Making the transition from Procurement to CEO

Published: 3 March 2015

Following on from the recent news that Honda has appointed an ex-procurement professional, Takahiro Hachigo, to the role of CEO, it is worthwhile outlining what steps you can take in order to help yourself on this journey. With procurement and supply chain risk becoming an ever increasing topic at Board level, our profession has never been in a better state to make the leap to the top position. Procurement is in a fantastic position to truly influence and help shape the future success of the business by taking on an influential and innovative approach. This will clearly vary from one industry to another and the move is far more likely to be seen in manufacturing versus the service sector; due to the impact and value procurement has in the manufacturing space, whilst procurement in the service sector is still trying to articulate clearly to the board their value proposition.

Our top 3 tips to help make the transition from Procurement to CEO:

  1. Unlike Takahiro, who has remained loyal to Honda, a valuable lesson is to step out from one industry sector into a totally different environment in order to develop a wider business appreciation.
  2. A further step on the journey is also to move around functions - it is highly unusual that a career procurement professional with a deep and narrow background would have sufficient breadth of experience to make the transition directly into the CEO role. If you can make the move across to another function, arguably easier to do internally perhaps in the first instance, even on a secondment basis to broaden your outlook – Operations, Supply Chain, IT would all be possible avenues to explore. I touched on in an earlier Blog the relationship between sales and procurement and the opportunity to move into a wider commercial sales role would also be a valuable experience.
  3. An additional tip, no matter at what level, is to experience living and working in another country, thus truly developing your cultural experience.

All these lessons ring true for making the leap into the CEO’s shoes or indeed from moving from procurement into an Managing Director position.

Above all else you can reflect on some key appointments in our sector to illustrate that it can be done – Tim Cook, CEO at Apple is an ex-procurement and supply chain professional and now runs one of the World’s biggest companies as is Sam Walsh, CEO of the mining giant Rio Tinto.

Richard Guest is a specialist recruiter in the Procurement & Supply Chain Practice at Berwick Partners

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