Are Suppliers Faceless Entities?
The term supplier is banded around with such ease, yet has it devalued the relationship and removed the individual, resulting in generic and stale business relationships?
The associated business activity of a supplier is simple enough: the supplier delivers goods/services to the buyer in order to fulfil a contractual requirement. However, the challenge is that the term can also be used in many other ways. For example:
It can be used as an excuse to blame poorly structured contracts. “The supplier didn’t agree”
It can be used to justify the buyer not doing something they don’t want to do “the supplier didn’t support it”
In essence the word “supplier” is used as a generic label to cover all and any activity between the buyer and their supply chain.
Society has a habit of labelling many areas of the world we live in, ranging from how one’s spouse might be identified “The wife/husband” through to labelling social, economic, political, regional, and religious groups.
When a label is used it can de-humanise the individual. Sometimes this is a deliberate approach to make it easier to talk about a wider group, however when used incorrectly it can also have a detrimental effect on how the individual identifies their value and how others evaluate their contribution.
Human relationships are behind all commercial contracts, and so de-humanising the relationship may feel like a convenient model for addressing multiple aspects but one needs to question if it will really drive the best out of the relationship.
When we look at the relationship between the buying organisation and their supply chain, we see a trend. Suppliers who are valued are rarely labelled as “the supplier” but are identified by either the company name or account team members. When this supplier is discussed internally, the ability to name the company/account team demonstrates to the business the value placed upon the relationship. This has a knock on effect within both organisations, a greater focus placed on the human relationships creates a stronger desire to accommodate and collaborate.
With more and more automation being introduced into the procurement processes, it has the capability to remove the human relationship aspect of doing business. Now more than ever one needs to focus on how labels are applied within business.
Collaboration remains an undeveloped area of business opportunity, with few organisations able to say they collaborate with their entire supply base. Collaboration can take many forms but they all require a human desire to want to engage. The level of support buying organisations can generate from their supply chain may be directly influenced by how the supply chain has been labelled.
The next time you discuss “the supplier” you may want to reflect if it is being used to truly reflect the larger community or to cover up other underlying issues. It is human nature to blame a faceless entity when convenient such as “The Business believes XXXX,” however to get the most out of others you need to respect who they are and what they bring to the relationship.