The supplier selection process is an important and vital step for any size company. Making the wrong decision leads to countless hours of wasted time and of course money down the drain. A successful supplier selection process is even more important for small and start-up based business where financial considerations are at the top of the pecking order.
When looking for a new supplier follow these steps to best position yourself and company for success:
1.Know What You Need Before You Need It
Two reasons this is important: 1st – if you don’t know what you need how will you be able to explain it to a supplier? When we know what we need and therefore want we're better prepared to explain those needs while setting expectations for what a successful partnership and outcome looks like. This minimizes miscommunication and opportunity for expectations falling through. 2nd - Waiting till the last minute to find suppliers often leads to decisions being made which may get you out of a momentary jam but leads to larger problems down the road. For this reason it’s vital you are proactive in establishing relationships with vendors and suppliers.
2.Establish Minimum Expectations for Vetting Suppliers
Establishing minimum expectations means that you will vet all potential suppliers with the same list of needs, criteria and expectations. This will help to create an even playing field when vetting suppliers and their capabilities. Similar to #1, when you know what you want and have created a way to gather information which allows you to do equal comparisons your chance of making the right decision increases dramatically. If need to create a checklist to hold yourself accountable to making the right decisions then by all means do so.
Once you know what you need from a supplier it is important to think about other associated or cross functional activities which need to be done that could be accomplished by a single supplier. The ideal situation is you find a supplier that can do more than just one component of your needs, therefore providing more value in the long run. This also saves time because you have less suppliers and vendors to managed increasing your efficiency and effectiveness.
Referrals, referrals, referrals. Once you know what you need the best approach to finding the right supplier is by reaching out to others in your industry, or industry associations, to learn who they use, and just as important who they don’t use. Take the time to read reviews, gather intel from people you trust before you start calling potential suppliers. While sites like Thomas.net and Google can provide this information it is likely you will quickly find yourself overwhelmed with information. In the end the most useful data is those that are unbiased or comes from experience which is best collected from trusted resources.
5.Outreach and Selection
When speaking for the first time with a potential new supplier try to connect with the people you will actually be working with, not just the company’s sales person. This is important because once the relationship is established the majority of your time won’t be spent with their sales people rather those delivering the service or product. What is their communication like? Do they respond quickly and address mistakes immediately? What is their customer retention rate? Find out how long their employees have been with the company too. If the company suffers from consistent turnover that should be a big red flag as you will likely have to be much more involved with this supplier helping coach and direct new employees to ensure the work is done properly. You don't want to be in a situation where you're training your suppliers new employees just so they can turn around and bill you for it. Also, where are you in the pecking order of the level of importance to the supplier? Don’t be fooled, not all clients are treated equal, even if they tell you otherwise. When you know where you stand it is easier to build a relationship based on realistic expectations. In the end, supplier selection should come down to three things, in ranked order:
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how affordable or cost effective a supplier is, or how nice they are as people. If they can’t perform, and do so consistently, the other two don’t matter. I’ve also found that paying a bit more for the right service and relationship often times is worth the investment it in the long run.
Assumption is the KILLER of opportunity.
When we assume we make stories up in our heads about what our experience or expectations should be. In business the act of assumption can lead to major loss of opportunity simply because many of us aren’t aware we’re making the mistake in the first place.
Many of us do this, including me!
Last week I had the opportunity to attend an interesting workshop put on by Mark Leblanc, small business guru, author and keynote speaker. Marc’s approach to success in the small business world was straight forward – take things one step at a time and measure your success constantly.
Throughout the morning Mark covered a variety of topics ranging from the 9 best small business practices to high value activities. As the morning came to a close I caught myself laughing as I had recently committed one of the simplest mistakes people can make in business. I didn’t just do one of them, I did both on Mark’s list which he refers to as the ‘Two Deadly Business Sins’.
Are you an assumption sinner?
Business Deadly Sin #1:
If my customer wrote me a check once they’ll call me if they need me again
Business Deadly Sin #2:
If my customer wrote me a check once they automatically know all that we can do for them
(note: the word ‘customer’ is meant to reference an actual external customer however it can also be considered an internal colleague, cross functional team or business unit if you do not interact with external customers)
The first of our two delightful sins points at the assumption that if we’ve done business with a customer once they will “of course call us back the next time they need help”. This couldn’t be farther from the truth yet so many of us in sales, services, entrepreneurship, small business, you name it, fall victim to this fallacy.
Mark further shared with us that it’s not uncommon for our customers to think “Matt hasn’t called me in a couple months, he must not want to do business with us any further.” The assumption on Matt’s end that the customer will just call him when they’re ready furthers the issue as Matt doesn’t follow up leading the customer to believe he’s no longer interested in their business. For Pete’s sake! That couldn’t be farther from the truth it’s just Matt doesn’t know it yet.
The second deadly sin addresses the assumption that if you’ve done business with a client once they should then automatically know every aspect of your business, where you can help them and where you can’t.
If you’ve ever had a customer say “Gosh Jillian, I didn’t even know you offered that type of service. We would have loved to work with you but we just signed up your competitor because we weren’t aware you could help us in that area.” It’s like getting slapped in the face with a wet leather belt which leaves a welt for weeks. Your customer, who self admittedly loves working with you, went to your competitor for help simply because they didn’t know you could help them. Ouch. (and yes, I’ve actually done this more than once)
So how do we remedy this?
Let’s start by focusing on never assuming about the relationships you may or may not have with your customers or what they know about your product or service. It’s always better to pick up the phone and call rather than wait for the phone to ring on your end. Take the initiative!
When speaking with your customer ask questions about how their business is doing and which areas they need help in the most to best determine how your product or service can be a value add to their pain points. Remind them often about what you do and how you do it. Be consistent!
The craze of the new hot app, Pokémon Go, has taken the world by storm as people meander aimlessly trying to catch little creatures to their hearts content. As users continue to increase and we gain a better understanding of the fanfare this game has adopted an interesting parallel is developing which isn’t necessarily what the game is about at all, yet it’s a great learning opportunity for anyone in a leadership role.
Before we get into that, let’s start off with what the heck is this game anyways?
What is Pokémon Go?
It's a free-to-play, location-based, augmented reality, multiplayer online mobile game. It’s a rebirth of a game that came out originally in the early 90’s which allows you to search for critters, catch them, train them and battle with them. The game that was launched on July 6th uses your phone's GPS to track where you are while making use of a stylized Google map as the primary game board. Your character moves in the game as you walk around in real life, and events and objects – known as PokéStops – are associated with specific locations in the physical world. You can look at the game world through your phone's display which serves as a viewfinder that mixes reality with game objects.
What has Pokémon Go accomplished?
It took a mere 3 hours to hit #1 on the iPhone app sales charts and a total of 13 hours for the game to hit the top of the US sales charts, bringing in $2M a day in revenue. If that wasn’t impressive enough, its daily user penetration rate (% of people who download the app per day) is 10.81% whereas other blockbuster apps prior were only around 1.67% and 0.84%. The average amount of time a user spends on the app each day is upwards of 45 minutes and the games retention rates are double the industry norm. Lastly, this single app managed to raise Nintendo’s (creater of the app) market share by more than $7 billion, or 25%. Basically it’s minting money left and right for the gamer maker.
Why are so many people across such a large age range totally immersed in this app and what could we learn from it to implement in the workplace? After reading that some of you might be thinking “why do we need to learn anything from it? It’s a game, not work.” That’s a valid point and you would be justified in saying that however I think there’s a great learning opportunity for any business owner or person in leadership to take note.
People like Pokémon Go because it’s an experience!
As leaders in business if we took anything away from what this app has accomplished it should be that the majority of people out there respond positively to things which elicit an interactive, creative and fun experience. Is it then possible to harness the Pokémon Go experience and create that in a business setting? You bet your backside it is, it’ll just take a little creative licensing to make it work.
Before we get into the 'how' let’s quickly explore why we would want to do this in the first place?
It’s a simple fact that happy employees produce successful companies. When employees are cared for, respected and engaged successfully their productivity levels and general happiness soar in the workplace. When people are happy they take less sick days, require less vacation and go above and beyond on the regular. They don’t need to be told to go above and beyond as they do so naturally. It’s not a utopian day dream to think that this is possible for every company out there because it is indeed possible. It just requires someone to recognize the need for positive change and actually do something about it.
Now we’ll take what we’ve learned from the Pokémon Go experience and translate that into the workplace.
To create an experience that people will gravitate towards in the workplace we first have to listen and give people what they want, not what you (the leader) wants. Once we know what our people desire we need to deliver on it by creating a work environment and culture that people are drawn too. As Pokémon Go shows us people are willing to adopt things very quickly when it meets their needs and interests. Creating a culture and environment that supports collaboration, appreciation and respect, along with having fun, are good starting points.
We also need to keep in mind that over complicating things at work doesn’t necessarily make it a better experience. In fact, the simpler something is the better. Pokémon Go does this perfectly by using something we already know (our phone GPS) and integrates it with our personal space and creative expression. As a result we, the user, are put in the drivers’ seat to create an experience that is catered to our unique interests. What that looks like at work is giving people the autonomy to make decisions and do their job effectively.
There’s an added bonus for us in the workplace!
We can create an experience that is stimulating and rewarding without the worry of being hit by a car, running into light poles or literally falling on our faces, which have been some wonderful experiences to come as a result of using Pokémon Go.
Millennials have a tendency to get a bad rap as a collective group. There’s a lot of people who write articles on the Millennial generation, often times I find the information within those articles to be a bit brash, at times lacking hands on experience, as the information comes from a survey or a study. It seems as though there are a fair amount of people who came before the Millennial generation who have a hard time understanding and interacting with Millennials in general.
As a result they label an entire generation as ‘difficult to manage’, ‘entitled’, ‘impatient’ and ‘socially incompetent if it wasn’t for their smart phones’. Ouch! Back in the day them be fighting words. I may not be a Millennial but I do believe there’s a lot more to this group of people than meets the eye.
By the by, older generations have been throwing haymakers at younger generations for decades, so perhaps the Millennials getting a bad rap is nothing new. Each time a new generation becomes of adult age and starts entering the workforce, the generations that have to deal with them always have the same song and dance.
Perfect example is what happened with The Beatles. When The Beatles hit the US for the first time in 1964 the Silent Generation (parents at this time) almost keeled over thinking their kids (Baby Boomer generation) were going off the deep end. Why? Because the kids of that day were listening to the musical sounds of long haired, sex-centric, young men who wore weird flashy military clothes and sang of love and peace. Last time I checked The Beatles are about as bad for you as the broccoli I reluctantly ate last night.
I have a different outtake on our Millennial cohorts. After the better part of a decade of leading and working side by side with them, I believe, and have experienced firsthand, that the Millennial generation stands to make one of the biggest positive contributions to society we’ve seen in several generations.
Big words, I know, but allow me to share with you why I believe this.
Millennial are fearless. They grew up in a world where dear ole Mom and Dad told their young techies that they could do and accomplish anything. They were born winners. (regardless if that was true or not) As a result, the Millennial are fearless and act accordingly in the workplace. They would rather up and leave a stale job to start something new, even if that meant completely starting over. They’re built to be entrepreneurs. Perhaps some of that can lead to entitlement, but I believe it gives them an edge that allows them to overcome barriers to entry that would otherwise keep out those of us that are less optimistic or daring.
There are some great case studies out there right now which highlight the fearlessness within the Millennial generation. Learn about anyone of these people and you’ll see what I’m talking about: Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Evan Spiegel/ Bobby Murphy (Snap Chat), Palmer Luckey (VR Oculus), Adam D’Angelo (Quora) and John & Patrick Collison (Stripe).
#2 Expectations of Grandeur
Unlike delusions of grandeur, Millennials are used to things working well and improving consistently. Back in the day people settled for mediocre technology and products, because well that’s all we had. Millennials are quite different. They expect companies to produce great results. When they don’t, the companies hear about it before the products even hit the shelves through a barrage of tech talks, social media outpouring, etc. This cause and effect keeps companies, especially consumer electronics manufacturers on their feet, which is good for everyone.
Millennials are also used to change, even expect it. Unlike The Silent generation who would be with the same company for their entire career, Millennials don’t have a problem switching things up if they don’t like something. Again, this causes employers and managers to have to be on their toes providing quality places to work. If they don’t, Millennials just won’t work there, or for long. Change is part of life, some deal with it well, others not so much. Millennials embrace it and encourage it. There are three things in life that are certain…death, taxes and change. Millennials have at least a leg up on us on the third one.
#3 Technology Whizzes
This number tends to be all over the place, however most signs point to a Millennial being someone who was born between 1983 – 2004. It’s the technology generation. Internet not only changed the world at large but it changed this generation. By the time Millennials where in high school they had internet access to assist with research papers, fact finding, even websites providing information on their teachers sharing who was worthy and who not. (I would have loved information like that when I was in school as I felt like some of my teachers were Mrs. Krabappel from the Simpsons)
Obviously the internet has made a huge impact on society at large. So too has the iPod with music, the personal computer, social media and gaming, to name a few. All of these have revolutionized the way we live and interact with others, yet these things are second nature to those in the Millennial generation. They were born with a joystick in their hand or a TV on in the background and it’s become a central part of their life. As a result their ability to use and create technology often surpasses other generations.
Lastly, they enjoy having technology at the forefront of their daily life, which definitely isn’t the same with other generations. Call it a dependency, call it whatever you want, however the outcome is that Millennials are superior as it relates to their understanding and use of technology which in turn gives them an edge for the future when we’ll all be living like the Jetsons.
#4 Creative Expression
More and more Millennials are venturing outside the norm and creating their own path as it relates to the workplace and social interactions. Why is this? Well, because they have too. In a world where so much has already been done, the Millennial generation has to be creative in order to compete. Millennials also make up for the largest group of people in the world who write blogs, build websites and upload audio & video files for information sharing. They also have a keen eye for design and art as they were born and brought up with products where form & fit was just as important as function. Don’t believe me? The proof is in the pudding with the fact that websites like Deviant Art are in the top 50 most trafficked sites on the net.
By now my hope is that some of you reading this have given some new thought to the Millennial generation. Sure, there may be some bad apples out there that rep the Millennial generation, as there are with all generations, but the larger number of people have a lot to offer.
When you take the attributes of the Millennial generation and place them side by side one another (fearless, high expectations, technology experts, creative) you’ve got a recipe for a group of people who can and WILL do great things in their lifetime. They have all the ingredients necessary to lead us into the next frontier. It just might take some time as they’ve barely been in the workplace a full decade. So let’s be patient and see what happens.
As a token of my appreciation to the Millennials I’ve had the chance to partner with, learn from and lead, I am forever thankful to you for the opportunity to work side-by-side with you all. Your fearlessness has become my driving force in all I do.
How does 2016 look for you so far? If you’re like 62% of the businesses out there you have plans to hire at some point this year. Based on recent global studies LinkedIn’s reported that this hiring growth is expected to be an increase from 2015.
Growth in hiring is typically a good thing. Hiring itself is another matter altogether.
Successful hiring can make or break the performance of a company. Unsuccessful hiring on the other hand can create all sorts of fun challenges for folks like you and me. In fact, Harvard Business Review recently published information indicating that 80% of employee turnover is due to bad hiring decisions.
What does this mean? First, let’s look at the potential tangible repercussions.
According to Dice, one of the larger online job boards, a poor hiring decision for a candidate earning $100,000 per year could cost, on average, $250,000, and that expense comes right off the bottom line. That’s scary stuff! Basically, if the hiring decision you make to ends poorly you can expect that mistake to represent 2.5 x the cost of whatever the salary is of the person you are hired.
Now let’s look at the intangible costs.
Turnover has a nasty habit of sullying a company’s culture. It also can damper the spirits of those that stick around while creating a poor company image within the eyes of the local market.
Long and short, your ability to make the right hiring decisions this year will be crucial to the success of your business, your fellow employees, your newly hired employee and your own career.
Rather than fearing the hiring process and potential consequences, let’s look at hiring as an opportunity to WIN by making the ‘process of interviewing’ say UNCLE! Going into hiring with an open mind, a plan and clear direction will enable you to succeed more often than not.
These 15 tips can help you improve your chances of making better decisions for yourself and your company (for the full article and descriptions of each of these 15 tips click here):
1. Why Would Someone Pick You/ Your Company?
2. Character Over Competency
3. Behavioral Based Interviewing
4. Know What You Want Before You Interview
5. Consult Others
6. Make Sure You Know And Understand Your Vision
7. Best Foot Forward
8. Tell Them Your Leadership Philosophy
9. Interview Tests
10. The Reference Trick
11. Put Yourself In Their Shoes
12. Overqualified For The Job
13. Know Your Non-Negotiables
14. Challenge Your Own Mindset
15. Don’t Hire If It Isn’t What You Want
Do you have your own tips for making a successful hire? If so, feel free to share in the comments section of this article.
The world of business can often times can be a tricky place to maneuver. Whether you are climbing the corporate ladder or starting your own business both come with a laundry list of challenges and hurdles you’ll meet along the way.
Let’s imagine you’re thinking of starting your own business in the near future. With all the help out there in the world to get you up and running it’s easier now than ever to start a business. Starting a business and actually being successful at it are two different things. No one ever said,
“I’m starting this business to be average.” In my experience most people start a business to follow a dream or a passion which helps them accomplish their goals and not someone else’s, with the hope that financial freedom comes down the road. While this may be the story of the American dream, there’s an alarming statistic to entrepreneurship which can let the wind out of anyone’s sails…
80% of businesses fail within the first five years!
With potential defeat looming on the horizon of that magnitude it’s incredible that anyone goes into business for themselves in the first place.
However there are those who seem to be able to find success no matter what they do. They’ve got the gift, the Midas Touch. It doesn’t matter if they’re chasing that next big promotion, running a large enterprise or starting a business, everyone around them knows they’ll be successful.
So how do these mythical wonders of professional amazement do it?
They create an experience that is memorable for both clients and internal employees.
This my friends is the secret to wild success in the world of business!
When you create an ‘experience’ which is larger than you and the product/ service you offer people around you almost forget what it is you do. The reality is the people who are successful know this firsthand. It’s not about what your service or product is necessarily, it’s about how people feel about it. This is true for both consumers (the people who purchase or use the product/ service) as well as the internal employees within the company.
Let’s examine how an ‘experience’ impacts both groups: consumers and employees.
For the most part consumers now a days are smart cookies. They spend more time than ever before researching companies and collecting information on products and services. They seek information through consumer reports, social media, the news, industry events, graffiti in bathroom stalls, etc. All of these avenues provide information and perspective to consumers on whether or not the decision to purchase said service or product is right for them.
There’s one avenue though that’s not included in the list above which has a far bigger impact than all of them combined:
The power of word of mouth.
Companies like Amazon, Lexus, Zappos, Southwest Airlines, Disney and Apple (much to my chagrin as I’m a PC user till the death), to name a few, have all managed to figure out a way to give the consumer an experience which dives deeper than just the product or service offered. Simon Sinek refers to this as their WHY.
As a result, consumers promote these companies online via blogs and other feedback mediums, to their friends and family or shout it from the mountain tops. The consumers turn into the best-selling mechanisms these companies have, providing far more value than any internal sales person ever could.
Lexus is a great example of this. Not only does Lexus make incredibly well built, safe vehicles with standards at the top of the industry, they also provide a level of service that is almost unmatched in my experience. Their dealerships go above and beyond to ensure the experience you have with them is nothing short of spectacular by offering free car washes, standard service checks for free, shuttle and loaner car services, technology experts onsite and the list goes on. Frankly, I’ve been so impressed with Lexus over the years that I’m happy to pay more for their vehicles because I know the value I’m getting from both the car and the company is worth it. They leave me wanting more. (don’t tell my wife this because I like to keep up a front of being financial frugal)
The flip side is if you compare the experience you get with Lexus versus the experience you get with Jeep Dodge Chrysler. I happen to be a Jeep owner and while I love my SUV I always find myself disappointed when I have to deal with the company or their dealerships. Simple things like offering loaner car services while your vehicle is being worked on, which is standard for Lexus and many other companies, is a service that is overlooked and not offered with Jeep. Their nickel and dime approach that often leaves me with a less than favorable taste in my mouth with Jeep may just cause me not to be a repeat customer in the future regardless of how much I love my SUV.
The last big difference is that when I walk into a Jeep dealership I feel like the life has been sucked out of the employees. They seem overworked and undervalued. At Lexus it feels like the employees just got done bathing in gold coins as they are happy as clams, cheerful and smiling. From my experience with both these companies my take away has been that Lexus has developed an 'experience' which goes beyond the act of selling cars while Jeep is still trying to figure out how to compete in an increasingly changing and fast pace industry.
Let’s move on and examine how an ‘experience’ impacts the other group.
For starters, job tenure for all generations in the workplace is in decline. (Baby Boomers @ 7 years, Gen-X @ 5 years and Millennials @ 2 years) What this means is that more and more people are leaving their jobs on a consistent basis, often times because they have found greener pastures elsewhere. However, there are many companies which buck this trend as their job tenure far exceeds the industry average, for example Eastman Kodak, United Airlines, General Motors and Disney. Each of these companies has average job tenure for their employees of more than 10 years. This information tells us something – either the people who work for these companies are chained to their desk (unlikely but interesting to think about) or the employees have bought into an experience which keeps them coming back for more.
How do these companies do it?
They know firsthand that the most important part of their business is not their product/ service, it’s not their vision or mission statement, it’s not even their customers. (even though they many pretend it is) The most important part of a company is the PEOPLE who are responsible for running it at all levels of the organization – entry level to senior management.
While the term ‘experience’ can mean a lot of different things what it really boils down to is an appreciation for the employees that goes beyond ice cream Friday’s once a month during the summer.
These companies give their employees autonomy to do their jobs, allow for open communication, feedback, challenge their people to be great without running them into the ground like workhorses AND create an environment where people can learn and feel appreciated for the work being performed. Companies like Disney, who made both of our lists, have focused on providing the best experience possible and as a result they have people dying to get in, rather than hoping they die so they can leave.
When people feel good about where they work and what that company is all about you don’t have to tell them to do great things, they do it on their own, willingly.
If you are in a leadership position within a company or are starting a new venture remember these words – you may find success by doing the basics and that may work for a time. However if you want to really knock the socks off of people and build something that is sustainable for your lifetime and the next spend your time focusing on the experience you offer to your consumers and employees.
Our ability to marry our passions with an experience that leaves people wanting more is the true determination for obtaining wild success in business.
About the Author
Travis Smith is the founder and managing director of Square-1 Engineering, a life sciences consulting firm, providing end to end technical project services to companies which design, develop and or manufacture products in Southern California. He successfully served the life sciences marketplace in SoCal for over 15 years specializing in engineering services, consulting, project outsourcing and leadership development. In 2019 he was recognized as a ‘40 Under 40’ honoree by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce as a top leader in Orange County, CA.