Picture the scene. After years of disappointment and disillusionment in the dating game, you’ve finally met someone you really like. You were fully prepared to throw in the towel and call it quits until this special person came along and changed everything. They’re beautiful, charming, funny and you’re attracted to them on every level. You’ve only been on a handful of dates but there’s a part of you that senses this could be the start of something truly special. For this next date, you know it’s time to seal the deal. You’re going to invite them back to your place and cook them a meal so utterly delicious that you know they’ll fall in love with you on the spot. So, you subtly ask them a few questions to determine what they like and use their feedback to put together a menu for the ages. Three courses of absolute perfection. There’s only one snag. You don’t have a lot of time to get all the ingredients. So, you dash out to the first store you come across, and as luck would have it, you happen upon a supplier that has everything you need. Hastily you purchase your products and make your way back home where you use what you have bought to bring your time honored family recipe to life. The candles are lit, the soft jazz is playing and your future betrothed is about to take their first bite of the meal you’ve prepared.

But, much to your chagrin, they wrinkle their nose and spit it out. As your heart sinks, you taste the food in front of you only to discover that the meal you slaved over for hours is complete and total garbage.

How could this have happened? You trust in your own culinary abilities and you know that the recipe is beyond reproach. How could your carefully planned meal have turned out a stinker? That’s right. You didn’t take enough time to find the best ingredients.

You can’t make a masterpiece with bad materials

So, what does this dating analogy have to do with business? Hopefully, savvy entrepreneurs will see the analogy. You see, it doesn’t matter how comprehensive your business plan, how exhaustive your market research or how flashy your marketing campaign… If your product is made with faulty supplies from dodgy vendors, your business’ reputation is bound to be compromised. And in the fast moving and competitive landscape that is 21st century business, your reputation is everything! Thus, here we’ll look at what to look for in a vendor so that your brand can live up to its promise and your business can provide the standard of product and service that your customers deserve.

Create a wish list

Remember that when it comes to choosing a supplier, you are at an advantage. Just as your customers can afford to be fickle as there are so many businesses just like yours for them to choose from, so too are there many of B2B vendors whose livelihood depends on being able to secure the long term custom of businesses just like yours. You and your business do not have to settle for second best, so create a wish list of everything you want from your vendor and don’t stop looking until all of those boxes have been checked.

Vet their reputation

You may have met your prospective vendor and gotten along with them well. You may have had a cursory glance at what they offer and been impressed. But only a fool would do business with a vendor before doing their due diligence. Carry out your research to ensure that your vendor is of good character with an unimpeachable reputation. Do they have a long list of businesses just like yours who they have worked with for years? Is their website teeming with testimonials from entrepreneurs with thriving SMEs just like yours? Or do they have a high turnover of customers who have tried them for a few months before moving on to a different vendor?

Call for bids

Of course, if you don’t relish the prospect of doing all the leg work to chase down vendors, you can let them work for you. Just as your chosen market is fiercely competitive, so too is theirs. Thus, if you submit a Request For Proposal or Request For Quotation, it’s simply a matter of sitting back and letting your prospective vendors submit their proposals for how they can supply and benefit your business. Of course, if you choose your approach, it still behoves you to carry out your due diligence checks on your prospective suppliers before making a final decision.

Make sure that everybody’s on the same page

Your brand means a lot to you and it is built on a set of very specific values and principles. It’s these that drive everything you do from the standard of products you make to the way in which you deal with your customers. If you are go have a long, profitable and harmonious relationship with a vendor there needs to be a sense of synergy between their mission statement and yours. When your businesses have the same ethos, the same priorities and the same obsession with quality, everyone benefits.

Treat your vendors right

Needless to say, when you’ve chosen a great vendor, it’s important that you treat them well and maintain a good relationship with them. Ensure that you pay on time, even when liquidity is an issue. Some entrepreneurs would rather take out a bridging loan in times of poor liquidity than risk alienating a great vendor with a late payment. Remember that the best vendors have brand value of their own so don’t be afraid to use the fact that you patronize them as a selling point to your customers. Recommend them to other businesses like yours and they will likely recognize and reward the gesture.

Just as a great dish cannot be made without the right ingredients, a successful business cannot be founded without the right vendors, so make sure that you take your time to choose yours and do your best to retain their services.