Images_December_2019_Digital Edition 52 images DECEMBER 2019 KB BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT Supply on demand E very small business will encounter a supplier. Some may have just one while others will have many. Some may interact with suppliers only occasionally, others several times a day. It all depends upon the nature of the small business. The supplier is the source of finished goods to be resold, raw materials to be processed into finished goods, or equipment with which the small business carries out its work. For most small businesses this makes the supplier a key character who has considerable influence over its well-being. Stability and reliability The daily challenges most small business-owners face are numerous and varied. One minute you’re resolving an irate customer’s problem and the next refereeing a difference of opinion between two employees. You’re the owner. You’re the go-to person when issues escalate and the last thing you need is for supply issues to escalate to the point where they need your attention — and disruption of supply might be imminent. What a small business needs from its suppliers is stability and reliability so that it may in turn offer stability and reliability to its customers. But supply disruptions can happen for any number of reasons — manufacturing and delivery delays, inventory shortages, import paperwork errors, erroneous or incomplete deliveries, and defective products, to name just a few. Then there’s the age-old overdue payment reason. Suppliers like to be paid on time and will readily withhold delivery to reinforce this point. In his final monthly column, Michael Best considers the importance of the supplier to your business It’s a good idea to develop a plan B to ensure supply continuity Whether or not this causes issues depends upon the degree to which your small business relies upon a particular supplier. This brings us to an important consideration: whenever possible, before choosing to do business with a supplier, weigh the make-or-break effect it can have on your small business. If you’re going to inextricably bind the future of your small business to the future of a single supplier and its brand, consider the pros and cons very carefully. It could be a double-edged sword. When all is well with the sole supplier and its brand, you will likely enjoy a stable and reliable supply. Should the supplier’s fortunes change for the worse though, stability may be threatened and alternatives may no longer be available. This could be seriously detrimental to your small business or, in a worst-case scenario, even break it. Remember that circumstances change — it’s a good idea to develop a plan B to ensure supply continuity. Cultivating guardian angels For convenience, I’ve been portraying suppliers as individuals. In the case of big companies, the individual with whom your small business deals will usually be a salesperson, a customer service representative or, in some cases, a technical expert. Because these people have formal business relationships with your small business, they are likely to conduct themselves formally and with discretion. That’s why it’s useful to cultivate a friendly relationship with one or more of the supplier’s employees other than your formal contacts. You might meet these people at trade shows, through mutual acquaintances, at company functions, or via social media. The friendship might have its roots in common interests, such as children, pets, or hobbies, and while conversations will revolve around these things, business will inevitably creep into conversations. The business benefit of these guardian angels is that quite often you’ll hear of impending developments