When running a small business, your suppliers can be as important as your clients. Without timely delivery of the materials you need, you cannot support your clients. The wonders of the internet and globalization have made a multitude of suppliers within reach, so how do you choose the best one?
Word of mouth – I rarely make recommendations on suppliers, and when I do it’s because I have a long standing relationship with them. If you trust your source (person recommending), this can be one of the best ways to find trustworthy suppliers without the long process of testing out on that first order. When I recommend someone, it’s because I use them myself, and I wouldn’t use them if they couldn’t meet my needs.
Buying local is certainly a plus, if nothing else separates one supplier from another. The advantage here is that you can always go see the supplier in person if there is an issue, and resolve it quickly. Unfortunately, not all products can be found locally.
Often with the internet at our finger tips, we tend to go with the least expensive option. Be forewarned, if the supplier can offer for less than their competitors, they did so at a cost. Perhaps the product is inferior; perhaps they only ship when they have large orders and thus you wait for your product to arrive; perhaps all sales are final. Sometimes it’s the customer service that suffers.
I often like to call the support number and ask a question I already know the answer to. It’s a good test of what would happen if I chose the supplier and an issue arose. Do they answer the phone? Are you on hold for a long period of time? Don’t forget that you have work to do too, and waiting on the phone for 45 minutes, or leaving a message for them to call you back, cuts into your productivity.
As a business owner, there are always new suppliers calling and offering their services at cheaper rates than my current suppliers. I ask myself, am I happy with my current service? If my current supplier delivers the product as specified and in a timely manner, and at a rate I can still turn a profit, why change for the unknown? Changing supplier when your current one meets all your needs, could be putting your clients at risk. After all, your clients receive the final product; if it’s late getting to you, it’s then late getting to them. If you’re not happy with the new product, why would your clients be?
All that being said, don’t be afraid to change a supplier when you’re not getting exactly what you want. If you have to settle for an inferior product, or service, then you’re pushing your clients to do the same. It’s entirely possible that over 15 years personnel have changed, and company objectives along with it.
Moral of the story: Base selection of suppliers on their product and services, and not simply on their price tag, unless that’s how you want your clients to view you.