Kent Mahoney

05 January 2021
Topics in this article
  • Cost Optimization
  • Strategy & Planning

Today’s supply chain and procurement leaders are facing a monumental task: how to create resilient, ambitious, and innovative organizations while transitioning to a new year, and balancing the lasting impact that this pandemic has brought upon them. Many companies, retailers, and suppliers were forced to change their playbooks and rely on new innovation methods, high road networking, and asset stabilization to keep their logistics moving forward, but still prepare for the future.

Experts and industry leaders are trying to answer the questions their clients and companies are asking. Still, sometimes overlooking the internal questions they should be asking themselves. Proxima recently hosted a virtual speaking event, “INSIDE THE ‘AMAZON’ WAY: LESSONS FOR BUSINESS LEADERS IN 2021” and welcomed John Rossman, Founder of Rossman Partners and former executive at Amazon, part of the team who launched and scaled the Amazon Marketplace. He worked to answer some of those overlooked questions that procurement experts are struggling to ask. He also shared numerous insights into business mindsets, innovations, trends, and strategies into future business models that Proxima advises for long-term success.  

Mechanisms to strengthen connections: the importance of customer obsession

Amidst the pandemic, businesses should be on the lookout for friction, challenges, and weaknesses within customer demands to develop the solutions and systems to solve them. There’s great benefit from starting every meeting, email, and conversation with questions about the customer.

Looking toward the future, businesses that do start every conversation with the customer will build different habits and behaviors to start the path to innovation. Everybody is responsible for the customer experience and should understand how this mindset will affect the business overall. The more that companies remove friction to make change happen, it will set up the opportunities for impactful innovation and positively impacting their customers.

Identifying opportunities and targeting the risks

Corporate executives need to be involved in identifying pressure points and calculating risks. Companies should design metrics to understand customer preferences and recognize the imperfections. Innovating and creating change comes down to experimentation. Put those metrics into motion to make improvements based on solid knowledge.

Business executives should ask themselves, “What did we enact today with the metrics? With cross-functional metrics? And did we find imperfections or points of friction?” Executives must look at data and research to create stronger business models. They need to rely on data and research to measure the long-term impact of COVID; but data/research will have different implications for different lines of business.

Businesses cannot handle massive scrutiny with complacency and lack of development; they always need to innovate the customer experience by introducing new scenarios. Most large organizations are braced for invention but are not ready for failed experiments that are necessary to get there. Innovating and creating change is about learning, which includes failure. Another way to look at failure is that it is just a process of testing and learning.

Leaders should look at three core concepts to future forecasting – making bets, agile loops (test and learn as quickly as possible) – while viewing growing portfolios of projects and risks.  To make experiments and gambles affordable, business leaders have to be fast, calculated, and on the same page with everyone involved. Debating topics in a meeting is still very important, and everyone should work together to carry out the decision and reach the next step in the process.

How do leaders target and make decisions to manage risk?  The mindset of a “one-way door” risks and “two-way door” risks are standard measurements for easier long-term consistency and less turbulence.  One-way door decisions are decisions that you cannot easily reverse. These decisions need to be done carefully.  Two-way door decisions can be reversed.  You can walk through the door, see if you like it, and if not go back and make adjustments. These decisions can be made fast or even automated. In order to target missed opportunities and develop to the fullest potential, companies analyzing both types of risks in daily metrics and long-term metrics will have the most success.

Leadership and the dynamic of executing it properly

Typically, companies give you all the reasons why something does NOT work, but not the reasons why they should work. A good process has one leader who creates ideas and strategies that others can use for future success. Companies should have a written definition that all stakeholders agree with and use as a foundation. Leaders should have a “never say never” attitude and be open to change, always questioning their strategy and rethinking prior positions. Even though change is important, patience is also key. Procurement specialists advise that leaders should let things develop as many companies tend to rush plans and deliveries.

Change can start by writing goals and preparing for bigger things. Writing goals forces teams to think plans through and carry out potential success to its maximum, while also passing ideas forward for future audits. Large companies believe you can work and live in the future at the same time. Allocating time to recognize emerging future trends instead of current results is imperative and will be very beneficial for businesses looking to make big leaps for the long run.

The procurement playbook

Understanding a company’s portfolio on operating fixtures and the real risks of decision-making is in the DNA of chief procurement executives. The “get to yes” mentality of fully understanding and agreeing to business objectives is clear to procurement professionals, but still needs to grow in corporate board rooms.

When executives are experimenting, the most common, everyday risks are speed and IP – not always low price. Understanding which part of the playbook to operate in is the real value. Time and time again, organizations are locked in on what their value and jobs are but unaware of the big picture of managing risks and expenses when they are experimenting or learning.

Figuring out your big-item expenses and reshaping your business strategy to benefit customers around them makes a world of difference. Procurement professionals can assist other c-suite executives by show theming how to transform these expenses to be more flexible/nimble and serve internal customers better. It helps push long-term growth and can help transform a company to be more competitive in their industry.


There has never been a better time for competition for both corporate players and entrepreneurs. Finding a targeted consumer base can be tough in the ever-changing world, but once found, it is imperative to find out how to serve them better. It is tough to tell which preferences, strategies, techniques, models, sectors, or perspectives will drive 2021, but we do know that innovative thinking and proactive mindsets always prevail above all else and those that welcome challenges and risks eventually reach the greatest rewards.

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