In my 20 plus years in this industry I have seen managers over the years take two approaches to how they handle vendors. We all know we need them. Our clients have requests that we cannot satisfy without the help of outside vendors. I know I need flatbeds, dump bodies, internet service, and paperclips. The question is where and how do we deal with them.
The first approach I have seen over the years is to abuse the snot out of them. I have witnessed verbal abuse and downright crazy harassment. When I first started in this business, I was pretty much TAUGHT that this is the way we work with our vendors. The typical “show them who’s the boss” approach. I studied this, and found it perplexing. Coming from my upbringing I could relate to this. My father had a similar approach to being a parent.
The second approach is to love ’em. This approach is to treat them more like a friend than a resource. I can personally relate to this approach more. In the first example while learning the ins and outs of the car biz, I would often have to work with the vendors. I just wasn’t the decision maker. Meaning, I was a trusted resource in the dealership to get the dirty work done, I just wasn’t picking the vendors or what they would be supplying.
As I moved up the ladder, I had more and more say in who did what. Now I get to chose which vendors to abuse or love. Yay me! Starting this department five years ago, I was bringing in resources that no one here had seen nor heard of. Commercial vehicles are apparently big and scary. Mostly, because they are not cheap, so if you don’t know what you are doing it can be easy to be sitting on a ton of very expensive, very large paper weights.
By working closely with your vendors and giving them the love approach I have broken past a lot of the walls that they are used to throwing up when talking to their other clients. They give me more insight to what works nationwide, more discounts that are not available to all, and now we talk on a daily basis. Heck, we call each other to vent about life (and work).
Now they call me as a resource.
Say what now?
Yes, I take the time to talk to and help my vendors. They often need insight to a different manager, or department. They need help understanding a request from another dealer. They need help in trusting or not trusting another dealer. “Have you ever dealt with (X dealer)?” My favorite is when I get a question like, “Hey, we are building this for another dealer, I need this spec, and they cannot answer the question. If I give you the VIN, can you answer the question?”
There are downfalls to my love it approach. Time. I came in at 6 AM this morning to catch up on work. Guess what. Someone decided to call a vendor and erase all the programs in our system that I needed to print documents. So, I am writing this blog while I wait for the vendors to be available. Ironic.
The main reason time and the love it approach are a downfall, is that you become known as a resource. To everyone. I get calls from vendors, departments, factory reps, factory reps bosses, other stores, factory reps outside of my area, vendors vendors (yes, vendors need vendors too). Usually, these questions are quick, but sometimes, it takes 45 minutes to get enough information to answer a question with an intelligent answer.
All of that being said, the downfalls in my opinion are far outweighed by the results. I have so many close friends now that I have met because they started out as a vendor. Now, they think it is hilarious that when we talk we often laugh more than we talk shop.
Don’t get me wrong either. I am not easy to work with. I have expectations that I hold to all of my contacts and vendors. Honesty, quality control, knowledge, and of course timeliness. I will probably write a blog or twenty about timeliness, but we will save that for another day.
So, yes, in my opinion, abusing your vendors, and ridiculing them will not get you far in life. Love your vendors. They are people too. Yesterday, one of our transportation drivers thanked Victoria in my office. He said, he wanted to thank us for always having the vehicle ready and for being nice to him. come to find out he is going through a nasty divorce, and some of the dealers have just been awful to work with. Here a man in I would guess to be his 50s. Surprising a young lady, by saying thank you for just being pleasant to work with.
We all need support. Help me help you help me. I often jokingly say to my contacts. It’s true. Like a great marriage. The love goes both ways.