Fostering Strong Vendor Relationships: A Manager’s Guide


Bad managers have bad vendors, and good managers have good vendors. Blaming vendors for non-performance is an easy escape and one that is often taken by bad managers because it’s an easy way out. As managers, it’s crucial to take ownership of all our relationships, ensuring we contribute positively to their development. Instead of immediately going out to bid to address vendor issues, managers should focus their strategies for building and nurturing these relationships from the start. Here are some ways that any manager can improve the response he or she receives from vendors.

1. Set Clear Expectations
The foundation of a strong vendor relationship is clear expectations. From the moment a contract is signed, the good manager should be sure to clearly define what kind of work is expected to be done and to what degree of quality. Vendors will only be as good as we expect them to be and clear communication from the outset helps prevent misunderstandings and sets the stage for success.

2. Consistent Communication
Seeking regular updates and doing check-ins is a vital practice for the good manager. I often reach out to my vendors two to three times a week for progress updates and to address any challenges that the vendor might be having while completing the work. This proactive approach shows vendors that we are invested in their success and willing to help them along the way. It also helps the manager to identify problems in completing the work on time before they escalate and cause major delays.

3. Partnership Over Supervision
Viewing vendors as partners rather than just service providers will create a more productive relationship. We engage with our vendors not just to grade their work but to support their efforts and to help them understand how they can be better at their job so they can continue to impress clients and gain business.This collaboration makes vendors feel valued and motivates them to deliver their best work. We want them to succeed!

4. Celebrate Successes and Provide Constructive Feedback
Effective management involves guiding vendors to meet and exceed expectations and then celebrating them when the job is done to the standard which was asked of the vendor. Positive reinforcement and constructive feedback are key in fostering a productive partnership. We like to spend time complimenting out vendors when they have done the job to our satisfaction. This indicates to the vendor that we are impressed by them and that if they strive to do great work for us in the future it will not go unnoticed.

Building strong vendor relationships requires time and effort but pays off in improved performance and reliability. This mutual investment leads to better outcomes for our associations and sets a standard of excellence for all parties involved. This proactive approach to vendor management circumvents potential conflicts and keeps our team on the growth trajectory. Every interaction is a chance to build trust and enhance cooperation. By taking responsibility for our vendor relationships, we have paved the way for successful partnerships that benefit everyone involved.

Written by Fran Hidalgo