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Handling Conflicts When Purchasers Also Become Sellers


Mark R. Orshak, C.P.M.
Mark R. Orshak, C.P.M., Operations Manager, Post Machinery-BOBSTGroup, Inc., Portsmouth, NH 03801, 603/431-4900

79th Annual International Conference Proceedings - 1994 - Atlanta, GA

THE ISSUES. Downsizing, rightsizing, or whatever kind of spin we choose to put on it, is affecting everyone in one way or another. We can argue that it presents a case for pure survival or one for new opportunities. However, we look at it, downsizing creates dilemmas for Purchasers that encompass many areas. The specific dilemma that this presentation addresses is responsibility for both Purchasing and Selling. The problem raises more questions than answers, but answers are emerging and will multiply as the issue is discussed further.

Business leaders are often quoted as saying that everyone in an organization should be selling that organization whenever we deal with people outside the group. That is a reasonable charge that Purchasers can fulfill quite well but what do we do when we are charged with direct responsibilities for Sales and Purchases? Can we develop effective methods to avoid ethical dilemmas of reciprocity and other general standards of conduct issues? Is this a trend? Can we even maintain membership in NAPM?

THE OPPORTUNITES. Downsizing and its many results do, in fact, present opportunities for growth and success. It is critical that we address the dilemmas created by downsizing, but it's even more essential that we look at the positive side. The issue of wearing the hats of both buyer and seller offers the opportunities to:

  • enhance Purchasing's role in the organization
  • be a more effective member of our company's TEAMs
  • become totally involved in new product development
  • maintain Purchasing as a Profession
  • understand our supplier's issues more clearly
  • increase our "Promotability" within the organization

These opportunities must be seized and exploited to counter the dilemmas and their negativity. Downsizing is here to stay and we may as well embrace it and make it work for us.

OBJECTIVES. The presentation of this session will cover the presenter's own experiences and, more importantly, will involve the participants in a forum of sharing and brainstorming additional strategies to cope with and exploit the effects of downsizing. A case study and the results of an informal survey will lead the discussion. This paper will address one of the questions and opportunities in an effort to stimulate ideas for the actual discussion.

ONE DILEMMA. One of the immediate questions I was concerned with when I took on Sales responsibilities was "Can I remain a member of NAPM?" This is a dilemma for me as I'm actively involved in my District and I enjoy the benefits of membership. Section 7 of Article II of the NAPM Bylaws addresses sales activity. It states:

"No Affiliated Association may admit to its membership, or retain as a member, any person primarily engaged in the solicitation of orders, or who is in charge of, or primarily responsible for sales, even though such person may be otherwise eligible for membership; provided, however, that no person shall be ineligible by reason of incidentally disposing of scrap, surplus stock, or equipment of the concern by which he or-she is employed."

After a fair amount of wrestling with the issue, I was able to quantify my time requirements which are more heavily weighted towards materials management issues versus sales. That weighting, however, is only barely enough to tip the scales toward materials. It is laughable that a 2% swing in responsibilities can determine our acceptability as members in the NAPM.

As downsizing affects more of us in this manner, the NAPM needs to address the issues of membership. We may all need to consider that to be in sales is not necessarily incompatible with being in Purchasing. I know many people who have switched between the two. To a person, they have indicated that the combination is unbeatable for each discipline.

The other bone of contention that I have with the exclusionary part of the Bylaws is that they imply that sales people have a lower standard of ethics than those in Purchasing. I contend that human beings have ethical standards that are evident in all situations we may find ourselves in. Try as some may, we cannot flip an "ethical switch" for a particular environment. The hypocrisy becomes painfully obvious when someone does try this switching tactic.

ONE OPPORTUNITY. Many people in Purchasing often remark that we don't get the respect our positions deserve and therefore, we don't get the opportunities to rise up in our organizations. While this statement may be arguable, the combination of Purchasing and Sales activities can only help to make us more "promotable."

Wearing both hats enables us to get a firmer grasp of both the supply and the demand sides of our business. What better way is there to complete the loop between the two ends of the business? In completing this loop, we can eliminate many of the adversarial relationships that do exist within companies between Purchasing and Sales. It seems rather hypocritical that we advocate partnering with our suppliers and we don't do it with our own Sales and Marketing groups.

The global perspective gained from the interactions with suppliers and customers gives us a leg up on others within our organization to move up the ladder. We need to encourage these opportunities to survive and thrive in this age of downsizing.

SUMMARY. Downsizing has become a business way of life. Complaining about it won't change that fact. Once we accept it, we need to develop and implement those strategies that will allow us to move forward and improve our operations.

As Purchasing professionals, we are constantly bombarded with the trends of cross-functional teams, early Purchasing involvement in product development, and even the elimination of Purchasing as a separate function. Now is the time to embrace the new, additional responsibilities we may have been charged with and to look at what we do with a more global view.

In the seemingly paradoxical merging of Purchasing and Sales functions, we have an opportunity to radically change the way we do business and even enhance our Profession. It is in this spirit, of openness that more answers to the myriad of questions will be found.

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