No matter what type of business you operate, you likely rely on others to provide you with the services, tools, and supplies needed to run your venture. Vendors, suppliers, contractors, and consultants all help your small business run efficiently. Whether you are in need of office supplies, point of sale systems, or restaurant linens, maintaining positive vendor relationships is the key to operating a profitable business. 

Running a restaurant, a clothing store, a plumbing company, or a wine shop is not something you can do alone, which is why outside suppliers are so critical. While their importance cannot be overstated, it can still be challenging to juggle relationships with multiple vendors on top of the hustle of running your business. 

In the end, what you have to keep in mind is that successful vendor relationships are just like any other relationship. They rely on communication, expectations, and respect. 

Here are three practical tips for maintaining stellar contractor and vendor relationships that will benefit your business.

Explain your goals & understand theirs

One of the best ways to begin a successful vendor relationship is to clearly explain your business needs to the people you intend to work with from the very beginning of the arrangement. Start by clearly communicating your goals, your business vision, and your expectations of them. When a vendor understands your motivations from the get-go, they can craft a plan to ensure your satisfaction in the long-term. 

Additionally, try to gain a general working knowledge of your vendors’ policies to better understand their unique values. Listen to the challenges they face and formulate a plan that will allow your business to thrive, even should problems in the supply chain arise. For example, have a back-up plan for late deliveries or product shortages. 

That initial contract you sign with a vendor will be the foundation of your relationship, so it’s worth spending some time to work out all the details to make sure both you and the vendor are satisfied with the interaction. 

Put everything in writing

The surest way to sour a vendor relationship is through misunderstanding due to a lack of communication. Put everything in writing, including project timelines, materials needed, delivery dates, and every other detail relevant to the service or product you require. Verbal agreements leave the door open for mistakes or misunderstandings, so use email or even text messages whenever you can. Make sure the vendor understands your business objectives and the discussed project before moving forward with an order.

If changes occur, alert your vendor promptly in writing. Give them enough time to troubleshoot issues and craft solutions so that you can both get the results you want. 

Respect your vendor relationships 

Lastly, respect your vendors’ time and resources. Avoid making last-minute changes, re-scheduling deliveries, or paying late. Maintaining successful vendor relationships is a lot like maintaining successful personal relationships, and respect is paramount. You vendors have a business to run as well, so treat them the same way you would like to be treated. 

The most crucial part of running a small business is keeping your customers happy. This is almost impossible to do without the help of third-party vendors and suppliers. No matter what kind of business you operate, you will likely need to rely on outsiders for their goods, services, and knowledge. These relationships are essential to long-term business success, so make sure that your goals and expectations are clear, communication is maintained, and respect is shown at all times.