Monday 1 June 2015

What purchasing has in common with gardening

How much do you know about purchasing - and I don't just mean the banging your hand on the table shouting "Lower Lower". I mean the 90% of the work that was undertaken before that discussion with a supplier took place.

Unless you've had some purchasing training or read purchasing books I assume you may know more about gardening than you do about purchasing. Why - because whilst you may not be a professional gardener most of us at some point or other have had a garden, visited gardens, watched the multitude of gardening programmes, read gardening books, visited garden centres (if only for a cuppa) or simply sat in someone elses garden. That's a whole lot more exposure to effective gardening than purchasing. 

Here's why I think we can learn alot about purchasing from gardening:

Why do you want a garden?
Just as a garden might be low or high maintenance, for children or adults, for BBQ's, games or for lounging then purchasing has the same considerations. No use putting in place a garden that’s high maintenance if you’ve not got enough gardeners.

It’s nothing without design
Once you know why you want a garden you still need to consider the design and management of the garden. Will you have one gardener or a number and who’s in charge. Will you be needing a greenhouse and who will have keys for the tool shed? What type of plant will you be putting in that shaded area at the end of the garden under the trees unseen from the house - it had better be a plant that doesn't need much care and attention.

What’s in your tool shed?
It’s not only about the number and types of tools in the tool shed but maintenance and replacement of them too. In some smaller gardens it might be ok to use the spade for many different uses but once the garden gets bigger and certainly once the garden is open to the public then the maintenance of the garden will become more important and more specialised tools are needed. You don't have to look far to see all the multitude of new tools available and realise that whilst many might be more for show many can and do save time and your plants. 

Plant selection
Even for each type of plant there are different varieties each with their own unique characteristics – some needing direct sun, other partial shade, some needing nutritious soil and other being happy with their roots in clay! Matching the variety of plant to the characteristics of your garden is essential in ensuring the plants flourish and the time needed to care for them minimised. Of course once you know what variety you want and have decided whether you’ll grow them from seed or not you then need to decide where to source them from.

You’ve got to have a Greenhouse
If you live in the UK then there will be seeds and even plants that need some TLC first. Time in the greenhouse to get more hardy before they’re planted out into the garden. Sometimes when we unexpectedly end up with snow or frost in May, or the west winds threaten a gale force, we may need to bring plants in. When did you last review the performance of your suppliers and consider how your actions are contributing to how well they are flourishing?

You might be lucky and a plant might survive if you just dump it in a corner and forget about it. And whilst that might seem unthinkable in a garden it’s certainly what many businesses do to suppliers – no perfect position, no careful planting out, no watering, no feeding, no staking. Plants will certainly survive and flourish and even multiply if given the right care and attention - suppliers too. 

Garden Maintenance
We’ve all heard about jack’s bean stalk or the perils of Japanese knotweed - maintenance is certainly needed to ensure the plants stay within the area originally designed for them. Turn a blind eye and weeds can take hold and smoother or even kill other plants. It’s also useful to have someone with knowledge about plants doing this otherwise it’s easy to uproot a perfectly healthy plant and leave the real weeds behind.

In conclusion
Healthy supplier relationships are no different to healthy plants – next time you start thinking about introducing a new supplier just think about whether you have the skills and environment that will enable them to flourish in your organisation.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life and The Purchasing Coach too

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