Do you have a productive and cordial relationship with suppliers who bend over backwards to meet the needs of your small business? Or is finding yourself the recipient of sub-standard service or over-the-odds pricing a more common experience?
If you answered yes to the latter, you’re far from alone, says Sharon Melamed, managing director of Matchboard, an online matching service for small businesses and suppliers.
She says almost half of the small business clients who’ve signed up to her site have done so because they’re unhappy with existing suppliers.
She shares a few of the signs that it may be time to take your business somewhere new.
Are your calls and emails returned promptly, or does your supplier keep you hanging on their response for days on end?
If you’re regularly left feeling like you’re low on their priority list, it may be time to replace them with someone who lets you feel the love, or at least shows some healthy appreciation for the dollars you’re spending with them, Melamed says.
Are mistakes on their invoice rare, regular or inevitable? To paraphrase Irish playwright Oscar Wilde, making one error may be regarded as a misfortune; two or more start to look like sloppiness – and the slapdash approach is unlikely to be confined to the accounts department, Melamed says.
Steer clear of those whose prices go up without explanation or justification.
Have you been dealing with the same key contact for months or years or do you regularly have to discuss the details of your business and purchasing requirements with a new account manager? A revolving door is often the sign of deeper problems within a business, Melamed cautions, so it’s worth keeping a cautious eye on suppliers that can’t seem to be able to retain staff.
Feeling exploited because a supplier has jacked up their prices at no notice for no discernable reason for the fourth time this year? Good suppliers don’t do this – they aim to offer justifiable pricing and incremental increases with plenty of notice.
“Steer clear of those whose prices go up without explanation or justification or just go up too often and are out of whack with the CPI,” Melamed advises.
Got Key Performance Indicators in place for your major suppliers? If you don’t, consider taking a leaf out of big business’ book and putting some in place. Whether they’re based on timeliness, responsiveness or speed of delivery, they’ll give you a standard by which to judge the quality of the service you’re receiving and make it simpler to decide when it’s time to give an underperformer the heave ho, Melamed says.
Sylvia Pennington is a Brisbane-based freelance journalist who writes about small business, information technology and personal finance.