A reader writes: “I agree with your position regarding purchasing agents. They have a difficult job since they are under pressure to cut costs, but they do not understand our position.”

Thanks for your comments. You are correct in that purchasing agents have a difficult job since they do not usually have a custodial background, yet they have to make decisions regarding quality, brands and other factors that can have a radical impact on day to day performance. In discussing your situation, I suggest that you be much more proactive in supporting and educating this key person in your company.

1. Without being disingenuous, you can befriend him so that he trusts your judgement and suggestions regarding purchases. What are his concerns/needs?

2. Get your facts together so that you have numbers to support your position. For instance, you may need to justify a more expensive purchase that has a longer operating life, thereby making it less expensive to own over time. A good example is a better quality vacuum cleaner that may cost more to purchase but is more productive or is less expensive to maintain and service over time.

3. Do your homework by collecting details on downtime of equipment, replacement costs for supplies and benefits of using concentrates over RTU (ready to use) chemicals.

4. Work on your presentation style in that you need to debrief upper management as to the challenges you face. Try to support the purchasing agent and certainly do not undercut him to his boss.

5. This means that you need to justify purchasing better quality equipment and supplies in order to reduce your major costs: labor and benefits.

6. Make sure that you can keep your commitment on any alleged savings in labor or be able to demonstrate an improvement in QC scores, outcomes, etc.

7. Make sure that you have a good working relationship with your distributors and manufacturers who can provide training, tech support and other services if they know they can count on your continued business.

Although some of these suggestions may seem political, it is important that you have defensible numbers to support your position. Be careful of embarrassing the purchasing agent and recognize that in most cases, he/she is a numbers person that will respond to facts rather than feeling.

Your comments and questions are important. I hope to hear from you soon. Until then, keep it clean...

Mickey Crowe has been involved in the industry for over 35 years. He is a trainer, speaker and consultant. You can reach Mickey at 678-314-2171 or CTCG50@comcast.net.