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Problem solving and negotiating. Steven on life as a Strategic Buyer.

Steven joined Robertson in 2022 after successfully applying for the role of strategic buyer in our procurement team.

The first question we put to Steven was, 'what does a strategic buyer do?'

In short, I help source the materials needed for our construction, civil engineering and facilities management projects – from packages for bricks, timber and insulation to site signage and water coolers. I look for the best quality for the best price, and with a supplier who can guarantee getting the order to site in the timeframe needed.

What would you say are key skills needed for the role?

I liaise with site project teams and suppliers every day, so good people skills are essential. 

Problem solving and the ability to negotiate are key too. For instance, for a construction project it's my job to secure product quality as per the design specification, and keep in mind the customer’s budget. So I'll often negotiate with a supplier to lower the package costs or look at alternative products which still hit the spec.

Lastly, time management – I'm constantly working to deadlines. And if something isn't delivered to site, that's where the problem solving skills come back into play – identifying the issue and ways to resolve it so that our site team can progress with works as planned.

What's a typical day for a strategic buyer?

In the morning I check our system for any new requisitions from sites then get to work on those. From there, it can vary. I may need to put a contract out to tender, for example find suppliers who can service and refill our site fire extinguishers for the next year – given the number of construction sites we have, that's a fairly big job.

On other days I'll head off to a site meeting, for instance with our supplier and project estimator, to talk about product specifications. I mentioned the importance of good relationships earlier – it's this type of collaboration that helps us all get things right first time.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

The fact that it's rewarding. Yes it can be stressful, especially if an order doesn't go as planned. But once you find a solution and get things back on track, it's a great feeling knowing that you've contributed to the success of a project in some way.

And buying a product isn't always about the best price. We also work with social value companies and social enterprises that put a percentage of their profits back into charity. In these instances we're willing to spend a little more as it's an ethos that aligns with our own organisational purpose – that's really satisfying to be involved in. Anything else? The people I work with – we have a great team environment. 

We interviewed you for our #NoWrongPath series earlier this year. What was your route to strategic buyer?

That's right. I wasn't a huge fan of school and left as soon as I could. My first job was in a supermarket. I only had one Higher qualification at the time so made every effort to show I had a strong work ethic and positive attitude. When I moved on to work for a construction company, I took a pay reduction because I knew there were career opportunities ahead – in just three months I went from document scanner to vehicle purchasing. 

Two-and-a-half years later I was delighted to be offered my role here at Robertson. It's great to be working for a company that can facilitate my ambitions – I'm very career driven and know that I have various routes to progress here.