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By Leah Montebello
Antonio Humphreys, Group Manager at Adobe, on emotional intelligence in leadership, international teams and transparency in negotiations.
“Without something that legitimises true market data, or benchmarking with actual negotiated rates with likesize clients, agencies and appropriate matched talent in specific geographies, this can lead to vague and unproductive discussions”
Antonio Humphreys has been Group Manager at Adobe for the past seven years.
However, his experience of procurement started at NASA in Houston, Texas, where he did a business internship to manage contracts and grants for key NASA programs. During this time, he really got to grips with the business element of the Space Shuttle programs.
He says, “I’m not an astronaut or a scientist, but I do love the business aspect of things. The learning experience there served as an incredible stepping stone for a lot of what I was going to do in the future”.
From there, Humphreys has worked at some of the biggest companies in the world, including Shell Oil, Hewlett-Packard and Gap. “You should get your feet wet in different companies and industry verticals to really understand where you are going to truly find a home”, Humphreys explains.
Describing the remits of his work as broad, Humphreys’ role at Adobe has encompassed from marketing procurement on a global basis, including a marketing sourcing vertical of over $300 million indirect spend, covering advertising, events, research, public relations, sports and sponsorships, to leading the Finance Change Management and Business Operations. Within this, he ensures Adobe executes projects which are aligned with Finance strategic objectives, with a distinct focus on improving cross-functional synergies, and augmenting Finance processes and systems.
With his vast experience taking him all over the world, Humphreys has helped drive the development and delivery of highly successful, innovative teams and strategies, which have generated millions of dollars in cost savings, revenue and profit growth.
Describing himself as a World Traveler, Humphreys has over 25 years experience at country, region and global levels.
With global sourcing roles at HP, Gap and Adobe, Humphreys emphasises the key differences between regions and how procurement must tailor their strategy accordingly.
“For example, from an EMEA perspective, if you are supporting the Milan, Dublin, London, and Paris markets, they are obviously going to be quite nuanced in cultural differences. You need to assess the full landscape of languages, teams, customers, stakeholders and vendors to adjust your style and approach to not only be respectful, but effective”, he explains.
He urges all procurers to be open-minded, understand what resonates at a local level, and have a global remit in your scope to build your cultural and management portfolio. Humphreys continues, “you have to be conscious of the infinite variables at play at any given time and adjust accordingly, you can’t just copy and paste what might be working in Paris and try to apply to what’s happening in Tokyo”.
A global frame of mind is something that he really explored whilst on secondment in London for Gap, focusing on EMEA and APAC operations, as well as throughout his role at Adobe, where he leads global department resource planning, training, and recognition programs.
Cross functional Synergies and Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
Whether managing indirect marketing spend with complex categories, change management strategies, or global resource planning, Humphreys appears to be balancing many plates.
On this challenge, he says, “Although there are only so many hours in the day, one of things I really enjoy at Adobe is that you always have opportunities to tackle new challenges and get involved in areas you are passionate about. No one is going to say ‘no’, but you still have to drive results”.
Regarding Adobe as a “35 year plus startup”, Humphreys is confident in their ongoing market growth and portfolio of opportunities believing his experience in marketing has complemented his success in procurement.
Not only does this background make it easier to work with creative partners, but it also aids a procurer with the ability to work with different types of personalities and backgrounds. Indeed as a procurement lead, you are not only working with advertising and marketing experts, but at a company like Adobe, you are also liaising with critical cross-functional partners like IT, Legal, Compliance, and Finance. “We [procurement] have to be that nucleus to put all the puzzle pieces together and get the job done”, he emphasises.
These cross-functional synergies allow procurement to “shift gears”, Humphreys says. This can also mean bringing marketing procurement in at an earlier stage of critical marketing discussions. Although this may not always be possible, he believes it is key that procurement have clarity on goals and objectives and focus on how they can build rapport with business partners. This is more strategic and leads to a more effective process.
Whilst this may be achieved in a more heavy handed way, by enforcing a policy that procurement needs to be involved at an early stage, Humphreys warns against a “too adversarial” role for procurement. Instead, procurers should be focusing on their “EQ” (emotional intelligence) when working with stakeholders.
Personally leading with a EQ mindset, Humphreys encourages mindfulness within his team, and is keen to be a supportive manager. This means not only helping them invest their time in the company, but also in their own growth and development; this is something that has become even more challenging in a virtual setting.
“You need to be accessible and ‘visible’ all the time, but you also don’t want to overburden them. Striking that balance of allowing folks to feel autonomous in a virtual setting, but also make them feel supported is key”, he explains.
Combining empathy with building a successful team, Humphreys’ leadership hinges on being people first: “My job as a manager and leader is to make sure I give them the tools and opportunities to grow under my watch. Leadership should be balancing expectations of the business in conjunction with managing how everyone on the team can grow and meet their own personal development goals.”
Defining True Value and Transparency
However, crucial to success is being able to measure and track it.
For Humphreys, this is focusing on “what the true value add is, which doesn’t always have to be cost savings”.
As he explains, “it isn’t going to be what we, or our leadership team, always hang our hat on”. Instead, they take a more holistic approach and ensure business partners, stakeholders and suppliers are involved in that measurement of value. For instance, Adobe will examine speed and turnaround time, as well as process efficiencies, as other crucial metrics.
Nonetheless, he does recognise how cost-savings is pertinent in many industry verticals, including retail, where it is hyper-competitive and there has been heavy disruption by the pandemic with supply chain complications. In contrast, “If you are a cloud based company, you may not have the same challenges around freight logistics. That said, managing ‘OPEX’ is always a key component of what we do. Assessing ‘should cost’ for goods and services is our core competency”, he explains.
Regardless of whether you are adopting a purely cost-saving or holistic viewpoint on value, Humphreys believes that transparency is essential when negotiating with agencies. Utilising benchmarking services at Adobe, he says that these tools “help you get to equalisers and the middle ground that says this is a fair price for said service”.
He continues, “Without something that legitimises true market data, or benchmarking with actual negotiated rates with likesize clients, agencies and appropriate matched talent in specific geographies, this can lead to vague and unproductive discussions”.
By bringing benchmarking data into a negotiation, it makes for a more collaborative conversation. Comparing it to the average person buying something in a supermarket, he says, “we all want to make sure we pay fair value while ensuring the store owner is profitable. This ensures business continuity and allows us to keep shopping.”
This rounded approach to negotiation with agencies is caveated with the pandemic shifts that heavily impacted the agency compensation model.
In fact, Humphreys cites competitive hiring as a key factor that has impacted both clients and agencies: “if you look at current global market conditions, it’s created a ‘perfect storm’ for those exploring new career opportunities in changing hybrid work environments and assessing what total benefit structures are most important”.
In turn, this impacts agencies across the globe as we are all feeling the micro shifts and competing to secure different talents of what each client may be looking for in specific accounts. This may ultimately affect service proposals which will need to be considered based on these important variables.
Working with the ANA, Humphreys is an advocate for diversity and inclusion throughout the business model including employee hiring, agencies, and talent.
From a supplier perspective, Humphreys acknowledges the barriers in place, where companies have a list of preferred suppliers and it is sometimes difficult to get beyond that list.
Nonetheless, Adobe is actively encouraging different vendors and expanding their options to bring different suppliers into the fold: whether that’s agencies, market researchers or videographers.
Aside from that, Humphreys, as an American Hispanic, sees the value diversity brings in teams. As he questions, “If you have a very one-sided approach that has been recycled over and over, and you are only doing small tweaks and reiterations, is that really going to get you where you want to be in a timely fashion? Is that going to drive your goals and big objectives to be most competitive? Probably not”.
By challenging the status quo, and hiring people from different backgrounds, Humphreys believes that teams will scale and grow at a more rapid rate. Diversity of thought will drive success.
Aside from his business career, Humphreys continues to give back to his community.
As Executive Chair for the Hispanic and Latin employee Network group at Adobe, he helps drive diversity and inclusion strategy and mentor individuals who may otherwise feel excluded. This includes career development and networking skills. He says, “Mentoring is something I do everyday. It is so fulfilling to support students or those early in their careers who are trying to find their way. I feel it is an obligation for anyone who has some longevity in the industry to share their ‘tips and tricks’ on how to be successful navigating in a challenging business environment”.
However, for Humphreys, this obligation goes beyond volunteering. Sitting as a Professor at the University of New Mexico Anderson School of Management, he teaches Marketing Strategy to not only emphasize the foundations of marketing, but help students apply strategic principles that they can carry forward into their careers. He says, “In the end, it is all about what you can do to support future generations and the communities they are going to build. The most important legacy is to make a positive impact in the world and help others to do the same”.
Antonio Humphreys is GroupManager at Adobe
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