We all know we have to nurture personal relationships to ensure they stay beneficial for both parties. What we don’t often realise is that business relationships need the same nurturing. It’s important to reflect on your supply chain relationships to ensure they are productive and worthwhile for your business. Each relationship plays its part in your overall supply chain success. Fundamentally, successful supply chain relationships are all about managing different expectations, as well as ensuring each party gets what they need.
It’s essential to reflect on the relationships on a regular basis, as without this revisiting, it is easy for relationships to quickly go stale, or unproductive, or pose problems that only rear their ugly head at a time of crisis.
Unfortunately, relationships management is one of the easier elements of the ‘job’ to put off. It takes time that may be in short supply or vying against other more pressing contenders for your attention. If you are locked in a firefighting and reactionary relationship with others throughout your supply chain, then it’s time to change and take a more pro-active and thoughtful approach.
The Impact of Technology on Relationships
Technology is a double-edged sword when it comes to nurturing supply chain relationships. Knowing how to manage relationships within the changing technological landscape is your first challenge.
On one hand, you have ease of communication with valuable insight in a way you’ve never experienced before: being able to lay your hands on the right data at the right time can really enhance your supplier relationships.
However, it also means that errors on your part – which once could be navigated and managed before news of it travelling to others within the supply chain – now get flagged up sometimes to others before you.
As technology continues to change and make the links of the chain closer and more transparent, it’s more important than ever to have robust relationships. This is also necessary because the supply chains themselves that we see today are considerably more complex and dynamic than a few decades ago.
This is also matched with increasing customer expectations and a customer-orientated requirement. You can only meet the demands of the modern customer by having both the right technology and the strongest relationships.
To enable strong and robust relationships within the supply chain we recommend focusing on three particular areas:
The key to a strong relationship is its ability to ride both the good and the bad. When things are going well, nothing is taken for granted. When things are harder, the relationship will prove more productive if there’s give and take and a willingness to problem solve without blame.
This is particularly true in the modern supply chain. As technological innovation continues apace, both you and every element of your supply chain need to flex and evolve. As you nurture and select supply chain relationships, you should therefore place a strong focus on the adaptability and flexibility of that relationship. Flexibility will prove the bedrock of success when changes need to made, as they will.
Adaptability and flexibility also requires you to step outside of your comfort zone to take advantage of markets wherever they arise. As technology continues to ‘shrink our world’, you need to have the ability to adapt to a globalised marketplace run by e-commerce. On a simple level, this may mean nurturing a relationship by being able to accept different currencies. This is particularly important if you are a smaller player. Larger supply chain partners are advantaged with infrastructure that enables them to be adaptable. You need to be able to play on the same playing field.
By demonstrating that you have the flexibility and adaptability needed to cope with the changing global marketplace, and the increasing pace of technology, you enable a broader range of relationships to help serve your purposes.
Exemplary Customer Service
We’re deeply familiar with operating within a customer-orientated demand-led environment, however, do you treat your supply chain relationships as if they too are your customers? By treating all relationships as if they are a customer, you make these relationships sturdy.
When we look at the tenets of good customer service, it’s the same factor that we revisit time and again. We expect excellent communication. This applies whatever we are communicating about, both good and bad. This means that it is as important to communicate well over joint objectives as it is over ways to learn from experience. The success lies in how we communicate it.
Furthermore, we can all recognise that we work harder and more productively when we feel personally valued. We want a personalised experience that is tailored to us. This is just as true in client and supplier relationships. To achieve this mix of communication and personalisation takes an investment of time and an ordered approach.
At its heart, communicating well with supply chain partners is about ensuring you listen to and hear their objectives and goals, rather than simply churning out a standardised processes and approaches. You follow up with them and check you are meeting the joint goals. You respond to demands. You show that you are invested in the relationship’s success, and their success.
Innovate and Grow
Lastly, against the backdrop of adaptability and exemplary customer service is the willingness to embrace new opportunities and facilitate growth. This means, again, not simply churning out the same old processes and expectations. You have to be willing to take some risk and attempt new things. This proactive approach makes you a strategic partner in the overall success of your supply chain.
This means you need to be ahead of the curve in terms of technologies and strategies that demonstrate your innovative approach and offer something extremely desired by your partners. You’ll need to scout out the latest information pertinent to your niche and act on it before being asked to by your supply chain relationships. It’s also another way of showing that you’re invested in their success.
Nurture Supply Chain Relationships
By focusing on these three elements, you can prioritise relationships within your supply chain and utilise them to your advantage and success.