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Four Ways to Strengthen Your Supplier Relationships in a COVID Economy
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No matter which industry your company is in, strong supplier relationships are crucial to success. With the disruption of supply chains caused by the global pandemic over the past year, it’s never been more clear why.

Suppliers can affect everything from product quality and cost to efficiency and your company’s competitiveness in the market. And when you invest time and resources into strengthening connections with vendors, those relationships are better prepared for challenges or circumstances outside of your control. It’s essential, though, to have those relationships in place ahead of a crisis — as Supply Chain Dive puts it with regard to COVID-19: “The foundations built in the past work to support ongoing operations now. In this emergency, it’s too late to make friends.” 

But how do you maintain and strengthen your supplier relationships? These four key strategies can help promote long-lasting connections that benefit both sides.

Communication Is Key

Strong communication can benefit all relationships, and supplier relationships are no different. By communicating clearly and regularly, you can foster collaboration and ensure things go according to plan. And when things don’t go according to plan — whether the circumstances are related to the COVID-19 pandemic or other unforeseen challenge — having open lines of communication could help you get information and updates faster. 

Prioritizing communication can also help eliminate any misunderstandings or confusion, especially when you don’t wait to address a concern or issue. Paul Noël, the senior vice president of procurement solutions for Ivalua, told Turbine HQ, “Communication will create transparency on both sides of the channel and prevent hiccups or missteps, like incorrect inventory count or missing purchase orders.”

Along with helping operations flow more smoothly, honest communication can create trust between your company and its suppliers. When possible, meeting your vendors in person can facilitate this by helping both sides get a feel for each other. This can be the foundation for a long-lasting, fruitful relationship. Just remember to be polite and professional when navigating conversations with suppliers, and work to set the tone for a positive working relationship from the get-go.

Increase Transparency

Focusing on transparency goes hand-in-hand with prioritizing communication, and building that sense of honesty into your supplier relationships can help both parties succeed. As you work to increase that transparency, be clear about your company’s goals and what you expect from a supplier relationship. By doing this, it can be easier to communicate feedback, create accountability and adjust processes as needed.

And if a concern ever arises, go straight to your supplier and ask for clarification — don’t just wait for an issue to resolve itself. Without that trust and communication, relationships can go sour quickly; in fact, Forbes highlights both mismatched objectives and a lack of trust as two of the key reasons supplier relationships don’t flourish.

Build Personal Relationships

To help streamline operations, it can be helpful to establish a direct point of contact with your supplier rather than a rotating group of people you talk to. Similarly, on your company’s end, having a supplier relationship manager can keep things streamlined.

Software solutions company Greenstone has pointed out that the pandemic has shown whether businesses “have the correct processes in place for engaging with suppliers quickly in order to address external shocks.” By establishing a regular contact on both sides who acts as a point person, you can build a relationship over time and ensure you have a go-to person during challenging times. And when a problem does arise, you’ll know exactly who to go to get it resolved in a timely manner.

By taking the time to focus on personal relationships, you can also create an environment that breeds a spirit of innovation and collaboration between your company and its suppliers. And during difficult times, that sense of collaboration and partnership can help make the path forward easier.

Boost Your Own Reputation

As you work to strengthen your supplier relationships, be sure to look to your own company’s reputation. Try to establish your company as a thought leader and position yourself as an authority in your industry.

But don’t forget that respect must be earned. To build a strong reputation, you must strive to be a good partner to your suppliers — which is something the three previous strategies can help you do. By communicating constantly, being transparent and focusing on personal relationships, you can be a company that suppliers are eager to work with. Consistently paying on time also shows that you’re a responsible customer and makes it clear that you respect your suppliers’ time.  

If you’re searching for a partner to support your corporate relocation and office move needs, Allied Van Lines has a vast agency network that helps us exceed our customers’ expectations. And when you engage us as a supplier, you can count on quality, consistency, and downline visibility under one contract for all your workplace and workforce mobility needs.

Allied Van Lines, The Careful Movers, supports local, long-distance and international moves — large and small — and is the largest mover network in the world. With over 90 years of experience, we’re here when you need us to ensure your company and your top talent move forward into the future, together. Learn more.