Guide To Running A Business

5. The Key to Finding the Right Supplier for Your Small Business

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Running A Business

The Key to Finding the Right Supplier for Your Small Business

Mar 31, 2023 • 8 min read
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      As a business owner, finding reliable suppliers is crucial for running your operation successfully. Suppliers (a.k.a. vendors) provide the necessary goods and services that will allow your business to function effectively and affordably. For this reason, ensuring you have stable and trustworthy suppliers is imperative for your company’s long-term success in meeting customer needs and maximizing your profitability. 

      Building strong relationships with suppliers is fundamental for your business, and having a comprehensive understanding of what suppliers are, how to secure them, and ultimately what they can do for you will determine much of your operational success. Let’s get started by understanding what suppliers are and how they can benefit your business.

      What are suppliers?

      Suppliers provide products or services to businesses. They range from large corporations to small, local businesses, and they play a vital role in many business supply chains. The products and services that suppliers offer can be anything from raw materials to finished products, to services such as marketing and distribution.

      Typically, suppliers work with their clients to ensure that businesses receive the products and services they need on time and at a fair price. To do this, suppliers need to be knowledgeable about their industry and have a solid understanding of the specific needs of their clients. It is important to work closely with your suppliers to develop custom solutions that meet your individual requirements.

      One of the primary benefits of working with a supplier is that they can help your business save time and money. By outsourcing the production of goods or services, business owners can focus on other areas of their operation, such as research and development, marketing, or sales. Additionally, suppliers can often provide economies of scale that small businesses may not be able to achieve on their own, resulting in lower costs and higher profits.

      The first important step in managing your supplier relations is finding a vendor that not only sources materials or services for your business, but also aligns with your business’ budget and ideals.

      How to find suppliers for your small business.

      Finding the right supplier can be daunting, but with some research and planning, you can source one that fits your specific needs. Below are some steps you can take to find the right supplier for your business.

      1. Determine your needs.

      Before you begin your search, it’s essential to determine exactly what products or services your business will be offering. Make a list of the products or services that you need and any specific requirements or specifications that must be met. This information will be crucial when you begin contacting potential suppliers.

      There are a number of different vendors that you can choose from to supply and fulfill your organizational needs:

      • Do you need to buy in bulk? A local wholesaler may be best for your business.
      • Maybe you’re a dropshipping company and would like to fulfill product purchases on an order-by-order basis without ever stocking inventory. Online dropshippers like AliExpress could be right for you.
      • Perhaps you have developed your own product and require a manufacturer to produce your goods. In this instance, searching online for either local or international manufacturers would be the right choice.

      2. Research potential suppliers.

      Once you know what products or services you need, it’s time to start researching your choice of supplier. You can start by asking for recommendations from other small business owners in your industry or by searching online for suppliers in your area.

      You can begin your search by using:

      When researching potential suppliers, pay attention to their reputation in the industry, their experience, and their pricing. You should also ask for references and contact those references to get an idea of the supplier’s reliability and responsiveness.

      Though suppliers should be informed about specific local and international laws, it is also important for you to research their practices abroad, especially in areas such as human rights, child labor, and environmental safety. For the benefit of your business and its customers, you may wish to maintain a criterion of ethical standards.

      3. Contact potential suppliers.

      Once you have a list of potential suppliers, it’s time to start contacting them. Be sure to have a list of questions prepared ahead of time regarding their experience, pricing, lead times, and other critical areas. You should also ask about any guarantees or warranties they offer and their policies for handling returns or defective products.

      Be clear about your needs and expectations, and be open to negotiating terms that work for both parties.

      4. Evaluate potential suppliers.

      After contacting potential suppliers, it’s time to evaluate them based on their responses to your questions and their overall suitability for your business. Ultimately, you want to choose a supplier that you can trust and rely on to meet your needs affordably and consistently.

      5. Establish a relationship with your chosen supplier.

      Once you’ve chosen a supplier, it’s essential to establish a good working relationship with them. This includes being responsive, flexible, and reliable to garner trust.

      Tips for working with suppliers.

      With some planning and preparation, you can forge a highly beneficial relationship that will strengthen your business over time. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your relationship with your supplier:

      1. Be clear about your needs and expectations.

      From the outset, it’s essential to be clear about your needs and expectations. This includes things like product or service requirements, lead times, and budgets. By establishing clear expectations, you can avoid misunderstandings or disputes down the line.

      2. Communicate regularly

      Regular communication is key to maintaining a good working relationship. Always keep your vendors informed of any changes to your needs or requirements and provide feedback on their products or services. This will ensure that they can continue to provide the quality that you need to operate effectively.

      3. Be open to negotiation.

      Negotiating with your supplier is necessary to establish a mutually beneficial working relationship. Be open to discussions on prices and payment plans, and be willing to compromise where necessary.

      4. Establish terms and conditions.

      Establishing clear terms and conditions for your working relationship is another essential way to avoid misunderstandings or disputes down the line.

      5. Develop a contingency plan.

      Even with the best supplier in place, things can go wrong. Developing a contingency plan can help you be prepared for any potential disruptions to your supply chain. This may include having backup vendors in place or having a plan for handling unexpected delays or issues.
      A useful recommendation is to streamline your supplier onboarding process by drafting Streamlined Supplier Agreements (SSA). SSAs are contractual agreements between suppliers and your business that maintain a simplified and universal standard. This will hasten your vendor onboarding process, as all your supplier agreements will reflect similar conditions and expectations. Of course, there is always room to tailor the minutiae for each individual relationship.

      Supply your business with long-term success.

      Finding a reliable supplier is a crucial component of running a successful small business. By understanding the role of suppliers and following the steps outlined above, you can find the right supplier for your needs and establish a mutually beneficial working relationship.

      Remember to be clear about your needs and expectations, communicate regularly, be open to negotiation, and establish well-defined terms and conditions. By following these tips, you can help ensure the long-term success of your small business by minimizing costs and maintaining high-quality customer expectations.

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      About the author
      Samuel Good

      Samuel Good has more than five years of managerial and startup experience through his role as co-owner and chief operating officer of Healthy Growth Vending, a business he sold in 2021. Samuel now writes SEO content, with a history in crafting B2B and B2C subject matter that focuses on small businesses and entrepreneurship. Samuel’s educational background includes a BMgmt from Dalhousie University and a certificate in Strategic Copywriting from the University of Toronto.

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