Advice:10 tips to help you work better with your suppliers

By , published on 30th January 2011

Your suppliers are as important to you as your customers. This is true if you are a manufacturer buying components or a consultancy with freelance associates. You’ll work best with suppliers that have these ten qualities:

  1. Reliability – your reputation hangs on your suppliers’ ability to meet your needs. If they let you down, you end up letting your customers down. Make sure they’re reliable;
  2. Tolerance – you are unlikely to be perfect either! Good suppliers tolerate those panic phone calls and try their best to get you out of a muddle – even when it’s self-inflicted;
  3. Potential – you want suppliers who can grow with you. They should share your ambition and be prepared to invest in keeping up with you. Notice if you outgrow a supplier;
  4. Quality – buy the best your customers need. Don’t encourage suppliers to cut corners to reduce costs. Nor buy better than you need. Check quality regularly;
  5. Stability – you want your supplier to be there when you need them. Take an interest in their aspirations, achievements and challenges. Help them grow if you can;
  6. Good suppliers – your supplier buys as well as sells. How good are their suppliers?
  7. Deep pockets – when your cash flow hiccups, the first people you lean on for credit are your suppliers. Can they support you in times of trouble?
  8. Great people – any business is only as good as its people. Good suppliers have motivated, able, enthusiastic people. Get to know the people who work on your behalf;
  9. Enquiring minds – nothing stays the same for long. You want suppliers that are constantly seeking improvement. Are yours exploring new and innovative ideas?
  10. Fun – you will get more from your suppliers if their people socialise with your people. Why not challenge them to five-a-side football?

Finding good suppliers is as important as finding good customers. In fact, to enjoy success you need both. Here are some places you might look:

  • trade journals;
  • industry exhibitions;
  • local business networks;
  • the internet;
  • competitors’ products (to identify component suppliers);
  • professional and trade organisations (to identify associates);
  • friends in similar businesses to yourself – ask for recommendations;
  • foreign trade missions able to introduce overseas suppliers;
  • university research teams working in your industry area;
  • newspapers reporting business achievement.

Be a good customer

You’ll get the best deal and support if you are considered a good customer by your suppliers. Here’s how:

  • agree annual targets and work together to achieve them;
  • confirm orders in writing and make them clear and specific;
  • don’t blame your suppliers for your own mistakes;
  • pay when you say you will, even if it’s late;
  • give constructive feedback to encourage innovation.

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Robert Ashton

About Robert Ashton

Robert Ashton is an entrepreneur, campaigner and business author with three business books in the top 10 recommended for business on Amazon. He knows how enterprise can liberate, empower and strengthen people and communities. Robert is always focused on the end goal but treads lightly as he goes – that’s why he’s called the barefoot entrepreneur.

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