Hospitality Design - May/June 2012 - 69
By Lori Patten
In recent years, the role of the purchasing agent has expanded far beyond basic ordering, negotiation, and bidding processes. More and more clients are requesting that the agent handle the “accounting” of a project from beginning to end. There are also instances where purchasing agents need to conﬁrm ﬁnal speciﬁcations to be sure all standards are met. designer’s initial intent, it is our job to review those speciﬁcations and raise any red ﬂags. We can help move this process forward by checking with our vendors and manufacturers, and by looking at current quality standards and any new product insight or information we may be privy to. As we write the ﬁnal purchase order, we also need to conﬁrm if the product details are current and up to that project’s standards. Although the actual speciﬁcation writing falls to the designer, agents make themselves much more valuable to their clients if they can review, check, and conﬁrm what is being written for purchase.
A request for accounting services on the part of the designer gives the purchasing agent signiﬁcant control over the entire process. In these cases, agents need to protect themselves. When initially bidding a project, we need to ask our clients for an assessment of the project: What will we be responsible for, and if the scope of the project changes, what is considered an acceptable addendum or “add” to our current contract? Should we assume certain tasks are included within the scope of the project? This is often a gray area depending on the client-agent relationship. On the positive side, having the purchasing agent handle accounting responsibilities can be beneﬁcial to the project. It gives control to the agent from beginning to end. The initial deposit of monies is made to the agent, usually in the form of a draw. At that time, the agent, along with the client, determines how these monies should be applied and who should be ﬁrst in line for payments. Consequently, the agent knows exactly when that check went out. This may not seem like a major issue, but it is an extremely important part of the purchasing process, as getting payments out on time and being able to track those payments is critical. Many vendors will not start their production or ordering process for parts until those monies are received. Often an agent will be told for weeks that the “check was sent” with no way of actually tracking it themselves, which can be extremely frustrating, especially when the vendor calls and you’re unable to provide the correct information.
The always-changing role of the purchasing agent continues to expand. More than ever, it’s important that we do our homework and study client needs and wants in an effort to provide greater value, and ultimately, build better relationships. Lori Patten is principal of Patten Purchasing, LLC in Yorkville, Illinois,
There are times when purchasing agents may assist in the speciﬁcation process. While agents are not designers and need to be respectful of the
and the executive vice president of the International Society of Hospitality Purchasers (www.ishp.org).