Look after your suppliers

It is the festive season – so obviously at this time of year you think ‘who has helped me this year?’

Clearly no business can operate without its supply community. Our fabulous suppliers who deliver on our brand promise everyday are critical to our success.

Great supplier relationships can make the strategic difference to a business. I remember when I was at Ansett Airlines – many suppliers had to wait for months to be paid, yet were asked to perform beyond expectations at short notice without proper briefs.

Contrast that to when I moved to Apple. Apple treated its suppliers as if they were part of the team – inviting them to strategy days, and including them in social activities. Suppliers to Apple willingly gave discretionary effort. All of this was last century though.

Fast-forward to now and I am constantly being asked about these discount offer sites – all take offs of the US concept Groupon. So far I have counted more than 12 operating in the Australian market alone. If they are providing an offer a day – that is more than 4,000 offers in a year. Is the supply base big enough?

Naturally there will be some consolidation as the market chooses which ones it trusts – some will survive, merge, or disband. Each of these organisations understands that they are only as good as their last offer. I have heard that they have teams of people on the phone looking for deals from suppliers – telemarketers offering suppliers big things and thousands of new customers.

The offer however, needs to work for both parties’ interests – and I have heard some horrendous stories from suppliers about how they were sent customers, but were paid a tiny fraction of what was promised. Even worse I’ve heard of suppliers who had offers promoted and they did not even know about them…. But the discount site did not have to fulfill because the ‘required’ number was not reached, or worse the discount site claims that the ‘offer was pulled’ by the supplier – damaging the suppliers brand.

I wonder if Australia is big enough for so many ‘offers’ – after all, all businesses must deliver profitable business – otherwise demise is imminent.

My theory has always been that suppliers are critical to RedBalloon‘s success and the execution of our brand promise… they are the partners in our success – and they as a result must win hand down too.

Naomi Simson is considered one of Australia’s ‘Best Bosses’. She is an employee engagement advocate and practices what she preaches in her own business. RedBalloon has been named as one of only six Hewitt Best Employers in Australia and New Zealand for 2009 and awarded an engagement scorecard of over 90% two years in a row – the average in Australian businesses is 55%. RedBalloon has also been nominated by BRW as being in the top 10 Best Places to Work in Australia behind the likes of Google. One of Australia’s outstanding female entrepreneurs, Naomi regularly entertains as a passionate speaker inspiring people on employer branding, engagement and reward and recognition. Naomi writes a blogand is a published author – and has received many accolades and awards for the business she founded – RedBalloon.com.au.

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