Procurement Outsourcing

How small business can challenge their indirect costs

Profit-risk

No risk no reward it is often said. Small business ownership is definitely not for the faint at heart.  Owning your own business has incredible rewards and can represent everything about yourself professionally.  The old saying of “you’ll never work a day in your life if you love what you do” certainly applies to many small business owners.

However, the same passion small business owners have for their core business does not necessarily translate well to other areas outside their core competency. Welcome to the world of indirect costs.  It does not matter if you are restaurant, medical office, manufacturer or a retail store, indirect costs can eat right through your profits in no time.  Indirect costs include many areas that are not a deliverable to your customer such as transportation, merchant services, electricity, gas, fuel, insurance and office equipment or supplies.

Small business owners struggle in these areas because of a lack of expertise, leverage and most importantly the lack of time. The indirect cost providers have no such lack of expertise or time compared to the small business owner.  This usually leaves the small business owner with the least amount of leverage.  Kind of like a nail to hammer relationship!  Not much leverage for the old nail.

However, small business owners do have options to increase their leverage if they choose.  Here are three ways they can increase their leverage with indirect costs:

  1. Open up negotiations – there a lot of indirect expenses in which there are no restrictions to competition so rebidding the service is a very viable option. This even includes using your current provider. There is nothing wrong with checking the marketplace for updated pricing and service plans. Service levels, service providers, technology and your own needs change over time. You just might be surprised to find key savings right in front of you.
  2. Buying groups – buying groups add value to their members through essentially group discounting. These groups are often associated by industry and can be a very effective way to increase leverage with providers to the industry.  There can be costs associated with joining these groups, but the cost of membership can easily payoff in the savings associated.
  3. Strategic partnerships – there are strategic partners that specialize in indirect costing solutions that give small business access to negotiation leverage they just can’t get on their own. These partners add leverage to the small business owner through their expertise and their relationships with these types of providers. They can provide preferential pricing to the small business owner because of their track record and relationship with these providers and pass these savings onto the small business owner. These partnerships not only pass along savings to their clients, but they also allow small business owners to leverage time because they act on the behalf of the small business owner allowing them to focus on their core business. Some of these partners specialize in one are while others can provide a one stop shop for all indirect costs.

Small business ownership requires maintaining cost to keep you competitive in the marketplace. While you can’t save your way to higher sales, you can price yourself out of the market.  Indirect costs are just part of doing business so make sure to review those costs for opportunities that just might give you an edge. If it has been a while since you reviewed those contracts the investment of time could payoff exponentially.

If you know of anyone that would like more information on how to reduce their indirect costing solutions in transportation, utilities, insurance, merchant services or many other areas please email info@atssoutherncal.com.

Question:  what’s the longest you have gone without reviewing a service contract with your indirect provider such as small package delivery, insurance or merchant services?

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Why small businesses need strategic partnerships

Me against the world

The business world can be an intimidating place for small business. But there is no reason to think it is you against the world.  Strategic partnership can be extremely powerful and effective for small businesses to level the playing field.  Strategic partners can be used in areas such as marketing and sales, distribution or even throughout the supplier network. These alliances can be the difference between surviving or thriving.

One of the great benefits of strategic partnerships is they create the ability to leverage your resources.  Every small business has limited resources internally from capital, manpower, knowledge and or even buying power.  Strategic partners allow you to leverage areas that you may need additional strength to get a competitive edge.

Not every business relationship is suitable for a strategic partnership, so determining the proper fit is very important.  There is a process to determine who is suitable and can pay big dividends.  Kate Vitasek is a world renowned supply chain author and she calls these 3 ideas the foundation of the relationship.  Follow these ideas and you will be on your way.

  1. Trust – this can be difficult to develop and may take some time but it is critical to any relationship. It will take effort, but everything worthwhile requires work.  Trust must be developed over time through a series of actions, words and follow through.  Trust is a two way street and each party plays a vital role in matching the choices of trust along the way.  Trust is a simple concept that helps to provide a foundation for the rest of the relationship. But lack of trust destroys.  Choose wisely.
  2. Transparency – once trust is established the best way to keep it is through the use of transparency in everything. Nothing erodes trust like a lack of transparency.  Transparency helps to keep trust and can be achieved through simple agreements.  Whether it is through reporting, discussions or shared resources being transparent in your business relationship fuels the trust.  Don’t you think the current FIFA World Cup Soccer scandal could have been avoided with a little transparency?
  3. Compatibility – while trust and transparency are vital to the foundation, compatibility is like the glue that keeps it all together. Two partners that are not in proper alignment just don’t seem to fit.  It is very important to find a balance for the partnership that is beneficial for both parties and is a good fit. Proper compatibility comes from the proper alignment of values, culture or size.  For example, would it make sense for a small local organic restaurant to partner with Monsanto?  Not a chance!

Strategic partnerships have proven to change the course of history from Ford and Firestone, to Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak or even Ben and Jerry. Partnerships can have a dramatic effect on your business from sales development to cost reduction in your supplier base. If you are ready to dominate vs. participate let strategic partnerships help you get there.

If you know anyone that would like help understanding how to develop strategic partnerships for their business, please email info@atssoutherncal.com for more information.

Question: what are some of your favorite business partnerships?

5 reasons why procurement outsourcing works for small business

Hat trick

A hat trick for small business owners translates into wearing every hat in the company sooner or later.  Wearing all these hats creates strong emotions for owners from hope and accomplishment to frustration, fear and anxiety. There is nothing like having to wear every hat from CEO to janitor in the same day.

What you quickly realize is that time is the most precious commodity and you never seem to have enough of it.  The reality is that you only have so many resources no matter what your size.  You know in your gut that staying focused on your core competency is what will ultimately help you become successful.  Unfortunately, there are many other tasks outside of your core that requires your time too. Procurement is likely one of those tasks and in most cases, people do their best to ignore procurement challenges. I often hear from small business owners that they have a solution in place that has been working for years and causes no problems. Most of these same owners do not realize they can get the same service levels or higher at a reduced costs.

Procurement outsourcing for small business is designed to help the small business owner take advantage of many of the strategic benefits larger companies have been using for years.  According to KPMG, nearly 75% of all large companies plan to increase their use of outsourcing.  Entrepreneur.com recently stated “Entrepreneurs have long seen outsourcing as a strategy reserved for big business, but technology has made it a more accessible tool for small businesses.”  Times indeed are changing.

Here are 5 ways procurement outsourcing is helping small businesses succeed:

  1. Accesses to expert talent – most small businesses have very limited procurement support that is usually a shared resource to other departments. Procurement leaders know there is an expected large talent gap coming soon due to baby boomers retiring and small businesses will feel the pain as they have limited resources to attract talent. Procurement outsourcing solves this problem by allowing access to industry experts on demand.
  2. Risk management – adding additional head counts for small business is a major risk due to the fluctuations in business. More employees mean more risk.  Having procurement outsourcing reduces risk since you get the benefit of the service without the additional overhead expense.
  3. Access to strategic partnerships – any small business can use additional purchasing power, but how can you create negotiation leverage on your own? This is a huge benefit to using procurement outsourcing.  There are strategic alliances in place to provide immediate savings across many goods and services that most small businesses are already using.
  4. Competitive advantages – using procurement outsourcing allows small business to tap into competitive advantages most of your competitors are not using. Creative solutions come from collaboration with the supplier network which is exactly where the procurement outsourcing lives. Exclusive distribution, new product development, inventory solutions, packaging, and financing solutions are all areas that can help to separate small business from the competition.
  5. Cost savings –using best practices helps to drive cost savings and it can even come through existing solution providers without the additional overhead costs. Needs change, technology changes and services from providers are constantly changing but most contracts remain in place costing small business huge amounts of money simply because they don’t address these changes. In many cases, procurement outsourcing even pays for itself through cost saving splits creating no risk for the small business owner.

There has never been a better time for small business to take advantage of procurement outsourcing to develop best in class solutions that can that can help separate you from the competition and increase your cash flow.  These principles apply to virtually every industry. Procurement outsourcing allows small business owners to access many benefits larger companies use without the risk.

If you know any small business owners that can benefit from procurement outsourcing please email info@atssoutherncal.com for more information.

Question: have you seen procurement outsourcing projects make a positive impact for companies?

5 Benefits of Procurement Outsourcing

square-peg-round-hole

Have you ever felt stuck to move forward on a project because the skills required was not a good fit for your resources?  Kind of like the square peg in round hole scenario.  Yet you knew that making it happen would be in the best interest of your organization?  Think about it for a second. How would you handle this at home if you had an electrical issue and you were not an electrician?  The possibility for electrocution is severe enough to call in experts for most people.

Negotiating goods and services outside of your area of expertise can be just as paralyzing.  Many organizations end up spending too much money due to outdated contracts because they are afraid of losing at the negotiation table or they just simply don’t have the resources to engage.  Markets, technology and your needs change constantly. But existing contracts seem to remain the same.  If companies really understood how much money they could save it would be impossible for them to ignore.

But how do you access the savings with limited internal resources. Fortunately, there’s procurement outsourcing.  Here are 5 key benefits of procurement outsourcing that can help any size organization:

  1. Expert talent

Major league baseball allows for the designated hitter (DH) who bats for the worst batter in the lineup. The result provided dramatic increases in home runs, RBI’s and created hall of fame credentials for some players.  Procurement outsourcing allows you similar opportunities to shine.  How many companies have the talent in house that can negotiate freight, utilities, financial services or maintenance contracts? Not many.  But like a DH, procurement outsourcing is there to give you access to the best expertise at your weakest position.

  1. Reduce risk

Procurement outsourcing can reduce your risk because it is only used on demand.  There is no need to keep full time staff. Use it as you need it.  By the project, short periods or if you just need expert help in negotiating a specific category in which you have little to no experience.  For example, transportation companies have full time staffs that do nothing but specialize in negotiation of transportation.  These negotiations come down frequently to highly experienced specialist on one side of the table vs little to no experience on the other side.  Who do you think wins that game?

  1. Reduction in overhead

The focus of procurement outsourcing is to provide added value through better contracts. But one additional benefit is that it reduces overhead costing too.  No need for training, insurance, office space, medical benefits and all the other employee related expenses.

  1. Increased opportunities for procurement solutions

Using in house procurement limits your solutions to only the skillsets and opportunities within your organization.  Procurement outsourcing has the advantage of having a greater vision to procurement solutions that go well beyond your organization.  Through strategic partnerships, ability to pool expert talent and the overall experience allows for the perfect environment for creative solutions that are not accessible through in house procurement.

  1. Core focus

Using procurement outsourcing allows your organization to focus on your core competency. It doesn’t matter if you are a restaurant, manufacturer or a law office.  Keeping your limited resources focused on your core business is crucial to your success.  Asking your procurement team to negotiate contracts outside of their expertise is just not a good fit.  Let them do their job and let experts handle the rest for you.

Just about every organization uses outsourcing services of some kind whether it is legal, payroll, IT or human resources.  Procurement outsourcing is just the next service frontier.  Competition is forcing companies to get leaner and more effective.  How can you ask more from your team that is already stretched thin?  Procurement outsourcing just might be your answer.

If you know of anyone that would like more information on how procurement outsourcing can be a fit for their organization please email info@atssoutherncal.com

Question:  Have you ever felt over matched at the negotiation table?