Profit From the Source Book_hero_rectangle.jpg

Companies That Prioritize Suppliers and Procurement Can Weather Today’s Crises and Win Tomorrow’s Postpandemic Opportunities, Says New Book from BCG

In Profit from the Source, BCG Authors Issue a Wake-Up Call to CEOs Who Marginalize Their Suppliers and Procurement Function, Warning, “You’re Taking an Existential Risk with the Future of Your Company”

BOSTON—Suppliers are the keys to corporate success not only now—in the midst of a global supply chain crisis, rampant inflation, and energy shortages—but also in the future. However, if CEOs are to maximize the value of these external providers of goods and services, they need to undertake a radical transformation of their business by putting suppliers at the heart of their company and empowering their procurement function, which owns the corporate relationship with vendors.

That is the view of four Boston Consulting Group (BCG) partners, whose convention-busting new book, Profit from the Source: Transforming Your Business by Putting Suppliers at the Core, offers CEOs a blueprint for how they can transform their company by extracting extraordinary value from their suppliers.

In their book, published by Harvard Business Review Press, Christian Schuh, Wolfgang Schnellbächer, Alenka Triplat, and Daniel Weise seek to overturn the traditional view of business leaders that suppliers are peripheral contributors to corporate success and that procurement is largely an administrative capability that focuses narrowly on delivering cost savings.

To make their case for radical change, the BCG authors point to research from Harvard Business School, which shows that prior to the current global supply chain crisis, CEOs spent an average of just 1% of their time with suppliers. According to the authors, this lack of attention makes no sense: “Given that spending on suppliers—the job of procurement—accounts for more than half of a typical company’s total budget, it means that CEOs spend next to no time either thinking about or being actively involved in how their companies spend more than half of their budgets. That’s a mismatch with potentially existential consequences for companies.”

Also, the authors say that the limited time CEOs spend with suppliers means that their companies risk missing out on the enormous potential opportunities that these vendors offer for achieving profitable growth. They note that suppliers are not only a source of cost savings but also a source of resilience through their provision of mission-critical components, parts, and raw materials, as well as vital services such as manufacturing. Moreover, suppliers are a scalable source of competitive advantage, helping companies deliver world-beating products that are of high quality, innovative, sustainable, and fast to market.

Companies That Prioritize Suppliers and Procurement Outperform Their Rivals That Don’t

In Profit from the Source, the authors feature BCG analysis showing that only 35% of the top 150 companies in the S&P 500 put the chief procurement officer (or equivalent) on the leadership team. Yet, those companies outperformed the market by 134% from 2000 through 2020—a turbulent 20-year period that saw the tech boom and bust, the global financial crisis, the US-China trade war, and the start of the global pandemic.

As the authors say, “This clearly demonstrates that CEOs really can steer their companies through challenging times and extract enormous value from their suppliers if they give their CPO a seat at the table and empower their procurement function.”

They note that it is no coincidence that Apple, the first public company to reach a market capitalization that exceeds $3 trillion, is run by a CEO who was previously senior vice president of worldwide operations with responsibility for procurement: Tim Cook.

A Blueprint for Radical Change: How to Put Suppliers at the Heart of the Business

In Profit from the Source, the authors present a blueprint for radical change that comprises proven practical ways that business leaders can get all the potential benefits from their suppliers. In doing so, the authors draw on proprietary BCG research, as well as their firsthand experience and that of their colleagues of working with some of the world’s leading companies.

The blueprint features three building blocks:

  • How the CEO needs to change. Recommendations include:
    • Spend 25% of their time on supplier and procurement issues.
    • Build 1-to-1 relationships with the CEOs of the top suppliers—the 20 to 40 companies that account for half of the supplier budget.
    • Give the CPO a new mandate that focuses on profitable growth rather than just cost reduction.
  • How the company needs to change. Recommendations include:
    • Give the procurement team a central role in the product life cycle—from start to finish.
    • Automate routine administrative procurement tasks.
    • Give procurement managers artificial intelligence technology to improve their decision making.
  • How the company’s ecosystem—or network of suppliers—needs to change. Recommendations include:
    • Demand upfront commitments to double savings from suppliers in return for a wraparound package of business support to counter rampant inflation.
    • Develop just-in-case, rather than a just-in-time, relationships with suppliers to boost resilience.
    • Work with suppliers to cut their carbon emissions and accelerate the company’s own journey to net zero.
    • Get the procurement function to tap suppliers as a source of R&D investment and innovation.

The authors contend that if CEOs follow this blueprint, they will be able to create companies that are stronger, more competitive, and more sustainable—and ready for the next generation.

Media Contact:
Megan Wilson
Assoc. Director of Publicity
Cave Henricks Communications

About Boston Consulting Group

Boston Consulting Group partners with leaders in business and society to tackle their most important challenges and capture their greatest opportunities. BCG was the pioneer in business strategy when it was founded in 1963. Today, we work closely with clients to embrace a transformational approach aimed at benefiting all stakeholders—empowering organizations to grow, build sustainable competitive advantage, and drive positive societal impact.
Our diverse, global teams bring deep industry and functional expertise and a range of perspectives that question the status quo and spark change. BCG delivers solutions through leading-edge management consulting, technology and design, and corporate and digital ventures. We work in a uniquely collaborative model across the firm and throughout all levels of the client organization, fueled by the goal of helping our clients thrive and enabling them to make the world a better place.