In supplier relationships, as with romantic relationships, there unfortunately comes a time when the romance fades away…
While the relationship with your beloved strategic supplier may have grown stronger (and more co-dependent each year spent contracted to each other), the romance, the sparkle, the mojo, that desire to impress, often dissipates into a very boring business-as-usual patter.
As leading best-practice procurement practitioners, we all know this is a bad thing – because theoretically we need to be continually improving the value delivered from our strategic suppliers. And unfortunately when the sparkle starts to disappear, or one partner starts to feel neglected, then the cracks start to appear. The bond may break and you are in the law courts with your separation clauses under the microscope. On the other hand, a healthy supplier relationship is productive – it drives out costs, inefficiencies and spawns love children in the form of innovation.
Let’s face it; maintaining a strong working relationship (whatever the setting) requires effort. As we say at Procurious, you have to give to receive.
While researching (well, let’s face it, Googling) this topic, I stumbled across a very practical set of advice from one Ms Monika Mundell: 7 ways to inject romance back into your relationship.
I realised that there were some amazingly scary parallels for we procurement folk. So, I’ve reworked Ms Mundell’s 7 tips to provide you with some shine to put sparkle back into those all-important strategic supply relationships.
- Eye gazing: Even though I’m obviously a true-believer in social media, I am also a true-believer in the good old face-to-face meeting and telephone call to build understanding relationships. Too much gets lost in translation when we are emailing, texting and tweeting. If we are to keep the relationship alive, we must meet with our strategic suppliers regularly to ensure we fully understand the status and nuances of the relationship.
- Book a romantic surprise getaway: OK… not really appropriate – but think about it… When was the last time you and your supplier got your leadership teams together to think of ways of both getting more value out of the relationship? You could have a “staycation” and have a one or two-day conference in your offices, or book a mutually convenient off-site location to help facilitate bonding at all levels. A getaway could really identify some fresh ways to invigorate the relationship and add more bottom line value for your shareholders.
- Touch your partner more often: OK, now you’ll be thinking I’ve really crossed the line here… but think about it. How many touch points do you have with your supplier, and are you using all the different communication mediums available to connect with them at all the appropriate levels in their organization?
- Write a love letter: Seriously, when was the last time you wrote an email, a letter, a card, showing appreciation for something your supplier did for you? In a day and age where people are running around crazily ticking items off their to do list, a considered, well-penned note means a lot more than it ever did. Take some time out – formally thank your supplier – and I am sure you will feel the love reciprocated in some way or form into the future.
- Surprise your partner with a romantic dinner: I was really touched when a long-term client and his wife took me to a five star restaurant last year – and paid on their personal credit card. As my clients know, I am very dedicated to them all and I was really touched that this couple took time out of their busy diary and budget to treat me to a special meal. Think about it…
- Spend more time together: According to Ms Mundell, a common cause for drudgery in a relationship is the fact that we disconnect. All of the points above provide you with opportunities to spend more time with your suppliers. But remember, it doesn’t always have to be elaborate, or premeditated, just spending simple time together on-site, on the job, in the warehouse or with your joint customers is all very important time invested in building that all-important relationship.
- See a counsellor – OK there’s a reason why this is obviously my last point – because it’s kind of a last resort if all else is failing. At my procurement management consultancy, The Faculty, we’ve often considered developing a “strategic alliance counselling” service… not unlike a marriage counsellor! When thinking about how to re-ignite the spark in your supplier relationship, don’t underestimate the value of getting a third party involved to take an objective view of how your partnership is performing. While you probably won’t need to recline on the chaise lounge, a healthy review could offer some fresh insights into how both sides of the partnership could potentially change their behaviours for the greater good.
Are you making sure your suppliers “feel the love”?