• Service: Advisory, Management Consulting, Business Performance Services
  • Industry: Life Sciences
  • Type: Video
  • Date: 3/21/2014
  • Length: 4:48 Minutes

Supplier Relationships: Becoming the Customer of Choice 

Tim Tolhurst, DSM:

cutting through complexity


Becoming the customer of choice

Executive Vice President
Chief Purchasing Officer

in conversation with

Advisory Partner
KPMG in The Netherlands

Becoming the customer of choice

Relationships must bring innovation, sustainability, and trust in the current procurement world

TIM TOLHURST: The one question I ask of all of the buyers that we have when I go to talk to people is, think about your relationships. Not just the internal relationships, but do we have the kind of supplier relationships that are able to bring innovation, sustainability, asset light, new business models, because that is a different type of relationships than the one that’s operating in a two dimensional space, so what kind of relationships do we have? How much trust is in those relationships? How much do we understand the suppliers?


How much do we understand the motivation of the suppliers and why they are where they are? How do they see us? Do they see us as customer of choice? Are we really able to build enduring and meaningful relationships?

Becoming the customer of choice

Buyers must foster and facilitate a richer relationship between suppliers and the enterprise

In order for us to be successful in the long term, we, DSM, need to focus on, who are the suppliers we can do business with in the future? How do we send them that message? How do we create the kind of interactions which build trust between us and the supplier base? How do we get people involved from the business group so they’re not just talking to the guy that says “My name is Tim Tolhurst, buyer,” because historically, buyers have been there to mug them. So how do you get your business leaders involved, which can talk about, this is us, this is the company we’re in, these are the markets we operate in, this is why we’re differentiated in those markets, this is why we’re going to be successful, and if you ride with us, you’re riding with a winner, and that we are a customer of choice to you,


and that you should come alongside us in a very open and very authentic and very transparent way, and we can do good business together, and we can both win here. The period of being focused out to the supply markets as the sort of gatekeeper between the supplier and the enterprise is over. And I think the buyer has to become a much more sophisticated animal in facilitating a much more meaningful and much broader and much richer relationship and discussion between the suppliers and the enterprise.

Becoming the customer of choice

The most efficient buyers capture the imagination of the internal stakeholders

The confidence of buyers is not to build a relationship with a supplier and then try and package that and bring it to the business, but the best buyers in this relationship are the ones that can create the relationship between the supplier and their internal business stakeholders, and acting as much more of a facilitator, where, in fact, the trust and the good will


and the sort of sustainability of the relationship is established on a much broader basis than I have a relationship with you, and I’m hostage to the fact that some business leader decides to make a decision, which is completely contradictory to the basis upon which we build this relationship, so in that area, I think you’re right. It requires people who have a degree of sophistication to tell stories, to make arguments, tell stories, bring compelling visions, and really capture the imagination of the internal stakeholders at the same time as getting the right people from the suppliers in the same space and creating a vision for the future.

Becoming the customer of choice

Managing relationships between buyers and sellers will bring security and confidence

JOHN TROS: It’s about relationships. You have to be, as procurement officer, or procurement manager, be leading the relationships between buyers and sellers. If you’re able to manage these relationships in a proper way, you will bring innovation, you will bring security of supply, because in the end, it’s all about relationships. So if you’re not able


to manage relationships within your supply chain, you will end up not being a buyer anymore in the future.

cutting through complexity



Establishing strong & collaborative relationships with suppliers is critical when seeking to become a customer of choice. Procurement managers have a duty to facilitate the relationships between buyers and sellers and manage these relationships closely to ensure they are delivering value to both parties. Tim Tolhurst, CPO at DSM, discusses how his team is establishing richer relationships with key suppliers and ensuring there is a level of trust & confidence to enable a sustainable partnership.

Tim Tolhurst, DSM

Tim Tolhurst has been the Chief Purchasing Officer of Royal DSM since January 2010. Tolhurst joined DSM in November 2009 from Firmenich Group, where he was Global Vice President Purchasing and Logistics. Tim is highly experienced in the area of Purchasing and has held several senior positions in this field with previous employers including Thorn EMI, Mars, SmithKline Beechamand Quest International.

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