Whether your suppliers send a steady flow of organic veggies to your eatery or deliver this season’s hottest fashion to your retail outlet, you rely on them as the lynchpin of your business. Treat them right, and they can help you stand out from the competition. Take them for granted, and you could find yourself at the end of a long line. Follow these essential tips to create a strong rapport for long-term success.
1. Treat Them as Partners
Besides you, no one knows your business better than your suppliers. They know who your customers are, what your competition is doing and where the industry is heading. Sit down with them at least once a quarter to talk about your strategy for the coming season. Talk about new products and trends. Give them a heads-up on special seasonal promotions and inventory closeouts. Suppliers can help ensure you have enough of the right products on hand — and when they are treated as partners, they can become your advocates for new customers and business.
2. Get to Know Them
Establishing excellent supplier relationships is a two-way street. Treat your suppliers how you want to be treated. Make them feel they are a business priority. The best way to achieve this is to focus on knowing your suppliers as people, too. Make a point to visit suppliers’ offices, ask questions about the health of their business and make a real effort to understand their pain points.
3. Look for Ways to Help Them
Yes, suppliers enjoy serving as providers. But what can you do for them? If they’re short-staffed, can you show flexibility with delivery times? Or if, say, your fresh-fish purveyor ends up with too much snapper, can you design a daily special to help move it? When you show that kind of initiative, you might find that the next time you come up short on a key item, your vendor will be more willing to go the extra mile for you.
4. Pay Them
This may seem obvious, but it’s worth emphasizing: Pay your suppliers on time — every time — to build goodwill. If you ordered too much of a product and are stuck with inventory, don’t go back to the supplier and renegotiate the price. Honor your contracts. Suppliers will be more willing to work with you if you need to negotiate payment terms for a big order in the future. And if you do come up short on cash, let them know as quickly as possible. Vendors are businesspeople, too, so maintaining open communication will help build trust that will help grow everyone’s business.
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