A business is only as good as its suppliers. With this in mind, you don’t want to establish a relationship with a supplier, only to find that you’ve made a terrible choice further down the line. If you fail to match your needs up carefully with the supplier’s resources and capabilities, then you’re sure to pile on the costs, risk expensive delays, and damage your organisation’s professional reputation. To help you avoid this, here are my 3 Cs of supplier evaluation.
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The first C that you need to consider is competency. By evaluating your supplier’s competency, I don’t just mean reading the vague marketing rhetoric you find on their website. I’m talking about a specific assessment of their measured capabilities, stacking these up against your business’s needs. It also pays to reach out to business owners who have dealt with the supplier before, and ask them about their experience with the company. Have they encountered any kind of problems? How happy have they been with the supplier overall? If possible, try and get into contact with businesses that have left the supplier, and try to find out why they felt the need to change. By finding current or former customers with similar aims and values to your own, you’ll ensure that all the info you get is relevant to your business.
Before signing a contract with a supplier, you need to establish that they have a high level of commitment, specifically to a certain set of quality standards. As I said at the beginning of this post, a business is only as good as its suppliers. If the company you’re buying from is going to make slip ups, then you’re certainly going to feel it. If it’s appropriate at all, ask about any quality initiatives within the organization, for example Six Sigma. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to buy standard parts like roller vane pumps or bespoke electronics, you need to make sure that the supplier you enter an agreement with is running a tight ship in terms of quality. Regardless of the needs of their other customers, you need some hard evidence that the supplier is going to be able to provide an ongoing commitment to delivering a service that meets your needs.
The final C is culture, something that a lot of business owners manage to overlook, and often end up hurting their profit margins as a result. If you were to look at all the best business partnerships in the world, one of the things they’ll all have in common is matching workplace values. There are many reasons for this, but the main thing you can draw from it is that your supplier should have similar values to you. If one of your business’s main values is the quality of its products, but your supplier will sacrifice this in order to uphold its value of punctuality, then you can imagine the kind of problems you’re going to run into. Telling how well your cultures are matched can be tough, but it’s very important nonetheless!