Advances in technology and the euro have enabled trading with overseas partners to become both more efficient and relatively inexpensive. As a result, British companies are increasingly teaming up with foreign partners to gain access to new markets, and sourcing low cost items from abroad is turning out to be crucial in keeping many manufacturing firms alive.
This has led to more global sourcing and greater opportunity for procurement professionals. Managers are taking advantage of exciting opportunities overseas, training local staff and managing ongoing operations. Secondments to the Far East or Europe are becoming more common while relationships are being fostered with foreign partners.
Making a move
If you are interested in gaining overseas experience, relocating long term isn’t the only option. With the increasing availability of travel options, it is easy to commute for part of the week, to France or Belgium, for instance.
However, many European countries are relatively similar in culture to the UK, so it can be fairly easy to adjust to a more permanent move. The vast majority of European Union (EU) citizens have polished written and verbal English language skills, and similarly UK professionals may well be proficient themselves in one or more EU languages.
The importance of language skills
It is clearly advantageous to speak a different language if you are trying to secure key accounts with overseas suppliers. Even if a potential supplier does speak English, making an effort to speak their language can help to smooth negotiations and lead to new opportunities. The issue of international communication cannot be ignored if you want to stay one step ahead.
If you are working abroad, then details as minor as your handshake can impact a meeting, and there is also a great deal of protocol when it comes to doing business over the phone or the internet. A lack of knowledge of your counterpart's business manner can lead to awkward and unsuccessful negotiations without you ever realising what went wrong.
For instance, did you know that:
· Age equals rank in Japanese culture, where elder colleagues command great respect
· In most areas of Germany, men stand when women enter a room
· It is considered rude to write on someone's business card in Japan and Singapore
· American business people negotiate at an extremely fast pace and detest time-wasting. French business protocol requires constant formality and reserve in negotiation
It helps if you already work for a global organisation with offices in every continent. This gives you access to colleagues who have a good knowledge of the language and local culture, which is crucial when doing business internationally.
English does remain the universal business language of choice; however, foreign languages are vital for smaller companies who do not have a local presence. Accessing foreign markets is crucial to future success for global procurement firms.
Recruitment consultants strongly emphasise the advantage of studying for the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) qualification to secure the best procurement jobs.
Employers increasingly request CIPS when advertising new positions because they respect the qualification. It’s always advantageous to be recognised as part of a chartered body such as CIPS because it shows that you take the purchasing function seriously and are dedicated to developing your career.
Furthermore, research by the CIPS has revealed that salaries for purchasing and supply professionals have experienced exceptional growth, particularly at senior level. The vast majority of a firm's revenue is accounted for by bought-in goods and services; hence the contribution of effective purchasing and supply management.
Keeping an eye on your career options is an ongoing process. If you are in purchasing, there is no doubt that global procurement is an exciting and imminent phase of the future. If you want to stay ahead of the competition, then languages, qualifications, and learning about new cultures are the ways forward. However, interpersonal skills are also key to success. Motivation, creativity and passion for the job will take you far.
For more information, visit the CIPS website.