Our April edition of the Procurement Heads Big Interview series features Percy Davila, Vice President Procurement - Europe at Millennium Hotels & Resorts.
How did you get into Procurement?
When I left university, I worked in finance for about 6 years, before moving into banking. One of my bosses asked me to consider moving into more of a Procurement focused role – collecting data from suppliers, analysing it, and proposing the best solutions for the company, and I really enjoyed it. I’ve liked numbers and negotiating ever since I was a kid, don’t ask me why!
In 2003, the company I was working for sent me to the UK to study English and I decided to stay. I worked for an Italian hotel in reception for 3 months, before moving to an Accounts Assistant role. I ended up staying there for 7 years, within finance and then moving into Procurement. I was processing all the invoices and dealing with all reconciliation of the supplier accounts. I got very involved with supplier relationship management, and I really enjoyed that part. I find that with a good relationship, the communication is much easier meaning you can achieve so much more. I always challenge the process, and so I started asking why we were placing orders in such a way, or why certain contracts weren’t in place. I eventually started putting systems in place myself.
I started studying for my CIMA qualification in 2009, still a little unsure whether to stay in finance but I made the decision that Procurement was where I wanted to focus. I discussed this with my employer and they offered me a Purchasing Manager and Cost Controller role. It was really interesting and challenging role – I was able to look at the bigger picture and really challenge myself.
Eventually, I began to look for something different – I wanted to experience a different industry other than hospitality, and I ended up working for a Facilities Management company. It was a jump from a company with a 9m turnover and 2m spend, to over 40m spend. I was also managing a team of 5 people. Two very different companies and experiences! I’d been in that role for about 2 and half years and by that point, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. It’s never been about money or title for me. I know the industry I want to work in and the projects I want to get involved in. I have a real passion for what I do. I love Procurement, so when I talk about it it’s from the heart. I have a lot of respect for the profession. I consider myself a good Procurement professional, but I want to be much better. Having worked in different companies, I have broad experience in Procurement, and I am trying to apply that experience and share my knowledge with my team, to help develop them. But to continue that development, I must also develop myself.
What a fascinating journey into Procurement! What does your typical working day look like?
I wake at around 4:30am (I don’t sleep for long, probably only 4 to 5 hours a night) and I start my day by reading books or researching online – I enjoy watching different types of documentaries and getting an understanding for new things. It’s important to me that I start my day well so around 7am I usually go to yoga or spinning and then head to the office around 8.30am. Because I don’t sleep for long, I don’t get much chance to switch off so I’ll have already planned my day without realising – I constantly check emails and I already know the projects I want to focus on. I am a very well organised person, in fact some people say that I am OCD.
I always work closely with my team to prioritise current projects, establish any support they need and discuss any upcoming projects. I really like spending time with my team, I’m not a person who wants to work alone all the time. I spend a lot of time at my desk during the day (drinking a lot of espressos!) so at lunch, I prefer to get some fresh air rather than eat in the canteen.
After work I go running, watch movies or meet friends. I have a lot of free time and it’s important to me that I have a good work/life balance. I’m in the office from 8.30-5.30 and I consider that enough time. I work very fast, which I much prefer over working long hours. Especially as my office doesn’t have windows!
What aspects of your role do you both love, and find challenging?
Procurement is a relatively new career and because of that, you can face different challenges all the time. While you’re working on a project, you can realise that the process you have in place needs a review, or needs another element added – because it’s so new it’s constantly evolving. I’m the sort of person who, if I don’t have the answers there and then, will then go and find them. I do enjoy the challenge!
Another challenge at the moment is Brexit. I now need to check credit ratings of companies probably on a daily basis and am trying to make sure I have a back up plan in place should Brexit affect any of our suppliers. I am in regular contact with our affected suppliers and offer help where I can to keep our business running smoothly – and that’s quite challenging.
One part of the role that I love is building the bridges between Procurement and the other departments, because Procurement really is a support function. We need to work with various operational teams to help them deliver and achieve the best for the business. This, for me, is the most exciting part of the role. It’s very rewarding when you finally have a system in place that has the whole business working together effectively.
What success are you most proud of in your career to date?
If I look back to when I first arrived in the UK in 2003, and I look at myself now I’m really amazed by what I have achieved. I’m very proud of what I have accomplished in the last 15 years. For me though, this is just the start of the journey! I know what I’m capable of delivering so I’m looking forward to what is to come.
Have you observed any trends within Procurement recently?
I would say I’ve noticed an increase in the amount of systems Procurement professionals have available. In the past, we’d be using a lot of Excel but nowadays we have proper systems in place for tracking and analysing data, monitoring suppliers and achieving better cost savings.
Something else that is changing is companies realising the need for a Procurement team within the business. In the past, companies would just think, “finance is dealing with it”, or “maybe we should get a cost controller”. A cost controller is very different to a Procurement professional!
If you could give any advice to your younger self, what would it be?
When I was at school, I hated the English language. I’ve always had a fantastic memory, almost photographic, and so I didn’t need to study that hard, because I managed to remember everything and I knew I would pass my exams. At university I was the same. But because I never needed to study, and I didn’t know how important it would be to know the English language, I never took the time to learn. I realised that when I arrived in England. I was 28 years old at the time, and it held me back at first – it was a big barrier. So if there is one piece of advice to my younger self – it would be to learn the language. If I could give advice to anybody, it would be to learn more than one language. Especially in Procurement!
In your current role, what are the 3 essential skills required?
- A great memory.
- Being able to think outside the box and look at the bigger picture.
- A really good understanding of your projects before you start.
And finally, what about you Percy – what do you like to do outside of work?
I like so many things! I like music, salsa music is one of my favourites. Running, spinning, yoga. I always like to challenge myself, so last year I did a marathon in Paris and I cycled from Nice to San Remo – breakfast in France and lunch in Italy, it was just brilliant! I’ll never say no. I really like to experience different things. I enjoy good food and drinks with my friends. I have no family in Europe, so my friends here are my family. And of course – I love Procurement!
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