What Buyers Do
All companies require raw materials and finished goods in order to conduct business and carry out operations. It’s up to the buyer, sometimes called a procurement officer, to make sure sound purchases of these items are made in a cost-effective way.
Buyers look at the materials and goods that are purchased, identify opportunities for savings, negotiate with vendors, and track budgets as well as savings. Although some companies still have one person overseeing all aspects of the supply chain, including sourcing, procurement, transport, storage, and distribution, most are realizing the financial benefits of having a dedicated buyer or procurement team, particularly those with large purchasing needs.
Who would enjoy a career in Buying and Procurement?
Effective buyers must be both analytical and outside-the-box thinkers, as they’re constantly evaluating vendors and their offerings to identify cost savings. Being organized and strategic are important traits as well, particularly when it comes to tracking and monitoring progress.
Those in procurement must additionally be dedicated to the company they work for, as single orders can cost millions, and effective management can make or break a company’s budget. Moreover, there is some potential for unethical behavior, as vendors sometimes try to sway buyers with gifts or favors in an effort to be selected. Excellent communication and negotiation skills are also required.
Who mightn't like the career?
Comfort with technology, such as supply chain management software, as well as spreadsheet programs like Excel, are essential components of the job, so it’s not a good fit for people who aren’t good with technology or multitasking.
Buyers can also sometimes feel like they’re under attack daily, either by the company they work for because objectives aren’t being met or by vendors for payment issues, tough negotiations, or canceled orders. For this reason, it’s not a good career path for those who are riled easily.
There are no steadfast requirements for obtaining a position as a buyer. Various degrees related to supply chain management, logistics, or business are accepted by employers. Getting experience as an intern or in an entry-level position is beneficial. It is also helpful to join a recognized professional organization, such as the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport or the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply.
It’s essential for candidates to select an industry and/or niche that’s well-known to them and to research the company in advance to get a better idea of what its needs, goals, and expectations will be before the interview. Questions typically surround areas of expertise as well as prior experience managing difficult situations with stakeholders and vendors.
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Moving into Buying and Procurement from another career
Most people who get into procurement do not intend to. It’s often a second career people transition into, either as an intentional decision or as the result of a company reorganization. Most who move into the career have a background in another aspect of supply chain management, business, or finance, but engineers have made the switch as well. Those without any related background, but who possess most of the necessary skills, can often take short certification course in logistics or procurement to get into an entry-level position as well. For further reading, see “A Career Twists and Turns Out in Procurement” and “Breaking into a Supply Chain Management Career.”
Role: Newcomers to the field with no experience typically begin in an analyst role. Their days are spent gathering and sorting data regarding vendors and costs. They may spend some time following up with vendors on specific issues and performing some vendor management duties.
Role: Those with experience work as buyers. They do some of the duties analysts do, but also handle ordering, negotiating with vendors, monitor to ensure vendors are meting expected guidelines, and troubleshoot issues as they occur.
Role: Not every company offers a procurement project manager position. However, those who do work as project managers complete work similar to a procurement/ purchasing manager, but on a smaller, project-based scale. Coordinating buyers, managing procurement agents, and establishing the distribution of project products are part of the typical job duties.
Purchasing Manager/ Procurement Manager
Role: The purchasing manager is responsible for a company’s supply chain and maintains the inventory. He or she also helps to establish policies, standardized procedures, and works to reduce expenses.
Chief Procurement Officer (CPO)
Role: The CPOs are responsible for creating company strategies for all procurement projects. Thy oversee all procurement spending, create budgets, and may handle vendor negotiations as well. The CPO role is a newer emerging title companies are only recently beginning to integrate.
Travel for buyers is typically negligible, though at a CPO-level, individuals may travel to different locations a company does business. Those who are skilled in the field may also find work wherever they wish across the globe, making travel or relocation an option if desired.
Analyst: Data from PayScale indicates that base salaries average USD$60,000 in the United States, ₤28,000 in the United Kingdom, CAD$52,000 in Canada, and AU$71,000 in Australia.
Buyer: USD$51,849, £26,569, CAD$54,066, and AU$71,666.
Purchasing/ Procurement Manager: USD$81,000, £37,914, CAD$81,600, and AU$97,387. (Telegraph places UK salary at £130,000.)
Chief Procurement Officer: USD$177,994, £74,500. (Canadian and Australian salaries not available. Telegraph places UK salary at just under £200,000)
Bonuses and profit sharing are not always a big part of a buyer’s take-home pay, but it can add 15% or more onto a professional’s salary in some cases.
Why Buyers move on
There are a few challenges associated with being in procurement, such as often being at odds with the company when there are vendor issues or having trouble with vendors when they aren’t meeting expectations.
Those who work for large corporations may also struggle with restructuring and positions changing or being removed. For many who leave, going back to school and obtaining a graduate degree is the next step, but others who began the career with a degree and have experience may move into business operations, development, or finance. For further reading, see “What is a career in Procurement like?” and “Exit opportunities for supply chain?”