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The role of supplier and partner can often be confused, but each one is critical in business and has a vital role in helping you achieve your goals. A supplier is most commonly selected through a traditional bidding process and will provide goods or services in standardized transaction patterns for some time. When the transactions end, the business relationship ends. A partner, on the other hand, is a tailored business relationship based on mutual trust, openness, and shared risk and reward that yields a competitive advantage. Partners often participate in product design processes across organizational and geographic boundaries. Partnerships are fluid, flexible relationships that depend on honesty and integrity to succeed.

The key to your success lies in the abilities to select the right business partner for each business need and the right supplier for each supply your business need.  

No matter what industry you’re in, choosing your suppliers and partners is a critical task. You must find a partner that you work well with, that you “click” with, and that you can work with for many years to come to ensure the relationship flourishes. When working to select the right partner, it is essential to think about the future not just what’s happening in your company right now.  

When searching for a supplier, whether it’s a steel supplier or a paperclip supplier, it is a good idea to have a back-up or at least two – one that you use and another you know you can trust. With changes in workload and diverse experience, it is good to have a safety net in case issues arise with one supplier.

A typical approach to finding a supplier is to Request for Information (RFI), receive proposals from potential suppliers for review, and then compare across the potential suppliers. Once you have chosen, then the challenging part is to build a good relationship with your supplier.

Governance is a vital part of building a relationship with a supplier. It helps establish commitment from both parties and ensures senior management buys into the relationship. It also provides transparency and buy-in to the KPIs, so both teams understand the KPIs and are accountable for them. It is imperative for the governance to be rolled down to the side that is on the front line for study execution.

Finding a good business partner is a little different, it’s about networking and finding someone who has the skills that support and complement your own. If you have excellent interpersonal skills but poor business finance skills, consider a partner who understands business accounting. The more skills you and your partner bring to the business together with the easier it will be to start, plan, grow, and run your business.

Maintaining and growing any relationship takes time, patience, and commitment. If both sides are not willing to invest the time in the relationship, then it will not last. This is no different than our relationships. You must give the time to the relationship that is needed, such as regularly scheduled meetings as outlined in your governance, survey completion to learn more about each other and how to improve.

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