It's easier than you think.
Suppliers are a vital part of your business and should be an integral part of your strategic business plan. Below are a number of things that you must consider in order to future proof your business.
When choosing a supplier, it’s really important that they aren’t just chosen on the strength of their golf handicap, the fact that their children go to the same school as yours or their ability to throw a great party! These things may be important to you but you should think beyond them.
Does their business have the same core values as yours? Do they really buy in to what you are trying to achieve? Is there a potentially reciprocal relationship or is it all one way? Are there other things that you might be able to work together on in the future? The more you can answer yes, the more likely it is you will be able to create a successful, profitable working relationship.
Regular meetings are key. And not just with the board or account management teams. The value of every member of staff meeting their opposite number cannot be underestimated.
For example, if customer service representatives meet face to face on a regular basis they are more likely to be able to solve issues quickly and calmly by working together.
Sales volumes should also be on the aenda at these meetings to enable both sides to budget, forecast and ensure supply (ahem KFC!)
I am a lover of process because with one everyone knows what they are doing and what is expected of them. It takes the stress out of a situation. Draw a process up at the beginning, both parties should discuss and agree. The regular meetings referred to above are a perfect opportunity to work together and continually improve the processes, so they work for everyone.
Vital to the smooth running of a supply chain. You must plan for when things go wrong. Because they will! Who is involved in putting it right? What is the chain of command? What are the time scales? Who is communicating with the customer and what are they going to be told? Again, this takes the emotion out of the situation and ensures any problems are solved quickly.
Again, as with processes, a contract just makes it clear what is expected of both parties and should cover pricing and processes. It makes sure that each part of each business (e.g. sales, marketing, ops, finance) understands exactly what is required of them.
As a supply chain manager for a leading legal services firm I saw all the dangers and opportunities these relationships can bring. Please get in contact if you haven’t analysed your supplier relationships recently: firstname.lastname@example.org.