Speak Up! How to Maximize Your Vendor Relationships
One merely asks the vendor to fulfill the precise terms of the contract. But the other is willing to go outside the bounds and provide an openness regarding the organization's strategic goals.
The latter has substantial benefits. Why?
Hidden Value, Substantial BenefitsVendors often have expertise outside those for which they're contracted, meaning they can solve problems that might not have been foreseen in advance. Some can also be nimble enough to create new solutions that respond to previously unstated needs that arise. Both kinds of opportunities can be missed if you don't speak up.
In fact, these kinds of serendipitous conversations often form the basis for how problem-solving gets done. We experienced this in our own house when a number of child care center clients began expressing the common need for a non-bricks-and-mortar solution to additionally support employees outside of the bounds of full-time child care. From those conversations came back-up care. But it's a subject we never would have known about had these clients not been so forthcoming.
The Best Vendor Relationships Start with Being Up FrontMaximizing these vendor relationships takes effort; it requires clients to be upfront about strategic goals and challenges outside of the contract. But the efforts are often rewarded. And I should also note here that the reverse is also true; that keeping information from your vendor, as this cautionary tale from SHRM clearly attests, can be detrimental. While the SHRM tale focused on the SAAS (software as a service) space that's transforming HR at breakneck speed, the article's lessons are applicable beyond the HRIS world.
We're grateful to the clients who shared a need with us years ago. And I'd suggest that now's a good time to take a minute and think about your own vendor relationships. Are you getting the most from them? Those who've operated within a narrow vendor focus should consider having a strategic conversation. Share with vendors the goals your organization needs to achieve and the challenges you're facing. Challenge them to support you in meeting those goals. You may find that your vendor is able to only support the contracted need - which is in itself an important thing to understand.
But you may discover an unexpected well of readily available resources and a valuable source of untapped potential. But you'll never know if you don't speak up.
March 1, 2020