Treat Your Suppliers Well

I recently had a supplier give me a call to let me know that we had some outdated paperwork floating around that was going to wind up costing us a ton of money. The mistake was just purchasing related, but the supplier called me because we had a good rapport and they felt comfortable contacting me directly. This particular issue was going to be locked into a several year contract and took no more than a half-hour to fix.

It seems to be fairly common for us at the OEs to develop a superiority complex of sorts over those that supply the goods. There is the obvious customer/client relationship that tends to breed ‘the customer is always right’ mentality, but in your company, this attitude will harm you more than it will help.

I think of suppliers as the real gatekeepers of the technology that I need. Are they going to really step up to the plate and give me their best if I am condescending and treat them as if my time is more valuable than theirs? No, they aren’t. Are they going to tell me what they have in the pipeline 3-5 years from now if they think I’m going to turn around and tell their competitor? Of course not.

Granted, the face of your supplier is only as good as the person you are dealing with. There are some folks that aren’t interested in doing much more than collecting a paycheck, but don’t those people show up in every company somehow? You can’t save them all, but the ones that want to work with you can be very valuable to your company and your career.

In addition to helping you stay on top of the latest technology and industry news, the supply base is full of retired part-timers that were heavy hitters in their companies. In my little world of bearings, I have two former VPs — a chief engineer, an engineering director, and a few very talented people who have always been in the bearing business that seem to know everything about everything. For some of these guys, this job is just pocket-money. Don’t let your ego ruin this wealth of talent available to you.

I encourage you to treat your suppliers like your peers — not your assistants. Go out and have lunch together. Go to their facility for a meeting every now and then. Have an occasional dinner and a couple of drinks. Pick up the tab once in a while — even if it’s out of your pocket. Foster these relationships and I promise your career will be headed in the right direction.



About Author

Norm Parker

Norm Parker is currently the global senior specialist - roller bearings at FCA US LLC. With his bachelor and master degrees in mechanical engineering from Oakland University (Rochester, Michigan), Parker has developed a keen interest in the academic, commercial and engineering aspects of the bearing industry. Prior to joining FCA, he rose through the ranks of traditional bearing companies and served as bearing technical specialist for the driveline division at General Motors. He is a regular contributor to Power Transmission Engineering Magazine, appearing often in the publication’s popular Ask the Expert feature, as well as authoring a number of bearings-oriented feature articles and The Bearing Blog. The views expressed in this blog are Parker's personal views and they do not represent the views or opinions of FCA in any way.

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