The office of a major shoe company was too far for an SME to afford the petrol, so the deal just didn't happen ©123RF
The office of a major shoe company was too far for an SME to afford the petrol, so the deal just didn't happen ©123RF

Diverse suppliers want buyers to know…

At a joint MSDUK and CIPS event for CPOs, suppliers revealed their top tips for buyers to unlock innovation and agility.

Fast payment can make or break small firms

In the early days of a new business, every day is tough and one of the largest determining factors of success is money, pointed out Byron Dixon, CEO and founder of biotech firm Micro-Fresh International, which started small in 2011.

“The biggest kids’ footwear retailer in the UK is Clarks and that is one of the only companies that we don’t deal with now because, at the time, I couldn’t afford to drive to its offices, which today seems bizarre. 

“When we start businesses, being skint in the early days is tough, and every day is a struggle. People sometimes forget that,” he said.

Farooq Mohammed, CEO of es-p Group, a professional services consultancy, agreed cash flow was a challenge for smaller suppliers and delays to payment could disrupt business. He noted a particular example where a large business had not paid on time and es-p was due to pay its staff. The situation was ultimately resolved but it required “some contingencies to kick in”, said Mohammed.

We need your feedback

Communication and feedback are key to the long-term prosperity of suppliers, said Sid Narang, CEO and founder of, which sources serviced apartments. They provide valuable lessons to improve and build the business to win more contracts. “Entrepreneurs are scrappy. We don’t see any failure as a failure, because it’s just the start,” he said. “If we don’t get the contract today, we’re going to get it tomorrow, or we’re going to get the business from somewhere else, or another company.”

Tender feedback is also an opportunity to do better next time or improve the business, added Farida Gibbs, CEO of talent management consultancy Gibbs Hybrid: “As business owners, all we want is an opportunity to the RFP.”

Worth the risk

Take a leap of faith with diverse and small suppliers because you could get something extra that will pay off, said Gibbs, who worked round the clock once she secured a contract with IBM. “IBM took that leap of faith because it said we were going to give it more than our competitors offered,” she said. “A lot of my competitors would log off at five or six o’clock, so I always made myself available and I think it was through those things that the procurement team started to see evidence of value.”

IBM in return was flexible with things like payment terms, and made every effort to help her firm, she said, and the contract put it on the roadmap. “If we can do business with IBM, then we technically should be able to do business with everyone,” she said.

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