Teamwork

March 19th, 2020

Why the Importance of Teamwork is Essential

 

Today’s blog is by Margaret Stewart, Director of HR and Administration at SafeSourcing.

Throughout school, sports, and work the importance of teamwork is heavily advocated. In sports, we rely on our teammates’ strengths to create a better and stronger team, often leading to success and wins. With school, we are often assigned group products where everyone has a role to do and the overall project receives a score weighing to stronger work with the weaker. In work, teamwork can help us solve problems through combined experience and using mastered skills to create a more excellent outcome of a project.

 Using teamwork at work is especially important now with the current state of the country and world. We already rely heavily on each other for things we ourselves cannot provide and now is especially important to retain those same teams to work to continue accomplishing goals. Whether you are far or near, you have the tools to stay up to date with each other as if you are in the next room.

 Tools can help you perform your work faster and more easily, but it can also be your lifeline when disaster happens. Whether it is a hurricane, tornado, pandemic, or martial law, we need tools to get through it together. SafeSourcing can help you discover ways in which your organization could benefit for the betterment of all your employees and customers. SafeSourcing offers a full suite of e-procurement tools that can streamline your work processes, like keeping all your documents in one web based and secure location or monitoring your current contracts and know when any given contract might expire. In addition, SafeSourcing tools can help your procurement team source the right supplies and the right suppliers for any need your organization might have.

 For more information on how SafeSourcing can help your sourcing efforts, or on our Risk Free trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative. We have an entire team ready to assist you today.

 

 

Gourmet Grocers Losing Their Edge

March 18th, 2020

Supermarket chains and discounters are selling more natural and organic foods at lower prices

 

 Today’s blog is by Gayl Southard, Administrative Assistant it SafeSourcing.

 Supermarket chains and discounters are selling more natural and organic foods at lower prices, drawing more traffic from shoppers that frequented specialty grocers. Kroger recently announced they are one of the largest sellers of organic produce, meat and other goods, while discounters such as Audi and Lidl are adding much more fresh foods and opening more US locations. Since Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, the grocer has cut prices on hundreds of items, including organic produce. As a result of these changes, specialty stores are finding it difficult to keep up. In recent weeks Earth Fare and Lucky’s Market have filed for bankruptcy. Sprouts Farmers Market, Inc. and Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, Inc. shares are down about 30% and 50% over the past year. What seemed special ten years ago, doesn’t seem so special today.

There are some specialty grocers emphasizing better services to stand out, but offering better services can push up costs.

“Some executives said Whole Foods became a tougher rival after the chain started offering rapid delivery via Amazon. Green Aisle Grocery closed its two Philadelphia stores in January after sales decreased 30% over the past two years, co-owner Andrew Erace said.”1. Erace indicated that his business could not compete, nor did they have the resources to upgrade their technology.

For more information on how SafeSourcing can help your procurement efforts, or on our Risk

Free trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative. We have an entire team ready to assist you today.

References

Jaewon Kangaroo, WSJ, 3/2/2020

 

 

Is it too Late?

March 17th, 2020

So you've realized that you’ve been too comfortable and now there’s a PANDEMIC!

 

Today’s post is by Dave Wenig, Vice President of Sales and Services at SafeSourcing, Inc.

If you read my last blog post titled,Are you too comfortable?” and realized I was describing your organization then read on. Actually, please keep reading anyway.

When I wrote a month ago and posed that question, I honestly had no idea that the markets were about to tumble, schools would close down, businesses would send their employees home, sporting events would be cancelled, and more. While I was aware and even concerned about Coronavirus (COVID-19), that’s not what I was referring to. That said, this terrible pandemic has, in fact, already started challenging US businesses and this looks likely to continue. The question now is, whether or not it is too late to take actions that will help your company survive the pandemic.

In all likelihood we can still help. There is still time to take steps. Even if you are already a responsible steward of your company’s expenses, there is still likely room for improvement and any areas where you can reduce costs in a market like this are absolutely worth the effort. If you’re curious about how well you are doing with your strategic sourcing, then this blog I posted a while back will help you get a sense. Look, we save our customers greater than 24% on average across all of their spend categories. I don’t have to ask if that would be helpful. I know that would help any organization.

But, it’s not just cost reductions. Concerns are steadily growing about the stability of organizations’ supply chains and now is not the time to have all of your eggs in one vendors’ basket. If you’ve been following SafeSourcing, you probably know that we have a supplier database consisting of over 457,000 global suppliers of any good or service you might need to run your business. Even if all you need is to supplement your current supply chain with additional sources of supply or alternate service providers, we can help with that too.

Just don’t wait too long. If there’s anything that I’m sure of as this awful situation caused by Coronavirus continues to unfold across the globe, it’s that the only wrong way to prepare is to do nothing.

Stay safe and don’t be shy if you need assistance. We’re all in this together.

If you would like more information on how SafeSourcing can help you, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service representative.  We have an entire team ready to assist you today.

 

 

REMINDER! CIO Applications Magazine Honors SafeSourcing

March 13th, 2020

Do you need additional sources of supply. We know where there are 457,000 of them!

 

SafeSourcing Inc., a leading eProcurement company offering a complete Procure to Pay suite of applications, has been recognized as one of the World‘s top auction application companies by CIO magazine.

CIO magazine has listed SafeSourcing, Inc. as one of the top ten auction platforms in its recent magazine edition. The article recognizes SafeSourcing as being a one-stop e-procurement and sourcing center, striking a balance of quality, affordability, product, and service.

“A strategic sourcing firm, SafeSourcing is at the forefront of offering a full suite of procure-to-pay tools under the SafeSourceIt™ banner which helps in reducing costs and improving efficiency” ~CIO magazine

CIO sat down with SafeSourcing CEO, Ronald D. Southard, to discuss the company’s value proposition, solutions, customer base, and future plans. In addition, the featured article elaborates on how SafeSourcing plays a role in e-procurement and how it accelerates efficiency and innovation.

SafeSourcing, Inc. provides cost effective tools under the SafeSourceIt™ product family that allows companies to dramatically reduce cost of goods, capital spending, and expenses in a timely manner while also reinforcing environmental and product safety programs. Focus is placed on a company’s entire spend for all products and services.

SafeSourcing’s early stage client engagement is specifically focused on cost reduction through the use of a white glove service based  on a detailed six step process using the SafeSourceIt™ e-RFX application suite.

Please visit www.safesourcing.com in order to  learn more.

 

The Future of Work and Pay – Part 2

March 12th, 2020

Automation, Output, and Employment

 

Today’s part 2 repost is from our archives at  SafeSourcing.

When I was in high school, a music album cost me $15-$20. Today, for $10 a month or less, I can literally listen to any song in the world as much as I want. Similarly, the amount of calories that are available to me for relatively little money is greater than it’s ever been in the history of mankind. Medical advancements have lowered mortality rates, and will allow me to live longer than I ever would have been able to in past decades. So in many ways, you could say that even after compensating for inflation, we are more wealthy today than we have ever been just in terms of access to more, cheaper, and better quality resources. However, we also need to consider that the producers, like in the music industry, are making only tiny fractions of what they used to. This loss of profit margin spans across all industries being affected by automation, and equates to there being less jobs available, as well as less pay available  for those positions. However, there are many who think that because income used to be higher when compared to inflation, and things like education and healthcare used to be cheaper, that we should revert back to the industrial practices of previous decades.

Although manufacturing is critical to output, not all manufacturing practices should be lumped together in the same bucket. To say that an industrial machine press of 30 years ago is the same as one from 2017 would be ludicrous. Today’s machine presses have a throughput that is higher, and their operation takes much less man power than of previous generations. Factory jobs that used to need thousands of workers now take hundreds, and require much more advanced education. So when it is proposed that the solution to all of America’s problems is to gain back the factory jobs of the 90’s, we should take the advice Steve Job’s gave to Obama in 2011 when he said, “American manufacturing jobs are not coming back”. To go back to the factory jobs of 30 years ago, would be to reduce the available efficiency, and therefore increase the cost of current goods. In short, there’s no going back to “the way things were”.

For America to be competitive in the marketplace, manufacturing jobs will need to either have the same level of automation that modern international factories do, or be able to pay their laborers pennies on the hour as they do in countries with lower wage markets. Obviously, more productive capacity per capita is always the better option, but society will have to adjust to a new normal of lacking low-skill labor opportunities.

Work, career goals, professional community, and monetary incentive to produce goods and services are important reasons to keep the able-bodied working. So how do we keep our society doing fulfilling work, at a livable wage without de-incentivizing high level output and innovation? There are a few ideas being discussed right now:

• Universal Basic Income: A flat income rate, given to every citizen, regardless of how much or how little they work, or income they have.

• Negative Income Tax: A flat tax rate across all income brackets, but with payments (negative tax) given to those individuals whose income falls below a minimum.

• Working Income Tax Benefit: A tax credit that is given out for to those who work, with the benefit being tied to how much they work, up to a certain threshold.

These are just a few of the models being discussed right now that have risen to prominence. However, the conversation is far from over, and there will be many considerations to explore for a very complex problem. One thing is certain: That either technology will stop advancing, or work as we know it will fundamentally change.

What other potential solutions are there?  We would love to hear your feedback. Please leave a comment or for more information on how SafeSourcing can assist your team with this process or on our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative. We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.

 

 

The Future of Work and Pay – Part I

March 11th, 2020

Automation, Output, and Employment

 

 

A timely repost from our SafeSourcing Archives.

The power of exponential growth is not something very easy to understand intuitively. The classic example of this, is the fabled story of the creator of the game Chess. The emperor who was enamored with the game asked its creator what he wanted for it. The game’s creator simply asked for rice, at a rate of 1 grain, doubled in number, for every square on the Chess board. This meant he received 1 grain for the first square, 2 grains for the second square, 4 grains for the third square, 8 grains for the fourth, and so on. Not until the emperor agreed, did he realize that he owed the game’s creator more rice than would be needed to build a pile the size of Mount Everest.

Similarly, not many people understand the rate at which technology is advancing today. Technology isn’t just  advancing, its rate of advancement is advancing. In other words, if technological advancement was represented visually on a chart, it wouldn’t be a straight line moving upward, it would be a line curving upward steeply. So steeply in fact, that you would need a new chart to represent it every few years just to be able to see the full curve. The computers that took us to the moon cost millions of dollars to create, filled warehouses, and had the computational power of a pocket calculator. Twenty years later, supercomputers would shrink to room-sized contraptions, but able to process at a rate of a full teraflop. Ten years later, I’d be playing video games in my living room on a game console with more computing power for a few hundred dollars. And today, my daughter has an even more powerful kids tablet that cost less than $100.

If you have found yourself wondering why there is so much talk in business right now about automation taking away jobs, it’s not only because more and more activities are being automated that used to be done by humans. It’s also because the ability of machines to do human’s jobs is growing exponentially. During the industrial revolution, thousands of workers lost farm jobs to factory farming. But that change took decades to take place. Today, a new app hits the market and makes thousands of jobs irrelevant in a day. Predictions today indicate that any job that requires financial analysis will be replaced by computer applications in the next 20 years. As technology advances, our ability to produce products faster and cheaper will advance with it. However, those advances won’t be limited to increasing the scale of the production of goods. Advances of scope in what is available to automation, in the form of algorithms that can analyze financials, grade students, scan x-rays, and create proposals, with a tiny fraction of the human input that it takes today.

Procurement won’t be safe from this advance either. In the coming decades, spend will be synced with market suppliers, and bidding will be automatic. Massive databases will house everything there is to know about a company, so that RFIs will be generated within minutes of the proposal being requested. While these advances will destroy many jobs, exponential growth will also increase the wealth available.

For more information on how SafeSourcing can assist your team with this process or on our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative. We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.

 

 

Looking Back Helps you look forward

March 9th, 2020

A self-critique of success, failure, and opportunities for growth

 

Today’s post is from our  SafeSourcing Archives.

I believe it’s important to take a look in the rear-view mirror once in a while. To evaluate where you started, what it took to get further, your method for navigating, or things you wished you had done differently. Over the course of 6 years at Safe-Sourcing I have learned a lot, and think it’s worth sharing what I want to keep doing in the form of professional habits. However, the most valuable lessons might be just identifying how I want to grow, and what I want to do better:

Professional Habits:

Taking notes: Just do it. Maybe you want to appear as though you didn’t need to be told something to do it, or you just don’t like writing things down. Researchers have determined that we only retain about 11% of what we read or hear on average, and that isn’t nearly enough when you are having a fairly detailed conversation upon which the success or failure of your project may be determined. So do yourself a favor: Take notes for everything, and save them in a format that works best with your workflow (Laptop document, email, cellphone app, hand written, etc.) and check them off as you implement them.

Correlation: In procurement and inventory control, this means having unique identifiers that link 2 or more variables together. For example, how would your GPS app navigate you to the right location if there were multiple buildings with the exact same address in your city? A lot of people would get to the wrong place. Unique identifiers are a lot like addresses; they lead to a unique product or spec, so that there is no room for ambiguity in identifying exactly what you are looking for. Committing to a specification of a product because it “looks like” the specification of another is relying on luck to get the right product to fit your needs, and it will eventually end up biting you. Relying on exact matching of unique identifiers will make sure that what you want, and what you get, end up being the same thing.

Changing/Adapting: This requires a consistent willingness to reinvent one’s-self, and the humility to assume we always have new things we can learn. Sometimes this means taking notes, implementing a new policy off of those notes, and changing the way we do something going forward without having to check that its getting done right. This could also mean not adhering to static job descriptions and titles, so that when we see a need arise, we find a solution and create a path forward regardless of if the waters have been charted yet or not.

Things I want to do better:

Training “Sessions” vs ad-hoc feedback: Not everyone can turn on a dime, especially when they’re deep in the weeds. How would you find a dime in weeds anyway?? When I’ve seen new policies not get implemented quickly enough with my team (or even myself), I know it’s because I need to undo/redirect old habits. Every day we come across opportunities for improvement, but sometimes that opportunity is buried in an email from your boss 23 emails down a chain of long emails. A more formal training session has worked much better in many cases I’ve seen, and is something I would like to use in the future to develop my teams.

Reward, and provide opportunities to practice: Related to training, I really do think practice is necessary to change a previously habitualized work policy. It can be as simple as having the team do mock phone calls, draft document templates, or create faux financial calculations. But actually going through the motions of a new procedure helps re-wire the muscle memory, and memory ques, that people often need to happen in order to change habits. Furthermore, in highly dynamic businesses, I need to reward and recognize those that put forth the effort to adapt and learn quickly. The better my team is at this, the easier it makes my life as well.

Pass along the method, not just the order: Perhaps my biggest takeaway from looking back is that I want to empower my team to make the right decisions, not just teach them to take orders. This means I need to take more time to sit down with a team member, and review how to approach and analyze a problem. I would focus more on how to arrive at a conclusion, rather than just praise or criticize the result. This would be the counterpoint to the old-school means of changing activities by beating policy into the heads of employees. Policies are informed by objectives, and without understanding how to strategize to achieve those objectives, following policy will manifest as filling orders even when it doesn’t make sense to.

Likewise I need to ask well-worded questions to illicit a breakdown of how my mangers think about problems as learning opportunities for myself. I want to take a first-principles approach to both learning how and teaching how-to problem solve. As mentioned above, I believe humility is going to be a key ingredient to enacting this self-managing policy. However, I believe a lot of managers have an aversion to humility because it seems like such an antithesis to authority. I read an article recently by Dan Cable that I think summed up nicely why this is not the case:

“Humility and servant leadership do not imply that leaders have low self-esteem, or take on an attitude of servility. Instead, servant leadership emphasizes that the responsibility of a leader is to increase the ownership, autonomy, and responsibility of followers — to encourage them to think for themselves and try out their own ideas.”

Please leave a comment or for more information on how SafeSourcing can assist your team with your procurement process or on our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative. We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.

Ambiguity is the enemy

March 6th, 2020

One way of testing the effectiveness of your communication is to ask yourself...

Today’s post is  from our archives at SafeSourcing.

Have you ever misinterpreted the meaning of someone’s written communication?

Of course you have, it happens to everyone. Why? Because it’s easy to make statements that contain multiple possible meanings. A large portion of the understanding we glean through verbal communication comes from body language, and word emphasis.

Take the following for example. We all hear written communication through whatever internal voicing’s we give the speaker. If I INTERPERATE the emphases of a word *denoted by asterisks* it completely changes the meaning of the phrase (the implied meaning in parentheses):

*I* don’t think he’s a liar (But somebody does)
I don’t *think* he’s a liar (But he could be)
I don’t think he’s a *liar* (But he’s probably something else equally terrible)
I *don’t* think he’s a liar (He’s definitely not a liar)

One way of testing the effectiveness of your communication is to ask yourself; How many different meanings could be extrapolated from my statement? Ideally your communication is so concise and exclusive to your meaning there’s only one possible interpretation. The same principle holds true for QUESTIONS; They should be formatted in such a way that they funnel all of the potential answers in the format that you are actually trying to receive back. Vague questions will receive vague answers.

Our RFI/RFP toolset, for instance, allows us to frame questions with as many constraints as necessary to receive answers with a high degree of relevance and usability. Not only do we format our wording to convey our meaning properly, we can force answers to be as close ended as a simple a Yes/No button, or as open ended as an essay answer.

Ask us how we can help your business ask the right questions, and narrow the possible meanings of your communications before you hit the send button!

We look forward to your comments.

Musings on Making Mistakes and why we have E&O Insurance!

March 5th, 2020

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

 

Today’s post is from our archives at  SafeSourcing.

“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” ― Albert Einstein

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.” ― Rita Mae Brown

Mistakes are inevitable, we all make them. In fact, life would be incomplete without them; and yet many of us waste valuable time and energy covering them up or even denying their existence. Making a mistake is not the worst thing we can do. I believe it is how we react to and reflect upon our mistakes that can make all the difference. In my opinion, our mistakes are some of the most well informed references in the library of our life’s experience. Once we are willing to embrace them for the lessons that they provide, we are able to learn that they contain a wealth of data about how best to conduct our lives moving forward. If only we could spend more time and energy extracting the gifts of wisdom from our mistakes and less time regretting them, we might also be more likely to extend that same forgiveness and compassion to others, thus contributing to an overall kinder and gentler world. Where’s the mistake in that?

And speaking of mistakes, here are just a few of my favorite mistaken song lyrics:

Hold me closer Tony Danza… Count the head lice on the highway – Elton John

I’ve got two chickens to paralyze – Eddie Money

This is the dawning of the Age of Asparagus – the 5th Dimension

There’s a bathroom on the right – Creedence Clearwater Revival

Donuts make my brown eyes blue – Crystal Gayle

Do you like bean enchiladas and getting caught in the rain? – Rupert Holmes

The sheep don’t like it… Rock the catbox! Rock the catbox! – the Clash

Interested in learning how SafeSourcing can help your company run more efficiently? Like to try a risk free trial? Please don’t hesitate to contact SafeSourcing. Our team is ready and available to assist you!

Prickly Pear Cactus May Solve Plastic Problems

March 4th, 2020

Prickly pear cactus paddles contain large amounts of sugars and gum, making them a good candidate to create “biopolymers”.

 

 

Today’s post is by Gayl Southard, Administrative Consultant at SafeSourcing, Inc.

The prickly pear is sometimes used as a novelty ingredient in margaritas, or in jelly for Arizona tourists. The microscopic barbs on the paddles can be very painful if you brush up against this cactus. Researchers at a university in Mexico have developed a way to turn the pulp from the paddles into a biodegradable plastic. This could not have come at a better time as plastic pollution has reached epic proportions. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (a floating mass of plastic) is now larger than Texas, California, Arizona, and New Mexico combined!

Plastic breaks down and eventually is consumed by marine life. An autopsy of a washed up whale in the Philippines revealed 88 pounds of plastic in its stomach. Humans also ingest roughly 50,000 microscopic pieces of plastic each year.

Prickly pear cactus paddles contain large amounts of sugars and gum, making them a good candidate to create “biopolymers”. Corn has been used for a long time in creating polymer products to make biodegradable spoons and cups. Corn, however, leaves a big carbon footprint when you consider the water, fertilizer, and energy used to grow and harvest it. The prickly pear cactus, however, requires very little water. More research has to be done in order to bring this to market.

If you would like more information on how SafeSourcing can help you, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service representative.  We have an entire team ready to assist you today.

References………………………………………………………

John D’Anna, AZ Central, 7/9/2019