Procurement Director Interview: Stuart Snow, L’Oréal
Published: 30 Sep 2016 By Annie Hayes
Stuart Snow once operated a nightclub in London. Today he is the Procurement Director for French cosmetics firm, L’Oréal. Getting the best value for money and taking decisions that make commercial business sense have seen him traverse a route via the London music scene to upmarket department stores including Harrods. Here’s his story.
- Early career:
Stuart Snow took the traditional route to landing his first job. He scoured the local papers, applied and was successful in being offered a job as the Hire Negotiator for a plant hire company based in Hayes, Middlesex.
“It was an excellent introduction for dealing with challenging customers and stakeholders. I was very junior, dealing with tradesmen from construction and it was an interesting dynamic. I am not sure how many negotiations I actually won in the early weeks!” laughs Snow who admits that this steep learning curve was an excellent grounding on the meaning of customer service and the customer is always right.
Snow who always leaned towards entrepreneurial aspirations went on at this time to start a successful event in central London which ran for many years and helped him to acquire further business skills: “It shaped my understanding of the commercial, operational and project management side of business at an early age,” he says. It was also an incredibly important experience for him to learn about how to take an opportunity and deliver upon it, irrespective of what others said was or was not possible.
- The mid-years:
“At the age of 26 I was appointed as the Purchasing Director for a low cost sourcing outfit. Having customers with products which were under competitive stress, being instructed to source these products from low cost countries with no previous experience or knowledge was daunting and exciting. In my first week, I was given a number of products to source from around the world. That’s your starting point, off you go!” he recalls.
With little experience under his belt Snow quickly went about building a network of key trade partners and suppliers. He also established a sourcing office in the Guangdong Province with a team of six.
It was a key time to get some real insight in supply chain management. Snow quickly learned how to manage the quality and ethical challenges of dealing with partners in Asia Pacific and India.
“These were all great lessons in both personal and professional development. Some of those relationships still stand today, they are important to me as they remind me of the massive learning curve, successes and friendships made on that journey,” reminisces Snow.
In the year that the Olympics came to London, Snow took on a role as the Head of Procurement at department store, Harrods. His job was to identify and procure goods and services at the best value for the business. He was to stay there for two years before being approached by French cosmetics company, L’Oréal.
- Today’s challenges:
“When a global brand like L’Oréal approaches you it’s very hard not to have that conversation. L’Oréal is many businesses within the UK, with multiple divisions and 32 international brands, that require the same but slightly different services. The team are extremely important in managing the number of key stakeholders by brand or division. As Procurement Director, I hold responsibility for setting overall procurement strategy and overseeing the procurement organisation,” explains Snow.
Snow now works closely with the Managing Director, CFO, CMO and Operations Director/business managers and other regional procurement functions. He also has an important part to play in championing procurement throughout the company.
“My role and the role of the team is also to promote the function as a value creating and enabling service in order to establish procurement as an essential business process,” says Snow who adds, “It means I offer solutions, it’s not supplier B replacing supplier A.”
Snow is relishing the opportunity to evolve and learn and share best practice across a number of European teams.
“It’s an ambitious team, they have the energy to manage the complexities of this organisation and they all strive to continually improve service and value to the organisation,” says Snow who adds that he has a fantastic set of people to work with.
- Top Tips for Procurement candidates:
Looking back at his career, Snow says that the main tip he would give to other would-be procurement candidates is to gain as much experience as possible. He also advises entrant hopefuls to take all the opportunities there are even if that means changing sectors.
“Don’t be afraid to switch between sectors or categories. You will find that you will be applying similar or the same methodology within most instances, however, the innovator in you is seeing the opportunities,” he says.
Snow adds: “Also develop your relationship management skills. If you are unable to hold the right relationships and influence the right people, your role within purchasing will become systemised in the future. Business partners are the future in my opinion.”
- The next chapter:
Snow who is married to Monika and has three children has a natural inclination towards innovation, new ideas and pushing the boundaries. It has seen him take a career path that has been peppered with a bit of luck but mostly a tenacity to do well, work hard and traverse a course to the top through sheer determination. L’Oréal is providing him with plenty of challenges and opportunities to grow but Snow is not the type of character to sit aside and let nature take its course, he will continue to seek out those new projects and opportunities now and in the future. When he is not working incredibly hard he is cycling at home in Hertfordshire or listening to music which he admits helps him to see on the sunnier side of life, “I am a big music fan, it never fails to lift my mood and make things brighter.”