Welcome to the third edition in a series of case studies designed to test hypotheses I have regarding how supplier size needs to be factored into sourcing and supplier management approaches.

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If you read the first two posts about Dell and Yahoo Web Hosting, you may think that I have a prejudice against using big suppliers. You’d be wrong. I’ll use today’s case study to illustrate that big suppliers don’t always treat small customers like they are unimportant.

Next Level Purchasing is a growing organization. Year after year, we experience tremendous growth in the number of students we serve. And that, of course, requires that we also grow our employment base.

Earlier this year, we created the position of External Relations Coordinator to handle things from helping the leaders of our larger clients track their team’s progress through our purchasing training to interfacing with organizations who grant approval or recognition of our purchasing education to coordinating marketing projects. This is a very important position and, for a small organization, we simply cannot afford to hire the wrong person.

To manage the risk of hiring the wrong person, we decided that we would try working through a temporary labor agency to find someone on a temp-to-hire basis. This was the first time we took such an approach. Now temp labor is often associated with administrative work, but some agencies also provide professional temp labor.

In speaking with temp labor suppliers, it became clear that our request for just one professional person was a pretty small request. After all, here in the Pittsburgh Airport Area, there are some large corporate headquarters and offices for companies like Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, FedEx Ground, Eaton/Cutler Hammer, Nova Chemicals, ThermoFisher Scientific, and more. The temp agencies in this area can send dozens of temps to these clients.

Because of the “ease of escape” involved in bringing a temp on board, most companies just have the temp agency send someone in. If that person doesn’t work out, they send someone else. And that cycle will continue until you find someone you like or simply give up.

But, again, as a smaller organization, we don’t want to waste one man-hour. So we wanted to interview candidates. Essentially, we were a high-maintenance customer with the potential of hiring one person. Not exactly the type of engagement that temp agencies dream about.

Despite our small potential revenue and stricter-than-average requirements, the temp agency we ended up choosing – Kelly Services – totally treated us like we were a big customer. After all of the years that I’ve been in purchasing, it takes a lot for me to be impressed with supplier service, but their performance was excellent. Specifically, the performance of their branch manager, Cari Fessler, was very impressive.

Here are just a few of the ways that Cari and Kelly Services brought value to our engagement:

  • They were willing to allow us to interview candidates in a situation where they would usually just send someone in
  • They were more than accommodating when we asked to interview more candidates than we originally agreed to interview
  • They worked really hard at finding people whose profiles matched exactly what we were looking for, despite the fact that most of their pool of workers were of an administrative background. Everyone they sent for an interview deserved the interview and was a legitimate candidate.
  • They followed up promptly to make sure that we were happy at every step of the process
  • And, most importantly, they found us someone who was the perfect match – we ended up hiring her!

In temp-to-hire situations, the employer has to pay a flat fee when hiring the employee. The amount of that fee depends on the number of hours the employee worked as a temp before officially starting her employment.

We weren’t watching that number closely and, unfortunately, just barely missed a threshold that would decrease our fee. Kelly Services saw this when preparing our final bill and gave us credit to bring our fee down to the next level. Now this wasn’t a big savings for us and certainly not a big revenue loss for Kelly Services, but that move showed real class and care for the customer. A dollar is a dollar, you know. And suppliers that care about adding any amount of money to your bottom line are the type of suppliers that we all need more of.

So despite being a small customer, Kelly Services did not give us “small customer treatment.” They delivered above-and-beyond results!

If you’ve been following along with this series, you know that I’m holding off on the purchasing lessons until I’ve posted all of the case studies. The next case study with a different supplier will reinforce some of the underlying principles that made our experience with Kelly Services such a success story.

Stay tuned!

To Your Career,
Charles Dominick, SPSM
President and Chief Procurement Officer
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
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Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is an internationally-recognized business expert, legendary procurement thought leader, award-winning entrepreneur, and provocative blogger. Charles founded the Next Level Purchasing Association in 2000, oversaw its incredible growth, and successfully led the organization to its acquisition by the Certitrek Group in 2016. He continues to blog and provide advisory services for the NLPA on a part-time basis as he incubates his upcoming business innovations. Charles is also the co-author of the wildly popular, groundbreaking book, "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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