My #1 procurement career tip: be connected

IanColcroft_100.pngBy Ian Holcroft

As you move forward with your career, remember that it is not just about the number of connections that you have – it is about the quality of your connections. As the old adage goes: it is not about what you know, but who you know.

As the majority of us spend more time working from home in the ‘new normal’, being connected is more important than ever.

Be connected with your peers from a cross section of industries
Being connected to your peers, not just from your industry but across sectors, is a great way to learn about both current and future best practice. You can discuss key topics of the day and benchmark your procurement and supply chain maturity, both as an individual and as an organisation.

I have learnt so much from being a member of The Faculty Roundtable (whilst I lived in Australia) and the Procurious Roundtable (now that I am back in the United Kingdom). Not only through the top-drawer guest speakers that come and share their knowledge, but through the connections that I have made from being a member.

Making the time to attend these events is always a stretch, but the benefits massively outweigh the time required to catch up at work.

Investing the time to listen to the challenges and opportunities that others face, and discussing these in an open forum with your peers, can be truly enlightening. When you have had the fortune to share ideas with the likes of Paul Menzies, Len Blackmore, Naomi Lloyd, Andrew Ordish and Matthew Kay in Sydney, or Matt Beddoe, Phil English, Bruce Morrison, Lauren Ferry, Chris Eccleston and Ross Mandiwall in London, you know the power of a strong peer network. Learning from professionals with extensive experience in a vast array of industries provides a diversity of thought that helps you to improve as a person and enhances your strategic thinking and knowledge.

Be connected and highly engaged with your own team
With an ever-increasing myriad of stakeholders to manage, it is imperative that you create enough time to manage your own team. Whether face-to-face, via Teams, Skype or Zoom, I try to create enough time for team meetings, one-on-ones and other connection opportunities.

Building great relationships with your team helps you to build a great team ethos, with everyone pulling in the same direction, with no room for mavericks or terrorists. I always remember someone telling me that you need to spend 30% of your time with your people, listening, encouraging and developing them. And they were right!

Also remember that it is important to connect with not only your direct reports. Over the last couple of years, we have introduced a Procurement Development Group at Murphy. It enables up-and-coming procurement team members to work on some key topics set by the procurement leadership team. The Procurement Development Group presents their recommendations to the senior team, giving them exposure to people they do not often come into contact with. This opportunity has been really appreciated by our future leaders and can lead to accelerated career progression. Their work has also produced some fantastic results for our organisation – so it has been a win-win for everyone involved.

Be a mentor and be mentored
Mentoring, or being mentored, is another great way of staying connected. I am a big believer that having the right mentor can help with your career progression. Each of the key members of my team are either mentored by a Senior Director at Murphy or by a leading Chief Procurement Officer (CPO), arranged by Procurious, from an external organisation – and the feedback I receive on this is so positive!

I enjoy mentoring people because I get as much out of the sessions as the mentees. It is great to get different views, hear other perspectives and see careers flourish.

Never be too intimidated to ask someone to mentor you. After all, what is the worst they can say? “No”? And if they say yes, remember that it is you – the mentee – who needs to drive the relationship. As with everything, you only get out what you put in.

Be connected: inside work and out
With the COVID-19-imposed increased isolation, we are all faced with the challenge of ensuring that we are both physically and mentally healthy. A great way of taking your mind off the job is by doing something outside of work that you really enjoy and involves interaction with others.

We all need to give something back to society. It provides such fulfilment. So, whether it is charitable work or sport, get connected externally and make a difference.

My great passion, in addition to my family, is rugby. It has given me so many amazing experiences and memories over the years. When I was asked to become Chairman at the Club that I played at for 20 years, there was only one answer!

I am now in my second season. This opportunity has given me a host of new challenges and learning experiences, which I am thoroughly enjoying. It has also afforded me the chance to meet and work with some more amazing people, keeping me ever more connected.

And finally…
It is important to maximise the value that you get from quality connections. But also remember that you should deliver value to your connections as well.

Ian Holcroft has worked in procurement and supply chain in the construction and infrastructure sectors for more than 30 years.


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