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  • Writer's pictureJuli Lassow

Dating for Business? Supplier Relationships, Part 2

(The following is a continuation of my previous article. So if you haven’t checked out my second article yet, you’ll definitely want to start there.)

champagne glasses on the coastal shoreline

When it comes to building relationships in business, the approach I like combines the variety of candidates you see on “The Bachelor” with meaningful data. It’s more like what e-Harmony does. The partnering process starts with self-reflection, then moves onto priorities for the potential mate, and finally, these priorities are translated into data and loaded into a cupid-inspired algorithm.

When all’s said and done, you get a list of potential matches that are compatible with your worldview of an ideal partner—and then you can go see how all these data-based assumptions play out.

In business, you can use a similar matchmaking approach, too. If you “do” products, you’ll need healthy partnerships with your suppliers, and it all starts with knowing your business and the role you need a supplier to play. What are your top business values? What is the distinguishing value you provide? And what do you need from a supplier to help bring this vision to life?

Your business is unique, and what you need from your suppliers will be, too. One of my favorite features of e-Harmony is the concept of “Must Haves/Can’t Stands.” Here, you get to select 10 “must have” and 10 “can’t stand” qualities you need (or don’t need) in a partner.

When you first read them, the e-Harmony “must haves” are so logical that you want to select them all. In fact, you see a lot of no-brainers: good hygiene, kind to others, fiscally responsible, and so on. I mean, what would it say about me if I didn’t list good hygiene as a “must have?” And perhaps even more scary, who would then show up on my list of potential mates?

I remember the “can’t stand” list as being even better—just this side of “can’t stand people that kick pets” or that “don’t brake for pedestrians.”

But the more you review those “must haves” and “can’t stands,” the more a pattern starts to emerge. Sure, you might want 80% of those items on your list, but some will definitely resonate as being critical to relationship success.

A business owner might think the same thing, wanting what all businesses seem to want: competitive pricing, good quality product, on-time delivery, and so on. And yes, many of these items will be on everyone’s list, but where do they fall on yours? How critical is each item for you? The result will be your unique take on what makes a supplier great for you.

Do you promise your customers the latest fashions? Then innovation might be a key factor for your suppliers, more critical than rock-bottom pricing. Do you promise all-around reliability? Then you’ll want someone with fantastic on-time ship metrics.

Once you’ve made your list of “must haves/can’t stands,” see how they compare to the suppliers you’re working with now. How do they represent your brand values? What changes would you make? What gaps you would fill?

The last thought I’d leave you with is that business matchmaking is all about compatibility.  When I went through the e-harmony process, I wasn’t looking to find someone just like me. I wanted someone I could be in harmony with (see what they did there?)—and someone who’d make us be the best version of “us” that we could be.

Are your suppliers helping you to be the best version of you?


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