In order to keep all of those workers productive, companies need to provide them with pens, papers, snacks and a virtually countless amount of other items. All of that stuff comes from “suppliers,” which is a group that, as a business owner, you’re going to have to get familiar with.
If you’re in the process of forging your first relationships with suppliers to stock your office or even to get the components that you need to craft your products, this guide on how to find suppliers and work with them will walk you through everything that you need to know.
Understanding Supplier Classes
When you’re trying to figure out how to find suppliers, the first thing that you’ll want to make sure of is that you understand which classes of suppliers are out there. For simplicity purposes, we’ve broken supplier classes into three primary categories:
If you need supplies in bulk at an ultra-low cost, the best place to go is to a manufacturer. A manufacturer is a party that physically creates the supplies that you’re buying. There are no middle-men involved when you buy direct from a manufacturer, giving you the best chance of scoring a great deal.
A distributor is a middle-man. They strike deals with suppliers on your behalf and then resell those deals to companies like yours at a markup.
While it might seem like a bad deal to do business with a distributor, they do offer advantages. For starters, you won’t have to buy in as high of a volume from a distributor as you would from a manufacturer. Also, distributors are a lot easier to deal with than manufacturers since their sole focus is to get items into businesses like yours.
Manufactures, on the other hand, are more focused on crafting than circulating their products.
There are niche products that are not popular enough to lend themselves to mass production operations. If you’re looking for for a Washi paper supplier, a supplier that makes handcrafted spoons or other off-beat items, you’ll need to do a deep dive online to see which individuals can meet your demand and work with those people directly.
Narrow Down Your Choices
Now that you know the three primary paths that your how to find suppliers journey can take you down, it’s time to filter through your options within one of those supplier buckets to come away with the best possible partner.
There are 4 primary qualities that you’ll want to measure a prospective supplier against.
For most businesses, price is the primary consideration when it comes to developing supplier partnerships. You’d be surprised to find how much costs can vary for the same item, especially between distributors.
While price isn’t everything when working with people, it is a factor that is worth leading with when vetting prospects.
If the quality of your supplies matters to you (and they should), you’re going to want to rigorously test each supplier’s product prior to putting in a bulk order.
Any manufacturer that is worth doing business with will gladly provide you with a free sample of their merchandise. In some cases, you may have to pay for shipping if the manufacturer is based abroad.
As a side note, when you work with good distributors, they’ll have already done quality checks on your behalf. This is an unsung advantage of working through a middle-man as opposed to working directly with manufacturers.
If in your initial discussions, you’re getting bad service vibes from a supplier, move on. The last thing that you want is a key component of your business’s workflow to be bottle-necked by a supplier that you can’t rely on.
Ability to Scale
As your business grows, so will your need for supplies. The supplier that you partner with should be ready to scale with you on a moment’s notice. If they’re not, supply chain issues could severely stunt your company’s growth.
Managing Your Relationship
By this point, you should know how to find suppliers and how to filter your potential choices. With your supplier in-hand and your relationship getting off the ground, let’s talk about three things that you should keep in mind as you work together.
Don’t ever sleep on your supplier. Make sure that they’re always meeting the obligations of your agreement, and if they’re not, let them know that you’re not opposed to finding a new partner.
On the other hand, if your supplier is doing a great job, take the time to let them know.
Your supplier should be privy to how your business is doing and you should know how things are going on their end as well. Having quarterly calls to disclose one another’s situations can help you both be in a better position to keep things running smoothly.
There’s always somebody that’s offering a better deal. If you’re seeing other suppliers offering lower prices, let your current supplier know and ask them to price match. Even if you’re not seeing lower prices in the market, talk to your supplier about how you can lower your costs via bulk-buying or through other means.
Closing out Our Guide on How to Find Suppliers and Work with Them
Knowing how to find suppliers that can keep your internal team and customers happy is paramount to your business’s success.
Use our tips above to scour the supplier market for the perfect partner. Once you’ve found them, lock them down and do your best to nurture your relationship.
For more game-changing advice on how to better run your company, check out more of the newest content on our blog!