Low-cost procurement might be dangerousWhen we ask for advice we are usually looking for an accomplice. In other words, if we are putting together a complex event we often have a number of go-to suppliers who we know can do the job and also deliver it the way we want it. They may not be the cheapest or the most fashionable or have beautiful offices but we have been working together for a long time and we understand each other…mostly.
However, the rise of formal procurement has brought with it new commercial disciplines that make contracting with old and trusted suppliers a little difficult. It is clear that the procurement people help to drive costs down and sometimes by their very detachment they can unearth a supplier you have never heard of. But be careful what you wish for when it comes to cost-effective event management.
It was Oscar Wilde who famously said: ‘A cynic is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing’. When it comes to procurement more trips to the theatre may be a good idea for professional buyers. They might learn something to their advantage.
‘Lowest cost’ usually means ‘lowest quality’, such is the nature of free market enterprise. Choosing a production team on the basis of the lowest price is a big risk in terms of creativity and reliability. Hiring spare kit, for example, in case the main kit is faulty is common practice with live events. But having kit in reserve costs more than having no kit standing by. As we all know, you only get one chance with live events.
Choosing the market leader is all very well and a safe bet for most professional buyers. But the team that presents the vast range of their wonderful services is not going to be the team that actually does the work. Although this is often covered in the procurement document, by the time the service is due to be delivered the executives chosen to do your project may have either left, moved on to other projects or been promoted to higher paying roles and no longer do what you want at the low price agreed.
Personal chemistry is an important part of event management. When the chips are down and there is an air traffic controllers’ strike or your five coaches have not turned up for the gala dinner transfer, you need to have a rapport with your suppliers to get things back on track. If you are being forced to work with procured suppliers you have never met, it’s just luck rather than judgement as to whether you will be able to work with them effectively, often over many months, to deliver a great event.
But assuming you are happy with what procurement have provided for you, don’t forget to take some time to communicate with the suppliers who were not chosen this time around.
There is nothing more dispiriting for a supplier than working on a presentation for several weeks with your marketing contact only to receive the dreaded ‘thank you for participating in this procurement exercise’ letter. Unfortunately they are normally drafted by the buyers who are not very good at offering advice about how to do better next time. In fact most ‘no thank you’ letters are written in such bland, broad, legalistic detail that it is clear they have no idea why a supplier was not successful. In the long run this helps neither the supplier nor the buyer when thinking about future projects.
Some standard rejection emails from procurement do offer the chance to discuss why a particular supplier was not chosen…but then these debrief meetings never happen as everyone is ‘too busy’ on the next project. As my granny used to say, ‘fine words butter no parsnips’.
Event management is a team game. One person alone cannot run a large commercial event so helping the team do better next time, including procurement, is a worthwhile objective to aim for.