How To Choose Your Suppliers

When it comes to running a business, it’s difficult, if not impossible to do it on your own. In fact, one-man bands very quickly outgrow this stage, even if there is still only one employee on their books. That’s because all businesses need support, and they need suppliers. This can be anything from the company that manages your IT to the people you buy your components from, to the people who help you market your services. No matter what they do, they are part of your business success – so you need to choose them carefully.

But how on earth do you find the right suppliers for you, or choose from a group of suppliers all vying for your business? And how do you manage that relationship once you’ve established it? Well, here’s a few things to help you out in the whole process, from start to finish.

Personal Recommendations

If you network a lot already, you may find there is a supplier already within your network, but you can’t always rely on that. So one of the best things you can do when you’re looking for a new supplier is ask for personal recommendations. Go to the people you trust, either in business or in your personal life, and as them who they would recommend for the service you need. This should give you a shortlist of reputable businesses to choose from, who have all been recommended because they fit you and your business best (according to the people who know you). Personal recommendations are pretty reliable, and you’ll usually be able to ask about the good and the bad, and get real world experiences back.

Do Your Research

When you’ve got that shortlist, you’ll want to do your research and make sure the supplier you pick will live up to the standard you want. Depending on your supplier, there might be an industry body or organisation that regulates their service, so you can check if they belong to that. If they do, then they will need to abide by the expectations of that body. You can also check if they live up to their claims by reading reviews or testimonials from existing clients, as this will give you a good feel for their general standard of service. Think of it as a background check for someone you will be working closely with. This should narrow the options down a little.

Meet Your Suppliers

Now that you have an even shorter short-list, we highly recommend meeting some suppliers. Obviously it would be better to meet in person over a coffee, but with Covid-19 making that impossible right now, Zoom calls will have to do. Schedule in a virtual meeting with each prospective supplier, and have a chat with them. Talk about your business, their business, and how they work. From this you should get a good idea of who you ‘click’ with, and who just doesn’t feel right. If you’re going to be working with a supplier closely, you need to be able to build a relationship with them. And while we can’t tell you to look for anything in particular, by the end of these conversations you should have a pretty clear idea of whether that’s possible or not.

Set SLA’s

Once you’ve chosen your supplier, you need to set out an SLA – or service level agreement. This document is standard practice when working with a new supplier, and it doesn’t have to be long and complicated. All it does is define the business arrangement between you, the main responsibilities, what each party expects of the other, and it protects both of you. These can generally be found within a standard contract, so as long as you read it and are happy with it, you should be fine. Just make sure you have laid out your expectations of the supplier within that meeting you had, so everyone is on the same page.

As a VA, we’ve been through this process numerous times with our clients. A VA is someone you work super-closely with, and so you need to make sure you choose the right person for you and your business. If that fit isn’t right, then the relationship probably won’t last. If you would like to ask us anything, or just get to know us a bit more, we’re always happy to help. Just get in touch and book your free virtual coffee.