By: Constance Lee Menefee

How do your treat your suppliers?  Several recent conversations with small business owners suggest that the bottom line is an excuse for doubtful business practices.

I did not like to hear about one local company that regularly solicits proposals with no intention of awarding a contract.  They want the information so they can add equipment or implement changes without having the bother and expense of generating in-house reports.

What planet have I been on?  This happens all the time I am told. It is a sad commentary on business practices that lack of integrity is taken as a matter of course.

What do you want from your suppliers?  Another set of conversations suggest that some local businesses prefer to bully suppliers into lowering already reasonable fees even when profits are high.

Reality makes recommendations on building long term supplier relationships seem glib. The value of strategic alliances is being touted in all the glossy business magazines.

To help ensure consistent, high quality work, companies are urged to try a few, reliable suppliers who can participate in design and development of products or services.  On the street, however, it  seems that one day stands are the still the norm.

A long-term relationship can build trust.  By educating a supplier about your business, you can reduce costs.  The product or service being provided will fit the corporate vision more closely.  Variation and mistakes will be reduced.  This translates into over-all cost reduction.

A good supply-chain alliance should be able to weather changes in personnel and vision.  A good alliance should stay fresh.  If both the client and supplier are committed to communicating needs and goals, both can grow and change in tandem.

Before you dump your supplier, make sure that you aren't just looking for a quick fix.  Taking action merely for the sake of doing something is an age old formula for failure.

If you decide to look for a new supplier, let your current supplier present a proposal, too. Re-state your wants and needs.  Maybe you aren't getting what you want because you have not told anyone exactly what that is.

  Article originally appeared in the Cincinnati Post, July 16, 1996