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.
After more than a decade of hiring people on a daily basis I’ve seen a thing or two when it comes to good vs. bad practices as it relates to hiring employees. During that time I’ve also made my fair share of mistakes which have offered up a lot of learning opportunities. What I've learned over the years is that making a hiring mistake can be costly.
Hiring an employee is an interesting and vital part of business. Interesting in that the end result is bringing on a new person into your company with the idea that they will fulfill a role to help the company move forward. Vital, because hiring really is one of the most important activities a business can do outside of generating revenue. Without revenue streaming in there is no need for hiring and no company for that matter.
The act of hiring is often whimsical and mythical in nature, like a unicorn. Everyone loves to say they’re great at interviewing as they ‘know how to pick em’, they’re ‘able to sniff out the best from the worst’, etc. I always enjoy a good chuckle when I hear comments like this because the reality is that these words often come with hollow ground.
In fact, the act of interviewing and hiring is so tough it’s probably best we just get these two stats out ahead of time:
With stats like that you’d think companies would focus more on hiring to improve that area of the business similarly to how they spend endless amounts of time and money on activities like kaizen events and lean initiatives in order to improve yields by a couple percentage points.
In the end the numbers don’t lie as they tell us a very sobering story – no one is perfect when it comes to hiring employees. However the quicker we build awareness around our actual performance in the area of hiring the quicker we can begin to improve it.
Take a look below and see where you land on these 10 hiring blunders:
Do you or your company fall short in any of these areas?
If so you’ve got an opportunity to improve the process and create a great hiring experience for the sake of your new hire and company’s performance in the future.
Learn To Delegate Like A Champ
“If you want something done right you have to do it yourself.”Have you ever heard someone say that before? Perhaps you’ve said it yourself. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I’ve said it on several occasions each time not realizing the impact my words and actions had on the people around me, including myself.
When I think of the concept of leadership the words that come to mind which best describe someone who possesses great leadership abilities are words like servitude, guidance and influence. Delegation, which certainly falls within those words, is a powerful action a leader can take to empower the people around them while also alleviating workloads from their plate.
Harvard Business Review refers to delegation as a critical skill for leadership. HBR also shared insight from Jeffrey Pfeffer, the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, who said:
“Your most important task as a leader is to teach people how to think and ask the right questions so that the world doesn’t go to hell if you take a day off.”
A recently published study indicated that 78% of employees in major corporations think that their bosses routinely do work that could be effectively delegated. The research also revealed that 66% of managers said that they would like to increase their use of delegation as a time management and personnel development tool.
When I first saw these statistics I was a bit confused. How can that be? More than ¾ of employees feel their bosses need to delegate more, whereas almost the same number of people who are considered the ‘boss’ realize that delegation is important and they need to do more of it. Both parties involved, the employee and leader, recognize the importance of delegation, yet it isn’t happening, or to the degree that is needed within the workplace.
Rather than spending time focusing on why delegation isn’t happening in the workplace I figured it would be better to focus on what can be done to improve it. (If you’re interested learning more about why leaders struggle with delegation I suggest reading this article as it provides a comprehensive overview of the root cause of delegation issues)
Improve your delegation efforts by following these three steps:
Breakdown Your Responsibilities
Spend 15 minutes listing out all of your responsibilities over the course of a typical day or week. Do you have projects that are ongoing or initiatives coming up soon? List out each activity or item and give it a rating based on the following scale:
1 – Vital to company, high profile importance AND time sensitive (within the next week),
2 – Vital to company, but not time sensitive (doesn’t occur in the next week),
3 – Important to the company but verging on a ‘nice-to-have’
4 – Not important to company or divisional/ department performance
Now that you have rated your responsibilities you’ll want to start by getting rid of anything you labeled as a ‘4’. Don’t delegate this work, don’t put it on the backburner. If it isn’t important you shouldn’t be spending time on it. Anything you labeled as a ‘2’ or ‘3’ are activities that are prime opportunities to delegate to coworkers, peers or direct reports. Responsibilities you listed as ‘1’ should stay with you. Caution – it's common for people to think everything they do falls into the ultra-important category of a ‘1’ activity. This isn’t the case. You’ll need to be self-policing in this area and honest with yourself as to what is a ‘1’ versus really being a ‘2 or 3’.
Ask For Help
First say to yourself, “I’m being unrealistic. I can’t do this all on my own. There are people around me who would love an opportunity to help.” Once you’ve had your moment of self reflection start assessing your surrounding team as well as the other teams or parts of your company. Pick out three to four people who have the potential to take on stretch assignments or additional work and speak with them about it.
Tell them why you are seeking their help at which point you will then ask if they are interested. Remember – delegation isn’t throwing work on people and saying “I’ll see you when it’s done.” You are going to have to help the person get ramped up and be there to support them as the work kicks off. This may require more of your time in the beginning than you would like but the benefits that will come in the end far outweigh the time spent during the ramp up.
Praise Effort, Not Just The Results
Once you get the hang of delegating you may find yourself saying, “I can’t believe I didn’t do this earlier.” Now that you have removed work from yourself and are giving others an opportunity it’s important you are paying attention to the people doing the work, not just the work itself. All too often we focus on the end result, completely ignoring the effort and process that got us to completion.
If you want people to continue helping you with future projects and work its important you focus on the effort they are putting in and praising that time. At the end of the day those people are helping make your job and life easier so it’s important you show them appreciation for that and do so often. People who feel like their time and work is valued will work effectively and diligently without you asking them to do so while producing the best results.
“No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.” – Andrew Carnagie
Recently I found myself in a really interesting conversation with a longtime friend about relationships, dating to be more specific. My friend was sharing with me that he had just started dating a new girl at the beginning of January and was excited about the chemistry they had at such an early stage in the relationship.
As the conversation continued I learned that my friend and his new girlfriend, yes titles are already in full swing four weeks into it, are moving rather quickly in their relationship and the conversations about future events and experiences are permeating their every moment. My friend, let’s call him Nacho, further shares that “things are escalating quickly”.
Nacho confides in me that he’s in a bit of a tight situation as he’s only been dating his new girlfriend for about a month and Valentine’s Day is coming up in less than a week and doesn’t know what he should do. I had to laugh because I knew exactly where he was heading. What should good ole Nacho, or any man for that matter, do in this situation as his decision on the upcoming event could make or break the future of this new budding relationship. As we discussed further we concluded there were three main options to choose from:
As we further discussed each option I shared with him a phrase I’m all too familiar with in the professional setting and in this particular case found it rather helpful. “Nacho, what do you know about Managing Expectations?” I said. He immediately shared with me that ‘Managing Expectations is when you’re realistic upfront in order to prevent disappointment on the back end. Simply put – don’t over promise and under deliver.’
Bingo! Nacho hit it spot on.
To find out which option Nacho picked and what the result was, click here.
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.