Aligning Cultures

Derek Bishop


Engaging the supply chain

Date added: 15th Jan 2014
Category: Aligning Cultures

Floods in the UK, freezing weather in the USA and sizeable storms at sea; whether the weather patterns we are seeing at the moment are down to climate change or not, they certainly pose a challenge for anyone or any business which relies on transport to ‘deliver the goods’.

In fact, it’s not just transport which has been affected.  With buildings flooded or inaccessible due to water or ice, employees are being forced to work from home or from alternate locations whilst keeping fingers crossed that broadband lines don’t fail due to weather conditions. All in all the start of 2014 is not easy and those business continuity plans which once seemed a waste of time are now coming into their own.

The old saying that it is only in times of adversity that you truly know who your friends are has as much validity in business as it does in our personal lives.  How employees behave in times of crisis is to a large extent dependant on their level of engagement but the same is also true of suppliers.  And yet when we write and talk about engagement we tend to concentrate on the effects which employee engagement has on business to the exclusion of all else.

Unfortunately that attitude can lead us into a false sense of security.  We may have the most engaged employees in the world but if they operate within the business bubble then we could be in for a fall when we look to suppliers and others to help up out in a crisis.  Of course, there is the argument that truly engaged employees look to provide exceptional levels of service to all those who interact with the organisation but relying on second hand engagement seems a bit of a cop out.

So when we talk about engagement, we should also look to engage our suppliers in the aims and values of the business.  Why bother?  Well, aside from the fact that engaged suppliers are more likely to be there when we need them, engaged suppliers are also more likely to:

  • Offer keen prices for stock
  • Take extra care over the quality of products
  • Consult in advance about proposed product changes
  • Proactively respond to customer queries
  • Actively seek to improve products or create new products for your customers
  • Bring new products to market via your business

In short, actively engaged suppliers can be the best friend an organisation has.  And it doesn’t take much to draw them in.  Meeting with suppliers, offering them an insight into the business aims and values and sharing with them the way that you strive to provide exceptional levels of customer service may just prove to be the most effective time spent in your day.  Add in the building of an ongoing relationship, with employees encouraged to chat, meet and interact with their opposite numbers in the supply company and you will forge a strong bond which will continually work on behalf of your business.

When the weather gets tough, will your supplier go out of their way to deliver to your customers or just shrug their shoulders? When they are short of supplies with they serve you or another business?  When their employees are ill will they still try and work on your behalf or just shut up shop? If they are engaged, you’d be surprised how far they will go to help you to carry on providing your customers with exceptional and reliable service?  Writing over two thousand years ago, Herodotus said of the Persian Couriers that “these are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed.”     Now that is true supplier engagement

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