You’ve heard it said that business is all about relationships, specifically building good ones. But how do you get there?
Truthfully, it’s not much different from any other relationship. There’s compromise and compatibility, getting familiar with their current relationships and working through issues that won’t have you seeing eye to eye. In fact businesses tend to overlook other aspects of the vendor selection process that go beyond dollars and cents.
Your company has a direction; it’s been hammered out and refined over countless brainstorming sessions and tactical meetings. Perhaps you even have your mission statement prominently posted in your lobby, or a slogan that conveys your goals that rests under the company name on your letterhead. When a vendor wants your business, therefore, it should be with your mission in mind that you respond.
For example, our vendors that take on materials we need to recycle must also first qualify by sharing certifications that we have for Responsible Recycling. We’ve made the commitment to keep any recycled materials out of landfills. We aren’t relieved of that commitment when these materials are out of sight, and therefore we work with partners who have made this same commitment and gone through the same stringent review process to ensure our promises are kept, together.
If your company’s mission would seem to be compromised in any way by a relationship with a vendor, be candid about those concerns. Request some references while also doing your own homework to ensure that there isn’t a conflict of interest with existing relationships they might have. You can compromise within relationships, but your company’s mission shouldn’t be one of those things.
Understand as well that when you form a partnership, it won’t happen in a vacuum. Just as we’ve talked about how a positive association attracts customers, the opposite can also ring true. Other potential partners who may be inclined to do business with you, whether they are vendors or customers, may not “get” your decision to work with a company. If you are publicly traded, investors may also show their displeasure or trepidation by backing away, affecting your stock price negatively.
Continuous improvement, acting in humility, and living a life of servanthood. ER2’s values drive our conduct with each other, with our partners, community and the environment. It would be out of step for us to work with companies therefore who don’t respect or mirror these values. We expect our employees to behave in a manner that places these values in front of them, and while it helps build our business, it also helps build them as people. We look for the same expectations of our partners.
When you’re discussing partnership with a vendor or a customer, it may be tempting to “get the deal done,” but as with goals, don’t sacrifice your core values in the process. In our case, a company that doesn’t value continuous improvement and hasn’t shown much growth or acted to become more sustainable isn’t likely one we’ll want to do any longterm business with. Longterm relationships convey consistency and trust, which in turn broadcasts to other companies seeking to do business with you that that you are an attractive “get.”
First off, let’s clear up any misunderstanding between mission and vision. A vision is the future ideal for your company, where as the mission is the present goals you have set for your company to achieve the vision.
Some leadership experts suggest that shared vision is even more important that your vision. Simply, there is strength in numbers, and aligning your partners with your vision places you both in a much different relationship. Instead of being an us v. them proposition, it’s a side by side focus toward a future that you both are working to achieve.
Think of a company where the “upstairs” sends out directives to the rest of the employees to achieve their vision of building the biggest brand in their industry. The communication is on the impersonal “company,” rather than on every person who makes the company run. Without a culture where every employee is a stakeholder in that vision, there will likely be a fair amount of resistance and cynicism, especially if their input is not welcome.
Partnerships outside of the company are no different. It’s far easier to bring on board like companies who are motivated by the same vision because success serves you both. In fact, like an employee who feels valued and truly a player in the company’s progress, partners will become your best advocates and evangelists. And as you effectively communicate your vision, oftentimes you will find companies seeking you out because they recognize themselves in what you have laid out in that vision.
So, perhaps what we’re saying here is that it’s ok to be choosy, and that you can’t be everything to everyone. Our model of sustainability also requires us to refine where we can best serve, which in our case leads us more to educational and medical partners. In the process, our goals, our values and our vision don’t change. Neither should yours. Relationships are important, and the best ones - personal or business - have a clarity of understanding what each partner’s goals are, what they value most, and where they are going. Being selective with who accompanies you is an investment of time that can yield rich and lasting returns.