Need your vendors to go the extra mile? It's easier than you think.
We’ve all heard, and we all know, how important it is for entrepreneurs to create great relationships with customers. But having amazing relationships with your suppliers is important, too. Your attorney, accountant, banker, insurance agent, landlord and every single one of your suppliers are all part of your team, even if they’re not on your payroll. Here are four simple things you can do to make sure they put their best foot forward to help you succeed.
1. Communicate your plan. If it’s appropriate, share your three- to five-year plan with your vendors. They will appreciate the window into your business and your mindset, and the good ones will help educate you to make sure you can actually reach those longer term goals. If your accountant knows, for example, that you plan to expand from one state to three in the next few years, he or she can help you prepared for the impact that will have on sales tax, income tax and payroll.
2. Check in regularly. Small business owners never have enough time to do this, but it will keep you from being caught off guard and having to scramble at the last minute. Sit down with your health insurance agent each year and discuss anticipated changes in laws and industry trends. Ditto for all your other suppliers and service providers.
3. Be proactive. There’s no better time to put a system in place than when you don’t need it. Maybe your finances are solid, you have no debt, and you could never envision taking out a line of credit. What to do? Get together with your banker and establish a line of credit. You don’t have to dip into it, but it will be there when you need it. And by the time you do need it, it may be too late to get it. So set it up now.
4. Pay early. How much interest are you making by paying in 30 days instead of 20? In 90 days instead of 70? Do you really need to hang on to that money for those few extra days, or would your cash flow be fine if you paid a bit early? If you can swing it, pay early. Nobody ever does it. Ever. You will stand out, and your vendors will love you. Establish a history as a prompt payer, and chances are that fabricator will be more likely to rush through that job when you need it.
HANS STEEGE is a co-owner and the CEO of Dero, a Minneapolis-based business that builds bicycle-friendly communities worldwide. Before landing at Dero, Hans worked as an engineer in the machine design and product development industries.