A big part of being a successful small business owner is the connections and business relationships you are able to make within the communities that you serve.
This may include selecting a vendor to work with you or your clients like outsourcing a credible maintenance contractor, or working with an insurance agent and knowing how to select a vendor isn’t always as easy as one may think. It is vital to the success of your business that you create business relationships that are lasting and benefit all parties involved: you, your local vendor, and your clients.
Your due diligence is central to creating these relationships. Never rush into a vendor relationship that you did not fully vet. That is not to say that you should take your time in establishing these relationships as that may cause more problems with home management. Be thoughtful with whom you select to work, be certain that they provide services performed properly, ethically, and legally.
This includes looking for the following:
- Check for validity and obtain a copy
- Obtain a copy of the declarations page
- Only if necessary for the type of work they are doing for you
Tax ID numbers
A positive reputation
- Check online reviews and Better Business Bureau (BBB) ratings to ensure the vendor is in good standing within the respective trades
Not having these things should be a large red flag that you should not do business with this company. If something happened and the service was not provided in the proper way, or you employed a vendor that was not operating legally, you are then liable for any damages cause by the vendor and will be named in any lawsuits that may arise. Taking the effort to research before you enter into a business relationship with a vendor will save you a lot of effort, money, and headaches should problems arise. Remember, your business has, or could have, liability for each vendor you hire.
Trust but verify:
- Performance history
- Proper insurance
To begin your search for a vendor partner, do what you normally do; search the internet and ask your network and friends. Reviews are given online for virtually every business and will give you a good idea of that business’ priorities when it comes to work done and client interaction. Ask your friends if they know anyone in the industry that you are researching. They will give you an unfiltered opinion about companies they have dealt with. Narrow your list to three or four of the best candidates and give each of them a call. Evaluate your interactions: Who answered the phone? Did anyone? Where they polite? Did you leave a message? Did they call you back? Did they seem knowledgeable? Would you want to work with this company on a daily basis?
Probe deeply to get the best understanding of the potential vendor. Be aware that the vendor you choose will be interacting with your clients. Will they portray you and your business in the best light?
Obtain references from your top two choices. If their references don’t pan out, what does that say about the potential vendor?
Questions for the vendor references may be:
- How long have they used the service?
- Who else did they consider?
- How did they decide to go with company/what attracted them to company?
- What did they learn?
- Biggest success from relationship?
- What would you change?
Now, you will have enough information to make an informed decision on which vendor to choose. Your second choice should not be cast off. Keep them close to ensure availability. For example, if your area has a huge snowfall overnight and you have only one approved plow service, you may find yourself on a waiting list in the morning. Depending on the circumstances, you may need a vendor who is extremely fast but more expensive, and at other times, you may want a vendor who is slower but less expensive.