Meet Martin Toomey, Supply Chain Development Manager

Martin Toomey has joined Cumbria Chamber of Commerce as supply chain development manager.

His role is to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) win contracts with large companies and public-sector organisations across the UK.

He is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply and has been a guest lecturer on supply chain issues at Liverpool John Moores University and Manchester Business School.

So who is Martin Toomey?

I’m originally from Manchester and have been working in procurement and supply chain for 35 years, including with United Nations and EU health bodies, UK government procurement services and the NHS, and large corporates such as KMPG, Interserve and Balfour Beatty.

I was an adviser for the London 2012 supply chain engagement project. My passion has been sustainable and ethical sourcing. I joined Cumbria Chamber of Commerce to give something back to the North West by helping local businesses to develop and grow.

How can you help SMEs?

I’ll speak to them to find out what their drivers are, their ambitions and their unique selling points, and what they need to do before they can bid for contracts.

That could be gaining an accreditation, training and developing staff or investment in new machinery or processes.

I can refer them to the Chamber’s Growth Hub service if they need specialist advice or access to grants. Once they are ready, I make an introduction to the buying organisation.

What obstacles do SMEs face in winning contracts?

One of the big barriers is the tendering process. Large organisations can have onerous and complex tendering processes.

Often SMEs don’t understand them. Many don’t have the accreditations that large organisations desire. There’s a perception that big companies always award contracts to the same suppliers – that’s because those suppliers know how to tender.

What tips would you give to SMEs?

Understand the language that the buyer is using and reflect that language back. You have to look attractive to a potential buyer, so think what you’re bringing that is different.

Many large organisations have a corporate social responsibility remit which supports opening up opportunities to local companies.

If it’s a Cumbrian business and their remit talks about supporting local businesses, that can work in your favour.

Is Sellafield a special case?

Not really. It’s like dealing with any other large organisation. There’s a tiered system for their supply chain, with large tier 1 companies dealing directly with Sellafield Ltd, tier 2 companies supplying them, then tier 3 and so on.

It’s a cascading system. The trick is knowing where a given SME fits in and what opportunities there maybe.

Do you work with buyers too?

Yes. If you’re a large organisation that wants to engage with local suppliers, it can be difficult to get that message across.

They don’t necessarily know the local area and local suppliers, and don’t have time to do the research.

How can businesses contact you?

They can call me on 07876 861266, email martin@cumbriachamber.co.uk, or contact me through Cumbria Chamber of Commerce on 0845 226 00 40.