- May 31, 2006, David J. Bentley, Jr., Contributing Editor
Last month the article in this space discussed ways to involve your customer in your business. If you followed the suggestions mentioned in that article and added similar ones of your own, you should be well on your way to improved relations with your customer. If your supplier read the article and followed the suggestions, you won’t need to read this month’s column—you already will be receiving the best of care from your supplier.
Considering the possibility that your supplier may not have read that article, however, please continue reading.
All people in business need to establish a personal relationship with their suppliers. You should know the various people working for your suppliers that are responsible for the materials you purchase.
This could include the salesman with responsibility for your account, the manufacturing people that make the product you use, the laboratory personnel that develop and control your product, and the technical service representatives that provide help when you’re having a problem with a product from your supplier.
With the exception of the sales and service people, these relationships usually will be carried on via the telephone. When talking with the above-mentioned people at a supplier company, be careful you do not give them proprietary information. While a good supplier will never share any information he receives from you with your competitors, you never can be too vigilant.
One thing you want to watch for is a supplier that offers you any sort of information from a competitor of yours. That is a sure sign he is broadcasting any information he can obtain from you to the entire industry in an attempt to obtain more business.
If you are certain you have suppliers that can keep confidential information, you can profit from their experience and expertise if you share certain information with them. In the example of an adhesive company used in last month’s article, telling the supplier the deficiencies of the adhesive you purchase can spur the supplier to attempt to remedy them.
You also can approach the supplier with requests for new products that would help you by reducing costs or obtaining new business with an improved product.
Maybe you want a 25% improvement in bond strength for a certain lamination. Having the supplier work with you to achieve this goal can be very beneficial. If something worthwhile comes from such a cooperative program, you might be able to convince your supplier to enter into an exclusive agreement for the new product.
A very important offer an adhesive company or anyone else can make to their suppliers is the offer to test new products as they become available. This type of cooperative program can be very profitable to everyone concerned—not only the adhesive manufacturer but also the supplier of resin, plasticizer, filler, or whatever ingredient is new.
Working with suppliers is a two-way street. Information you provide to them can allow them to help you.
David J. Bentley Jr. is a recognized industry expert in polymers, laminations, and coatings with more than 30 years of experience in R&D and technical service. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.