A good partnership

3 January 2008

This weeks SM's advisers were asked:

My company wants to adopt a more partnership approach with some of our strategic suppliers, but how do I go about hard-nosed negotiations with a vendor that's become a 'partner'?

- Category manager, Newcastle

* Be clear about what your business means by "partnership" and what behaviour you must use in managing it. If your firm's internal culture isn't open and inclusive it could struggle with treating suppliers as "partners". A good benchmark could be how your company treats its own personnel.

* A strategic supplier partnership will work only when both parties feel they are not being exploited. A disagreement does not signify the end of a relationship but the beginning of its improvement.

* Then you can't have it both ways - grinding them into the dust on price then expecting them to hand over their crown jewels. Don't roll over completely, but avoid overly aggressive price-focused behaviour.

What do you think?

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