Three Procurement Lessons from Jimmy: Purpose, Simplicity and Attitude

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Three Procurement Lessons from Jimmy: Purpose, Simplicity and Attitude

This post is a tribute to Jimmy and the procurement lessons that could be learned from him to improve the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of your procurement team. It is inspired by the free life lessons I picked up when, notwithstanding the  weather, I went for my morning walk and so often encountered Jimmy. It is all about purpose, attitude and simplicity.

Who the heck is Jimmy?

Jimmy lives in a retirement village. I used to encounter him when we lived in the same neighbourhood.

I have to say – whoever chose the location of the retirement village, picked a prime spot (so not!). It is both close to the hospitals AND right opposite the cemetery!

Jimmy is more than 90 years old.

Jimmy wakes up at three in the morning, drink his coffee in bed in the dark and thinks it is heaven to enjoy his coffee and have the world all to himself in those  quiet hours.

As Jimmy says:

“I am rich, what more can I ask for?”.

Then he gets up, starts cleaning and sweeping all around the retirement village. Jimmy picks up the dog poo, even sweeps the parking spots on the road.  I often found Jimmy sweeping the foot paths across the road.

Then he has his “lunch” and has his “afternoon” nap at 9h30. Goes to town in the afternoon.

As you can see by now, I am a huge fan of Jimmy.


Because Jimmy inspires me. I learn from Jimmy.

He also used to act as my guilty conscience when it is so much easier to stay in my warm bed. Even now when I am living in a totally different suburb.

If Jimmy can get up and going at the crack of dawn, how can I stay in bed???

When one looks at Jimmy, one can think that the odds are stacked up against Jimmy.  Living across the cemetery when you are more than ninety years old, can be depressing. You know that the next step is just across the road.

But, Jimmy is not depressed. He finds his own purpose and has an amazing positive attitude.

He goes the extra mile – without any one asking him to do so.

In reality, not only does he keep up the gardens out of his own accord, but he makes it safe for so many others.  The older we get, the easier it becomes to slip, fall and break stuff. Clean paths, slippery dog poo removed, makes the world a safer place for older people.  Jimmy cares.

Jimmy’s smile, sense of humour and kind words must bring hope for the others living opposite the cemetery.

Jimmy and Procurement – an unlikely match?

Maybe it is.

It certainly is not only procurement that can learn procurement lessons from Jimmy.

All of us can learn from Jimmy.

Then why would I even ask:

What procurement lessons can we learn from Jimmy?

Ichiban Commercial Solutions Procurement Lessons Improving Procurement Outcomes

What is the meaning of “procure”?

How handy is it that I have spent about ten years of my life, learning Latin.  I even refreshed it recently on one of those language apps to keep my brain nimble.

It certainly helps with working out the meaning of words in the English language.

Procure comes from the Latin word procurare  that means to “manage, take care of;”

Or to break it down even further from pro “in behalf of” (see pro-) + curare “care for”.

Is Procurement seen to be caring?

It’s only been since I have stepped onto the other side of the fence that I realised how differently procurement is viewed.

Right or wrong, procurement is often viewed negatively. Procurement is often seen not to be caring.  This is not only the view of suppliers but internal customers.

However when we get back to the basics, procurement has the meaning of “care” or to “care for“.

I think it is our duty as procurement professionals to bring back the concept of care in what we do and how we do it.

Procurement can take on board the simple life lessons from Jimmy and turn those into procurement lessons.

So, what Procurement lessons can we learn from Jimmy?

A Sense of Purpose makes people (and therefore companies) go the extra mile

Jimmy is not getting paid nor has anyone asked him to sweep paths and pick up poo. Jimmy could accept the contract that he is dealt and wait to be moved across the road to the greener pastures of the cemetery. He does – he  finds his own sense of purpose in doing what he does.  He goes many extra miles.

Many of the supplier companies that I work with and have worked with in the past, will go the extra mile as long as they have a sense of purpose and belonging. But if they are not heard or recognised, you will get what you ask for – and pay for it.

Procurement Lesson #1: A sense of purpose in business is often as simple as making sure suppliers get paid on time and are being treated with respect and not arrogance.

Setting up complicated processes and tick boxes is similar to trying to sweep water uphill: it gets you nowhere.

Adding additional complexity does not achieve better outcomes or make your team more effective.

Complicated processes and tick boxes do no lead to a better outcome, in fact it often creates more opportunities for distraction.

A perfect example is the issue in local government procurement – notwithstanding the processes and tick boxes, many local councils still struggle to keep corruption and bribery out of the system.  They are trying to sweep water uphill.

In the world of procurement, not enough of us take the time to make sure that we are clear on the outcome and our suppliers understand the outcome to. It is counterproductive. Therefore, it gets you nowhere.

Procurement Lesson #2: Simplicity keeps procurement in perspective and achieves outcomes.

Attitude makes a difference.

There is movement and hope in procurement.  It is refreshing to see and encounter many more likeminded people with can-do and positive attitudes.

Procurement is not on a pedestal or something special – providing a service one cannot be on a pedestal.

As procurement professionals we all have the choice of attitude.  If we want to make a difference, we will.

When we go back to the basics and remember that procurement stems from pro “in behalf of” (see pro-) + curare “care for”, we will have the right attitude.

It will be like sweeping water downhill – it flows.

Procurement Lesson #3: Attitude does make a difference.

In conclusion, leaving you with Jimmy’s wise words:

“It is my purpose to sweep water downhill, because I learned that trying to sweep water uphill, I fight a losing battle.”

Such simple wisdom, but very true.

My gratitude to Jimmy for the opportunity to learn and be reminded about a few more life lessons.

May you find the opportunities within your procurement team to improve outcome through care, simplicity and purpose.

Learn more how you can benchmark your procurement team and work out how best you can improve your procurement outcomes, effectiveness and performance.

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About the Author:

Celia Jordaan has more than 30 years international and corporate experience and worked in the areas of procurement, tenders, supply chain, contract management, law and risk. She works with business of all sizes and industries, procurement leaders and teams to develop and implement strategies to boost business performance, make tendering easy and improve bottom line performance.

To learn more about Celia Jordaan, please click here.

For more information on how we can assist your procurement team, your business with tendering or strategic business development and planning, please send us an email today.

Ichiban Commercial Solutions Procurement Advice and Tendering Solutions Celia Jordaan

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