If you’re gaining some traction in your small services business, you might be wondering how to find suppliers to help you get the job done!

We’ve got a list of ideas to help you with that.

In the BLG community, you’ll find different types of business owners across varying industries. Needless to say, their suppliers will come in all shapes and sizes too!

For the sake of our community, we’ll be focusing on how to find suppliers that provide great services.

In this case, we’d be referring to suppliers who can provide help with your legal department, for example, or any other aspects of your business that needs outsourcing, like SEO development or any other marketing strategies, etc. Suppliers that can also provide platforms for virtual scheduling and administration assistance may also fall under this category.

In short, if your business is in desperate need of a service, how do you find and keep the supplier with whom you can develop a great and reliable working relationship?


Finding Suppliers for Small Businesses

As a small business, how do you go about finding suppliers who will not only take you on but actually help you grow? With the vast scope of the virtual business world, there’s practically nowhere you can’t turn to.

But, in the service business community, your best bet would be in accumulating referrals.

Are you a member of a mastermind group? These are your peers with similar businesses who can point you in the direction of trusted suppliers.

In your search for the right fit, remember to remain persistent. You’re looking for compatibility as well as credibility. Don’t stop your search and trial period until you’ve found the supplier that clicks.


Negotiating with Suppliers and Vendors

Supplying a service a lot of times is based on a working relationship between supplier and business and then business and client. Ideally, as long as all three parties can meet their needs and ensure the needs of the clients are met, then all parties find themselves in a winning situation.

All this to say that negotiating with your suppliers can be a bit more flexible than in an industry where products are manufactured at a fixed cost.

You can have a conversation with your supplier about what you’re looking for and they can equally come back to you with what they can provide in return.

This is where your search for compatibility comes into effect.

Negotiate the terms of the working relationship until you both get it right. If it just doesn’t fit, then don’t be afraid to move on.

Neither party wants to make it work where it wouldn’t be beneficial–there’s definitely no long-term profitability in that!


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Get Quality Service from Your Suppliers

And, we’re back to compatibility!

When deciding on a supplier, look for one who is going to meet your specific needs and for whom quality service is a core value. Don’t overlook their company’s principles.

A supplier who operates from their principles and core values will always be more reliable and trustworthy than a company willing to bend those values for a quick buck.

Prior to meeting with a potential supplier, outline certain questions that’ll help you to understand if they align well with your own business. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about those principles and core values.

Also, get technical and ask about specific aspects of their operations.

Their answers will, overall, provide you with tell-tale signs of what their service could be like.


Building Good Relationships with Suppliers

Piggy-backing on the principles and core values concept, this is where a good, long-term relationship takes its roots.

Once you’ve confirmed that your business principles line up with your supplier’s, then you can begin to expand on the fun part: visualisation.

Develop with your supplier a vision for what you’d like to accomplish from this working relationship. Each business already has a set of goals all their own and, if you’re compatible, you’ve probably already discovered that you have some in common.

As much as possible, develop a vision with your suppliers that directly accomplish each party’s goal. And, of course, make sure these goals get your client exactly what he or she is looking for.

Actively look for Win-Win-Win situations.

How You Can Help Your Key Suppliers

A helpful component of any working relationship is communication. Keeping the lines of communication constantly open will ensure that all parties are always on the same page.

This will then keep everyone on target for goals and will help to determine whether you should shift gears or dream bigger!

Be communicative about the menial aspects of operations as well. Let your suppliers know of any changes in your system that’ll directly or indirectly affect them.

Ask them how the business strategies you’ve created together need improvement on your part.

Is there a way to get tedious tasks done faster? Can certain costs be minimized for everyone?

Helping to meet their needs will inevitably facilitate them meeting yours.


Related: 9 Powerful Productivity Hacks


Use Technology to Improve Efficiency

There are so many systems and online platforms out there today that can help to cut costs and save time. Take advantage of them so that you can easily recycle that extra effort elsewhere into your business.

Take a look at your operations to see where things can be tightened up with the help of technology.

Do you waste time on the road travelling to business meetings? Consider virtual conferencing.

Do you outsource some of your work to remote places? Use platforms like Podio or Asana to ensure that everyone is on the same page and completing tasks no matter where they are in the world.

Take a technological perspective in areas of your business where costs are unnecessary or excessive.


Related: 10 Best Software Tools on the Market for Startups


Service Level Agreements

The next step in sealing the supplier deal would be to put everything in writing.

Everything mentioned so far should be included as much as possible into your agreement, including the more technical aspects. Here, we’re talking about things like the services themselves as well as the expected standards, a timetable for that service, the different payment terms, etc.

This document should allow for compensation in some way for any breach of contract. In those cases, if the relationship is a good one, it might be worth it to revise the agreement if things need updating or clarification.

Review Your Supplier’s Performance

It’s always a good idea to revisit the agreement regularly in the form of an evaluation of sorts.

How well and how quickly did the supplier meet the standards. Were there any cases in which they surpassed the standards? Which areas need improving?

As much as you can, focus on the parts of their performance where the supplier exceeded your expectations. Recognising those things that are excellent goes a long way toward improving those things that are less than.


Ending Supplier Contracts

In the event that you find yourself unable to continue with a supplier, take some time to first revisit the contract.

Is there anything in there about early termination? Are there penalties for such a termination?

Revise and consider the possible pitfalls of ending any working relationship. What rights do either party have to the work that’s been generated so far?

On a more personal level, can your business’s reputation be sullied by making such a move? If your reasons are clear and you abide by the contract, there should be no reason to worry.

But, consider legal advice if you feel this contract is important enough to do so.

Any working relationship requires some time and communication.

But, start with a clear idea of what you’re looking for and a good understanding of the questions to ask that’ll help you get just that. This foundation will help you find the right suppliers.