26 January 2015
How to have a good working relationship with your suppliers. It's a topic that comes up often when talking to clients and buyers, blogs John Bowen.
My view is that it is no different to any other relationship that you have in your life. People will treat you as you treat them.
I find people's behaviour interesting, especially in the way that they deal with others. I can remember one well-known industry figure who would stand up after the dinner at the end of a conference and thank the speakers, the sponsors, the delegates and his team for having organised the event, but ignore the catering team at the venue. Quite a feat, as they were usually lined up at the side of the room at that point, ready to clear the room once we had left. I mentioned it once and got a baffled look for my pains.
Another example would be a two-day conference led by a new boss. I was very impressed on day one to hear their vision of the way that leadership would work in their regime, but later in our hotel they showed little sign of practising what they had been preaching and treated the hotel employees as though they were some form of inferior species. When I called them on it the answer was that we were paying a fortune for the venue, but so what? The view that the customer is always right only works up to a point and it doesn't include a licence for poor behaviour. If you don't treat your suppliers with respect then you may well find things not working as well as they might.
Another common issue for people who seem to have problems developing good supplier relationships is where they just don't trust the supplier. The usual symptom here is in over tight performance measures and draconian penalties. Yes, there should be some form of performance measurement so that you can both learn from it, work on areas to improve and understand how things have changed, but we ate not talking about managing naughty children here, we are looking at commercial relationships. You hired the supplier on the basis that they can do the job better than you can, so let them do it.
The old adage about treating people in the way that you would like to be treated holds much truth. Relationships are about people and the way that they interact, so if you want to have an effective working relationship with your suppliers it has to start with you. You will get the relationship that your approach deserves.
John Bowen is an FM consultant