Buying “like for like”. A man in a beauty store


Not the easiest task ever. Not for everyone. And still, very often procurement people face the task of “buying like for like”: according to the sample, according to the picture. This weekend reminded me of that.

Imagine a small company – family. Imagine a very demanding operations department (woman). Imagine a man, representing procurement department. And a requisition to buy “like for like”, with a sample provided. Let me tell you again, it is not an easy task. Not always. Especially, when it comes to a (typical) man, buying cosmetics (come on, Ricardo, you didn’t really expect me not to write about this, did you???).

It’s lazy Saturday morning and I realise, that I cannot leave home (I mean, I can’t really even leave the bed), because I ran out of eye liner. You know, ladies, one of those days – when any excuse to stay in bed is good. And running out of eye liner is something of a size of snow in the middle of August in Lisbon. Anyway, my partner agreed to stop by at Boots on his way that morning. To be safe, I handed in a sample of exactly what I wanted. There is nothing, that can go wrong, you think? Oh well, think again.

The sample was black tiny bottle of a specific brand, specific color, specific functionality (waterproof) eye liner. The bottle was black. My partner came home two hours later, with a big smile on his face, handing back a golden color (!!!), same manufacturer, completely not waterproof eye liner… There I was – standing silently, looking at a completely wrong (in my opinion) bottle, completely happy partner’s face and trying to understand, what and why went wrong. Now it seems funny – I simply did not explain, what is the most important. Also, did not think about how really hard he would want to help me in such a disastrous (running out of eye liner!!! OMG!!!) situation. It turns out – the shop ran out of the item, and the shop assistant offered “closest match”. I bet you get loads of that from your suppliers?!

It was not funny at the beginning. But then I thought of all of the moments, when MY technical department stakeholders were looking at me silently – like I was, just a moment before. Yup, buying “like for like” is not easy. Needless to say, I did not mention the liner again…

Easy morning to everyone! Thanks for reading!

Buying “like for like”. A man in a beauty store

Toilet Paper Test. With results

toilet paper

Albert Einstein once said: “if you cannot explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”. And I so much believe it! Life is simple, procurement is simple – unless people ruin it by bringing in all that unnecessary complexity… I will keep this post short and simple too for few reasons:

  1. It is simple.
  2. I did not like the results of my experiment (yup, it is always easier to write about “revelations”, “scandals”, “NEWS!!!” – especially in a bad context. And this time it is not the case. Well, not entirely.).

I have to admit I have a professional disease. I like to know, how efficiently organizations are managing their spend. Especially public ones. And it is definitely not something they are willing to share openly with anyone that opens reception door. However, there are signs to look out for, which give insights very quickly and easy. I call it toilet paper test.

So here it goes: every time I go to any public toilet (GP, airport, schools), I check few things: paper dispensers and the paper itself (or, of course, different technologies – air blades). It is very easy to distinguish between cheap simple paper and a very expensive, printed fancy paper. That simple thing can show you, whether or not a school or GP are potentially overspending up to 30% for this category. And, if they are not working on cost reductions (or over-specification elimination) in this category – what makes you think they work better in other areas?

A week ago (OK, a month ago) I was reading a description of difference between good and bad scientist. And one of the points was saying, that good scientists are ready to accept any results of their experiments: despite the anticipations they had. So here it goes…

I have checked ten schools and three GPs. I have the names written down – should anyone would be after details. I was expecting to see that expensive paper everywhere (or at least in most places). And my assumptions were wrong. The results showed, that only two organizations had very expensive backsides. Eight organizations were using “average” products and three of the list were using “lowest specifications” paper. I (we) should be happy! Yay.

However, then I remembered another exercise that I did about uniforms The Emperor’s new clothes. Or what does it take to become efficient in procurement. Does it mean, that when it comes to their own money, people (organizations) are managing it quite properly, but when it becomes an opportunity to make decisions about “someone else’s” money,  all the logic goes away? Once again – universities and experience can give you tools and knowledge. But none of them can give you the right attitude (and the importance of it is shortly covered here: Dark Matter in Procurement?)

Toilet Paper Test. With results