3 June, 2013
Vendors and suppliers are a critical component for any business. They provide the materials and services required to manufacture your own products or add value to your services, and maintaining these relationships should be every bit as important as those between the company and customer. It’s not always easy to do, though, because business relationships can be a real balancing act to maintain the mutually beneficial aspects of a long-term partnership.
The best foundation for any relationship must be built on respect, trust, and mutual benefit. Without one of those three legs, the table will quickly fall over. There are, however, some simple things you can do to maintain this balance and make sure your relationships remain positive.
Pay On Time – If you continue to delay or miss payments, vendors will look for new relationships that are more reliable. Pay your bills promptly and you’ll be their favorite client.
Be Reasonable – You need to be reasonable in your negotiations. Remember that a supplier or vendor should get a fair profit, too. While you’re asking what’s in this deal for you, be aware of what’s in it for them. If you’re not offering enough of a return, this relationship will end.
Be Honest and Transparent – Negotiate in good faith. If you’ve had something change on your end, be direct and clear so the supplier knows why your requirements have evolved. Don’t inflate your requirements either, hoping to get some extra negotiating power. Be transparent about your situation, costs, and goals.
Be Fair – Don’t try to take advantage of the relationship. This is short-sighted behavior and will always lead to problems. Long term relationships will prove to be much more beneficial, yet many partnerships have been destroyed when one side of the equation saw an opportunity they believed they couldn’t pass up. This type of behavior only causes issues and destroys relationships.
Have Expectations – Just because you’re being as considerate and thoughtful as possible, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have expectations for your vendors and suppliers. However – in line with being fair – you should always be clear about what you expect. Spell it out for them. Never assume that they know what you want, even if they’ve been working with you for years.
Avoiding and Resolving Problems
No relationship is perfect, and eventually you will have disagreements or concerns cause problems. Any time two companies begin working together, they will have to deal with the fact that sometimes their goals, motives, and plans will clash. While you can carefully avoid many of the resulting conflicts, others you will have to face down and resolve. This may mean going back and re-establishing your expectations, being more transparent about your specifications, or explaining your need for consistent delivery times. Whatever the problems, address them quickly and directly, and, above all, keep the lines of communication open.
Long-term relationships can be extremely profitable for both sides of a partnership, but only if you’re willing to put in the effort to make sure it remains positive for everyone involved. Be direct and keep the long-term goals in mind because there may come a time when you have to rely on all the trust and respect you’ve built up over the years.