This week we are using our Valentine’s boxes and we also have seasonal boxes at Thanksgiving and Christmas…and at all times we have 8 different boxes and 6 different bags…I could – and likely will – write a lot of posts on packaging and what it means to a small business. But my post today is about suppliers, a term I use loosely to include lawyers, accountants, bag and box suppliers, food suppliers, oven suppliers…the list is long.
I started by mentioning boxes because our box supplier, Albany Packaging, is pretty high up on the list of PGB favourite suppliers- no matter what crazy idea we have for boxes (could we have a box for one mini? two minis? with a little window? could make the window larger? please?) our Albany rep, Dorel, always smiles and says, “sure, let me look at it” ..and next thing we know, Dorel is back with a sample and the pricing and a plan.
I have found that the same things that make Carly (manager of finance & ops) and me love Dorel are the same characteristics in all the suppliers we’ve formed longterm relationships with.
The top great-supplier traits:
1. Responsiveness- with the best suppliers, I never have to worry if my email has been lost in the Junk folder- the great suppliers get back to me within a day
2. Understands the need for value – every cheque a small business owner signs is money that directly affects the bottom line that month so there has to be value received for that value given. A food supply company we no longer use didn’t keep us current with price changes and when we did a survey of the marketplace, we were not being charged competitively. An accountant I used once said the meeting was “free” and then sent a large bill – unannounced- for a phone call and a short email. In contrast our current lawyers always let us know upfront what will be charged and the lawyer who incorporated PGB in 2010 gave me a big discount for the first year – had my back? Yes! Gets the business in the long run? Absolutely.
3. Makes things right- every supplier will of course make mistakes but great ones are willing to take feedback and make things right. In our business that might mean an emergency visit to repair the air conditioner, an out of cycle delivery of flour, or a replacement of equipment that just isn’t working.
The tidbit of advice I would give other small business owners when it comes to suppliers is: be very clear on what you expect; be a good client in return (timely bill payment; well organized orders); and don’t settle. There are a lot of suppliers out there in every single industry and if you are not treated like gold by yours, I say move on. Expect your suppliers to treat you like your company treats its customers, and if they don’t, start the process of looking for someone who has your back.