Sourcing Star Interview: Sanja Cancar-Todorovic

Posted: 08/08/2019 - 02:37

This October, the Future of Sourcing Awards celebrated seasoned veterans whose thought leadership and innovative work in the sourcing field have made a transformative difference over the course of their career. Below, read about Sourcing Star winner Sanja Cancar-Todorovic who is accountable for the Outsourcing & Supplier Engagement Framework for Global Manulife Real Estate Investments and Asset Management portfolio.

How did you get into this field – was it purposeful or by accident?

I must admit that I fell into this field by accident. Back in 2008, I was in the risk management role, when an opportunity came up (in the same company), to manage third-party vendors in the large complex national deals. Having the risk management/mitigation experience and the exposure to managing different vendors, I was offered this role, and the rest is history! Since 2008, I have had numerous different roles in outsourcing, offshoring, near-shoring, global procurement, strategic sourcing and vendor management. 

In what ways do you feel your professional contributions have influenced or transformed the industry? (This could be a new approach or methodology, the application of an existing technology in a completely new way, significant thought leadership or even a career of inspiring others.)

I am a big believer in supplier diversity, and really strive to influence large organizations to recognize the value of supplier diversity in their procurement and supply chain operating models: A diverse and inclusive environment facilitates a broader exchange of perspectives and better reflects the true makeup of our society (and ultimately, any organization’s customer base!). Choosing to do business with companies that share same values and building a portfolio of viable, competitive and diverse suppliers will allow the organizations to help create healthier communities and differentiate themselves in the hearts and minds of consumers. A supplier diversity program is not only "the right thing to do" from the Corporate Social Responsibility perspective, but it is sure to strengthen the brand, business and community recognition, and above all of this, it drives innovation! Your vendors are subject matter experts in the area that you contracted them for:  
  1. Trust that they know better than you (isn’t that the reason why you hired them in the first place?!).
  2. Empower them to share their observations of your business; a fresh pair of eyes from outside can often see things that insiders cannot!
  3. Empower your vendors to try new things if the outcome is mutually beneficial!
  4. Encourage innovative thinking and an agile approach to implementation.  
  5. Remember that a culture of innovation and freedom to fail is a highway to innovation success!  
  6. Fail small, fail fast, learn from it and try again -> Agility 
From the sourcing perspective, there are some major changes that we all need to embrace! The whole concept around outsourcing, offshoring, near-shoring, global procurement, strategic sourcing and vendor management became prominent in the early “pre-service economy” days, where labor arbitrage and cost-cutting was the only goal, while quality of service and innovation was an afterthought. Today, we all need to recognize that competing on price is a losing war but competing on CX and innovation is a major differentiator! We are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, where the ONLY constant is CHANGE! My advice for everyone in this field is to stop focusing on cost cutting as the primary goal, but develop a strategic partnership with you vendors/suppliers and always seek the agreements that will mutually benefit both parties: 
  • Share information and priorities
  • Foster a collaborative approach to strategy development  
  • Build partnerships for the long term
  • Seek to understand the vendor’s business too
  • Negotiate to a win-win agreement
  • Focus on quality/reliability/value and NOT just the price
  • Encourage everyday innovation! 

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges facing the industry today and what should be done to solve them?

This profession is the one that is impacted by literally anything happening across the globe (climate change, such as tsunami disasters will impact your suppliers in that part of the world! Socio-political events will have a direct impact on your global vendors! World/global economy turbulence will be directly reflected in the cost of goods/services you are procuring). In my opinion, the biggest challenge we face is not recognizing that we (customer and supplier) are all in this together! Changing the mindset from the traditional “vendor management” to a more inclusive “partnership management,” ensures that we all work together proactively to mitigate risks! Just because you as a sourcing professional outsourced a service to a vendor does not mean that you should wash your hands of it and let the vendor, in isolation, deal with it all! Removing that “Us – The Customer vs Them – The Vendor” mentality allows us all to focus on the experience of the end-users/end-customers and work in tandem to ensure a “win-win-win” situation. I am often reminded of a quote: “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten”. 

Looking at the whole of your career, what do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement that gives me the biggest sense of personal fulfillment is the impact that I had on small non-traditional (diverse) businesses/suppliers. At one point in my career I sat on the Women Business Enterprises Canada Council (WBE Canada) board. This exposure and experience broadened my horizons and inspired me to continue to actively engage in promoting, developing and mentoring not just women entrepreneurs, but all diverse minority-owned businesses!  
Over the years, I have continued to participate in different sourcing events involving Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council (CAMSC), Canadian Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC), WBE Canada, Organization of Women in International Trade (OWIT), Canadian Conference on Social Enterprise, ProcureCon, SIG and most recently Customer Service Professional Network (CSPN). Having this platform allows me to share the knowledge and experience from the perspective of large corporations, to educate, mentor and empower all suppliers to successfully navigate the procurement processes, and effectively present their value proposition to the perspective large clients. Seeing my mentees succeed brings me a great sense of accomplishment!  

What three words do you feel your colleagues and peers would use to describe you?

  • Assertive
  • Influential
  • Dedicated 
One year I received a Christmas gift from my team; that was a picture frame with the following in it: “Highly Caffeinated & Wildly Ambitious”.

What advice do you have for those who are new to the profession or considering entering the industry?

This is a very dynamic industry, so expect to never be bored! Your “day to day” tasks will probably never be as planned, but that is what makes this profession interesting. My advice is to always seek a win-win situation during negotiations! No one wins if either one of the parties feels at loss! Perfect your relationship building skills, emotional intelligence and negotiations skills! These, coupled by your business acumen, will be crucial in your success in the sourcing profession! 

About The Author

Sanja Cancar-Todorovic's picture

Sanja Cancar-Todorovic is an outsourcing, offshoring, global procurement, strategic sourcing and vendor management leader specializing in customer experience, innovation, agile digital transformation and corporate culture evolution.

As a Director – Strategic Relationships at Manulife, Sanja is accountable for the Outsourcing & Supplier Engagement Framework for Global Manulife Real Estate Investments and Asset Management portfolio.

Over the last 19 years of her career, Sanja has had exposure to many different roles. Since 2008, she has led different sourcing, outsourcing and vendor management strategies, from IT Professional, Managed and Infrastructure Services, Media Content, Real Estate and Customer Equipment, to BPO and ITO.

Sanja holds an Executive Master of Business Administration (eMBA) degree from University of New Brunswick, a Master of Management (MM) degree from American Sentinel University and an Honours Double Major Bachelor of Arts in Law and Political Science from York University.