Do you see your vendors as strategic partners?

As a business person, you realize how important your customers are to your company.

You work hard to take care of them, communicate with them and understand their needs. You want to be considered an integral partner so that you can keep the business coming.

The same should be true of your company’s vendor relationships.

Some companies see vendor relationships as adversarial. The question too often is “How much can I get from the vendor while giving as little as possible?”

Partnering means coming up with ways to help each other. It means doing business differently than it may have been done in the past.

This kind of thinking can put everyone on the defensive. Vendors may try to protect themselves while still obtaining the order, and you, as the customer, may withhold information to strengthen your negotiating position.

In the longer run, that type of situation may not be truly productive.

Becoming strategic partners with your vendors implies that both parties can benefit from doing business together. Of course that’s true, or you wouldn’t be doing business together now, but a partnership allows both parties to make the most of those mutual benefits.

Here are four issues to consider when deciding which vendors would be good candidates for such a partnership:

  • Track record. If you’re going to ally yourself with a partner, you want it to be one you can trust to do the job. If the vendor has done a good job of meeting its responsibilities in the past, chances are that will just get better with the strategic partnership.
  • Stability. Developing a strategic partnership means that you will rely heavily on this supplier to the exclusion of some others. You should take steps to ensure the company’s viability, strength and potential for longevity. Partnering with a vendor who is on the brink of bankruptcy, for instance, would not be advisable.
  • Innovation. If the vendor exhibits a willingness to be innovative, that’s a good sign. Partnering means coming up with ways to help each other. It means doing business differently than it may have been done in the past. If the vendor is too stuck in one pattern, developing a strong strategic partnering relationship will be difficult.
  • Trust. While this one may be hard to quantify, you need to work with vendors you can trust to do what’s best for the partnership. In developing the relationship, you’ll both need to be open and share information you may not be accustomed to sharing. You want someone who has an abundance mentality, not a scarcity mentality. Only then can you feel comfortable sharing openly so that the two companies can create the best scenario for all concerned.

Successfully developing strategic partnerships with vendors is beneficial in many ways. You will work with fewer vendors, which can save significant amounts of time. You may reduce costs and improve quality as you and the vendors fine-tune the working relationship. You may also benefit from creative ideas and suggestions that wouldn’t have been offered by the vendor in an ordinary working relationship. All of these can add up to a positive experience overall.

There is always a danger of becoming too dependent on any one supplier. Sometimes events beyond that supplier’s control could hinder its ability to deliver. Work with your strategic partners to plan for the unexpected. Who do they have to serve as a backup for them in such a situation? It is to their advantage to help you minimize your risk.

Successfully developing strategic partnerships may require completely changing your thought process regarding vendor relationships. Keep mutual benefits in mind and develop a relationship that encourages the free flow of ideas. By doing so, you can both find the collaborative experience a refreshing one.