Keeping on your toes as a supplier

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In their roles as suppliers, small business owners may often find themselves having to troubleshoot things that have gone wrong either internally and in their relationships with customers. Some ‘problems’ are pleasant and easy to deal with, whilst others can have a disastrous impact on the small business’ operations and reputation.

Problems you want to have as a supplier

• Being unable to keep up with demand despite operating at full capacity – This can be due to a temporary or permanent surge in demand. The trick here is for small business owners to be able to scale up appropriately and to avoid alienating potential customers who may get the mistaken impression that the business is too small fry or disorganized to deal with.

• Having to decide what proportion of your customers should be local versus international, corporate versus general members of the public. Having a clearly defined clientele will help you decide key strategic issues such as what resources you need and what your marketing strategy should be.

Problems you want to avoid as a supplier

• Poor product quality which results in product recalls complaints to regulators or lawsuits.

• Extended delays caused by equipment breakdowns, absence or loss of key employees, or late deliveries by suppliers of key inputs.

• Being out of your depth and ignoring customer specifications for the products and services to be delivered (e.g. because they are too complex or the business lacks sufficient experience); insisting instead on the small business’ processes or methodologies even if that is not what the customer wants.

Small business owners who regularly monitoring business volumes, customer complaints, and external trends (e.g. regulatory developments, sporting and other events which could cause a spike in demand etc) can usually anticipate how they need to position themselves as suppliers.

Being proactive, rather than reactive is the key to being a good supplier.

Post By: Fadzai Munyaradzi

 

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25 comments
    There are advantages to being a small supplier and if you understand these you can shout about your smallness rather than trying to hide it. For example: - You can be more flexible and adaptable to a customer’s needs - The customer can feel that they are dealing with the owner/manager and therefore able to get exactly what they wants - You can put in as much of your own time and effort is needed to exceed the customer’s expectations.
    Good morning again South Africa Its is one of those things that when you think things are impossible and the client has give you unthinkable deadlines is when you actually pull rabbits out hats and somehow get the job done
    Themain attributes I look for in a supplier are firstly ease of comminication - this happens from the offset if I find our communicationdifficult or lack of response initially i'm likely to move onto another supplier who will make it easier to do business with. Secondly accountability is really important. Admitting to a mistake can be difficult. But when your goods are on the line it’s essential that you’re working with someone whocan take responsibility for their half of a deal and actively work to fix any problems that occur. A good supplier should be able toconsistently manufacture a product that meets your requirements. Without having the necessary procedures and skilled staff at their factory your supplier is going to fall short of meeting your standards.
    A solution to the issue of demand fluctuation in a smallbusiness can be to have a network of freelancers who you can call on if and when you need them
    In the video and advertising production business you may find yourself having to film edit and produce ads and content in a flurry and then have nothing for a while and this creates problems. You employ people and then find you dont have enough for them to do
    I know this is a problem with small businesses and its well documented that often its in the growth phase of your business that things go wrong you run out of cash and even go out of business
    I would suggest that we as small businesses pay careful attention to this element of our business understanding and learning curve and try to anticipate these problems. One thing we can do and i know hind sight is 20:20 vision but be as careful as possible to create a savings bank of money when you are making a small profit. Dont be tempted into spending your hard earned profit just yet. Because that money is what will tide you over as a supplier when clients place bigger demands on you. That money will help employ more staff and product you need to deliver the higher client demand
    Yes andrewctn being a small supplier has many advantages I agree. I think stayinga good suppliers also means wanting to improve and knowing how to improve. Continuous improvement is not a slogan. It’s reality and we must not become complacent. We should always be looking to improve knowing the benefits of never standing still. If mycustomers uncoverimportant opportunities for improvement I am positive about pursuing these opportunities and happy thatbrought themto myattention.
    It is very true that the hands on attention a small business can give clients is often the difference and why you have a very strong appeal to clients. I dont know if you feel the same but when you walk into a restaurant and see you friendlly owner/chef and he or she greets you warmly and this goes on for years you feel that you have the boss looking after you. When they're not there or a restaurant isnt run by the owner you notice it
    Its a fine line between being kept on your toes and being expected to do the impossible and the tricky part is when to stand your ground and when to just do It
    Again i take from Alon Raiz when he says We dont sell time we sell value So when you are expected to go the extra mile that requires vast stamina and perserverance and additional staff and resources have the discussion with your client about the Value you add and what that is worth
    It is really important to understand the CLIENT/SUPPLIER relationship when you are starting out in your business. Have a workshop between the few of you in the business and discuss and share about what you all understand bout the client realtionship and how you intent buidling and managing it. Its like a marriage Understand the project you are undertaking right from the outset and make sure that your client understands the context of your business to avoid any misconceptions. Invite the client to yoursite. This way they can begin to understand the context in which their workisbeing produced and done and the people who create them.
    Creating this open dialogue between supplier and clientfrom the beginning helps to create mutual confidence in being open with one another and will in turn help prevent any future mishaps.
    Be honest with your capabilities. Highlight your strengths and what makes you stand out from potential competitors don’t take on an order unless you have the actual capacity to fulfil it to a high quality standard. Itis common throughout business and social culture to always say ‘yes’ to a question or request being made in an effort to avoid disappointment. Make it clear to clients as to what it is you handle and what you do not. It is safer to be on the side of caution than to take on orders that you may not be able or prepared to meet. It’s more disappointing when a promise you’ve made is not delivered or a high level of quality is not achieved.
    The idea of suppliers being on their toes applies to your small business as much as you being a supplier to a big business. Often as small businesses we have people who supply us and ive learned that we must constantly be looking out for and meeting with others who do the same thing because its the age old get three quotes - we might be surprised that there are many other suppliers who offer the same or better service for the same or less money
    It is easy to just rely on the same suppliers because they do a good job. Andthere is nothing wrong with working over a long period with good suppliers but dont be lulled into not regularly putting the business Out to Pitch just to keep everyone on their toes
    Communication is Key: Communicate clearly and often. At every stage of theprocess it is important to communicate with the client. Check over any detail no matter how small or large. If you are unclear or there are changes make sure to communicate this with the client. This will prevent any surprises for your client at the end. Suppliers should ask questions for even the smallest detail if there is any doubt at all or if the type of work requested poses problems. Here communication gaps can arise due to the simple fact that the clientmainly wants clear information and the supplier often wants to simply reassure the clientthat all is being taken care of.
    Respect for the individual and importance of teamwork. How you structure and organise yourself as a supplier will have a domino effect on the relationships you build with your clients and the way in which you handle your business and projects. It is therefore of fundamental importance to create a respectful transparent and strong work force where individuals are given the opportunity to speak freely. A good way to do this is to create an open discussion forum that meets regularly where workers can update and input. Regular group meetings to share ideas or voice concerns between staffand management will create an egalitarian structure that not only will serve to create positive sustainable employment opportunities but the strengths of your business infrastructure will enable you to build confidently upon your business relations.
    These are some thoughts from Shari Keller fashion designer and the director of Indian fair trade manufacturer Mehera Shaw on how to ensure your business relationships deliver value for you and your client.
    Here are 10 points to read and implement in your business and your business thinking - Both customers and the suppliers are fully responsible for the control of quality. - Both the customer and supplier should be independent of each other and respect each other’s independence. - The customer is responsible for providing the supplier with clear sufficient requirements so that supplier can know precisely what to produce. - Both the customer and the supplier should enter into a non adversarial contract with respect to quality quantity price delivery method and terms payments. - The supplier is responsible for providing the quality that will satisfy the customer and submitting necessary data upon customer’s request.
    - Both the customer and the supplier should decide the method to evaluate the quality of the product or service to the satisfaction of both parties. - Both the customer and the supplier should establish in the contract the method bywhich they can reach an amicable settlement of any disputes that may arise. - Both the customer and the supplier should continually exchange information sometimes using multifunctional teams in order to improve the product or service quality. - Both the customer and the supplier should perform business activities such as procurement production and inventory planning clerical work and systems so that an amicable and satisfactory relationship is maintained. - When dealing with business transactions both the customer and supplier should always have the best interest of the end user in mind.
    As a supplier you have to be very patient and work according to your customers needs as they will always expect you to deliver on time. You also need to be focussed at all times because most of the times you will find yourself dealing with more than one customer. Also suppliers need to multitask because once you get going there is no looking back.
    I think the Article being about Keeping Suppliers on thier toes is a brilliant platform for you entrepreneurs and small businesses to really think about the culture you install in your business in regards the SUPPLIER/CLIENT relationship and what you teach your team about this. It may not seem that important but it sets down some real values by which you do your business Read these inputs they give good insight
    Many customer-supplier relationships canweakened or damaged and the economicdownturn can also contribute. To rescue them both sides need to acknowledge past mistakes identify the causes of those problems take corrective action and monitor the results. Acknowledge past mistakes Find the real source of the problem Identify and implement corrective actions Monitor and maintain the relationship
    Remember guys #knowthycustomer #lovethycustomer