There have been volumes written about professionalism but I would like to explore the responsibility we take on with our professionalism. Purchasing is not for the faint of heart; it's a control position in management with awesome responsibilities, tough decisions and challenges. It's for the “look them in the eye” and “stand by your decision” personality. The weak and wimpy are looked down upon and rarely last long.

Responsibility is knowing the importance of being forthright when confronting a difficult situation, of not sending an e-mail or a note (or worse yet, having someone else do it for you), when a phone call or personal visit will solve the problem. It's not using position power and undue influence to further a personal agenda. There can be no ego in what we do! It's explaining your decisions and not using others to fight your battles.

The monies we collect for our organizations come largely from public funding. We have a responsibility to treat them as public, even though they may be considered private funds. It is appropriate and professional for those responsible for expenditures to have a public money mindset when approving expenditures and contractual agreements. It's unprofessional and irregular to use an organization's money for expenses that exceed the limits of most public agencies' protocols. If you are unclear about a situation, use the gold standard of asking yourself “what would my membership think and how would they react if they knew what I was doing?”

It's unspoken, and perhaps uncomfortable to discuss, but there is a personal element of respect and civilized behavior toward each other, both interpersonally and professionally, that we need to maintain and constantly reinforce.

We have a responsibility to pass the spirit of involvement and volunteerism along to those who come after us. We have a responsibility to share our moral and ethical capital with our organizations. As public servants we are taught from the first day to do more for our profession. The sharing of information and advice among purchasing professionals sets us apart. Phone calls and e-mails about professional subjects are always returned with the best and most candid advice the sender can offer.

There is a dual responsibility when we elect those who represent us on the governing boards of our organizations. Our responsibility is to elect the very best we have, those with whom we entrust our destiny. We ask these elected board members to look into the future and determine where we go as a profession in the next years, and they have a responsibility to work, think, research, discuss and lead us.

In every chapter and in our national organizations there is a core group of people who work without credit or ego; without compensation, often paying to attend classes and conferences out of their own pockets, but with a devotion to the profession and a desire to help. They are the ones that get up early and stay late at events. They hand out programs, collect tickets, do the heavy lifting and are the most reliable of our group. And they recognize the value of what they do for the profession. They take it as a responsibility. Next time you see one of these special people at an event that is seamless, make sure you thank them. And if you have never been one of them, now is the time to start. It's rewarding for its own sake. Just knowing that you are contributing is a high form of professionalism. It's the first step in the ladder of leadership. Poll your board members and you will find most started as that person on a committee who did the grunt work.

Frederick Marks, CPPO, VCO, is a retired purchasing officer who has held positions as a supervising buyer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as well as director of material management for Northern Virginia Community College. Contact Marks at fmarks@mindspring.com.