Now more than ever, relationships matter as we all work together to maintain supply chain and business continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kenco has built strong relationships across its business units and especially in the areas of innovation and technology. That is the reason that the first thing we show visitors to Kenco’s 10,000 square foot Innovation Test Lab is our partner wall.
Covered with dozens of logos, it is a testament to the great vendors and suppliers we work with daily, representing all segments of the logistics industry. As we have built Kenco’s industry-leading Innovation Lab over the past few years, our vendors have continually come through for us to make the Lab the success story it is.
Choosing vendors as strategic partners is vital to the success of your business; short-term relationships that come and go just won’t cut it. As Marcel Bryar wrote in the CIO magazine, “transactional relationships are for chewing gum.” If you choose a vendor solely based on price, as an interchangeable component that can change on a moments’ notice, you are missing out. You will not reap the rich harvest of benefits that come from building strong vendor relationships, bonds initially forged by business deals and then strengthened as you build a deep history together, even in times of adversity in an ever-changing business climate.
1. Vendors extend your relationship reach
How many contacts do you have in your digital rolodex or LinkedIn contact list? Your vendors could easily have ten times more than you! They know many people within your industry with similar roles as yourself and who face the same challenges as you do. You can tap into this wealth of information if you invest the time and effort. Vendors also have a vast network of solution partners who can get answers even if the original vendor cannot. We have a fully-furnished packaging area in our Lab because of a connection made by a long-standing partner – this link would not have been made had our vendor not developed a trusting relationship with us.
2. Vendors can help you out of a bind
When you’re in the middle of a project and a supplier drops out, or if a critical production component fails, who do you call? Are your vendor relationships strong enough that they will come through to help you in an emergency, even if they don’t stand to directly benefit? If vendors feel like they have a strategic relationship with you, they will consider your success to be vital to their own. Think about it: which of your vendors would answer a 3 a.m. call from you? Who would you feel comfortable calling them at 3 a.m.?
3. Vendors can develop new products or services for you
If vendors foresee a long-term business relationship with you, they will be motivated to create solutions to your ever-changing business needs. The best part about this is that you can directly influence the new developments. You can offer input on product specs, materials, software features, timelines, and even price point.
One of Kenco’s engineers had an innovative idea that he designed and built into a cost-saving device. As we researched a way to scale out his design for manufacture, we found that one of our equipment vendors already had a patent on the same idea but was sitting on the R&D back-burner. By working with them, the vendor was able to fast track the device to create a prototype in just a few months, and many of the features in the device were a direct result of our needs and input, empowering our MHE drivers to handle product with reduced damage potential.
4. Vendors can improve their existing product line for you
Just because a product or service doesn’t meet your exact needs doesn’t mean it can’t change. Vendors who trust your team will always welcome, and even solicit, your honest feedback. They will gladly put your requests on their development road maps, and often not even charge you.
A robotics vendor running tests in our Tennessee-based Innovation Lab was experiencing intermittent problems even though their products had worked fine in their own northern lab. After a few days of head-scratching, it was finally discovered that pollen particles, currently sky-high on the local allergy charts, were coating the precise sensors and causing abnormal data results. As a result of the testing, the engineers were able to come up with a solution that both improved the product and benefitted us as well.
5. Companies change, relationships remain
How many times have you called your vendor, only to find out your favorite rep has left the company? Happens all the time, right? However, that relationship doesn’t have to be lost. Reach out to him or her on LinkedIn and wish them luck in their new journey. In the future, if they come across a product or service that may be useful to you, they’ll reach out to you, guaranteed!
Let your vendors know by your actions that a strategic relationship is important to you. Will every quote come in lowest? Not necessarily. But if you feel the long-term benefits outweigh a few extra pennies, stick with them. In the future, you will have a loyal partner who will stick with you and go the extra mile to add continued value in the long run.