Simple Ways to Source and Manage Your Suppliers

Managing all the moving parts of a business can feel like a juggling act sometimes. But maintaining positive relationships with the vendors you work with makes it all easier to manage. It’s particularly important to get along well with your suppliers because you need to work with them day in and day out to keep your inventory stocked. Here are vendor management practices that can help you get off — and stay — on the right foot.

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Be choosy.

When you’re sourcing products from different suppliers, prices can vary. Things like quality, location and overhead all play a part in what suppliers charge (i.e., what you pay). Look for volume-based discounts, but also watch out for minimum order quantities. While you may get a better rate for a bigger order, the minimum size of that order might not make it such a good deal.

Bigger isn’t always better. While larger, more established companies might offer consistency and reliability, they might not be as flexible in offering custom solutions for your business.

Consider whether you’re better off with a local supplier or an international one. You may pay less for products from overseas, but the added distance may increase shipping costs and turnaround times. Distance may also add a layer of complexity to communication — especially if you don’t share the same language or culture.

Having too many suppliers can also stretch your relationships pretty thin. Consider consolidating by choosing just a handful of fruitful relationships and focusing your energies there. Spending adequate time communicating with each partner builds trust and loyalty — the foundation of any successful relationship.

Be clear.

Don’t underestimate the power of clearly defined roles. Communicate to your supplier about what you want, as well as what you expect from and what you’re willing to do for them. It may take a little bit of negotiation, but once your roles are set, it should make the work much smoother.

Be efficient.

Suppliers also have to run a business, so make sure you respect their time. Make sure you’re on time for all meetings and phone calls. Be organized and prepared to make your orders, accept deliveries, and take care of business in a timely manner. You want your suppliers to feel like their interactions with you are efficient — not a hassle.

Pay on time.

Maintaining an outstanding balance invariably creates friction. If, for any reason, you can’t pay a supplier on time, communicate that as soon as possible. This rule also applies with other delays or hiccups — like if you won’t be able to receive an order at an agreed-upon time.

Find the right tools.

You can find a variety of online software to help you organize supplier information, dates, transactions and other practical data. You can also use the free inventory management tool in Square Point of Sale to keep track of your stock so you know in advance when you might need to re-up with your supplier. Automating elements of your supply chain gives you bandwidth to handle more complex issues as they arise. Check out App Marketplace for more integrated solutions.

Build your reputation.

Don’t underestimate the power of being polite and friendly to everyone from the delivery driver to the supplier’s receptionist. Part of vendor management is about building your reputation as someone who’s a pleasure to work with.

Human relationships play a critical part in business. Everyone wants to enjoy their work — and if you make it easier for your suppliers to enjoy theirs, they’ll do the same for you.