This week we caught up with Lisa Eason, Deputy Commissioner for the State of Georgia, and 2019 NASPO President.
Lisa has served as Georgia’s Deputy Commissioner of the State Purchasing Division since August of 2015. She is responsible for the administration of the State’s purchasing card program, the sourcing division which includes the agency sourcing, strategic sourcing, contract management, and data analytics units. She also manages the policy and training division which administers the state’s purchasing training program and the development and oversight of Georgia’s procurement policies and procedures. The Audit and Compliance Division, which is responsible for audits related to P-Cards and the purchasing process, also falls under her purview.
NASPO STAFF: First of all, congratulations on your appointment as 2019 President! Your track record of leadership within the NASPO community and the Southern Region is inspiring. What do you look forward to the most about being NASPO’s President?
LISA EASON: First, I want to say that I am honored to be chosen for such a prestigious position. This organization does great things for all the states as well as the procurement profession. The thing I look forward to most about being NASPO’s President is the ability to transparently lead this organization through the transformation the past two Presidents initiated while ensuring the needs of our customers are being met. Both Larry Maxwell and Michael Jones have left big shoes to be filled and I will do my best to ensure that I provide the transparency, customer service, and leadership to help this organization grow and prosper.
NASPO STAFF: If I were a fly on the wall in Lisa’s office, what would I hear and see every day? Walk me through a day in the life as the Deputy Commissioner for the State of Georgia.
LISA EASON: Every day in this role is different so depending on what day the fly lands it could see a multitude of different things. I always have an open-door policy and multiple candy bowls (as well as a huge jar of animal crackers) in my office, so I have lots of visitors! And of course you’ll see a lot of Tennessee Volunteer Orange as well!! (My team just tolerates this for sure!) When I’m actually in the office, it’s often hard to find me at my desk between all of the meetings I have to attend and the time I spend with my incredible staff! I make it a point to visit with my staff regularly and expose them to as much as possible. When I am at my desk, I’m usually preparing for my next meeting, responding to the hundreds of e-mails I receive daily, or planning/working on that next project that will make the State Purchasing Division even better!
NASPO STAFF: What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned throughout your procurement career?
LISA EASON: I think the most valuable lessons I have learned is to be flexible, keep your customers best interests in mind in everything you do and most important, never stop learning.
Throughout my career with the State of Georgia there has been one constant and that has been change. If you can’t adapt, you will not be successful. So being flexible and adapting to or initiating change is key in being successful.
Additionally, keeping the best interest of your customers in mind for everything you do is very important as they are the reason you have a job. Creating an environment where your customers feel as though they can come to you at any time with questions, concerns or just to chat is very important as long as you ensure that you listen to their needs and adapt where you can and explain why not when you can’t. They are the ones in the trenches everyday dealing with your decisions and policies, so it is very important to know what they do and how you can assist them when making any decisions that will impact them.
Finally, staying abreast of best practices in the procurement arena as well as many other aspects that we deal with every day in our jobs is of the utmost importance. This is one of the reasons why learning is a lifelong process. Learning can assist you with dealing with or implementing change which is a constant in almost every profession.
NASPO STAFF: Georgia is one of the leading states in terms of procurement success. According to the nationwide survey conducted by the Governing Magazine in 2016, Georgia ranked high in nine procurement categories. How do you measure success? Tell me about the leadership and support your department provides to the procurement team.
LISA EASON: We measure success by how we meet the needs of our customers and the citizens of Georgia. I know that sounds like a cliché but it really isn’t – the items we procure impact our customer’s ability to fulfill their mission and goals no matter what agency, college or university they work in. That’s a very important role we fill. Providing the most efficient and effective processes, policies, and procurement platform requires us to be agents of change, which is not always easy to do.
NASPO STAFF: Congratulations on another successful training and networking event, the 2018 Georgia Procurement Conference and Supplier Expo! How long have you offered this event and what are some keys to success that your peers might use for their own state annual procurement training events?
LISA EASON: The 2018 Georgia Procurement Conference, or GPC as we call it, has only been in existence for two years. We are scheduled to have our third conference in April 2019. The first key to success for other states to consider before setting up a conference of this size is to not “recreate the wheel.” Prior to our first GPC conference we attended the Virginia Forum, hosted by my fellow Board member Bob Gleason, to learn how they conducted their conference. We attended the Forum for two years prior to hosting the first GPC. We used many of the same ideas Virginia used and added our own touch to make it work for Georgia. That was so beneficial to our success! (Thank you, Bob!)
The second key to success was getting our customers and staff involved in the conference content. We asked our customers for session topics that were important to them and the SPD staff for topics they knew our customers were hungry for. Then we ensured that both were heavily involved in the presentations and every other aspect of the conference. We have some creative people here in Georgia and we try very hard to make learning fun. Some of the favorite sessions were “The Doctors Are In,” where a panel discusses procurement ailments while dressed in their medical attire, and GPM (Georgia Procurement Manual) Jeopardy where the audience is divided into teams and compete for prizes by answering questions related to the GPM. Our customers can’t get enough of this and it’s very evident by our growing attendance.
The third key is to have the right staff in charge of conference details. We have a conference steering committee that meets regularly to work out all the little details that many might overlook. We involve our IT and Fiscal Divisions in these meetings as well. This team is instrumental in having a successful conference.
NASPO STAFF: Any words of wisdom, things you’d like to share with our Procurement Pulse blog community and procurement professionals around the country?
LISA EASON: Be persistent, never stop learning, abide by the golden rule, and remember that failure is not an option. Do all of these and you can find success!
NASPO STAFF: If you didn’t work in public procurement, what would you do?
LISA EASON: That’s an easy one for me, if I didn’t work in public procurement, I would work in the adult education field assisting people in obtaining their GED and mentoring them to continue their education. I know through personal experience that education is key to bettering oneself and I feel as though it’s my duty to spread that message to as many people as I can.
NASPO STAFF: What is the best vacation you’ve ever been on?
LISA EASON: The best vacation I have ever been on is the first time my husband and I rented a cabin in the Smokey Mountains (Gatlinburg) for our blended family. There was 17 of us in this 5-bedroom cabin ranging in age from 5 to 65. We hiked to beautiful waterfalls, biked the Cades Cove loop, went on picnics and spent lots of quality time together that our entire family will never forget. We did several of those trips but that first one will always be my favorite.
NASPO STAFF: What is your favorite holiday?
LISA EASON: By far my favorite holiday is Christmas. I love giving, helping others and spending time with family and friends and Christmas is a great time to do that.
NASPO STAFF: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
LISA EASON: Interesting question. I think the superpower I would like to have would be the ability to heal others. I really do have a passion for helping others and this would be a great superpower to have. 😊