Many organizations rely on outside vendors for their technical or professional services, materials, or other special needs. Those needs could be specialty skills, bulky or fragile materials, and other needs that are not practical to provide in-house. Clients and customers might never know that vendors are involved because they appear to be part of the organization.
Appearances can be deceiving but they really matter. Vendors intended to help organizations with expertise or capacity can end up hurting instead, if they don’t perform as promised. And if they appear to be part of the organization, guess who ends up getting hurt and looking bad? You guessed it – the organization!
Three simple steps help organizations avoid vendors who appear to be helpful, but end up hurting productivity, profit and reputation:
- Do Your Homework
There are a lot of choices out there, not all of them good. Weeding out the dreck and identifying vendors that meet the organization’s standards takes time and effort, but it really pays off in results. Start by defining your standards for quality, timing, and other specifications necessary for the vendor to meet the organization’s productivity and reputational needs. Involve your network and professional associations to get referrals that appear to meet the standards that you defined.
- Get Proof
Sure, trusting your instincts is part of selecting from the referrals you get. But relying solely on a prospective vendor’s word about her or his track record is an invitation for issues — expensive issues. Ask prospective vendors to provide proof of her or his performance. References provide insight, too, but other organizations don’t share your objectives, requirements and standards. It’s not a one-size-fits-all world, so make sure you get proof that you can trust the vendor to deliver.
- Monitor and Inquire
Once the vendor choice is made, it’s important to have confidence going forward that the choice was a good one. That takes regular monitoring and periodic inquiries to let you know that the vendor is helping, not hurting. Figuring out what to monitor and how takes time and effort, just like Doing Your Homework. Monitoring not only provides the organization with peace of mind, it lets the vendor know you’re watching and you care about performance.
Relying on vendors can be great, but it comes with risks. Protect your organization’s reputation and bottom line by managing vendor risk using the three simple steps above. Sure, it takes time and effort, but it’s well worth protecting your organization from being hurt by a vendor who appears to be helpful, but is hurting your organization instead.