The dance between retailers and their supplier can be a complex one, and indeed a rough and tumble one too. Consider that the ACCC saw it fit to intercede last year between some of our largest retailers and their suppliers and enforce a code of conduct ensuring fair play.
Intuitively we know it shouldn’t be like that. Most retailers and their suppliers recognise the interconnectedness of their endeavours and whilst robust negotiation is always part of the dance, a recognition that sustainability must be built on win/win outcomes.
Walking through the Reed Gift Fair last weekend in Sydney, I was so pleased to bump old suppliers of mine from my time in retail (DealsDirect) who remembered me and our buying teams well. Whilst I am sure we didn’t always get it right, a lot of our early success was building strong connections with this supplier base.
Often delivering us preferential terms to retailers far bigger than we were. So, what’s my point? Well, my time at NORA (National Online Retail Organisation) has given me another perspective. In many ways I now see myself on the ‘other side’ of the divide, dealing with larger corporate businesses around our supply and provision of membership, services, partnerships, events and activities. And whilst many of these relationships have been, and are, fruitful, a few have been problematic. I wanted to share a few thoughts, on mindfulness when dealing with smaller suppliers. For most of us, these points will be intuitive, indeed even superfluous, but for a few of us…well… if the cap fits, wear it.
My overarching message is this. When dealing with an SMB supplier to your organisation, please remember that a quick ‘no’ is better than a long ‘maybe.’ The saying ‘ time is money’ can often more resonant in smaller organisations or enterprises. For many, a quick ‘ no’ allows them to move on to their next prospect, often with valuable feedback and learnings from a timely rejection. A ‘ maybe’ can slow them down, as they continue to seek further proof points and engagement with the client. At NORA, I have been struck on how engagement with the largest of our corporate contacts can get stuck. Responsibility gets diffused, decision making gets delegated or abdicated, and often in the absence of a decision or even feedback we have to take our own cue that our proposal has not met their expectations. Valuable time is lost, and the allocation of scarce resource, incorrectly applied.
So, you might be asking, on the flipside, what about those suppliers of services (vendors) who seem to harass their prospects? A retailer told me recently that he literally fears the expo halls of some of our retail expo’s, he feels such a target. Well, my friends, I have some robust views on this topic but this will have to wait till my next opinion editorial piece for the good folk at Power Retail. I will entitle it “ The Hunter and the Hunted”.