I hope that you have enjoyed the article, “Do You Make These Purchasing Mistakes?”
In the description of the fifth mistake, “Failing to qualify a new supplier,” I wrote that you should always “qualify new suppliers in a way that is appropriate for the value and criticality of the purchase. This may even mean ‘dating the supplier before marrying the supplier.’” Writing this made me realize how cultural customs affect both choosing your life partner and choosing your suppliers.
Although prearranged marriages are “still practiced in South Asia, and the Middle East and East Asia” according to an entry on Wikipedia, they are virtually unheard of in Western culture. To us in the USA, it would be unthinkable to promise the rest of your life to someone you don’t really know (unless you are seeking fame via a reality television program). Though, as a culture, we view critical, long-term commitments without “trial periods” as crazy, somehow that aversion didn’t make it into our procurement practices.
Much to the contrary, procurement departments often make critical supplier selections on the basis of strong proposals alone. There is no dating – it is straight to the altar – with incompatibility issues left to be discovered later.
While this custom forces procurement departments to write probing RFP’s and to be very diligent in their proposal evaluations, I personally think that there is room for us to date our suppliers a little more. First, it reduces the risk of being stuck with a mistake, the mere fear of which makes the “devil-I-know” tendencies stand in the way of continuous improvement. Second, it will make the successful bidder put as much effort into making those critical first few weeks of performance competitive as it put into making the proposal competitive.
New supplier integration is often a big challenge. Forcing the supplier to earn the business with its performance as well as its proposal will help suppliers develop their project kickoff skills the same way that procurement professionals have developed their proposal evaluation skills.
Is dating your suppliers before marrying them appropriate in every situation? No.
But where circumstances permit, it may be the most risk mitigating thing you can do as a procurement professional.
To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President & Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
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