I’m very grateful to Eric for drawing my attention to a job advertised on the Liz Earle website. It is described as a continuous improvement buyer. I suppose “Purchasing Manager” would sound a bit old fashioned. But most job adverts have their fair share of trendy verbiage. This particular one has some interesting features.
For a start there is an obvious emphasis on cost reduction. The third paragraph spells it out.
Your main responsibility will be to reduce costs and deliver value across our packaging category
So bring your own hatchet. Needless to say you have to do this
whilst maintaining excellent standards of quality and delivery.
Of course. We all know that cutting costs can be done without loss of quality. No problem.
Well sometimes you can reduce costs without adversely affecting quality – there are better ways of doing things that might have been missed or opportunities arise. We all need to keep our eyes open and our brains receptive to this. But the place where costs really need to be thought about seriously isn’t in the purchasing office but in the NPD process. Getting the margin right is pretty much the most important single aspect of New Product Development. If you need to get a bright new purchasing manager in to solve your cost problem you really aren’t doing it right.
I don’t know what is going on at Liz Earle. I have been keeping an eye on them since they were bought by Avon. But I have no insider knowledge and I don’t even know anybody involved with the company well. So I might be well off the mark. But the impression I am getting is that they are changing the nature of the business quite significantly and the changes are causing strains. Going back to the job advert.
You will be required to lead cross-functional teams with conflicting requirements to decisions relating to supplier selection, quality issues resolution, cost/service/quality choices.
It sounds like there are a lot of arguments going on at their headquarters on the Isle of Wight. One has to be impressed by the honesty of the HR department in putting that in the public domain, but it does make you wonder what you will be letting yourself in for if you applied for the job.
Liz Earle had some well publicised redundancies late last year. I think it is a good rule of thumb that if a company is making people redundant that is a company you probably don’t want to go and work for. A company that has an emphasis on cost reduction isn’t such an obvious red flag, but when you think about it the risk is the same. Saving money by cutting your staff is not very different to saving money by cutting your costs. Indeed you might well simply oblige your suppliers or ex-suppliers to lose staff. It is all part of the same general approach.
And cost cutting will never create new sales.
The real answer is to do NPD properly. New Product Development has as its aim creating new value which creates new sales and widens your customer base. Doing that well is hard work and time consuming. You shouldn’t have time to have “conflicting requirements to decisions”.
As I say, I don’t know what the actual situation at Liz Earle is. I am talking in general terms. It might well be that Avon’s long term plan is to incorporate the Liz Earle brand into their overall manufacturing and distribution network. This would make it a sub brand rather than an independent business unit. Their current product portfolio is a strong one with a loyal following. Their sales are certainly respectable. And I would have thought that getting listed in Boots must have brought them to the attention of large number of customers who previously hadn’t even heard of them.
I’d be surprised if they were to vanish altogether. In fact I am sure the products will be around for many years to come. But will they continue to be made on the Isle of Wight, or even in Britain? I am not so sure.
Here is the job on the Liz Earle website
And here are some of my other Liz Earle posts