Procurement Advice – An Interview with Darin Matthews

Procurement Advice – An Interview with Darin Matthews
Emma Shaffer
7 January 2021

This procurement advice interview with Mercell’s Directory of Procurement Content – Darin Matthews, NIGP-CPP, FNIGP, CPPO, CPSM, C.P.M. – originally appeared in the December 2020 newsletter of MAPP, the Missouri Association of Public Purchasing.

Darin, What procurement advice would you offer to a new Procurement Professional?

Get involved with your local chapter in a volunteer role. Even if it is a one-time event (and you’re not ready for a board or committee position), you will find the experience very rewarding. I can honestly say that volunteer roles have given me back much more than I have given. Plus, you get to work with some amazing people.

What advice would you offer to a seasoned Procurement Professional? 

Take on a mentorship role and don’t forget what it was like to be the rookie buyer. Reach out and share your experience and expertise; it will be appreciated. Back in the 1990s I worked with a senior buyer at the State of Oregon. Sichu Bajaj would always introduce himself to the new buyers and offer them assistance. He also set a great example for them by earning his CPPB in his 60s! 

COVID has changed so much for our industry. Can you share some resources that you have used or found to be useful during this season? 

The free webinars offered by NIGP and other organizations are a great opportunity to learn, and also connect with those outside of your home office. The social interaction may even be more valuable than the content sometimes. There are also a number of organizations that offer support for our mental health. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them for you or a loved one. The National Institute of Mental Health and AIM (Monterey, CA) are just a couple of examples. 

Psst… Don’t miss these free upcoming webinars from Mercell, featuring more of Darin’s expertise!

Over the course of your career in Procurement what has been your biggest challenge? What has been your biggest learning opportunity? 

On countless occasions I have found it challenging to overcome misconceptions about small and diverse businesses (they cost more, they aren’t experienced, etc.). The truth is that they are cost competitive and often have lower prices, particularly in the service arena. Even though they have experience from working for a larger firm, many agencies are reluctant to consider them. I guess this means we need to keep educating our end users and agency leaders, which is a great opportunity. 

I would say my biggest learning opportunity came in my first court case (sorry, I have been to court several times on procurement matters). It showed me that even if you do all the things you think are right in an RFP, there is still a risk that things will not go as planned. But the experience definitely taught me to do my best work upfront and do all I can to put my agency in a good position for a great contract. 

What do you think it takes to be a successful Public Procurement Professional? 

I believe we have to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. Whether it is a supplier, an end user, or a member of the general public, we need to listen to them and try to understand where they are coming from. If we are patient and professional, we just might figure it out. In most cases they will offer us valuable feedback we can use to improve the procurement experience. 

What resources do you use to help you grow professionally? 

As a past president of NIGP, I have to say that they have been my “go to” resource for a lot of years. Whether it is training, certification or networking, I have found them to be well worth the membership dues! Other organizations are great as well including ISM, NAEP and NCMA. 

I would also add that college programs have helped me grow too. Take it from someone who did not earn their first degree until age 35, formal education will help open many doors. I just earned my Master of Education at age 57, so we are never too old to keep learning. 

Is there any additional words of wisdom or advice that you would be willing to share with our MAPP Members? 

Procurement has been an awesome career field for me. Whether you have chosen it or it has chosen you, enjoy your opportunities and pursue your dreams. You are in a profession that has a profound impact on our communities. Go out there and make a difference!