How to Pick the Right Supplier
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.
‘It’ can be an exhilarating experience causing you to forget about the present time or one where you’re looking for the exit door in a panic as every minute passes by. You may think to yourself ‘where has this person been all my life’ or ‘as soon as I can end this politely we both know we’ll never talk again.’ You’re pitting out your button up shirt, not because it’s hot, because you’re nervous and trying to make a good impression. You’ve got butterflies in your stomach, but are those butterflies of excitement or butterflies leading to vomit?
Which experience am I describing here, a first date or a job interview?
What if I told you I was describing both, a first date AND a job interview!
We don’t often associate first dates and job interviews as one in the same however the more we look into each experience and how we act during them we come to find that both of these human interactions are eerily similar.
How does knowing this information help me with dating and interviewing? Read on to find out…
Let’s take a look at why first dates and job interviews share so much in common.
- First Impressions:
This is the holy grail of decision making when it comes to whether or not we like someone initially. Failure to have a good first impression will more often than not result in a second interaction never making the calendar. Psychologists call it "thin slicing." Within moments of meeting someone, we’re deciding and making assumptions on all sorts of things about the other person, from status, intelligence, career success and even promiscuity. This can be as quick as 7 seconds! What that means is that everyone is trying to put their best foot forward, which can make things tricky because often times both parties are wondering if the person they’re talking too is the ‘real’ John Doe or the in-character John Doe.
You know it when it exists. Things just seem easy. You laugh more, you tend to lean in closer to the other person more often and you even overlook potential red flags because your gut is already invested in the other person long before your brain has had a chance to catch up. On the other hand, when chemistry is lacking you feel like you’re on a date with your sister. It’s awkward and feel it from your fingers to your toes.
Communication is much more than just verbal, it also includes nonverbal cues like the unspoken word and body language. Ever been in an interview and eye contact communicated more in 4 seconds what a 10 minute conversation could accomplish? I’ve been there and it’s a powerful experience. When our verbal communication is locked in sync it can feel like we’ve been friends for years. When communication struggles it feels like pulling teeth to have an average conversation. Both people may be speaking English but it seems as if one person is speaking Russian while the other is a Mandarin linguist. We become bewildered and confused, not exactly a great start towards building a solid relationship.
“Wow, went to USC as well. Fight On!” “You’re from Handsome Eddy, New York also? What a small world.” Finding common ground during a first date or a job interview can immediately disarm both parties allowing more casual conversation to occur. Bonding takes place over the things we find out we have in common such as our love for golf, knitting that fabulous turtle neck sweater for the holidays or volunteering for a similar cause. It doesn’t really matter what it is so long as we have something in common. Most of us don’t realize that when we’re in the moment what we’re looking for is something we already know and like – ourselves. When we struggle to find something in common it has a direct negative impact to that chemistry we’re trying to build on.
- Perception vs. Reality
As the date and or job interview continues we inevitably begin to ask question to get to know the person in hopes of better understanding them and what they bring to the table. Many times what happens during these exchanges is that we get a glimpse into a person that isn’t very real at all. I don’t believe people do this on purpose, at least most people, however the fact of the matter is in a first date and job interview we are doing our darndest to put our best foot forward. As a result people can often times misrepresent themselves for who they are and what they’re all about. This is similar to the honeymoon stage where only after a period of time we’ll be able to know if the person today is the same tomorrow.
Love at first sight! Let’s face it, emotion is a part of every first date and job interview, but it can also help us or hurt us in our decisions. Help us in that if we become emotionally invested in the other person it allows us to overlook small red flags that otherwise might get in the way of us making a decision that could be good for both parties. Emotions can also hurt us because if we experience something which causes our ego or pride to be damaged we then make decisions that aren’t in the best interest of the interview or date but in protecting ourselves.
- The Angle
“What’s he really all about?” This is a very logical and typical thought for people to think during a job interview or first date. It signals that we’re trying to look behind the veil and see if we can uncover anything that isn’t necessarily being presented upfront. In the dating world ‘the angle’ often can be described as the feeling that the person is just hoping to go home with you for a nightcap to your first date. Job interviews can have the same outcome. Candidates are angling to get a job, sometimes presenting themselves in a light which makes them appear more qualified than they really are. Employers also do the same by up-selling the career opportunity to entice candidates to consider the role even though the actual work might not be nearly as glamorous as how it was made out to be.
What does all of this mean?
It means that people by their very nature go about experiences, such as first dates and interviewing for jobs, in a fairly predictable way. While the outcome might be out of our control, the way we go into the experience and how we handle ourselves during the experience greatly influences the outcome. Knowing this information, that first dates and job interviews are similar, can help you go through each experience with a broader perspective allowing you to make better decisions for yourself and potential career or company.
Next time you find yourself on a first date or job interview remember that these human experiences are designed to see if it is worth it or not to have a second go around. The best approach is to just be yourself, as a result you’ll find that your interactions with others are far more valuable to you and the person on the other side of the table.
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.