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Posts Tagged ‘gifts policy’

Sometimes people have this notion that as buyers we are on top of the world.  We get to bitch and yell at suppliers, say no to users, and enjoy all the perks and bonuses coming our way.  They couldn’t be more wrong.

As I covered in my previous post Measure Me This, there are indeed procurement people who draw a very gray line in business ethics, and I am extremely concerned over this.  Every respectable company has explicit gifts policies and anti-corruption codes of conduct. On top of that, procurement people should adhere to even stricter guidelines due to the power that we have.  We make supposedly unbiased recommendations or even decisions in deals that could worth millions of dollars.  If there is anything even remotely suspicious to being influenced by any one or more suppliers, we should get ourselves detached from that as early as possible.

I know how today’s businesses are run, and I know how difficult it is now to make a sale or even get ourselves 15 minutes in front of our targets to make a living.  Sales people, often with blessings from their management, offer all sorts of incentives to their client targets.  It can start from an innocent box of chocolates to movie tickets to holiday hamper of wine and cheese to fancy meals to golf games and to even so-called familiarization trips with business class flights and spa treatments all paid for.  Yes, I have seen many of my user departments in practically every company I work for, accepting these gifts with no remorse.  No they are not just the secretaries and junior officers who do not know any better.  They are also senior managers and directors.  They have all sat through hours of code of conduct trainings.  Their excuse?  It’s all part of building relationships with their partners and suppliers, for the good of the company.

I personally do not buy that.  I can perfectly manage fantastic professional relationships (and sometimes even personal) with my suppliers without accepting any gifts AND not hurting any of their feelings.  So don’t give me that “culture and customs” crap.  In any cultures, as long as I am sincere, humble and provide explanations as to why I cannot accept their generous offer, people are already grateful enough that I have been open-minded and helpful to them professionally.  When we start to build further business relationships and if somehow we get to become better friends personally, I don’t mind going for a drink with them while I pay my way through.  It’s THAT simple.

Sometimes suppliers send small gifts to us through courier and it lands at the reception without us having the chance to decline.  Instead of secretly sneaking those expensive hampers or chocolates home to their families or personal parties like I see time and time again in companies I have worked for, I send a broadcast e-mail to the entire office that ABC supplier has just sent in this fruit basket and everyone should feel free to pass by and grab whatever they want.  This way everyone knows that the gift is for the company and not for me.  If it is something not splitable then I report to management and decide together whether it should be donated to charity or reserved as lucky draw items at the year-end staff ball.  In all these cases, I make it formal and inform the giving supplier what I have done with the gifts they sent.  Sooner or later, everyone gets the message.

I ask my staff to brief me on how their site visit trips are arranged and paid for.  We do site visits to inspect suppliers’ plants, factories, offices, operations, or even their clients’ sites as references.  They may be located out of the country.  These are well warranted for but they should seldom be funded by the suppliers except for ground transportation, since some factories are hard to locate and there are just no efficient means of commute to and from those sites.  All other costs should be borne by the company because this is part of our job.  When a supplier loses a business, you cannot imagine the length they would go to make sure they can find any simple indication of corruption wrongdoing.   More often than not, you can kiss your career goodbye.

I am perfectly content with getting my fair paycheck from my employer without getting myself tempted by all the freebies.  After all I have a much bigger reputation to uphold for myself.  However, it’s a whole different dimension when you find yourself physically threatened by suppliers when large dollar is at stake.  Yes it does happen – and I will tell you more about it later…. from a secure location.

Now WHO says procurement is boring?

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