Be decent to everyone!  Yes!  You are in the business world where one of the buzz words, “relationship”, is extremely important.  Relationship is used to describe everything from romance to coffee.  It is how we feel about someone or something.

To stay, or start, on the road to profitability, most businesses need good relationships with their suppliers.  Pick them carefully based on product, quality, price, distances from your location and service.  You, or your staff, also shoulder responsibilities in the relationship.  Be organized, pleasant and precise when dealing with suppliers.  Remember the adage, “put a smile on your face while on the phone”.  It does make a difference.  Follow up verbal orders in writing (email, purchase order via fax or mail, letter, whatever works for this business) to confirm product number, description, quantities, pricing, delivery schedule, delivery method.

Suppliers can make or break your company’s reliability and profitability.  A trusted relationship with a supplier would have prevented the circumstances discussed in this column last week.  The salesman involved in that transaction unloaded a trailer full of unsuitable merchandise and oversold the client.  Either of these actions could have bankrupted most customers.  In combination, bankruptcy was a sure event.  (To review prior columns, please go to, click on Business, scroll down to the photo area, click photo to see list of prior articles, click on each title to review.)

A good salesperson or customer service person can be a teacher and informant for trends and technology in the industry.  They can steer a buyer to the best product for the price, an item more likely to be in stock each time it is re-ordered, a more reliable product, a better guarantee, a more consistent color match or whatever matters most in your industry.  A good rep will call or send fliers about special sales.  They will go to bat in your behalf when a problem occurs.

A poor rep will sell the item(s) on which he/she gets paid the highest commission regardless of the quality or the appropriateness to your company.  They may fail to call back if you are a small customer, particularly if there is a problem.  They might fail to spend time searching for a product absolutely needed in 3 days to fill a significant order at your business.  When timing is crucial, an ambitious salesperson will not only search their warehouse and sample stock other reps have stashed away, but may call your competition to see if they have stock-piled what your business requires.

Know suppliers’ sales and customer service people by name.  Treat them decently.  Build a relationship.  Send a thank you on occasion.  Sign your own name if your business sends birthday or holiday cards.

Be a friend, and have a friend who will help you do business in the best and worst of times.