I’ve just got off the phone to one of our key suppliers. It was an important conversation, one which looked at setting out the future way of working and the service levels we expect. There were a few of our team on the call including our new MD Rob.
Over the years I’ve always placed a very high level of importance on our supplier relationships. In the same way I don’t want to be treated by our own clients as simply a resource, I look to create partnerships with our suppliers, where they are invested in our business and have bought into our goals. This has made the chances of having a great long term relationship so much more likely.
One of our key suppliers is our hosting company. For many years (until very recently actually) that relationship sat with me. The commercials, the day to day and ultimately when things went wrong - the buck stopped with me. I’m immensly proud that I kept that relationship going for 18 years, until they actually stopped offering the service altogether. In fact, the relationship was so strong that they even kept us on for about a year after they stopped supplying the rest of their clients! In hindsight that was possibly not the best long term solution for our business but it really showed the strength of the bonds I’d formed.
Why do you need good relationships with suppliers? Ultimately you want them to have your back. When the pandemic hit earlier this year and we went into business survival mode, almost every single one of my suppliers helped and worked with us to reduce costs or give payment holidays. The ones that didn’t - we had no real relationship with.
There have also been a number of times over the years that I’ve needed to lean on my contacts to get things done quickly or when a problem needed escalating. I’ve made it my business to know the names of the right people and to build a friendship that trancends work in many cases. I can categorically say this has paid off a number of times for us.
My advice to you; build relationships in layers. Having a directors mobile number on your phone could just save the day but you’ll want to use it sparingly. Build solid relationships with the people doing the day to day work and that will mean you can get 95% of things sorted without having to escalte at all.
Rob’s coming in to our business has taught me that there is a time (and necessity) to ‘talk tough’. I guess if there is a downside to my way, it’s possible that people could take advantage of your good nature. For that reason its important to shoot straight and to the point when you need something. Thanks for that Rob :)
I’ve always been a relationship person. Its worked for me. How do you feel about them? Is there another way?