May 2017 |

With the right tools, your suppliers can make all the difference.

The best businesses are those that are always looking to improve. Across all industries and in every country, the common factor that unites leading companies is the continuous desire to do things better. 

Innovations and new players in the market mean that standing still is not an option. If your business isn’t looking to find new ways to progress you’ll be left behind by the competition.

The trick is knowing how this can be achieved. 

Get by with a little help from your friendsOrganizations spend most of their money on suppliers, and it’s your suppliers who help you to achieve great things in the marketplace.

Suppliers are an integral part of your operation. Without them, you wouldn’t be able to go about your business. But it’s a part of your operation over which you have precious little control.

Sure, you have signed contracts and agreed targets, but what sort of relationship do you have with your suppliers? How well do you really know each other? 

Knowing me, knowing youSuppliers should know what is important to you and understand what makes you tick. If they don’t know enough about your medium and long-term goals or how you operate your business, you have lost an opportunity. 

Supplier alignment isn’t just about pointing them in the right direction when you sign contracts and then hoping for the best. Alignment is a regular process, where small details can be fine tuned and efficiencies can be found. 

This shift is how a true supplier relationship is developed, with regular, open lines of communication in both directions.

Give them something to talk aboutThe only way to have productive conversations with your suppliers is by analyzing data. With up-to-date information and metrics tracking performance, there’s a single source of truth that makes it easy to set an agenda. You can really knuckle down into the detail, and explore ways to get those marginal gains that result in competitive advantage.

Do you hear what I hear?Remember that a conversation is a two-way dialogue, and your suppliers should be encouraged to collaborate with you and bring ideas to the table.

Companies that state publicly that they are open to inventive proposals from suppliers have an edge; they can become a customer of choice and get the freshest ideas. The fast-moving-consumer-goods (FMCG) industry is good at this, as margins are tight and all suggestions are welcome. 

The more a supplier knows about your business and the direction you are taking in the market, the more support they can offer. Don’t be afraid to open up the lines of communication.

Oops. Don’t do it againFailure isn’t a problem within itself. Businesses should be in a position to test hypotheses to see what competitive advantage can be gained. But if an idea is going to fail, then you need to know quickly so you can minimize its impact. 

The huge advantage of real-time metrics is to know whether an action is providing tangible benefits or adversely affecting the company. This allows you to scale the action up or down as required. 

Come togetherBy segmenting suppliers according to behaviors, you can quickly and easily apply learnings amongst relevant companies within your supply chain. It’s just one example of using technology to make smart decisions that improves your processes and makes a real difference to your performance. 

They key to competitive advantage lies in your suppliers. By using smart technology to measure performance, identify opportunities, share and deploy initiatives, and track successes you can keep a close control over the actions that bring you the best results. 

And if you don’t, your competitors will.

Key takeaways

  • Don’t just talk to suppliers, listen to them as well
  • Ensure your conversations are two-way dialogues
  • Conversations based on data can show where clear competitive advantage is attainable
  • Don’t be afraid to fail, but fail fast
  • Supplier alignment is a continuous process