These are busy times for public procurement, no doubt about it. It seems that more and more is expected of us and often times we are doing so with fewer resources. But as we struggle to keep our heads above water, we should make sure we are getting out there among our customers. 

There is nothing like meeting your end users at their place of business. Whether it is to provide procurement training, attend one of their staff meetings or just let them know we are here to help them, your customers will appreciate your presence. 

Not only will your visit result in renewed appreciation from your customer, but you are sure to learn something as well. How does the recently purchased smart board work for your IT group? Are the energy-efficient lamps an improvement in your parking garages? What in the heck is a hydraulic valve actuator anyway?

One of the most rewarding customer visits I ever experienced was an interior remodel at an area high school. With an improved kitchen facility, modern play area and comfortable recliner-rockers, our teen moms were better able to tend to their little ones during their class breaks. The program director expressed her gratitude for the new space, and said it prompted at least a few visits from the teen dads. Now that’s what I call a win-win!

On another occasion I visited our east side fire station after they received their new fire apparatus. It was a contested bid process, but ultimately we made an award and the much-needed equipment was delivered. The fire captain beamed with pride as he talked about improved response time for the calls in his district. He also gave me a cap with the words “Portland Fire” on it, which I still have today.

These visits also made me realize how rewarding public procurement can be. Friends, we do make a difference.

Don’t get me wrong. Those of us in our profession are privileged to utilize the technology tools at our disposal. Teleconferences across the country, Skype interviews with suppliers, e-procurement workflow approval, and countless cloud-based applications. No doubt these tools can help us be more efficient with our limited resources, and provide a high level of service to our stakeholders.

But if we really want to demonstrate our value and commitment to our organization, then let’s get out of our offices now and then. Your customers will appreciate your visit and you will benefit from it as well.

DARIN MATTHEWS, FNIGP, CPPO, CPSM, is the director of procurement for the University of California, Santa Cruz. He has extensive management experience, speaks throughout the world on procurement issues, and has published several books and articles on supply chain management. Contact Matthews at