Managing vendor relationships is never as simple as signing a contract. An effective partnership starts with clear expectations for outcomes, communication, and reporting. But maintaining that partnership can’t happen without intentional oversight. It’s rare for an organization to have the resources or staff available to provide extensive contractor supervision. Instead, organizations need to prioritize smart management practices.
Five Keys to Managing Vendor Relationships
1. Allow for a reasonable learning curve. Plan to review work more frequently at the beginning of the project. This helps not only validate quality along the way, but also allows the vendor to learn your standards and ways of doing business. Once the learning curve has passed, you can shorten the level of oversight and switch to a more efficient monitoring model. This is ideal for organizations who utilize contract labor for long periods of time over multiple projects.
2. Enforce quality expectations and safety standards. Your contractors were hired to provide a specific skill or product. After you’ve agreed on the outcome of the project, it’s important to enforce the quality of the work. Poor quality can ultimately build resentment, instead of healthy trust. In order to create a strong long-term partnership, it is in everyone’s best interest to lead with honesty and clarity.
Safety standards are another aspect of the vendor partnership that can’t be ignored. Whether it’s physical safety standards or cybersecurity policies, your contractors should be aware of your company’s best practices. In order to mitigate risk, communicate these best practices early and often.
3. Prioritize communication. In times of chaos or stress, communication channels are almost always the first thing to break down. To prevent this, develop a routine where both parties can come to the table to discuss what is going well and what can be improved. In these conversations, it’s important to stay honest and humble so healthy and constructive communication can continue.
4. Avoid handholding or micromanaging. Define the appropriate level of oversight and encourage the employees who manage vendors to avoid taking on tasks that should be delegated or becoming overly involved in the day-to-day output of work. Instead, encourage them to set clear standards and empower vendors to deliver.
5. Take time to assign the right employees. Identify individuals at your organization who are strong leaders or who want to grow their leadership and management skillsets. Before assigning anyone to a vendor management role, be clear about the job expectations and identify how they connect to other responsibilities the employee has.
Building trust and developing a shared understanding of success starts at the contract phase. With that foundation, all parties will be able to deliver at higher degrees of quality to ultimately meet the project or program demands.
If you depend on vendors to meet work demands and struggle with achieving the desired results, it may be a sign there are hidden opportunities within your current vendor management protocol. Fill out the form below to start a conversation about strategies you can implement to make the most out of your vendor partnerships.