Building relationships with your vendors

Much has been written about a business and its relationship with customers. Less has been written about a business’ relationship with its vendors. Every business has suppliers. Some may have a multitude of vendors with whom they do business. Others may have virtually none. However many vendors you have, it’s important to build a good relationship with them.

A new supply house moved into our community several years ago when I owned our small business. One day one of my suppliers called asking if we were buying most of our supplies from this new company. Evidently, our purchases had been less than usual which prompted the call. There were several reasons why I chose not to do business with this new company and assured my caller that we had not shifted our purchases to the new company. I reminded him that we had done business with his company for many years, and I was not going to move to a new supplier to save nickels and dimes. We maintained a good relationship through all the years I owned the business.

This was a local company owned by local people. I believe in doing business locally as much as possible. However, there were many things we used in our business that had to be purchased from regional suppliers. These were larger ticket items, and it was important to keep a check on the prices they charged. Sometimes, there could be a significant difference in the same product among different vendors. It is important for a small business like ours to comparison shop the more expensive items you need.

It’s also important to check on what your vendors are doing. One day I had a call from a very unhappy commercial customer we had served for a number of years. He had purchased an item their company normally bought from us directly from our supplier. The supplier had charged him considerably less than they charged us, and we were supposed to be getting their best wholesale price.  I didn’t believe the caller until I went and saw his invoice myself. I immediately called our supplier and asked why they would charge a person off the street less than they charged us. At first the supplier denied doing this until I gave the information from the invoice. Then the supplier mumbled that someone made a mistake. Needless to say I wasn’t very happy when I told him that we had probably lost all opportunity to get any more business from our client because “someone made a mistake.” And, I was right, we lost that customer. He thought we were ripping him off.

Most vendors treat their clients well, but it’s important to always remember that they are in business to make money, not to make friends. Their ultimate goal is not to ensure your happiness but to ensure they can achieve maximum profit. It’s always good to build a relationship with your vendors that will be mutually beneficial to both parties, but you cannot forget that if your business gets into trouble they will not be interested in providing much assistance.

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