Seven supplier management approaches that you wouldn't use on your children

There are parallels between parenting and management. Parenting can be good preparation for being a manager. Sometimes supplier management can feel like parenting.  But some managers make the same mistakes when managing suppliers that they do when parenting their children. Here are seven supplier management approaches that you wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) use on your children.

1. Do as I say, not as I do. Ok, maybe this is your approach with your children. But you know it shouldn’t be. And don’t do this with suppliers. Some companies tell suppliers to become lean or continually improve, but fail do so themselves. If you want and especially require a supplier to do something, you should not only do it first internally, but should be a role model..

2. Making the experience of working with your company like being in an episode of Survivor. Being difficult to work will not make a company a customer of choice. Maybe your company is part of the problem and needs to be part of the solution. You may need to find what you can do to help them do a good job for you. You don’t want your high potential suppliers to flee and the desperate, lower performers to stick around.

3. Avoiding direct communications of difficult information. Or firing a supplier by email than communicating face-to-face.  Your teenage children would much prefer to text you than actually talk or be with you. They are into parental avoidance. Suppliers are not your children and deserve respectful and sometimes in-person communications on difficult topics.

4. Being a helicopter supplier manager. You can’t trust your suppliers to be responsive without continually pestering them and being a nervous Nellie. Now some suppliers may need prodding. But if you do a good job of communicating your expectations and requirements, you may need to stand back and get out of the way.

5. Assuming that suppliers have understood what you want and that saying it is the same as making it happen.  You shouldn’t issue directives to suppliers without a full explanation of what, why and WIIFM (what’s in it for me).

6. Asking suppliers to do something and not following through. For example, if you ask a supplier for a corrective action plan, make sure you get it and that the actual corrective action is done. Or, just like your kids, they’ll quickly understand that you won’t follow through and they won’t have to do what you ask. They’ll lie low till the request is forgotten and the coast is clear.

7. Being a friend before being a customer. You are aiming for a good relationship with your suppliers. This is still a business relationship. Some firms keep suppliers much longer than their performance warrants because they are comfortable on a personal level, not a bad thing in itself,  or even because of “the devil you know” mindset. While it’s very important to have give and take in the relationship, stay focused on the business purpose and don’t let being friends cause you to lose sight of good business decisions.

Sherry R. Gordon

Author of:
Book: Supplier Evaluation and Performance Excellence: A Guide to Meaningful Metrics and Successful Results
CloudDVD: Supplier Evaluation and Performance Management






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