Building a winning procurement team

Tony Houlihan

After spending almost 20 years of my career in Procurement teams of different shapes and sizes, in roles ranging from Assistant Buyer to Head of Procurement, I have had the fortune to work in some great teams and some that unfortunately just didn’t work. I’ve managed to pull together some of my thoughts on what areas you should focus on when building trying to build a Winning Procurement team. It’s quite rare these days that you will build a Procurement team from scratch, and sometimes you will inherit an existing team, whilst the approach may have to be slightly different in these circumstances, I still think the majority of the points below will hopefully help you.

Mix it Up

The best teams I have worked in had a diverse mixture of cultures, backgrounds, and lifestyles.

Having ten people that are very similar won’t encourage enough challenge and won’t deliver innovation.

Don’t be afraid to pick people with no experience in a certain Sector or Category – pick people for their soft skills, drive and enthusiasm – these people will unlock new opportunities in any environment if given the chance.

Some of the best buyers that worked in our teams came from completely different sectors to the businesses we worked in, but they had drive, enthusiasm and a willingness to learn which in my experience goes a long way.

Extreme Ownership

Developing a culture of ownership at every level of the team can be difficult, particularly in large organisations, so how do you do this?

As well as the leader of the team needing to display “Extreme Ownership”, it’s key that this is ingrained in the rest of the team all the way through the function.

Group Accountability, Sharing Targets and Responsibilities across the function is essential.

How often do you get your team together? How often do they share their strategies and projects with the rest of the team?

If you want to ensure that your team are pushing in the right direction it’s key that they not only understand the other team members challenges, but that they share the victories.

Getting out in the business

As part of one transformation initiative I was part of, the CPO came in and developed a brand for the Procurement function.

Not the only time I have seen this done, but executed well, this can be a really powerful tool – the people in the team need to display they not only understand but execute in line with the team values and objectives.

This needs to be displayed out in the business, working with stakeholders in their locations, on joint projects, not just a logo on a monthly savings report!

Personal and Team Development

Personal and Team Development programmes are a huge missed opportunity in my opinion within most Procurement teams.

There are many employers that will sponsor formal qualifications such as the CIPS programme, but invest very little in anything else.  There are other employers who will sponsor nothing at all.

Implementing a well-structured development plan for all of the team, that brings the whole team together for some initiatives, then individual areas specific to the people and roles involved could deliver a huge benefit to the function and the wider business.

If anything is in place in the function it will probably not be enough!  Focusing on areas such as leadership, negotiation, relationships, resilience are a great place to start.

Setting yourselves up for Success

Important to share the vision and mission of the function, and getting people in the team to contribute at an early stage in developing this rather than just delivering a powerpoint presentation one day that has been worked on by a handful of the senior team…

Deal with issues and problem team members quickly and consistently, highlight performance areas that need addressing openly and reward success regularly, not just at the end of the year once targets have been met.

I hope that this has given my Procurement counterparts some useful ideas and that some will take action and implement a few of these ideas with their teams, any feedback appreciated.



Tony has recently set up a Property Sourcing Business, which is called Aligned Property Services, which helps people with busy professional and personal lives source investment property deals.

ABOUT THE Guest Author:

Tony Houlihan

Tony Houlihan

Tony is an accomplished procurement professional and Chair of the CIPS Manchester branch. With almost 20 years of experience working with small and large companies, procuring a wide range of goods and services. Tony currently provides interim procurement support and consultancy services.