“Great purchasers are great salesmen.” Philippe Grau, A GEM Alumus (ESC ’97) talks about purchasing and networking at Airbus.

“Great purchasers are great salesmen.”  Philippe Grau

“Great purchasers are great salesmen.”  Philippe Grau

Philippe Grau, an alumnus from Grenoble Ecole de Management (graduated 1997), is currently a Commodity Sourcing Group Leader in Airbus’ Procurement, an Organization with over 2000 employees, including buyers, sourcing group leaders (like Philippe), multi-functional team leaders, supply chain specialists, and many other professionals.

Philippe, you’re a Commodity Sourcing Group Leader, which means you are in procurement?

Philippe Grau, Airbus

Philippe manages a very different group of products than one would typically assume.

Philippe manages a very different group of products than one would typically assume.  He says he manages a very different group of products than one would typically assume of when looking at a commercial aircraft company; he specializes in fasteners- these are the devices that assemble aircraft parts together. As the Commodity Sourcing Group Leader for some of the fastener categories, Philippe has to outline the group’s strategy, look through numerous requests for product quotes and proposals, and negotiate final agreements in support of all of the Programmes.

You say there are 2000 people?

“EADS wise, there are about 2000 employees…in Procurement. When we met once a year, we see how many we are.”

 

Tips for Purchasing

Your job is Procurement, yet you said that even people in Procurement need to know how to sell.  Can you explain what you mean?

“Absolutely.”

With Procurement’s internal sub-divisions and their varying functions, such as Engineering, Quality, Supply Chain, to name a few, hence its different agendas and projects, “each believes they are at the heart of the company.” Philippe says he has to show these other parties the value of what he will bring, because he needs them for his group’s projects and strategy.  Philippe´s strategy: You have to argue. You have to seduce in some cases

Philippe Grau, Airbus

Philippe´s strategy: You have to argue. You have to seduce in some cases.

Additionally, Commodity Sourcing is competing against other customers for suppliers’ products, for the best prices, quality, service and contracts. As a buyer, Philippe has to sell the Airbus Commodity Sourcing group as a customer to be preferred above the others, because “we should be the favourite one.”

“You have to sell to other functions the value you bring to other groups.”

For anybody interested in the buying profession, Philippe advises that one must have the ability to sell what one wants to accomplish. In this case, this is what he has had to do, and what he continuously does, to get the other departments to support his initiatives before he even heads out to talk to the suppliers.

   

 Career Advice for Business Students

 What advice would you give to somebody studying in the business school today, from your own experience?

“Networking is key.”

Philippe emphasizes the value of having a real network, rather than relying on a virtual one, such as Facebook.

This relates to those you meet, speak with, and work with, as they know about the new positions and organizational changes that occur. “If you are weak in networking, you lose a lot of opportunities for your career.”

 You said it’s ‘not virtual.’ That means it’s not about just having 500 friends on Facebook…?

Philippe says he is from Generation X, so Facebook is a new tool for him, and one he is cautious about. “I wasn’t born with Facebook, as the Y Generation.” In his opinion, even a 10,000 friends count will not help one’s job prospects as “they are just names.” A ‘real network’ is made of people who will be willing to call you for possible job or business opportunities. Indeed, Philippe addresses one crucial point: “networking is more quality than quantity.” It is definitely better to have 20 key contacts versus thousands of names.

So it’s somebody that actually thinks about calling you when something interesting happens (or will happen), not only you calling them?

Philippe Grau, Airbus

“I would rather have real network, rather than a virtual one.”

“I would rather have a real network, than a virtual one.”

“I think good networking is when people think about calling you.” One has to be strong in networking in order to truly grasp all the opportunities available to one’s job search. It is through your network of real personal contacts that someone may suddenly call you up and tell you about a new job that has just opened up at their company. As this job is probably not yet posted online, the vacant spot needs to be filled right away, so you have an advantage against the usual general pool of applicants.

As Philippe concludes, he reiterates the fact that the main reason personal contacts would call you, as soon as a specific job opportunity becomes available where they work, is because they thought of you right away when the job opened up. You know you are successful in networking when you give contacts the sense to call you immediately, because you are the first person that comes to mind when there is a job opportunity. Philippe affirms that a prospective job candidate should be approached by job opportunities, rather than the other way around. In other words, the effort should not necessarily lie in approaching as many personal contacts as possible to inquire about employment, although the follow-up is important, but the effort should certainly be there in making a positive and lasting impression on the contacts that you do meet. You need to ensure that you are their primary choice when a job slot opens up.

Any advice from your experience when you were in a business school prior to 1997?

In school, Philippe and his colleagues were all interested in finance and figures.  The courses that were not important to him back in his school days- such as organizational management- actually would become useful and relevant for his present career.

See also:

An Interview with Tom Enders, CEO of EADS (Airbus) Part 1: The challenges of running a large international corporation

An Interview with Tom Enders, CEO of EADS (Airbus) In May, I had the opportunity to interview Tom Enders, CEO of EADS. The company is often better known for its Airbus division.  EADS is a pan-European corporation that employs over 140 000 people and generated revenues of nearly €57 billion last year. It is a fascinating company for many reasons; its governance with diverse political interests, the strategic importance of the aeronautical industry and the very international structure of the organization. I am very grateful to Tom Enders and his team at EADS for a very open discussion I had.

An Interview with Tom Enders, CEO of EADS (Airbus) Part 2: Strategy and execution in the aircraft industry) 

An Interview with Tom Enders, CEO of EADS (Airbus) Part 2Tom Enders is the CEO of EADS, the parent company of Airbus, the giant commercial aircraft company.  EADS is a pan European corporation that employs over 140 000 people and generated revenues of nearly €57 billion last year. In the second part of this three-fold interview, Tom Enders talks about strategic execution at Airbus and EADS, how politics can influence strategic plans and the relationship between Airbus and Boeing.

An Interview with Tom Enders, CEO of EADS (Airbus) Part 3: Advice for Young Graduates

An Interview with Tom Enders, CEO of EADS (Airbus) Part 3Tom Enders has had an interesting academic background, prior to getting involved in Germany’s political affairs and the German defense sector and then his corporate career at Airbus and EADS.  In his early 20s, besides the University of Bonn, he also went abroad to the United States to study economics, politics, and history, an experience that gave him a launch into ‘going international.’  He offers his advice for young business graduates in their 20s today.

A GEM Alumnus’ Account of His Time at Airbus: Insights into the European Working Context

Airbus Navir Rustomfram-ShuklaNavir Rustomfram-Shukla, a recent alumnus from Grenoble Ecole de Management, is presently working at Airbus as a financial controller. He had previously studied at the University of Mumbai in India and graduated in Economics before veering off into business.

6 Comments

Filed under Airlines, Business, Business Schools, Entrepreneurship, France, Leadership, Management

6 responses to ““Great purchasers are great salesmen.” Philippe Grau, A GEM Alumus (ESC ’97) talks about purchasing and networking at Airbus.

  1. Pingback: An Interview with Tom Enders, CEO of EADS (Airbus) Part 1: The challenges of running a large international corporation | GlobalEd

  2. Pingback: An Interview with Tom Enders, CEO of EADS (Airbus) Part 2: Strategy and execution in the aircraft industry) | GlobalEd

  3. Pingback: An Interview with Tom Enders, CEO of EADS (Airbus) Part 3: Advice for Young Graduates | GlobalEd

  4. So true! I shared your post on twitter =) @Tannypor

    • Mark Thomas

      Thank you so much for this, Tanny. I think this must be the first time I have been twitted from Greenland. I feel quite honoured!

      Take care, Mark

  5. Pingback: “Innovative and dynamic employees required.” Navir Rustomfram-Shukla, A GEM Alumnus (MIB ’09) talks about his work at Airbus. | GlobalEd

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