Vendor of the moment vs. Partner for the future?

In the many industries where products and services are commonly benchmarked, being named the top performing vendor by a client can be a huge accolade. I have worked with and worked for companies where this achievement brings memos, luncheons and the occasional trophy to proudly display for all to see. It is an achievement. A team effort that highlights a commitment to excellence and a differentiator amongst your competitors. But is it ultimate achievement?

One of the critical lessons of the most recent economic downturn was that companies need to focus on what is CORE.

What I mean by that is simple….what stays in-house because this is something your organization does better than anyone else. These are the areas where resources, budgets and expertise is allocated. What falls outside of the core, requires the assistance of a subject matter expert who excels in this area. It may be data centre management, HR and payroll services, customer care, facilities management, etc. Once this decision is made the next steps are critical to the success of any organization.

Vendor of the moment

Think of it as speed dating for your business.You have a set amount of time to establish whether this company is what you want, need and can see building a future with. In this case, you aren’t really looking for something long-term but are open to spending some time together and seeing where things go. If you simply need a product or service and look at this as a commoditized purchase, then you go in with a straight set of criteria and approach it from a fact based perspective. Items on that checklist could include competitive pricing, reputation, performance in the marketplace, service policies, etc. Your wants and needs of this relationship may also be straightforward —high quality, dependable service with a low to medium touch approach. This is your vendor of the moment relationship. In most cases, this pursuit is driven by the procurement lead within an organization.

Partner for the future

You are open to and interested in something more meaningful, something more long-term. You are looking for a company that understands your business present state and is interested in helping you achieve your goals for the future. This is a relationship where there is open lines of communication and you feel valued and in turn, receive value from this relationship. You are looking for a partner and that is a very different search. Your checklist may include some of the items listed above as part of the due diligence process but more importantly, you need to understand and have this partner demonstrate how they manage these relationships and how they have helped their partners achieve, and hopefully exceed, their goals. This is also a group decision, not limited to one department or expertise within the company. This is because in many cases, the reach and impact of these types of relationships can be felt across the company. You have looking for a partner for the future.

I believe that there is a time and a place where both relationships make good business sense. What companies need to do is decide what they want to be and what they are looking for. Remember….the clock is ticking.

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