A new client was referred to me recently. Her business had grown and she realized it made no sense to continue doing her own accounting, marketing, and other back office support. But she was concerned about finding reliable vendors who would add value and save time, not create more work for her. She had heard horror stories about vendors who charge a lot and don’t deliver. Could I help her prevent that from happening?
My new client was right to be concerned. It’s crucial for businesses and non-profits to select vendors who deliver as promised. Your reputation and bottom line depends on it.
Over the next few weeks, I worked with my client to define a process for selecting reliable, cost-effective vendors to meet her needs. When we were done, she had a plan for getting the help she needed. The plan boiled down to these four essential points:
1. Define Needs
Identifying and documenting your needs not only helps you communicate with potential vendors; it also helps you to clarify your own priorities — what you need, when you need it, and how it should be delivered.
2. Check Out Vendors
Talk to other businesses and non-profits about vendors that they use. Identify vendors that are endorsed by professional organizations. Learn about potential vendors’ financial soundness to know that they will be in business for a long as you need them.
3. Performance Expectations
Documenting expectations helps you to hold the vendor accountable. Include timeframes, quantity, quality specifications, delivery terms, and other factors that are important to you. Be sure to document your responsibilities, too, such as providing necessary information and approving deliverables.
4. Value vs. Cost
Develop a vendor selection scorecard or other assessment tool to help compare terms, services, and other performance factors. Selecting a vendor based on the lowest cost could result in lower service or inferior products.
My new client is pretty happy. Now, she has a plan and some tools to select reliable vendors. Having all that allows her to focus on continuing to grow her business, instead of doing her own accounting and marketing.