Author Archives: Caroline - CEO at Amici

  1. Professional Procurement – Understanding Your Business Needs

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    It’s widely reported that around 80% of buying decisions are emotional and 20% based on logic. Certainly, personal buying decisions would fit with this statistic, but you’d be surprised how many business buying decisions are also emotional or hurried and could not be attributed to solid logic! Not only that, but we are all susceptible to marketing and sales influences. A true purchasing professional will facilitate you through a process to improve your choices.

    Slow it down – and start with your Business Needs.

    Start by Understanding Your Business

    All professionals need to understand the business they are working for before making decisions. Are you a new start up or mature organisation? Do you have budgets for the investment? How does this purchase impact the success and priorities of the business? What are the priorities of the business; bottom-line profit, competitive advantage or time to market? There are then a series of questions you need to understand before you start;

    1. Do you need to buy this item at all or now? Do you have other options such as outsourcing a service?
    2. What are the risks of making this purchase now versus the risks of not buying, or buying later?
    3. Do you have the budget for only a short-term fix or is it appropriate to invest in a long-term solution?
    4. Who do you need to consult with in any potential purchase? Often there will be a finance element, user element, or an IT, HSE and quality element to the decision.

    What Do You Want?

    Some small consumable buying decisions should be made quickly as it is not worth the time investment. However, where your organisation is about to make an investment or a change in how things are done, it is critical to understand what you want before you start, and build a solid business case.

    1. Start by summarising the situation. What is the problem you are trying to resolve? What do you know, what do you not know? If your list gets too long, you need to summarise into a couple of bullet point conclusions.
    2. Start with the end in mind. What is the goal, target, vision? When must you have this in place? Challenge yourself of what is critical and what is ideal, and what is just a wish list. Summarise to a single phrase and keep this in mind at all points in the process.
    3. What are the business needs for this purchase? Most purchases need to consider the following criteria;
      1. Assurance of Supply. How do you ensure you have the purchase when your business needs it? That could be a single delivery, or it could be a consideration of ongoing access. How quickly can the purchase be delivered or implemented? How critical is the purchase to your business success? There may also be contingencies to consider regarding ongoing demand such as guaranteed stocks or availability. The item you are buying might also need to be compatible with other infrastructure at your company.
      2. Quality/Regulatory. In your environment, what are the true requirements? You’ll want to challenge the requirements to ensure you are neither too unnecessarily tight nor fail to buy to the right spec. Quality and Regulatory is not just about GMP or legislation. It could be the lifespan of an item or reliability which might make a better investment. It could be an investor or financial markets requirement. You might need an item to be manufactured to accredited GMP standards, maybe also validated.
      3. Service. What support are you going to need in order to take full advantage of the purchase? Will you need training, implementation support, will users not involved in the purchase need ongoing support? What kind of turnaround on support do you need? What experiences have you had in the past which might help shape your decision? Do you need 24/7 support (which might be very costly), is a manual enough or something in between?
      4. Price and total cost of ownership. All purchasing professionals care about price, but the ultimate skill is to evaluate the value and total cost of ownership to your business situation at this time. Once the minimum criteria are met, then it’s time to concentrate on price. Costs of associated consumables, software licences, maintenance and upgrade charges may be more than the initial purchase! What might the hidden costs be? Consider footprint, practicalities of delivery and even related salary costs. Some purchases may even reduce your need for additional planned purchases or headcount – reducing the total cost of ownership accordingly!
      5. Innovation. It is really important to consider innovation with some purchases and not at all with others! This is something you need to evaluate for each purchase. For example, buying new technologies that keep innovating can expand the options of your purchase or lead to supplier partnerships.

    Professional Procurement - Understanding Your Business Needs

     

    What Do You NEED?

    In making your list of wants, it can be helpful not to place too many restrictions on yourself. The difficult job is to take that list and evaluate what you truly need vs would ideally like vs nice to have. You might consider using the words must (critical), should (desirable) and wish list as helpful headers. Make sure the Critical criteria are truly deal breakers. What is an ideal and what is a wish list? Once you’ve fully understood your business need, you should think about drafting a User Requirement Specification (URS) and how you will make your decisions.

     

    If you’d like Amici to guide you through an evaluation of your business needs, please get in touch.

     

     

     

     

  2. Five things I would tell my 21-year-old self now

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    Caroline Briggs, CEO of Amici, was invited to speak at the 2021 University of Strathclyde Women in Leadership Network event. She was asked to give a 5-minute speech that would inspire an audience of the next generation. Caroline considered what she might tell her 21-year-old self now and chose Lifelong Learning as her topic. Her speech is below.

    Five things I would tell my 21-year-old self now.

    1. Embrace and commit to lifelong learning!

    Strathclyde University’s motto is ‘The Place of Useful Learning’ and certainly, your brain is in its academic prime as a student. But this is just the very start of your journey. Life is an expedition. Sometimes it’s exhilarating and sometimes it’s terrifying. Embracing and committing to a lifelong dedication to learning makes for a smoother trip!

    At the start of any new experience there are the known unknowns – the things you know that you don’t know. And then there are the unknown unknowns – the things you are totally unaware of!

    Not knowing things could have an impact on your confidence. However, consider life as an expedition. Anyone who dares to step outside of their comfort zone encounters new experiences and has to go through a learning curve. It could be a new job, a promotion, a first-time manager, a first-time parent, buying a house, resolving a conflict, the list is endless. Every new experience is going to involve a learning curve. You can now confidently embrace the experience and take comfort in the acknowledgement that all around you, seasoned individuals are traversing learning curves of their own. Nobody ever finishes the learning journey.


    2. Confidently learn how to learn.

    As a young Graduate at Zeneca, my development was catapulted by a 4-day course run by an ex-monk from California. I learned how to learn, how our memories work, how to speed read, mind map, and understand personality.

    Talking of personality, probably the most known personality traits are the introvert and extrovert. The introvert prefers to problem solve through quiet study, while the extrovert prefers to ask questions. Both methods have great merit, and combining these methods often gives you the deepest knowledge.

    Access to online resources has never been easier with sites such as Wikipedia and YouTube, etc. Never be afraid to reach out and speak to someone face-to-face, though. Learning is like an onion: it has many layers. You will find that deep learning occurs when you’ve uncovered both depth and context. Mastering the context and depth on any topic allows you to put knowledge to use and retain it. Superficial knowledge is easily forgotten, and difficult to utilise.

     

    Amici’s CEO – Caroline Briggs, aged 21


    3. Teamwork makes the dream work.

    The study of personality and team dynamics is essential for all leaders – there are untold books, consultants, podcasts, etc. on the topic.

    Firstly, understand yourself. What makes you tick? When are you at your best? What are you like when you’re under pressure? What are your blind spots?

    Studying personality allows you to embrace a rich tapestry of diversity that exists and understand the benefits it brings. The outcomes that are achieved when people collaborate are much greater than the sum of any individual.

    Teamwork can be inspiring, exciting, and supercharging, but it can be equally annoying. People can be scary or difficult. For success, there are two key things to accept and embrace.

    1. Every personality has major strengths and weaknesses – combining forces supercharges your capability
    2. People take time to learn to work well together – understand the process of team formation and taking people from ‘forming and storming’ to ‘norming and performing’

    4. Some education takes a lifetime of experiences.

    To the next generation of leaders: Use your time to learn, re-learn and constantly improve your management skills, leadership skills, how to handle pressure, emotional intelligence and last but by no means least, practice self-care. Your brain is like a muscle. You need to keep exercising it to keep it fit, but you also need to look after your whole self to stay in prime performance.


    5. From failure you can bounce back higher!

    The best thing you’ll ever learn is that despite your best efforts, from time to time, you will fail – and that’s statistically normal and totally OK! From mistakes and failures can come the strongest and best results. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

     

    In closing:

    Life is a vivid and exciting journey with so many opportunities and challenges that will enrich you. Embrace and commit to lifelong learning. Go even further – teach others and help them on their journey, too.

    I wish you a bonne voyage!

     

  3. WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP – THE JOURNEY TO AMICI

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    Introduction: This blog has been written following a presentation that Caroline (Amici’s CEO) delivered at the West of Scotland Science Park titled, ‘Women in Leadership’. The presentation will be broken down in to a series of blog posts

    Women In Leadership

    BLOG #1: WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP – THE JOURNEY TO AMICI

     

    People who know me, know that I get great pleasure from helping other people. I hope this series of blogs which Carly, our Marketing Manager, is bullying* me into writing, provokes some thoughts and gives an insight into some of my experiences. Before we launch into what I’ve learned, the first post in my Women In Leadership blog series is the story of my journey to Amici…

    At school I was absolutely mad about being a Forensic Scientist. I wanted to solve crime and make the world a better place! I couldn’t wait to get to Strathclyde University in Glasgow where I studied Forensic and Analytical Chemistry. The degree required a sandwich year, which I spent at Abbott Laboratories doing stability trials of a phase III HIV medication using HPLC and GC testing. It was important work back in 1995 – patients were literally breaking down the gates to get early access to these new medicines.

    Women In LeadershipI didn’t really understand myself at 21, but I did know that this kind of job didn’t necessarily suit my personality. I’m quite gregarious and outgoing and I wanted a more people-based role.

    As a result, I tried out for the Police, and they may have detected something in my personality when they asked me how I would react if I was given an order I didn’t agree with…hmm… So I decided that it was the pharmaceutical industry for me!

    I was really fortunate to get a place on Zeneca’s (now AstraZeneca) Graduate Programme and I’m still grateful to this day for the investment in training and opportunity they gave me. Zeneca believed in giving people a job a bit outside of their comfort zone and provided support to fast-track learning. I believe the philosophy is an excellent one and I try to replicate this at Amici.

    If you want to reach your full potential, you need to carry on learning, every day, forever. It’s got to be healthy for the brain – surely!

    At Zeneca I had cut my teeth with Business Development and Operations Management. I thought the job was really very sexy; flying all over the world, going to conferences and chatting to people. As part of a development review I was encouraged to try purchasing. I didn’t think this would be as exciting a job and was pretty dismissive. However, my best friend lived in London and worked for SmithKline Beecham. She highlighted a job in purchasing at SB and persuaded me to apply, offering to split the £500 Find A Friend bonus with me! I landed the job and she gave me the £250. It was only later that I realised she would have been taxed on the whole bonus and would have been lucky to have £100 in hand! Oops!

    I’ve always been incredibly good with money management and through my new procurement role I realised that I’m good at taking care of the company’s money too. Clearly, I had found my calling! I’ve spent my life weighing up ‘value’ in order to make decisions. My bolshie nature has proved to be a great fit for a purchasing person and I’ve had a great career path from it.

    SmithKline Beecham became GlaxoSmithKline, or GSK, in the days where it was joked that you needed to stick the company logo on with Velcro it changed so often! GSK provided many different opportunities and a different environment. I thrived on the challenges and I flew all over the world looking at low cost sourcing, site procurement and global category procurement. SB and GSK were at the forefront of the procurement revolution, moving the profession from a tactical role to a truly strategic, highly valued one. They offered lots of training and consultancy support. There were templates and processes for everything. Yet equally, I was completely empowered to undertake global multi-million pound deals. It was a fantastic learning environment for me so early on in my career.

    But there came a point when I wanted to test myself. I didn’t want to follow the template anymore. I wanted to make my own ways of working, tailored to the situation. It was time to try a different environment and a great opportunity came up for me, back in Glasgow, at Invitrogen (now Life Technologies).

    The procurement revolution hadn’t quite hit there yet. I had the enthusiasm, the confidence and some of the skills to shake it up. The missing skills I had to learn on the job. It felt like a blank canvas and I threw myself and my team into strategic global procurement. We launched procurement to the company, running campaigns and training courses to get people to negotiate and think about value. We ran supplier days focused on improving supplier performance, saving money and helping them to understand the needs of the company. The results were great. I really enjoyed my time there, but it was time for me to spread my wings. I’d moved house for jobs a few times and wanted to stay living where I was, in Glasgow. It was time to set up my own company…

     

    Women In Leadership

     

    Aged 29, and probably with more confidence than skill, but with a lot of good experience and some naivety thrown in, Amici Procurement Solutions Limited was born! I never imagined it would be what it has become today! I didn’t have a credible long-term plan – does anybody?! To start with, I was going to be a one-woman band, providing training and consultancy for biotech companies. However, I soon realised that this was a hard gig and wasn’t a great business model either. I had a flash of inspiration from my best friend’s dad and realised there was a better model to be had.

    14 years later, and with plenty of challenges along the way, the Amici team has reached 50-something lovely people who I would class as my friends, as well as fantastic colleagues. We provide digital procurement, inventory and operational management solutions to inspirational biotech companies in the UK and the US.

    I love this industry. Everyone has a real sense of purpose, drive, challenge and a great positive culture. Operational processes are something I care passionately about. I embrace LEAN and continuous improvement daily, from helping customers, to designing new software, to providing a sounding board for a colleague’s development.

    Talking of continuous improvement, the biggest job has been my own development. The challenges of an entrepreneurial company are ever changing. As the company grows, my role changes too. As they say, do a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life. For me that is true (most days anyway!).

     

     

     

     

    *Note from Carly : Encouraging