This title was the heading of a presentation I made to a group of purchasing people a long, long time ago. Surprisingly, it has withstood the test of time. Even though many things have changed—technology, practices, globalization and much more—some things remain constant. This is one of them.
Somebody has to 'look out for the company,' whether that is what their job description says or not. I guess you could say the same thing for any manager or executive—sales, marketing, operations, finance, etc. Even the senior executives and board of directors have one over-arching responsibility: protect and preserve the assets of the company in the interest of the owners/shareholders.
This point is really much more direct than that broad duty. It almost comes down to a simple phrase. “You must ask the question; if you don’t ask, you won’t get [whatever you were after].”
If that sounds too simplistic—it isn’t. If you don’t ask for a better price, will you get one? I doubt it. If you don’t ask for shorter payment terms or better delivery terms, will you get those? Maybe so, but more likely, maybe not. If you don’t insist on the terms and conditions, that were so carefully crafted by your legal associates, you might very well agree to a deal that has bad unintended consequences.
From a competitive standpoint, depending on what your strategy dictates, you also have to make sure that the partners you’ve chosen—suppliers, customers, whoever—are able to deliver what the deal promised. That might be a cost, quality, service and speed combination for a vendor. It might be a profit, sales and distribution commitment for a customer. Or it could be a financial commitment from a lender or a productivity gain from operational people.
No matter what the situation, even if it isn’t written in your job description per se, your real job is this: “To look out for the company’s interest, to the best of your ability, in the given area of responsibility that is yours.” If you don’t, who will? Not your boss. Not your subordinates (well, maybe they will, but maybe not, too.) Probably no one else will either, because they each have their own areas to take care of.
Think hard about this: are you willing to be accountable for this “real job?” Are you sure you even know everything it encompasses? Maybe you should dig deeper and learn more about how you can best “look out for your company.” If you do, at least then you’ll know what you have agreed to be responsible and accountable for. People who are willing to be responsible and accountable are not so common these days.
Finally, if and when you do this, you will be a role model for others in the company, and they might just emulate your behavior. If you do this right, and well, you will become an increasingly valuable person in that company too. You’ll become someone they “can depend on.” And that is one of the best kinds of job security you can have in these turbulent times.