As you’ve already probably deduced, lists factor quite heavily into the vetting process. In fact, in the last several articles, I’ve given you lists of categories to vet . . . and lists of questions to ask.
Now, I must admit these articles have been fun to write, because I heart lists. Lists fit my personality. They’re easy to use. And boy, do they help me get things done.
But lists alone won’t lead you to a vetting victory. Finding an ideal supplier isn’t as easy, linear, or rote as asking a question, getting an answer, and then rinsing and repeating.
It is much more interesting and complex than that.
Confirming Positive Impressions
Sometimes, a prospective supplier will tell you something that makes your heart sing. You may, for example, be impressed with a supplier’s overall views on quality assurance.
But don’t stop there. Channel your inner curiosity and find out why this supplier seems to excel at quality. For example, how does the supplier’s culture emphasize the need for quality? What is the supplier doing differently in terms of process? And how do they stay focused on quality when time or budget pressures arise?
If the supplier is truly accomplished at quality assurance—or any other aspect of the supply business—they should be able to clearly articulate their philosophy and practices, as well as be willing to share them with you.
In other words, when you’re feeling upbeat about a prospective partner, make sure you can back up those feelings with actual evidence of solid practices.
Dealing with Doubts
On the other hand, if a supplier’s response doesn’t sit right with you, follow up, follow up again, and then follow up some more. You simply can’t settle for confusing or concerning information.
You’re building a potential partnership here, and your new supplier will be an extension of your team. Therefore, you need to find out if your supplier is willing to answer all your questions, no matter how uncomfortable or challenging they may be.
And Now, a Few Final Thoughts
The first is obvious: Take good notes during your vetting conversations. Don’t rely on memory to make a good match.
Next, keep a list (yes!) of the questions you ask your potential suppliers. Use this list the next time you need to vet someone new.
Furthermore, don’t be afraid to revise your list. You may think of new questions on your own, or you may find that a sticky situation with a current supplier inspires you do even more sleuthing the next time.
In the end, when vetting discussions are done well, they’ll unfold more like a map, rather than a checklist. To get to your ultimate destination—that is, the decision to enter into a partnership or not—you and your supplier may need to take a different route every now and then.
The more roads your conversation travels, the more you’ll learn. Oh, and the more likely you’ll find an excellent supply partner, too.