ICS Magazine

Maintaining a Strong Supplier Relationship

November 11, 2004
Keep your supplier relationship strong to make your business stronger

Developing and maintaining a strong and healthy relationship with your primary supply company or product distributor is one of the key components in building a successful business.

It almost goes without saying that without a reliable source for supplies, it is not easy to provide high-quality service for your customers. In other words, your ability to generate income is tied to your relationship with your supplier.

A good supplier is much more than just a place to buy your pre-spray or emulsifier. One additional role played by the supplier is keeping your equipment operating. No matter how dependable your equipment is, it will still need maintenance and repairs from time to time. A strong relationship with your supplier helps to insure that parts and repairs are available and can be provided in a timely manner. Down time is very expensive; don't wait until things break to develop a relationship.

Your supplier location is also a good place to network with other professionals. Many times, the supplier is the host or sponsor for association chapter meetings, local product workshops, new product introductions and demonstrations, or even social gatherings. Most IICRC training is hosted at supplier locations. Being in good standing with your supplier and keeping your name on all of their regular mailing lists helps to keep you tuned in to the industry.

The ability to maintain a strong and positive relationship with your supplier really hinges upon a few basic and simple behavior patterns. First, be loyal. Try to buy as many of your supply items as is reasonable from the same distributor. By buying more, you are a bigger, and therefore more important, customer to that supplier. Remember that just because a competing supplier offers pre-spray for $1 less per gallon, if that distributor never hosts a school or workshop or doesn't have any technical advisors available, that dollar may not be a wise way to save. Try to support those who support you.

The second key to a strong supplier relationship is to be consistent. Plan your supply needs as best as you can so that you order in regular amounts at regular intervals as much as possible. This allows the distributor to plan his inventory so that the products you need are available when you need them, and money isn't wasted warehousing things for extended periods of time.

Third, share your experiences with your supplier as they apply to the best way to get good results using the products you have purchased from him or her. Your stories of a particular success or failure might serve to help that supplier better service his customers. Who knows, the one that needs that special problem solving technique next might be you.

Finally, keep your accounts current. Pay all your supplier bills within the agreed-upon terms. Supply houses are not banks; they rarely have enough cash flow to support large charge accounts from customers that extend over 30 days. In order to have the products you need on hand, the distributor must remain current with his sources, and that is only possible if his customers are current with him.

Remember, the supply distributor is in business just as you are. It is just a different part of the same industry. Your loyalty, consistency, advance planning, and prompt payment will insure a strong and positive relationship. The suppler relationship can be the lifeblood of a successful service company. Don't underestimate the importance of this relationship.