As many of you who run businesses already know, choosing which suppliers you will work with can be one of the most important decisions you make. A poorly run or organized supplier can slow down your production, cost you countless hours trying to straighten out problems, and may have problems filling orders on time or filling orders at all. The decision to work with a particular supplier should be made after you’ve done some checking, and after you’ve determined what you need from that supplier to make your business succeed.
The first thing you should consider when evaluating a potential supplier is reliability. If a supplier can’t get the materials you need to you in a timely fashion, it could cause a lot of delays for your business. A supplier who drops the ball and doesn’t get necessary supplies to you is a supplier who could cause you to drop the ball with your customers. Obviously, that’s something you want to avoid.
Another thing to examine when choosing a supplier is cost vs. value. Many times the instinctive reaction is to go for the lowest price. When evaluating suppliers, you need to decide what the acceptable balance between cost, service, reliability and quality should be.
When it comes to selecting a supplier, you should always make sure that you know what your business needs to succeed. Some suppliers may try to win you with flashy discounts or deals that sound great, but don’t really meet the needs of your business. Knowing how your business works best, and what is required to keep it running in that condition will help ensure you select suppliers who meet those requirements.
Another thing to do when evaluating suppliers is to ask for references. In a way, a supplier evaluation is like a job interview, the supplier is becoming a part of your business, or will at least have an effect on how your business runs. Call your potential supplier and ask if they can supply testimonials, or give you names of customers that are willing to be references. Some of the best information about working with a supplier can come from those who already do. Make sure you don’t neglect this valuable source of knowledge.
Another way to get to know a potential supplier is to request their catalog or printed materials. Visit their web site and their forum of blog if they have one. Examine all their content with a critical eye. Do you see typos in their printed materials? Are there broken links on their web site? Attention to detail is the mark of a good supplier. If their presentation is lacking, they may have issues in other areas as well.
Finally, when selecting a supplier, follow your heart and your gut. Sometimes you’ll just know that working with a particular supplier isn’t going to work out for you. If you have that feeling, go with it. Going into a supplier relationship with misgivings isn’t going to do anyone any good. In the end, a supplier is a partner, and you should only work with partners that you trust.