classical, in some ways bury your watch. I’ll tell you the time type stuff. You know, the answer is I’m just advising you how to achieve it. Right. And what my what I’ve done in my career is move over to what I call delivery consultancy. So look, I’ve got loads of experiences, loads of ideas, loads of concepts, those are thoughts. Let’s look at your organisation. Let’s get to know your people and the stakeholders. And then look how we can deliver you something that is going to make a change happen in your business. Not just here’s a diagnosis now go away and take the medicine you’ll be fine. But let me work it through with you. Let me help you go from A to Z. Change. Let me help you load the bus, fill the tank up, start driving it start navigating it. We don’t know where we’re going. But we know we’re going to get somewhere different to where we are. So it’s the sense of delivery or process consulting versus advisory consulting. And that’s what I’ve think I’ve managed to do is move away in that direction.
Jamie Levy 10:19
And so I obviously asked the question, because it’s kind of, you know, it’s the question that everyone says, you know, how big is the doorstop? You know, what, what you’re going to do with that report that comes out the consultants like, you know, do you truly believe that? Or do you think that the consultancy, actually adds value when they do provide these big reports? Or do they still repro? These big reports? Anyway, it’s that stopped part of the world. And
Stuart Griffin 10:46
now they are definitely still part the world. I’ve gone on the record in various places, you can you can find it on LinkedIn, if you look hard enough, you know, to say, Yeah, I call it a third document. All it is, is a great big stack of paper that goes third, it’s great for holding doors open. It’s great for waiting down your desk, so it doesn’t blow away in the wind if you narrow window. Well, very often it’s impenetrable to your normal business practitioner, your normal guy in in a blue chip, or a big SME who just gets this enormous thing man that lands on his desk and he goes, Well, it must be good because it was written by x or y or Zed. Well, actually, it’s all advisory stuff. It’s we think, if you go in, and it will, it’s not. Do you know what? If you do this, it’ll change that. And when it changes that you will then see this. And when you see this, do that. And that’s the kind of difference between the advisory piece thought and the delivery piece. Here’s a plan. Here’s how we do it. Here’s the process. Here’s what’s going to happen in the end. But do you think again, I’m just sorry, that they definitely both that big third document definitely exists. I mean, I have recently as in the last sort of two years, maybe two and a half. I’ve seen a number of those, and, and literally been able to say to the guy who’s given it to me to read say, like, I don’t need to read it. I’ll tell you the top five things they’re saying. And he’s like, Well, how do you know that? Well, because I’ve read them before. And they’re all reasonably formulaic.
Jamie Levy 12:19
Right. And we, we’ve both been in the consultancies that do that, and we’ve been in the consultancies that, don’t do that as well. And it’s an interesting question in my head as to, you know, there’s, there’s always been that conversation many moons ago about there’s a big difference between strategic consultants and tactical consultancies. tacticals know how to deliver strategics don’t know, is that a question of it’s just bad consultancy? Or is it
Stuart Griffin 12:47
onigroup? it? Well, rather than say bad is poor quality? You know, it’s and this is a theme that comes through as a procurement practitioner. What’s the first thing we do, Jamie, when we go into an organisation, we start to work out what the requirements are. Okay, and what happens with that big foot? Is these guys know the answer before they started. And I can’t remember, I think Stephen Hawking I saw in, in the press today, you know, some quotes from him. I’m not sure that his quote, but basically, the biggest barrier to understanding is knowing, or the biggest barrier to understanding is knowledge. So these guys come in, they know the answer before they start. They put it in the Mensa machine, they crank the handle, they take the you know, we’re x 1000 transaction where y 1000 contracts were y million of spend and go. So the answer must be this. And it’s not the case organisations are more organic than that.
Jamie Levy 13:42
And I remember earlier early on in my career, somebody saying to me, I don’t know who was the said it to me, said to me Accenture, his answer was always 20%. That was that was yours. 20%. There was no choice wherever you went, it was always 20%. And if you can’t, if you couldn’t find it as part of the team wasn’t part of the team, then they would move you out of the team and find somebody else to replace you. So that that being that the answer was always 20%. It didn’t really matter what you want. The question was,
Stuart Griffin 14:13
sorry, I was part of x. Do you remember exchanging Procurement Services? Yeah. Back in the day, you know, the big guys in BPO, we’re gonna take over the world. Now the guy that ran that ran that division x XPS. He had a standard profile. He said, I don’t care how you achieve it. But in year one, I want to see this in year two and see that and then year three, I want to see the other and we were looking at five to seven year contracts. And he had a profile and he said, and if you hit that profile, everything was fine. If you didn’t hit that profile, it was just like that, that savings profile. It swap you out for somebody who would just tell him what he needed to hear. And quite often in that marketplace I was the guy working with. There’s a fella called Graham Moore who’s now globality is john Daugherty. I think he’s now retired, you know? And and what we did is we went in and tried to bring some pragmatism to it to say, Well, if if we want to see a savings target of x, and we know that the business case won’t be allowed to progress unless it says x in that little box there, how do we achieve the absolute value of saving? So that’s the combination of what’s the total scope? What’s the in scope? What’s the addressable because of contracts or something else? What’s the potential savings to get to that number? And I’m not sure whether he knew we did this or not. But we fiddled it. If he wanted a number that we thought was was was impractical or not feasible, we changed those other criteria to make sure that we hit the right number at the end. And we always knew that we were selling essentially, a undeliverable deals, but you’ve got to sell it. Otherwise, you’re never going to get the reward, you’re not going to get paid, you’re not going to sign the contract. And that was something in the big consultancies that really used to drive me mad, was the we’ve got to put something down, that’s credible to sell the contract. But if the customer knows it’s bullshit from day one, why are we doing it? Well, because we need to get the contracts, we don’t get the contract, we don’t get the revenue. If we don’t get the revenue, we’re not going to pay you. Yeah, I get it. But don’t you think there’s a better way?
Jamie Levy 16:18
And it’s interesting, because I literally had a conversation with somebody this morning, which has been really interesting conversation. And the reason why I kind of, I do wonder about whether the the handing the target down, is the right solution or not, which was about some work that Pdn is looking at doing for one of his clients. And the question was, well, can you de risk the training for us so that we know we can hit the savings numbers? Ie, we’ll pay you for the training, as long as you can guarantee us, we’ll deliver the savings. And again, we’re back to that. Give me the target, and then we’ll go and find the solution kind of thing. You know, it’s the 5% hand down that says you will deliver 5% year on year, it’s the 20% thou shalt do and then for some reason, as you saying you may tweak the tweak the way it’s done. But guess what, you always end up hitting that number down here. And as the question for me is whether that actually, that is the right thing to do hand down the number as opposed to build it up from the bottom?
Stuart Griffin 17:24
Well, there’s a there’s a, there’s a pragmatism, you’ve got to bring into this. Because if you don’t get the number, you’re not going to get the contract. The customers are not going to say this is this is got an ROI that’s acceptable to me. And I used to it, you know, I was with exchange for sort of six or seven years, a service director account director type roles, category, Director type roles, and literally every year was in negotiation with the customer. Because every year when you went in and said and we’ve delivered, they go, Yeah, but and that here’s a number used to drive that that behaviour used to drive that negotiation, every single time you went to get your bill paid. It’s a bit Yes, a bit destructive. But you’ve got to be pragmatic on the selling side. If you don’t put a number down there that’s credible. They’re not going to sign off on it. Don’t sign off on it. You don’t exist as a business. So it’s, it’s not right. But pragmatically, it’s what gets the contract signed and gets things moving. But if you build a bloody good relationship with the stakeholders, you can go in there and say, Well, look, you know, I told you the answer was going to be five when we signed the contract. It’s not five, it’s 4.7. But here’s why. It’s four. But here’s why. Or actually, in some cases, it’s seven. And here’s why. You’ve got a bit of a to and fro, you’ve got a relationship. It’s not, it’s not as adversarial as it could have been. And in my experience, and there’s a couple of really good examples that I won’t I won’t name drop, but one makes lots and lots of pallets in the UK. Actually, we did that. We went in there, we signed the contract, we started the delivery programme. And when we got under the skin, we found that the the answer was different. But we had such a strong relationship with the board. We’re able to stand back and go look the answers different. And then well, why? Well, it’s for these 10 reasons here. Oh, yeah, that’s cool. And we flexed, but we’d spent the time we’d invested the time to get the relationship, right. It wasn’t what you said. 10 Why isn’t it 10 it was okay. Understood. It’s a valid thing. Let’s just change it. You know, that’s something that that contracting process admittedly 10 years ago, you know, very often it was very adversarial. It was very Domino’s It was very I want the big w i don’t care what w you get for the win win. But in this case, it was much more open and honest. If you get your customer to that place When you find this, this this difference, there’s a degree of mutual understanding. If you haven’t taken the time to get to that place, you’re screwed. They’ll just go, you tell me 10, I built him a business case, I’m going to get six. So you’re out.
Jamie Levy 20:16
And I know you found that to be, you know, you send to me, you you’ve worked on, worked on the accounts one way, in terms of being able to deliver the numbers and getting the numbers by hook or by crook. The question I always come back to is when we come back to that the age old cost question, you know, we go back to these, these decisions and the consulting pieces of work. And, you know, let’s ignore the major change programmes that are the hundreds of millions or the 10s of millions that are going to be made to change programmes, this cost drive. And there’s lots of conversations about it at the moment saying that, you know, procurements moving its driver away from cost and into risk and potentially other areas on the search. And I’ve had that on one of the other podcasts where we were talking about it and that, you know, it should be the whole case. You know, the reason for the programme is thou shalt save money. The reason for the savings is thou shalt save money. And I keep asking this question on every podcast, how are we actually changing? Because I’ve been asking this, you know, I heard this on a conference on a, a an interview, probably about a month ago with a head of procurement, I think was a head of rush, who was talking about it, saying, Well, we’ve been asking the same question for the last 25 years, and it hasn’t changed. Do you think it’s really changing?
Stuart Griffin 21:46
Well, I was gonna say, I’ve been involved in procurement since 2000. So that’s 22 years now near enough nipping top. And I was having conversations like this about, is procurement going to change within a year or two of starting my cut my time in procurement? You know, the thing is, procurement is easy to measure when you worry about just the savings. And what do people do people behave the way that paid people behave, or what behave the way they’re measured. So you want to measure savings is relatively easy. So what happens is, we hit our savings target, we hit our savings targets, everybody’s happy, we get our budget for next year, we get a bit of a bonus, and it’s all cool. You don’t hit your target, you’re out on urea. Okay, but when you start talking about risk, well, a lot. I mean, I’ve had conversations like this, I’ve been involved in, in a couple to be fair of programmes like this, where a lot, it’s about risk. It’s the risk of spending money that we don’t need to spend, it’s the risk of spending too much money on what we do need to get. It’s the risk of supply chains failing because we’ve, we’ve caught them to the quick. It’s the risk of this. It’s the risk of that. But those those risk based programmes, where the guys in charge actually believe the word risk and procurement exists in the same conversation. I think in my, well, when did I start I went independent 10 years ago, I think I’ve probably had two programmes like that in 10 years. people behave the way they’re paid, the easiest way to measure procurement is what did you save. And it drives in many cases, it drives a race to the bottom. Because we look at we look at areas where we shouldn’t be focused purely on the price. We’re focused on the price because we can say we took a one and maybe point eight, that’s a 20%. Saving.
Jamie Levy 23:42
So so go away, and I’m not going to leave this subject, I think it was one that really does need bottoming out. Because if what we’re saying this is the way the way we do this is the way we do this is because this is the way we’re targeted. And I’m not saying i’m not i’m not saying I agree disagree with you. I’m just saying, if that’s the case that we we are bonused on savings, you know, we all get some savings. Yeah. So if we get a bonus on saving, then the question for me is that, you know, how do we change that? How do we change the method measurement methodology for people in procurement, I mean, going back to going all the way up to the CPI, because it obviously flows this way down. The CPI is targeted on delivering the savings. So how do we actually change the narrative?
Stuart Griffin 24:42
It’s a hell of a question. And as I said, it’s one I’ve been involved in the best part 20 years. And I recall a number of very late at night, very barefield very brutal conversations about what the hell are we trying to do here because I’m You know, with with some fairly senior people from our room from our industry, because over the years, I’ve come across quite a lot of these guys, the grand ease and so on. And yeah, I don’t think there’s an easy answer, I don’t think I’ve got the answer, I know I’ve got an opinion. And my opinion is that we need to change the, we need to, we need to change the way that we use that that magical p for procurement, because we get called the procurement function, but what we need to do is get off our assets, as I said, at the top of the call, people buy people get out there and talk to our business stakeholders, talk to our, our, our contacts, get out there in the organisation get known and actually have some simple, straightforward, approachable engagements with the with these guys that aren’t driven by Well, I’ve done some data and the data suggests if we did x, we could get y In exchange, you know, we’ve got to understand their problems. In in three dimensions, it’s easy to understand the problem in terms of I think you’re spending too much money. But what really are their requirements? It comes back to the requirements piece again, what do they really need delivered? And if it isn’t price, what is it? And you don’t get that unless you’re fully engaged with the stakeholders, and you’re out living the business with them? I think, to be honest, it’s it’s one of the things that I’ve carried ever since I was in manufacturing. And I used to run breweries, bits of breweries, packaging lines, you know, engineering activities and operations. And you know, you’d get somebody saying, Well, look, you know, I can save you 20 p on a bearing, by instead of buying SK x will buy these ones, they’re just the same. Yeah, but those ones pack up three times as fast. How do you know that? Now, unless you’re out there talking to the business, you’re not going to know that, you’re not going to find out that actually, the reason they pack up is because they’re slightly harder to fit. Or they’re wrapped in something that’s really weird, that doesn’t come off as easily as an SPF. So when the guys instal a bearing into a conveyor system, there’s probably some crap that goes in with it, which ends up you know, killing the Baron, and so on and so on. So if I think procurement people have got to get off their asses, we’ve got to get out in the organisation and talk. And we don’t we like to sit back and, and analyse the data, folding spindle or mutilate the contracts, do market tests and say, we could buy the same thing for less over here? Do you really know that? What’s the total cost? Is it just the price? Is it something different? We’re not we’re not necessarily great at that.
Jamie Levy 27:41
It’s an interesting one, too, because I’m, you know, I’m seeing a lot of conversations at the moment. And I’ve had a few conversations recently about its risk of gender and and and you know, I’ve seen risk risk pair up, and especially you, you and I both in the manufacturing organization’s risk of gender probably pops up, you know, what, once every five to 10 years, it pops up as a big agenda, whether it’s country wide, or whether it’s industry wide, or whether it’s sector wide, it doesn’t really matter, it comes up, you know, every five or 10 years, and then what you tend to find is that, you know, you’ve probably seen the same as I have that you tend to find, you get pulled onto that risk agenda for maybe a year or so. And then it’s kind of like, Oh, thanks for doing that. Thanks for saving us on the risk agenda. Now, can you pop back and go and deliver some more savings?
Stuart Griffin 28:26
Yeah, Yeah, you do. You do? You do. But but but the question, Why? Well, because we now think that our performance, however you measure EBIT, the profitability has been impacted by you not focusing on X. We don’t know that we believe it. So off we go, when we go back into price mode. Again, it’s easy to it’s easy to measure, it’s easy to demonstrate the impact. It’s easy for the guys around the organisation to sit back and say, well, we thought it was one procurement validated it at one and they made it point nine so we’ve saved some money. You know, it comes back to again, for me, it’s it’s easy to target some things it’s more challenging to think more broadly and out of the box.
Jamie Levy 29:14
Yeah, I get where you are Stuart and this is where why there’s an element of pessimism that comes in from me. I’m optimistic in the sense that I think it is changing but I’m pessimistic in the sense that I think it will change the question is is it changing just a short space of time and then we’re going back to back to
Stuart Griffin 29:32
real world again. And with Jamie we’ve known enough and known each other long enough to know that I’m being Mr. idealistic here because I’m trying to I’m trying to work with organisations to change their agendas. Right, but pragma pessimistically pragmatically whichever is the right word. Yeah, you know what, couple of years time we’ll be kicking shins again under the table trying to drive price reductions, because somebody will have decided that profitability has been impacted by x by y. We need to get that balance back, we have to make the EBIT, da performance. Looking very simply. Now EBIT da is what is the difference between what we what we brought in as revenue? And what we spent on our operations? And if and if the revenue line starts to wobble, what did what companies? Do? They look at the cost line and go, can you take it down?
Jamie Levy 30:20
Yeah, no, I I agree. And I think, you know, it’s an interesting world we’re in, you know, I’ve looked at some of the some of the cases I’ve, I’ve talked to other people about and some of the interviews I’ve had. And it’s been interesting talking to people and finding, you know, we’ve all got examples where we’ve been pulled into risk, or we’ve been pulled into other elements, whether it’s supply risk, whether it’s quality assurance, it doesn’t really matter what it is, we’ve all got examples of that, but it never seems, it seems to be kind of like a part focus. And then suddenly, you know, you end up back at what, what becomes cast, you may have people in the business in the function here without to look at change without to look at processes and the set. But still, the majority of the resource tends to be focused around cost in that a good organisation, and and I’m happy to hear different.
Stuart Griffin 31:14
Yeah, I’ll be idealistic, and I’ll keep chasing, to see if we can change it. Practically, you know, what, give it another 10 years, I’ll still be asked to go and save money. Some of this, okay, from a programme perspective, slightly different view now. Okay, we come along as external agents onto an organisation. And what’s the first thing we do, the first thing we do is say, let’s create you a baseline, let’s go and find a load of data. Let’s go and find a load of contracts. Let’s go and interview a load of people. Let’s meld the three together, and go, what’s it telling us? Well, actually, when you get to that point, you know, it’s classically it’s when we’ve done a bit of requirements work, is when we’ve done a bit of market intelligence stuff. And it’s when we start to go out and say, Well, you know what, there’s some opportunity here, we’ll call it quick wins, quick wins very often get used to fill the tank. Now they put money in the bank. So that then programme can be invested in. Yeah, so we go out, we do our thing. And then all of a sudden, the boss goes, I tell you, what do you ever miss, deliver me some quick wins. And then we can invest in x. I don’t know training, we can invest in our people, we can invest in a new p2p system, whatever the investment is. So you work hard to go and find those price reductions, the quickest form of quick wins, spec levelling, you know, spec challenges, market tests, price challenges, all that good stuff. You put a million pounds in the bank, and what happens? Thank you very much. I think we’ll stop now. We’ve got enough savings. Let’s move on. Now. So there’s this isn’t just AWS, there’s a two way street here where the business needs to think very differently, as much as we need to think differently.
Jamie Levy 32:56
Right? Okay. Let’s Park cost for a conversation because I think you and I could go on all day on this one, on cost per week. So let me ask you a question. Because you’re kind of the culmination of your career seems like you’ve had a few sort of CPO positions. And it’s great to see we’ve got somebody like yourself on this call. What do you think from from the point of view of you being a CPA? What do you think’s changing? And how are we responding to that? In the procurement industry, specifically? And I’m talking about in probably leaning towards the staff that you have and hiring and, and motivating the staff?
Stuart Griffin 33:43
Yeah. I mean, you can’t have a conversation like this without talking about technology in the same breath. I don’t think anyway. And the reason being that we talk a lot in procurement at the moment about automation, about, you know, machine intelligence around AI, you know, wrote RPA robotic process automation, taking away the mundane tasks, the routine tasks, the regular, consistent tickety tickety tickety, take tasks. And if that’s the case, what does it do? Well, it means that the rest of the people here can focus on the other stuff, the you know, that focus on the whipped cream, or most of going out and talking, getting known in the organisation, getting to be, you know, more of a consultancy style engagement with our, with our business partners and stakeholders. So, I don’t see that agenda necessarily slowing or changing. Okay, some organisations seem to be responding quite well, at the moment. Are those less well, because some organisations just think, Well, you know what, it’s just people cranking the handle on data. But that whole world is going to mean that we need to find a different kind of person. I mean, quite quite Crawley. So I’ll say it’s Crawley. I’ll say your average procurement person for the last sort of 2020 odd years I’ve been involved as kind of been a data centric, introverted, analytical individual who find something every now and again that say, Oh, I better go and do something about this, something pops up in a savings opportunity, but the need for a contract in some space, etc. that person’s got to change. We’ve got to be more consulting style, we’ve got to be more extrovert and on our toes out in the business. And this is a hopefully, it’s a bit of a common theme. Certainly through the conversation we’re having, which is procurement, get off your ass procurement go out there, people buy people, they don’t buy email addresses, they don’t buy telephone numbers, they buy faces, they’ll get out there and so on. So I see that the resourcing that we need is going to have to change, they’ll always be the people that need to just keep making sure the handle cranking happens, I think we’ll need less people doing the handle crank, then what we need is as a CPO it’s more of a consulting style engagement skill. And the people that are going to be successful, will have that same skill set. So the ability to go out and not just say, um, I don’t want to give you a good example from my last assignment, it’s a bit close. But I’ll give you one from probably i’d know a year 18 months ago. So that so there I am actually doing a piece of work in, in central government in the UK. Okay, uh, my role is the commercial lead. what that’s supposed to do is just field the requirements from a wide range of people on a technology programme, and go off and find them. Where do we buy them? To? How do we buy a framework? Do we need a G Cloud? Do we need a DOS contract? What do we need to go and do to get this requirement fulfilled? Actually, I spent far more of my time sitting down with a technical architects team going, Well, you know, you’re buying that thing there. Right? Do you think it works alongside this one here? Or does it conflict with it? So I’ll get for instance, we were discussing extensively. Now enterprise file store and share. So you know, you buy em 365? You get included? What? Well, OneDrive and SharePoint. Right? Okay. So dear technical team, why do we need this magical product called box? Oh, well, because it’s better, is it? And, you know, it’s more of that engagement is more of that willingness and ability to challenge differently. And I think the more we can do that in procurement, the better we’re going to get engaged, the better we’re going to get engaged, more will be listened to. But it doesn’t take away that that that that sewing machine task is still got to happen. But I do think increasingly, that’s going to become more and more automated.
Jamie Levy 37:50
Right. And, and in terms of the people that you’re finding, and when you’re recruiting, how are you finding them different now? versus, you know, in actually just one recruiting them and to actually keeping keeping those people?
Stuart Griffin 38:07
Well, I think I think finding the right people is always a challenge, especially when you’re in an organisation where you’re trying to bring this different way of thinking, because by and large procurement people, you know, we still, we still express ourselves, certainly on the CV, which is the first point of contact in recruitment, we still express ourselves in terms of what we’ve saved, or how many contracts we’ve put in place, or what the spend on the contract was when I started and what it was when I finished. So that doesn’t necessarily help us. Because the sifting pushes more towards the status quo. So it’s been a bit more for me by people that I know, people that I’ve met over the years, you know, I think nothing about starting an assignment with an organisation, the thinking, you know, would fit in here, so and so from five years ago. Hello, so and so because you’re on LinkedIn, you’re in my phone still. What are you doing? Do you want to move on? What about, okay? It’s, it relies upon me as an individual and my personality and my willingness to get on the phone to find those people. But they’re still rare beasts in the procurement space. Right now, I don’t I don’t see until we until we find a way of stepping beyond the kind of traditional measures is when we pick up a CV, the first thing we do is say, what was the job? How much was the spend, what did they save? You know, until we can move beyond that we’re still gonna get the same we’ve always had. Right?
Jamie Levy 39:38
It’s an interesting dynamic, because as we’ve, as we’ve discussed, you know, it’s an interesting way that the world’s world is changing, but do you find that, you know, Millennials coming through have a different point of view and
Stuart Griffin 39:57
I think that if You can sift right? If you can ask the right questions if you can find the right. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a millennial or somebody who’s 60. If they’ve got the magic got it, they’ve just got it. finding them is the hard part. I mean, in my, my last, my last assignment, actually, I was short on resources. I went to HR said, Who can I have? And they went down the list and went, Oh, we’ve got a few grads kicking around. You want a grad? I’ll be honest, I don’t know God grad. We’re gonna have to teach him what to do. I got the most fantastic guy. Actually, he was bloody brilliant. If I could have persuaded him to do more than six months in procurement, right, you’re looking at a future, you know, thought leader for the industry. Trouble was procurements bad press. No, sorry. I don’t want to be in this for a long time. I’m just doing it. So I can take the CV, like, great, but you’re really good at it. Yeah, yeah, I enjoy it. But it’s not where I want to be. You know, so that’s something we’ve got to address. But he was a classical millennial. And, you know, I’ll say again, you know, it could be any age, any person, there could be far as I’m concerned, it could be sky blue, pink with yellow spots, as long as they can think, right. I’ll take him, I don’t care how old I don’t care what the background is, I don’t care if you’ve got a degree or not a degree. you’ve either got it, whatever it is, or you haven’t. Trouble is because our selection processes are somewhat flawed. And this is this is a critique of the whole recruitment industry as well. Let’s be honest, because our selection processes are flawed. We don’t find those golden nuggets, and they go off into sales, or they go off into HR or they go do something different and join private equity. We just missed them. Right.
Jamie Levy 41:43
And it’s a it’s definitely, you know, it’s an interesting thing to see the few articles that have been published recently about, you know, CPS moving more into the, into the general business forum, with people especially like Tim Cook, moving out of a cannon procurement supply chain role, and kind of, yeah, somebody has grown Apple 1,600% over the last 10 years.
Stuart Griffin 42:10
And I’ll go back to David. David, he’d, you know, donkey’s years ago, he was a sales director that decided, procurement was a place that could benefit from his skills. So he got off his backside and joined it. And that was in bass brewers. You can you can look at Oh, God, watch the guys names. are the names just gone straight on my head? worked AstraZeneca was CPOE for a while went down to some big government jobs. Again, then he went off into an IT role. You know, so we’re starting to see at the highest level, there are some of these interchanges. But they’re just too rare. It’s almost like still in procurement, you’ve joined procurement, you’re there forever. Don’t ever go and do something else. I mean, look in my back catalogue, right? I’ve done CEO roles. I’ve done CIO roles. You know, some of it, I admit, it was being the right person in the right place at the right time. But if you’ve got that capability, and you get the chance, take it, leverage it, because all it can do is give you more skills to bring back to the kind of your bedrock.
Jamie Levy 43:16
Right. That’s it. And that’s an interesting, interesting for listeners out there who are younger, and you’re hearing from somebody who has recruited, you know, those people and is giving you guidance as to where to focus on because this really isn’t it isn’t easy is you know, I remember being in those days, and you face the brick wall of where do I go next after the two, three years in your category?
Stuart Griffin 43:42
Yeah, and that’s what I referred to as the dead men shoes in the Brune industry. You know, you sat there and waited for a room. Barrymore bless him to retire as the head of raw materials. And then Johnny Wallace would step up into his job and you get Johnny Wallace’s job. John’s still around, by the way, Barry isn’t important. But it was the way the industry back then thought, you know, whereas I’ve always been of the opinion and, and I’ve seen some good people have a similar approach, which is, I’ll go and take my experience somewhere else then. And now move off to another structured movement. And then come back, you know, a few years ago, I took on a private equity lead, you know, organisational transformation, you know, so what the hell are you doing? Are you the procurement guy? Yeah, but because I’m a procurement guy. Look at the breadth of things I’ve been involved in. And this manufacturing business guys, you need a new way RP system. Fair enough. But what about your finance system? Let’s have a look at how you structure your operations. Why have you got that many people doing assembly and this few people doing primary manufacturing? Let’s have a look at how we turn some of your activity from being a cost into a revenue. And it was it was for the organisation it was transformational. But for me, PR Personally, it was the ability to go and take a load of these learnings from a wide range of businesses that I’ve worked for and go, I can really fundamentally shift the needle on your business. I mean, the PA guys that own this particular room business. I don’t know what on earth they thought other than, you know, you when we look at the numbers at the end of the year, our EBIT, da has gone from here to here. Oh, my God, how did that happen? Well, it’s because you let me loose. And let me go and ask a lot of silly questions, try a few things that didn’t work and try a few things that did. And now look at the business. So we’re great at transformation in procurement, everything we do is change and transformation. But we forget that, even if it’s just changing the manufacturer of pencils, you’re still going to manage change, because somebody will go, I’ve used favour for the last 35 years I can’t possibly use, you know, somebody else’s hp. So you’ve got to change it. Versus, let’s look at why we do something fundamentally. And let’s take an outsourcing perspective on I don’t know, the whole of lead generation, or the whole of the IT environment, or something else. Now we just do change and transformation. We just forget it. We think we do procurement, we’re not we’re changing transformation specialists.
Jamie Levy 46:15
Okay. So it’s an interesting point of view. Stuart, let me ask you, I guess the guests as we as we’re talking about the future and talking about where we’re where we’re going, the question for me to you is, you know, what’s next for you? Where do you see yourself in the next five to 10 years?
Stuart Griffin 46:36
Um,excuse me. I don’t see myself moving back into a permanent role. I know that lots of my colleagues and just like yours, Jamie, for various reasons have decided that the the interim, or the consulting the independent consulting marketplace is not for them. I think they’ll always be a need for senior expertise, who can hit the ground running in challenging and complex situations, you know, whether it’s the classical, we’re in trouble, go and save as loads of money. And what do you find along the way, or we’re looking at m&a, and we need some support to figure out these things, there’ll always be a need for those people, they’ll always be a need for us to, you know, with our CPAs decided to leave, you know, we want to take a year while we figure out the right person. Now, that will still be there. I think your run of the mill. contractors, I think are going to find it harder and harder and harder. But the marketplace we we tend to inhabit is always going to be there. I think for me, what I would like to do, and I’m not sure how achievable it is, but we’re going to have a good crack at it is I’d like to diversify away from, you know, one contract at a time. Because we talked about risk a little bit earlier on, it’s very risky having all your eggs in one basket in this day and age. So more of a kind of a CPO as a service type model. And focus maybe on the instead of focusing on the Big Boy Blue Chips, we’ve got deep pockets and even longer arms, but focused on those SMEs that can’t afford us five days a week, but actually on a fixed price basis. We could come in and help them understand what change looks like, help them set things up for success and help them execute that success. But on a more flexible basis. So working for say 3456 710 organisations at a time. And you’ve got to be a particular beast to do it. I think I’m able to kind of pick and drop and prioritise and so on. But I think that’s a direction I’d like to think about moving in. It’s gonna be an interesting one.
Jamie Levy 48:53
Definitely sounds interesting to you definitely sounds like an interesting future.
Stuart Griffin 48:57
Now, I’ve seen Dean, I’m sorry, I’m seeing I’m seeing now the rise of kind of networking consultancies around the around the bout. And in those organisations, okay, the marketplace is not mature enough yet, to be able to say, Look, I’ve got three opportunities. They’re all two days a week, how does that fit with what you’re trying to achieve? I’ve seen a number that have come along and said, Look, I’ve got this company here. They want two days. Yeah, that kind of doesn’t fit with my life at the moment because I need some of these other things. But it only takes two or three of these to get a bit of momentum and all of a sudden, you know, you can afford to step into that world. And once you’re in that world, I think there’s enough value to be delivered to that SME marketplace that you wouldn’t necessarily step out of it.
Jamie Levy 49:47
It’s an interesting one, and obviously, where, you know, we as Pdn hub are kind of driving ourselves towards that SME market space. But let me let me ask you what I should just sort of wrap up question As the question I always ask at the end of every one of the interviews here, because I know we we’ve taken off three quarters an hour of your time already, and I don’t want to take too much feedback. Is there anything you think I should have asked you that our readers will be interested to hear from you that I haven’t asked you?
Stuart Griffin 50:19
Oh, I think I think there’s a there’s a whole range of things we could go into in that space, Jamie, you know, we could, we could talk about biggest successes and failures, you know, and what did you learn from them? We’ve not got in that space yet. And I’m happy to do another one of these, by the way, don’t worry about it. You’ve got your most challenging situations and your least challenging situations, you’ve got your biggest cock up and your littlest cockup? You know, there’s a whole range of things, which are, say, a little bit more transactional, that we could we could have some fun in that space. As long as we save space, and I remember not to talk about names. Yeah, because the one thing you find when you’ve been in this industry for sort of 10 or 15 years, 2025 years is you’ve got war stories. And those war stories are just as relevant today as they were 20 years ago. I mean, just just just want to give an example. You know, we have, we have the increasing focus on say, anti bribery. Within the procurement space. Okay, roll back literally to my first ever role in procurement. And I was facilitating some activity around travel. You know, in the travel supply, we were trying to award a contract to more or less set at the end of the final contract award meeting. Oh, yeah. And, you know, do you want anything from us? No, we don’t do that in this business. If you do that, in this business, the contract we cancelled. And literally, the next day, a couple of us were provided with gifts. So all of us did no more than take them into the office, drop them on the director of procurements desk and go, we’re really sorry, this has happened, we call the supplier and we sacked him on the spot, which we told you not to do it. You know, both right, that that war story has relevance today. Because in the pressured environment we find ourselves in, you know, I know, because I’ve seen it recently that that gift culture is coming back. And you know, it needs to be stopped. It’s not ethical.
Jamie Levy 52:18
And, and that’s that’s definitely been, you know, you can see, there’s our whole backlash at the moment were growing in the bribery and corruption sexual input in procurement yet, you know, how many times are we seeing in the press at the moment questions over bribery and corruption in public sector? And especially with with, you know, employees at the moment, that seems to be the kind of the rifle and especially at the moment as we come out the end of COVID?
Stuart Griffin 52:47
I wasn’t, I wasn’t necessarily referencing the public sector in that one. It’s actually private sector stuff I’ve seen, which is just as bad. But you’re right, you’re absolutely right. When you look at the public sector, we have an enormous burden of public sector regulation, but it’s sometimes feels like because of that enormous burden. People spend more time figuring out how to get around it, then they figure out complying with it and making it work for them. Yeah, that’s that’s a policy and then there’s a cultural policy thing there as well. You know, are we are we putting too much burden on you know, anyway, we could go on forever.
Jamie Levy 53:24
Yeah, we could, we could. So let me I’m going to end with I have like, what what I call a quick fire round. It’s just a quick fire questions, and it’s just what comes straight into your head. Don’t think about it too long. It’s just what comes straight into your hand. Once your favourite word.
Stuart Griffin 53:41
I’m allowed to swear.
Jamie Levy 53:42
You can say whatever you want. Fuck. What’s your least favourite word? Can’t what sound or noise do you love? laughter What sound or noise Do you hate? Silence.
Stuart Griffin 54:03
What’s your favourite curse word? for Fox sake. And the reason is that can mean so many things. If you’re Irish, it means one thing if you’re English to another Scottish, you know that it can be it can be tough. Same resignation can be the fox saying that’s brilliant. It can be fun. Ah, yeah, you can do anything. Yeah.
Jamie Levy 54:24
What’s your greatest fear in life?
Stuart Griffin 54:30
Jamie Levy 54:32
which living which person living or dead, the most of my,
Stuart Griffin 54:39
my wife. And why? Number one, because she has to put up with me. Number one, she’s doing a job that’s infinitely harder than I am. And she gets absolutely no value for it. She’s bringing up the future generation, the biggest legacy you can you can leave Forget the money, all of that stuff. He children. Okay, and unfortunately, given the job I do, she’s done a lot more of that than I have.
Jamie Levy 55:07
If you didn’t do procurement, what would you have done?
Stuart Griffin 55:15
Wow. Well, I never have gone back into the family farm because I get asthma and hay fever. So the last thing that would have done, my love is brewing. If I could have stayed in the brewing industry in the operation side of things. Fair enough. I’ll be about 32 stone and probably have a beer on my third liver. But, you know, brewery management is fantastic. It’s so short, it’s fun, it’s engaging. Fair enough these days is a lot of button pushing with the big guys. But it’s good, fun.
Jamie Levy 55:47
And final question, if heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
Stuart Griffin 55:56
We’ve been expecting you.
Jamie Levy 56:01
That’s it. That’s a great way to end. Thank you, Stuart. And thank you for your time. You know you have a lovely weekend.
Stuart Griffin 56:11
Thank you very much. Now say again, if you want another session like this, feel free
Other Resources: Procurement Management