Tag Archives: supplier engagement

How Not To Break Up With Suppliers: 5 Tips From the Movies

What can Hugh Grant, Will Ferrell and Homer Simpson teach us about ending important relationships in procurement?

Credit: PolyGram/Working Title Films, Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

Knowing me, knowing you (a-haaaa)
We just have to face it
This time we’re through
Breaking up is never easy, I know
But I have to go…

ABBA – Knowing Me, Knowing You (1976)

I’m not the first to draw a parallel between romantic break-ups and ending a relationship with a strategic supplier. The similarities are many: the relationships may have existed for years (decades in some cases), you’ve been through both good times and bad together, and sometimes your two companies are so interwoven that there can be no hope of a clean break.

But… all good things must come to an end sooner or later. Without going into the tell-tale signs of when it’s time to let a supplier go (that’s an article in itself), I’d like to concentrate on how not to end a supplier relationship. And – once again – let’s look to Hollywood to provide an illustration for each point.

1. Don’t make a shock announcement

“Ricky – you and I – we both know this marriage has been over for a long, long time.”

“I honestly did NOT know that!”

Don’t be like Carley Bobby in Talladega Nights. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a shock break-up, it’s incredibly unpleasant for the person who was hitherto living under the assumption that things were going smoothly.

Giving your suppliers no hint that the relationship isn’t working is both unfair and unprofessional. Break-up “shock” can be avoided by holding regular and ongoing catch-ups where KPIs are tracked and red flags discussed, along with honest communication about your organisation’s willingness to continue the relationship into the future.

Don’t be fake! If you’re deeply unhappy with your supplier’s performance but you’re all smiles and encouragement whenever you meet, it really won’t help the situation as the supplier will see no reason to make changes or improvements.

And who knows? If you’re able to have an honest discussion with your supplier about why you won’t be renewing their contract, it may become the catalyst for a change in behaviour that ends up removing the need to break up altogether.

2. Don’t be blasé

“Welcome to Dumpsville, population: YOU.”

Don’t be like Homer Simpson. After it’s revealed that Bart has tricked Edna Krabappel with a series of fake love letters, the Simpson family rally around to compose a final letter that will sensitively end the relationship without further breaking the heart of poor Edna. Homer, unfortunately, just doesn’t get it.

Don’t be flippant. Be serious – the decision to change suppliers can potentially impact people’s careers and livelihoods. In the case of small suppliers, it may even bring them to the brink of bankruptcy if your business makes up a high proportion of their income.

Make time for a proper conversation. Schedule a face-to-face meeting if possible, or a phone call as the next-best option – but don’t hide behind an email.

Similarly …

3. Don’t be cold

“Rhett! If you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?”

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

After Rhett Butler delivers this zinger to Scarlett O’Hara in the closing moments of Gone With The Wind, she collapses sobbing on the stairwell. Scarlett is heartbroken, and clearly needs help – but Rhett has already gone, striding determinedly off into the heavy fog.

The equivalent behaviour in procurement would involve calling a supplier to end the relationship, then hanging up without giving them an opportunity to debrief and discuss. It’s entirely possible that the supplier won’t want to talk (and might even hang up on you), but if they do want a discussion you need to make yourself available.

To share a story from my FMCG days, I remember sitting next to a procurement colleague who had the unenviable job of ending a relationship with a small supplier over the phone. The call lasted about one and a half hours. After the initial, difficult part of the conversation, the supplier asked her for advice on what they should do next – and that’s when the whole tone of the conversation shifted to that of a positive coaching session. By the end of the call, the supplier was still understandably upset but also armed with plenty of advice for the future.

One last thing to keep in mind is that business requirements are cyclical. Although you may not want to work with a particular supplier any more, who knows what the situation will be a few years down the track. If you ended the relationship coldly or otherwise unprofessionally, it’s going to be very difficult to pick up from where you left off.

4. Don’t do it at the wrong time

“Do you love someone else? Do you, Charles?”

“… I do.”

Don’t be like Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral. While he ultimately makes the right decision, his shocking timing earns him a much-deserved punch to the face from his jilted bride.

In a way this advice contradicts what I wrote above about keeping your suppliers fully informed about how the relationship is going, but you do need to use some common sense when it comes to picking your moment.

Suppliers who value a relationship will often go the extra mile, whether this means putting more staff onto a project, or working additional hours without passing those costs on to you. It pays to keep in mind that once a supplier knows they’re soon to be let go, they may not perform with quite so much gusto in those last few weeks or months of the contract.

Another parallel to help illustrate this point is when someone in your team is working out the last few weeks of their employment after taking a redundancy – you’re never going to see their best work in that period.

5. Don’t send mixed messages

“Please don’t go.”

“I am not spending the rest of my life with a loser. I’m gone.”

 “Good, then get the hell out of my life! Who needs you? Beat it! Leave me alone! … [2 seconds later] “I’m sorry baby, I didn’t mean that either…”

Adam Sandler is at his best in this scene from Happy Gilmore where he’s alternately screaming abuse and crooning love songs into his apartment building’s intercom. While he desperately wants to stop his girlfriend leaving, he’s also consumed by a schizophrenic desire to get in the last, angry word.

Suppliers want to know where they stand with you and your organisation so they can plan for the future and invest in your relationship with confidence. Again; good communication, honesty and transparency are the way to go. Crystal-clear KPIs will help you clearly delineate where suppliers are performing well, and where they need to improve if they want their contract renewed.

The other factor that can muddy the waters of supplier relationships is misalignment within your own organisation. This can involve the supplier receiving contradictory messages from the different parts of your organisation that they work with, pulling them in different directions and ultimately harming their ability to meet your company’s overall requirements.

Do you have another example from cinema that illustrates one of the points above? Share a link below!

Big Ideas Summit 2016: Big Idea #28 – Outcome Focused Engagements

Procurement needs to focus on the outcome, the why, of every conversation it has with suppliers and stakeholders.

At the Big Ideas Summit 2016, we challenged our thought leaders to share their Big Ideas for the future of procurement.

From ideas that have the potential to change the very nature of the procurement profession, to ones that got the assembled minds thinking about the profession’s impact outside of the organisation, the response we received was amazing.

Focus on the Outcome

How can procurement professionals drive value for their organisations? For a start, they need to focus on the outcome of their conversations and supplier engagements before they have them.

Chris Cliffe, Director at CJC Procurement, believes that an outcome focus can help procurement in a number of ways. From inspiring their suppliers to wanting to work with them, and also understanding the needs of the other party, it will all ultimately drive a better relationship.

Catch up with all the delegates’ Big Ideas from the 2016 Summit at the Procurious Learning Hub.

Want to find out more about Big Ideas 2016? And maybe what we have planned for 2017? You can visit our dedicated website!

If you like this (and you haven’t done so already) join Procurious for free today. Get connected with over 18,500 like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.

Supplier Engagement – The Advent Calendar Challenge

This Christmas, why not turn your advent calendar into a supplier engagement challenge? Sorry, there’s no chocolate involved…

Mahony/Shutterstock.com

An idea came to me during a recent commute. With the shopping days to Christmas rapidly counting down and as we start to look forward to the season’s festivities, I thought about my son’s advent calendar and the treats he’ll find behind each door.

Then I thought about a way to turn this into a powerful and productive challenge to build, reinforce and develop relationships with suppliers.

Here’s my idea. There are 17 working days this December – 17 doors. Behind each day’s door could be opportunity, problem resolution and innovation!

The challenge is simple – to call a different supplier each day and have a conversation. Simple. Too simple perhaps. So there’s a Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced challenge depending on how comfortable with supplier engagement you are.

Beginner Level

The easiest suppliers to speak to ‘should’ be the ones you currently do business with.

Call one of your current suppliers each day during December. Thank them for their help this year. Tell them what they’ve done well, how they’ve helped you and your business. Also, tell them what you’re looking forward to improving on with them in 2017.

Practically too, this is a great opportunity to find out what the supplier’s business hours will be over the festive period to ensure that contact arrangements and any contingency plans are in place if required.

Be interested in their plans for the festive break. Finally, make sure there’s something in the diary for 2017 to continue the conversation.

Intermediate Level

The intermediate level is to call a supplier you’ve never spoken to before (but which might be relevant to your business of course).

Find out what they do and how they do it. What have been their biggest achievements this year and what have they got planned for next year.  By this stage you are likely to have either ruled them in, or out, as interesting for the future.

If of no interest, that’s fine – but maybe they’ve got something very relevant to offer you in 2017 and they could help you. If that’s the case, book a follow up meeting for January! And yes, Public Sector friends, this is ok!

Advanced Level

The hardest group of suppliers to pick the phone up to might be those that have responded to your RFx and Tender processes this year, but which have not secured any of your business. Or suppliers whose contracts have expired and you’ve gone your separate ways.

Call one of these suppliers each day during December to thank them once more for their participation in your process or previous contracts. Find out how business has been for them this year, and whether the feedback you gave them has been useful to them and how they have developed or improved.

Ask them what they are looking forwards to next year and think about whether there might be an opportunity to re-engage in future.

Reward

Whilst an advent calendar themed challenge is a bit of fun, the benefits of this challenge I hope are obvious.

From practical information like opening hours over Christmas through to discussing, and potentially solving, real business problems. From identifying potential innovation opportunities to just finding out what your account manager is doing for Christmas, these conversations could add real value to you and your organisation.

Remember, as you walk past shop windows at this time of year, that you are your own personal shop window. And you are your company’s shop window to its suppliers, past present and future.

These conversations will build your personal brand and your company’s brand too. You might even have a list of ideas and opportunities to look forward to on that difficult first working morning after New Year too!

Share your Stories!

As it is the season for sharing. Please comment or reply and share your feedback on this challenge and on some of the conversations you’ve had. No one is going to check you’ve made 17 calls, but if everyone makes some calls, I’m sure there will be some direct value from it.

Enjoy connecting, and Season’s Greetings to you all!

Big Ideas 2015 Flashback: Building a Supply Chain Wiki

We’re looking back at some of the most popular ideas from Big Ideas 2015. Gordon Donovan examines the concept of a Supply Chain Wiki.

Gordon Donovan, Procurement and Supply Chain Manager at Metro Trains in Melbourne, shared his Big Idea last year around the concept of creating a Procurement and Supply Chain Wiki.

Gordon believes that there is a dearth of good information for procurement organisations around the full supply chain. This isn’t just the Tier 1 suppliers, but Tier 2 suppliers and subcontractors, and further down the chain.

This Big Idea focuses on harnessing the power of the community to build a centralised knowledge base for all.

Gordon admits that his Big Idea is quite daunting, but as he points out, it all has to start somewhere!

See more Big Ideas from our 40 influencers from the Big Ideas Summit 2015 on Procurious.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Big Ideas Summit 2016, visit www.bigideassummit.com. You can also join our Procurious group, and Tweet your thoughts and Big Ideas to us using #BigIdeas2016.

Don’t miss out on this truly excellent event and the chance to participate in discussions that will shape the future of the procurement profession. Get Involved, register today.