Procurement Heads talk to Jody about his journey into Procurement, day-to-day life within Peabody and the essential skills and characteristics that he feels are key to Procurement professionals, along with top tips and advice to those considering, or in the early stages of a Procurement role.
How did you get into Procurement?
During my final year of high school, I spent two weeks with Suffolk County Council as a work experience student in their purchasing and supplies function.
At that point I wasn’t wedded to a specific career and so had two enjoyable weeks doing everything from filing purchase orders to supplier visits while understanding how the purchasing and supplies function operated but at the end of the two weeks, I discovered a genuine interest in Procurement.
I never wanted to go to university, and at the time I left high school, Suffolk County Council were running an apprenticeship scheme for Procurement professionals.
I was 18 years old when I joined their very well-established Procurement function – there were about 45 people in the function split into teams with different disciplines.
I spent time with each of these disciplines over the space of 13 years, with roles ranging from Procurement Advisor to Category Manager – working my way through the ranks I suppose.
My time with Suffolk County Council gave me a really well-developed and deep understanding of the public sector and just how vast Procurement can be – I literally procured everything from food for school dinners to Mental Health Services.
I joined the London Borough of Waltham Forest in 2011 as a Category Manager and spent 6 years here redefining the Procurement function, setting up shared services and cross-brand collaboration.
When it was time for my next move, Peabody came up. I suppose it’s luck that I got into Procurement – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it and I’ve had the chance to do really well with it.
What success are you most proud of in your career to date?
I’m fortunate enough to have been involved in some really big and exciting projects throughout my Procurement career – some that Procurement doesn’t always have the chance to be involved in!
When I was working for Suffolk County Council, we merged 8 buildings into one new headquarters (which doesn’t often happen) and I led the Procurement and installation of all the new office furniture – about 1.3 million pounds worth!
It’s always nice to do something a bit different.
When I was working on Mental Health Services, we changed the way that was both funded and delivered.
As a Procurement function, we changed the whole offering for the better and that was a really rewarding project.
Most recently, I worked with the homelessness services across a number of London Boroughs to understand the current situation with the housing crisis and how it affects the placing of those classed as homeless.
My job was to look at how we can help in Procurement using new technology to deliver an improved solution.
I think the proudest moment of my whole career was being appointed Head of Procurement at Peabody.
This really is the pinnacle for me – it’s what I’ve been working towards since the beginning of my career and I’ve achieved it within such a prestigious company.
I’ve built my own vision for Procurement and how it can operate and work within the business and seeing the senior team buying into my vision by appointing me Head of Procurement was a really proud moment for me.
What do you both love and find challenging in your role?
The varied nature of Procurement is both a love and a challenge! Each day I attend various different meetings, discussing various different topics and I have to be able to talk from a point of knowledge with industry experts in each meeting.
As a Head of Procurement, you need a thorough understanding of the market you’re working in so that you can offer something of value to each conversation. I really enjoy this aspect of my role.
At the moment, Peabody is undergoing a merger with Family Mosaic, and my remit has been increased to cover Payments as well as Procurement, so this is a new challenge.
I’m directly responsible for this now so I must review all the systems and processes we have in place to ensure everything fits the new organisation, as well as understand what best practice looks like in order to implement it within Peabody going forward. It’s quite exciting but very challenging because it’s outside my normal comfort zone.
What does your typical day at work look like for you?
I usually get to the office by 8 am and spend the first-hour sorting emails and prepping for the day.
I normally have 3 or 4 meetings and these are really varied – contract reviews, project planning, and at the moment we have a lot of integration activity going on around the two organisations coming together so there’s usually at least one meeting about that.
There are also the general queries you get in-between meetings, as well as catching up with all the teams to make sure everything is operating smoothly for them.
At the moment I have the procurement function and two separate payment teams and I like to spend time with each of them daily. And of course, we’re all driven by emails, so I try to make sure I’ve responded to at least the bulk of them by the end of the day.
What trends have you observed within Procurement recently?
There’s been a big shift from the days when it was all about price, to a focus on quality. I’ve noticed the changing of titles and activities, from “Purchasing and Supplies” through to “Procurement”, and over the last few years, I’ve noticed the added value Procurement brings to the table such as providing sound market knowledge and commercial thinking.
People are realising the value we bring, as we regularly get asked questions like, “how should I structure that commercial element?”, “what sort of negotiating process should we go into?” or “how should we start looking at contract management?”.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Looking back, there are a couple of key things I should have done better.
Firstly: make better notes. Sometimes it’s quite easy to forget what you’ve done, the areas you’ve worked in and the projects you’ve delivered when thinking back over the years.
Secondly: network better! I’m good at it now – but I suppose that confidence comes with age and experience.
When I was younger attending conferences and events, which were a great opportunity to network, I was the quiet one standing in the corner enjoying the free lunch!
Thirdly: get CIPS passed quicker.
It took me a long time due to changing the curriculum and getting distracted by big projects – sometimes I’d have to postpone exams. I’d have really benefited from getting that completed sooner.
And lastly, don’t wear cartoon ties!
What would you consider to be the essential skills and characteristics of a Group Head of Procurement?
- You must be resilient
- Build good internal and external raport
- Team working skills
Our Big Interview Series features Procurement Professionals throughout London and the Home Counties.
It’s an opportunity to shed some light on the specialist world of Procurement and those who work within it. If you’d like to feature in our next Big Interview, contact us on 01962 869838 or drop us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org