Are we just talking about the process of buying, or is ‘procurement’ a rather more detailed function? John Radford discusses

From a business perspective, procurement is not the same as purchasing. Procurement deals with the sourcing of activities, negotiation and strategic selection of goods and services that are of importance to an organisation, or event in this example. Purchasing is the relatively simpler process of how goods and services are ordered. With this definition in mind, clearly there is a far greater need to do your homework before that final purchasing decision is made. This article looks to explore in just a little more detail the process you may wish to employ before taking that final leap of contracting someone or something.

At some point in the event production process you will need to source something from another provider; it may be as simple as cable ties, or encompass a contractor bringing a team of staff to provide you with the production knowledge, skills and manpower required to put on a safe and successful event. It’s your money being spent, so think carefully and consider the options carefully. Getting the right team or supplier on site through careful procurement can make all the difference to the success of your event.

Taking time at the start of your project life cycle can pay huge dividends and provide you with more than just a collection of suppliers. You should be creating a team.

Pic: JR Event Services

Just a few minutes of internet research can yield a plethora of suppliers and contractors who may fit the bill at first glance, but take the time to delve just that little bit deeper. Some questions you should be asking yourself are:

  • Is their previous experience aligned with your project?
  • Does their product or service meet your needs?
  • Are they reliable and what is their reputation like?
  • For some requirements, are they able to make site visits and meetings easily?

You may be wanting contractors who meet specific criteria regarding their environmental standards or use of specific products – try to build time into your project to resource effectively rather than having to make last minute decisions.

Pic: Getty Images

Large businesses can provide huge support and backup but don’t write off the smaller businesses who may be able to offer you a more bespoke service. They may also be able to provide a more creative set of solutions for you and although they may have a smaller range, this may be more appropriate. Both solutions have pros and cons so do your homework as to which fits better for you.

If the procurement is something like event management, safety or an area where you will need to work closely with the supplier, then try to get a face to face meeting with the various options of suppliers at an early stage. Can you easily engage with them, are their ideas and methods of management in tune with how you want to produce your event? Or are they overbearing and effectively looking to take control of it? Personal relationships are important and even more so if you have to be on site working alongside and problem solving with those teams for a number of days. You may already have a network of contacts that you can talk to in order to discover who they are using or who they recommend. Personal recommendations are helpful to both sides of the equation.

Experience and knowledge
Headline grabbing discounts and low prices have to be considered – after all it’s a competitive world out there! But does another slightly costlier supplier/contractor bring far greater experience and knowledge to the event which in turn can benefit you indirectly? The cost may be higher, but overall will you save time having a knowledgeable and experienced supplier/contractor on site from the very start? The contractor may have previous experience on similar sites or locations and can provide references for their previous work. The knowledge and experience elements are almost unquantifiable in terms of an actual value in money but failing to understand the benefits of this can lead to additional and unforeseen costs.

Pic: Getty Images

There are also specific roles across many events that demand a level of knowledge and experience in order for the event to go ahead safely. Safety advisors, electricians, structural build elements and a number of other areas need sound levels of knowledge and experience to make the event work safely and successfully.

You could ask recognised trade bodies to recommend suppliers in your area or who specialise in the services or product you need, but be careful as they may simply wish to put forward members of what is a commercial organisation in itself. Again, this is where personal recommendations can be of real use. Industry events such as the Event Production Show or Showman’s Show can give you easy access to a large number of potential suppliers who you can meet and talk through your project with at an early stage. They can then arrange to meet you away from the industry event to provide you with greater detail on what they can provide.

Talk things through clearly and have a clear set of needs/requirements. It will be almost impossible for a supplier to provide you with an accurate and bespoke quote if you are vague or unsure about what you need. Create a checklist of what you need before talking to contractors and suppliers so you have a clear focus on what is required. If you are contracting an event management and production team, this is clearly an area where you will benefit from its knowledge and contacts. Ensure clarity from the start, maybe even put together some role and responsibility portfolios so that there is a clear focus on exactly what you are procuring. This could greatly assist with any issues further down the road.

Pic: Getty Images

Don’t forget to make sure that you have a clear description of what will be supplied, when it will be delivered and collected, and who your point of contact is. Create purchase orders that contain the appropriate information and ensure that both you and the supplier understand the exact requirements of the project. If their supply is subject to a site survey, get that in place as early as possible. What you may consider a very straight forward delivery location may have implications for loads of a certain height or weight. It’s also a great opportunity to meet someone from the company face to face if you haven’t already done so.

Who is to be their contact on site as well? You may be tied up running other aspects of the business or event so delegate someone to be on site to take delivery and manage collections. Ensure those details are passed to the suppliers so they can easily access answers if needed. Some companies will charge additional fees if left waiting on site for equipment to be offloaded so make sure there is a realistic schedule that takes delivery and collection time periods into account. It may be that you can take delivery early or the contractor can collect late – this may be in their interest to reduce transportation so can be worth exploring to save costs.

Hopefully, your event will take place each year if so desired, and therefore constructive feedback is needed to ensure that everyone – including you – can learn from their experience and continue to improve their supply standards. Ask for a post event meeting if there were areas that were of particular issue, but be prepared to listen to comments coming back as well. Sometimes it could be a case of miscommunication between the parties and in hindsight those things can be easily rectified. Constructive feedback can ensure that all parties are aware of the positives and negatives.

If your supplier did a good job then make sure you thank them, a bit of positive feedback does wonders for long term relationships and it’s all too easy to simply look at what wasn’t quite so good.

In summary – just take that little bit of extra time so that you get what you really need and the dividends will justify that investment in time.

About the Author
John Radford runs JR Event Services and has worked in the event industry for over 20 years. He provides event management and event safety consultancy services for a broad spectrum of events from single day and city centre cultural events to week long music and dance festivals. Visit or call 01275 406760 for an informal chat.

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