A buyer is responsible for purchasing the items that a team needs and can’t produce itself, and getting the best possible deal for them in the process. Good communication skills are a must for any buyer, but what else does it take to succeed in buying for a Formula 1 team?
We spoke to Samantha O’Gorman – a buyer for Haas F1 Team – to find out.
What is your role?
I am a Buyer at Haas F1 Team but I am an anomaly as I do indirect buying, which means I work on all things unrelated to the car. That ranges from items for the sea freight, consumables, anything from tyre trolleys, contracts and purchase orders for the catering, and all our trucks. You name it, it’s a bit of everything – yesterday I ordered footballs!
What are your responsibilities and main jobs?
Managing suppliers and ensuring we get purchases and goods in that are required. There is a lot of negotiation of pricing to ensure we manage the budget of the business as well as dealing with terms and conditions; it’s really heavily supplier management led as you have to set-up accounts with suppliers.
How do you become a Buyer?
This is where I would consider myself as an anomaly because I came from a background where I was in a small business and I did both sales and purchasing. It was a choice of going one way or another, so I chose to go the purchasing way.
What qualifications do you need?
You don’t necessarily need formal qualifications in my opinion. I think it’s all about the person that you are and the drive that you’ve got. You could have CIPS (Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply) which is a high advantage in procurement and purchasing.
What should you study in school?
Business studies would be helpful.
What other skills are useful?
The ability to negotiate is a strong skill to have as you need a bit of sales side about you. You have to be adaptable and build relationships as well as being able to see the bigger picture, as you have to appreciate and understand the position the supplier is in as well. You need to be able to work under pressure and work quickly in certain situations as especially in this industry, you need to have the ability to multitask and prioritise if needed.
How can I get work experience?
I think an administrative role to start with would be good to start pushing yourself up the ladder or being a sale order processor, or a purchase order processor, as that is where it begins and you can follow how the process works and understand pricing and price structures. I think you need to be in an office environment over being in retail when it comes to being a buyer because it’s more B2B than the end user.
Do you get to go to races?
I don’t travel to races although I will go to the British Grand Prix to meet our catering team and truck team for set-up, mainly to put faces to names and see the products that we’re buying, as that’s very important. When you’re trying to cost negotiate something and you can’t see it in the flesh, it’s hard to be able to do.
What does a day at work look like for you?
Ensuring process and purchase orders are in on time and going out to quote for products. A lot of cross-department management as well, working with stores to ensure equipment is booked in and receipted. We deal with invoice queries as well, so you need to make sure you have the ability to challenge invoices and investigate if needed.