6 easy steps to establish successful, long term vendor relationships.
By Breann Marvin-Loffing, CFE
In nearly every industry, the strength of a facility’s vendor relationships can have a significant influence on the success of the business. Most facilities rely heavily on their vendors to ensure their business functions efficiently. In fact, suppliers can at times have more of an effect on a facility’s profits than its customers can. To keep a lucrative facility, it’s important to invest time and money into developing strong, enduring relationships with suppliers.
Additionally, forming long-lasting relationships with fewer vendors, rather than several short term relationships, has been shown to help control costs and mitigate risk for facilities. Facilities incur many startup costs every time they hire a new vendor. It pays off for facilities to focus on identifying a few key vendors with whom they can form strong relationships, rather than switching vendors frequently. Once your facility finds a vendor that is a good match for the business, focusing on strengthening and maintaining a healthy vendor relationship should be at the top of the priority list.
To ensure your facility is on the right path, follow these six steps to establish and maintain successful, long-lasting vendor relationships:
- Share business goals and communicate your facility’s needs
The first step toward establishing a successful vendor relationship is to make your facility’s goals and overall mission clear to your vendor. Sharing business goals ensures you’re both on the same page and working to achieve the same level of quality and customer satisfaction. Early on in the relationship, hold a planning meeting and create a presentation that highlights your facility’s strategic direction. Make your message clear and establish your needs from the vendor from the very beginning. Vendors may even be able to offer insights into your business that you hadn’t thought of, and help further improve your strategy.
- Keep lines of communications open
Assuming a vendor understands your expectations without thoroughly explaining them can quickly lead to confusion. Miscommunication like this could cause your facility, as well as your customers, to be unsatisfied. To avoid frustration and unproductiveness that can result, it’s vital to be transparent with your vendors. Let them know that they can always contact your facility if they have any questions or concerns. Ensure that all available lines of communication are open and kept professional so vendors feel comfortable reaching out when needed. Maintaining two-way communication between a vendor and a facility is key to forming a successful and long-lasting relationship.
- Put everything in writing
Every discussion your facility has with its supplier should be captured in writing, no matter what the subject matter may be. Whether a decision was formally agreed upon in a meeting or casually talked about over lunch, a detailed, written audit trail of all discussions should be maintained. Payments, business practices, agreements, meetings plans and more should all be properly recorded and shared with your vendor so both parties are in agreement. Additionally, all phone and in-person conversations should be followed up with an email to eliminate miscommunication and to confirm all details.
- Respect vendor’s time
While a vendor should undoubtedly make your needs a priority, it’s important to also realize their time is valuable and they do have other clients. Instead of making unscheduled, short notice delivery and meeting requests, or changing orders at the last minute, establish a set delivery and payment schedule. Paying your vendor late or treating their time as less important than yours could cause the relationship to become strained. Remember that reliability and respect should be established on both ends.
- Show loyalty
Once a vendor has provided reliable service and proven they can meet your needs, it’s important to show that you notice and appreciate their efforts. One way to do so is to guarantee that your facility will exclusively use their services on a regular basis. In particular, this practice is good to keep for services that must be conducted on a regular, repeat basis. Commercial kitchen hood cleaning, for example, is mandatory for commercial kitchens on a regular basis — whether it be annually, quarterly or monthly. In cases like these, it is easiest to establish a strong relationship with one vendor to ensure consistent, quality service.
- Request periodic progress reports
It’s always a smart idea to check in regularly with your vendors to make sure operations are running smoothly. Create a schedule in which your vendor sends you detailed progress reports so that your facility can identify any problems and collaborate with the vendor to come up with a solution. Progress reports are an effective way to also track the growth of your business and keep a recorded history of your vendor relationship.
Maintaining a strong vendor relationship is a continuous process and requires an investment of time and energy; however, the extra work will significantly benefit your facility. Fortunately, following these steps can help build the relationship quickly and establish a close bond between your facility and its vendors.
— Breann Marvin-Loffing, CFE is the vice president of franchise operations at HOODZ International. HOODZ, the industry leader in commercial kitchen exhaust system cleaning and preventive maintenance, delivers quality kitchen cleaning, code compliance and fire prevention solutions to restaurants, institutions and other foodservice industries. For more information, visit www.hoodzinternational.com.