How Do You Identify a Stellar Supplier?

Relating to Wednesday’s post where we asked what is necessary to get a grip on risk before outsourcing to a new supplier, you also want to know how you can identify who is likely to be a stellar performing supplier in the first place. This is also a difficult question, but if you approach the subject from a supplier performance leadership perspective, you have one good starting point, which is mentioned in this recent article over on SIG on why supplier performance management should be supplier performance leadership .

Specifically, you look for a supplier that actively self-manages. You want a supplier which measures and reports its own performance against SLAs and KPIs, identifies the corrective actions it needs to take, devises a plan to put those actions in place, and then promptly informs you when it has determined that it is not meeting its targets with an outline of the corrective actions it intends to take, when they will be implemented, when it expects to improve, and when you will get a follow-up report. The supplier should want to not only meet the expectations placed on it, but get to the point where it can exceed those expectations before the contract comes up for renewal. In short, a supplier that talks the talk when it comes to customer service is good, but a supplier that walks the walk is better.

Secondly, you should look for a supplier that wants to collaborate. While it’s great to have a supplier that will bend over backwards to give you anything you want, if what you want is inefficient and costly, it’s better to have a supplier who will work with you to jointly identify opportunities for efficiency improvements and cost reductions. You need to remember that most of the smart people are outside of your organization, no matter how big you are, and if you want to out-innovate the other guy, you have to use all of the know-how available to you up and down your supply chain. There’s a reason the big buys have set up innovation networks to tap external parties — they know they can only do so much. The real winners in today’s economy are not necessarily those that can innovate, but those that can identify the right innovations to incorporate into their products and services at the right times to maximize profit.

And while this may not be everything you should look for in a perspective supplier, if you want a supplier that will lead the pack, this is where you start.