As a small or growing business, you’ll be starting to build up a portfolio of suppliers and other working relationships with companies around the world. You may need to work with distribution companies, catering companies, landlords, cleaning companies, exhibition halls and many other types of business to help yours to flourish. Choosing businesses to work with can prove tricky – you’ll want a reliable company that you can build a long term relationship with, one that values the same ethical principles as you, and of course – one that doesn’t rip you off.
It can feel like a minefield knowing which companies to approach. It is a good idea at first to follow up any personal recommendations you have been given. This is always a wise start because personal recommendations are usually solid referrals which turn out to be reliable information. If you don’t have any recommendations, you might like to start your search in the local area – perhaps look at your local yellow pages. Local companies are ideal because you can always personally visit the business and see them face to face. Failing that, network events are always a good place to get contacts and also the internet.
When you think about working with a company, you need to consider what is most important to you. Are you an ethical company, which prides itself on eco—friendly packaging? If so, you’ll want to join with a company that also values this so that the working relationship makes sense. For instance, office fruit delivery brand Fruitful Office, provide 99% eco-friendly wicker baskets full of fruit across the UK and Ireland, value the idea of ‘locally’ picked fruit, and so they only work with ‘local’ delivery companies to help spread this message more broadly. They also focus on individual satisfaction, valuing their customers’ individual needs, and so companies that also believe in this will also be in keeping with their approach.
You can keep abreast of new ethical companies and what bigger companies are doing online, using this Guardian section. Some companies commit to lowering their carbon footprint, others to helping their local communities in some way. Some are focussing on renewable energy. If you’re looking to work with a bigger company, it is important that you know how they are perceived by their customers and whether the working relationship would be a good ‘fit.’
Of course it works two ways, and the other company will want to make sure that they are working with you for all the right reasons. You’ll want to get your website up to scratch, so that they can look you up and see what you’re all about. A website can tell someone a lot about a company – what they value, who they are and what they believe in. Surprisingly, it isn’t always about money. Many companies want to build a good working relationship that will last years to come and someone they can rely on. They aren’t always interested in getting the ‘cheapest’ deal, so try to focus on the overall picture and not just about the bottom line – although of course, this is still important.
Once you have formed a working relationship with a company, it is important to maintain it. Keep in communication with them, have meetings if required, and review your conditions if they no longer suit you anymore. Your situation will change, and so might theirs, so also don’t be afraid to let a working relationship go if it just isn’t panning out anymore.