Sunday, May 27, 2012

Never Commit to Just One Source of Supply

As a Part Time CFO who performs CFO Services and an Entrepreneurial CFO to boot I understand the importance of developing good supplier relationships.
This is not a post about being disloyal to suppliers. Being and developing loyalty to suppliers can be a very profitable strategy in the long run because when the right supplier recognizes that loyalty it usually results in better pricing, better terms and higher profits.
This is a post about taking proactive measures and protecting your business in the long run. Having only one supplier for a particular business segment in your business is risky. When having only one supplier you are at risk for one or more of the following to happen:
  • You are subject to more drastic changes in price and terms. Although you have general market forces working in your favor having one source of supply still subjects you to drastic changes in price or terms and you are not prepared to go anywhere else.
  • You are subject to changes in quality of product. If your sole source of supply does not keep up with technology or simply loses their quality due to reducing quality control to save money, you are subject to quality reduction that will hurt your business.
  • You are subject to being taken advantage of by suppliers who do not recognize loyalty. If I supplier does not really recognize loyalty. If a supplier always talks about "being your partner" without acting like it then you are subject to be taken advantage of and are not getting what you should from that supplier. See this article on Choosing Suppliers.
  • You do not really know how competitive the sole supplier is with respect to price and terms if there is not a live example to compare them to. Although you may be familiar with the general market pricing, when you are doing business with a supplier there are deals being made in the back room. If you are only using one back room you are for the most part in the dark as to what is really happening in the market.
  • If your business hits a downturn and the supplier squeezes you with unreasonable terms (like Cash before delivery or requires Letters of Credit) you do not have another source of credible supply. If you do not have at least one alternative supplier where you have established credit terms and there is a downturn in your business, that sole supplier that said they were your business partner will be turning the tables on you as soon as you get behind in your payables and asking for unreasonable payment terms.
Because I am an Entrepreneurial who has owned retail, manufacturing and service companies over the last 28 years I have seen all of these things in my own businesses. Be proactive and establish a credit and business relationship with more than one supplier in all of your business segments!