Business planning, Mentor, Tom O'Toole

What are the key qualities you look for in a supplier, beyond price?

Andrew Sadauskas /

Whether it’s our bank, butcher or insurance broker, we need to have a good working relationship. It has to be win/win.

 

The supplier needs to be reliable. I don’t care how cheap it is: if they’re not able to supply it when we need it, they’re no good to us.

 

Also important is sticking to delivery times. If they say they’re going to deliver it on Tuesday morning, they’d better do that.

 

We also expect all our suppliers to have a good understanding of how our business works and what our needs are.

 

We consider our suppliers part of our business. They need to be honest and ethical. If you’re buying just based on price, you may be surprised by some suppliers’ ethics.

 

Our suppliers must have a good communications system in place. They need to have a “can do” attitude.

 

Should we run out of stock, they need to be able to help us out of the situation.

 

When we start negotiation with a potential supplier, one of the first things we ask for are the contact details of some of their customers.

 

Then we talk to the customers and ask what the supplier is like to deal with: do they always deliver what you order?

 

What issues have you had with them? By doing this, we get to know what we’re going to be dealing with.

 

The other thing we try to do is visit the potential supplier’s business to see how it operates.

 

Do they run a successful business? Do they stock good quality products?

 

Then we talk to some of their staff to see what their attitudes are like. We always learn a lot when we make the effort to visit their premises.

 

You need to enjoy working with your suppliers. They need to have a good range of stock, plus availability at all times.

 

They need to be able to help you grow your business. Look for suppliers that are already successful and growing.

 

Make sure they have the expertise to help you solve any problems you may encounter. It has to be win-win.

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Andrew Sadauskas

Andrew Sadauskas is a former journalist at SmartCompany and a former editor of TechCompany.