Nurture Your Vendor Relationships

When getting together gets interrupted, staying in touch gets even more important, By Gail Doby, ASID

“Businesses run on relationships,” says Gail Doby, ASID, Co-Founder & Chief Vision Officer of Gail Doby Coaching and Consulting. “Now, with our usual ways of working disrupted, those relationships matter most. That’s especially true of your relationships with reps, vendors, and suppliers. Communication is key to facing the challenges of the months ahead.”

We asked Doby to outline the essential elements of a plan for interacting with your vendors that meets your needs and helps them serve you better.

Rely on their knowledge and the trust you have built together

Your reps and suppliers are great sources of information about what’s going on not just in their companies, but with broader industry concerns such as supply chains, product availability, and delivery schedules. They can keep you apprised of the latest developments. They can answer your questions and help solve many of the problems you may run into. Ask for their assistance. Ask about alternative products and materials to replace those that may not be currently available. Most are happy to share their expertise.

Even if you don’t have need of a particular trusted rep, vendor or supplier, check in once in a while to see how they’re doing. Keep tabs on which showrooms are reopening. Especially in challenging times, fostering strong relationships is good business, generates goodwill, and ultimately benefits all of us.

Make it easy for them to serve you well

Where possible, build some flexibility into your project schedules in anticipation of possible delivery delays or setbacks. If you have a hard Go/No Go date, let the rep or vendor know that when you place your order, as well as by what date you will have to decide if you need to find another source if delivery cannot be confirmed.

Anticipate snags, and have a Plan B

Sadly, through no fault of their own, some vendors and suppliers will not be able to recover in time to save their businesses. It’s also possible that some will resume production only to be shut down again due to recurring outbreaks of the virus. If you have doubts about a supplier’s viability, check trade media websites to see if there is any recent news about how they are doing. If they or their parent company are listed on a stock exchange, check to see how their stock has been performing lately. Or, try to locate online their most recent quarterly earnings report, in which they notify investors of any pending or upcoming issues.

When researching products and materials, investigate manufacturers and select those whose processes involve shorter supply chains and whose sources are currently active and less likely to be affected by trade disputes. This is another area where a rep or vendor can be a great source of information and save you a lot of internet research time.

Talk to your peers

Another great source of information is your peer network. If you’re hesitating about placing an order for a product or item, ask if anyone has recently had a problem with the supplier or vendor in question. Trade social media channels also can serve as a useful forum for problem-solving vendor and supplier issues.

For the good of our industry, we need to support one another and allow for some flexibility while we strive to move forward through this difficult time. Conversations of this kind are often best conducted face-to-face, as it affords the greatest opportunity for mutual understanding. Of course, those kinds of interactions are one of the main reasons we go to High Point. So, if you can make it, attending Fall Market could be one of the best things you can do for your business this year.

About Gail Doby, ASID

Co-Founder & Chief Vision Officer of Gail Doby Coaching and Consulting, Gail works to advance her company’s mission of helping creative entrepreneurs increase their income and profitability while working less. For more information, visit www.gaildoby.com.