How to Find a Trustworthy Supply Partner Who Makes Your Business More Successful

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That’s what aged care facilities need in a supply partner. A capable, sustainable business that knows their success is dependent on yours.

One of those reciprocal relationships that grows through working together.

Doesn’t sound viable, does it?

Only large aged care groups can get loyal supply partners. You need massive buying power to get cutting edge insights.  

That’s not your business. You’re not big enough.

You must choose between the corporates who give you product and nothing else, and the sole trader with minimal buying power and risky supply chains.

These are your only options.

Or are they?

What if you could get the value for money that you need to thrive in your highly regulated industry? 

What if multinational corporations aren’t always the best option?

What if there was a potential partner out there, ready to understand your staff and their processes?

Willing to provide a product or service that could free up your time to focus on the things that matter.

The truth is, there are businesses in Australia who can be the supply partner of your future. How do you find them?

The Formula

Alignment + Competency = Strategic Partner.

It’s as simple, and as complicated, as that.

You need a business with similar values, to be an extension of your brand. You need a business that can deliver your needs at the critical time. 

If you have these, you have a supply partner that makes your business more successful.

One proviso: as with all formulas, this formula is only as good as the data you put in. 

If you base your predictions of alignment only on the feeling you got from the company’s website. If you rank competency only by reference checks, this formula will fail you.

You need to know the definitions, the criteria, and applications to the aged care industry.

Alignment

On great teams – the kind where people trust each other, engage in open conflict, and then commit to decisions – team members have the courage and confidence to confront one another when they see something that isn’t serving the team.

Patrick Lencioni

Alignment tells you whether you can trust a potential supply partner. It’s an investigation into their mindset. It finds out how well they can integrate themselves into your business. Whether they will support your growth. 

Will they be a reliable helping hand, or will they abandon you when the economy turns down?

We’ve all experienced the latter. 

We’ve been the ones left behind while a supplier chases after a bigger, better customer. 

We’ve been the ‘less significant’ customer when supply chains are straining.

Alignment is the way to judge how your supplier will treat you, in good times and in bad. 

Alignment asks: will your success be their success?

We’ve gathered some real-world questions for your team to research.

1. Are they profit-driven or mission-driven?

Finding out the core aim of a successful business shouldn’t be hard. 

It should be clear in their website, their social media profiles, and (most importantly) in the words and actions of their staff.

Most core aims fall into two categories: profit-driven and mission-driven.

Profit-driven businesses

We all know and hate these businesses. They are the manifestations of Milton Friedman’s dream. 

Businesses, big and small, that value revenue making above any other activity. Businesses that will gladly abandon a smaller, loyal opportunity for a larger, lucrative one.

So, what’s the problem with profit-driven businesses servicing the aged care industry?

You know why you’re in business, and you need a supply partner who values your purpose and helps you to achieve it. 

When you deal with the profit-driven, they don’t value you. You’re a stepping-stone to ‘greater things’. You’re treated like the poor cousin. 

Profit-driven suppliers will price gouge during a pandemic. They will cut down on quality and certifications to deliver quantity with less expense. They will take advantage of customers’ habits to increase usage instead of working for a better outcome. 

How do you identify a profit-driven business?

  • They don’t anticipate your needs.
  • They focus on their profit instead of your gain.
  • They ignore the requirements of your industry.

Mission-driven businesses

This type of business is the antithesis of a profit-driven company.

Instead of focusing on takings, mission-driven businesses have identified their ‘why’. They know what they’re in business for, why they wake up in the morning.

Everyone from the receptionist to the CEO will know the mission and how they contribute to it.

Mission-driven businesses aren’t shy about stating their cause. They will openly declare it and embed their ‘why’ in everything they do. 

One well-known example is Google. They have a clear cause: “Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” 

But you don’t need to be a large-scale company to have a visible mission. Tom’s Shoes are ‘in business to improve lives’, and it shows. They give back through community projects and donate ‘at least one-third of [their] net annual profits’.

The most significant part is a business’ employees. Employees must adopt a mission-driven business’ ‘why’, to deliver on it.

Three good ways to tell if employees feel like they have a purpose:

  • The language they use. When your team speaks to them, do they sound like they ‘own’ their job, and have a commitment to it beyond being paid?
  • The way they help you. Get your team to ask a difficult question or pose a problem. Do the employees help to problem-solve, or do they say they ‘need to talk to their manager’? 
  • Can they answer the essential question: “What is your company’s mission?” If they can, and they understand their part in it, that’s a really good sign.

The core aim question is key in understanding Alignment. But there’s a few more questions you should answer to determine a potential supply partner’s rating.

2. Do they demonstrate how they contribute to accreditation? 

Your business can’t survive without accreditation. The quality standards are key to your current and future success.

To be an aligned partner, a supplier must be aware of the role they play in your accreditation. They must provide actionable insights to up your standards game. 

This isn’t limited to the legalities, either. 

Safety Data Sheets alone don’t cut it as contributing to accreditation.

A supplier can prove their knowledge of the Aged Care Quality Standards. They can show how their products and services affect the result you get:

  • Offering product training and benchmarking for your staff
  • Giving you resources to showcase your commitment to the quality standards
  • Providing insights to help you apply the standards to their products and services.

3. Are they future proofing their service for your needs? 

To be valuable to your future success, a supply partner must be preparing for their future. 

They need to be always innovating and learning ways to better serve your needs.

A good example of a progressive business is Amazon. They search for ways to ensure their service will give consumers what they want into the future.

An important note: pay attention to what a business does, not just what they say. Anyone can say “We’re innovative,” but the test is producing results.

You can tell a forward-looking business by how it innovates in areas that don’t immediately return revenue, in the name of making their customers’ lives easier.

4. Are they true to their distinctive capabilities? 

This question is key to ensuring alignment with a supply partner.

Do they have a specific way they do business, and do they stick to it?

Successful businesses identify practices and products that are sustainable and efficient for them. They will know when they can’t give you something, and they will tell you so

They know that their success is your success. They can achieve both with a focus on their specific niche.

A jack of all trades is a master of none. What you’re looking for is a master of the area you’re trusting them with.

To find out whether a business is true to their distinctive capabilities:

  • First, simply ask them ‘What do you do best?’ If they are passionate and a true expert, they’ll be able to define their distinctive capabilities. 
  • Second, ask them for assistance in a separate, but related area to their field of expertise. If they’re true to their distinctive capabilities, they’ll refer you on to someone who can serve you better in that area.

You have a business that’s aligned to your success. But they’re of no use unless they can deliver.

And this is where the competency rating comes in.

Competency 

Can the supply partner provide for your needs?

This requires a qualifying process that depends on factors like:

  • your business size
  • the number of facilities and staff you oversee
  • how your business operates.

A 35-bed nursing home in Broome will have a different measurement of competency to you. 

Businesses can be incompetent to you because of:

  • limitations to their ability to scale
  • their geographical footprint
  • their buying power
  • and any number of other variables.

Some questions you can ask to determine competency are:

1. Can they deliver in full on time, now and into the future? 

This is by far the most measurable question we can ask. 

It even has a percentage rating, for supply partners who measure warehouse DIFOT!

Indicators of a business’ current and future ability to deliver include:

  • The financial stability of the business 
  • Their current footprint and manpower
  • Client case studies that are like your business
  • What they say of their future.

2. Are they easy to deal with or complicated? 

Again, we know the negative side of this all too well. 

The supplier who shunts you through 4 departments only to get an invoice. 

The ‘unavailable’ supplier who prefers to deal through debt collectors and lawyers. 

The supplier who has so many forms to fill out before you can buy, that it would be simpler to make the goods yourself.

And that is the key word – simplicity. 

Your supply partner should make the process of dealing with them simple. They should cover your needs without creating problems and building up time costs.

How do you measure this?

  1. Research the company. Look at online reviews, testimonials, their social media presence. Ask current customers how they feel about the service they get.
  2. Go through their process yourself. Buy something small, and observe the smoothness of their customer service. Ask for shipping information. Create friction and demand service. Do they answer you? Do they give you what you need?

3. Do they provide on-demand, after sales support? 

The last key competency criterion is the availability of their customer service.

It’s painful to deal with a supplier who will dump boxes and run. 

You don’t want once-off service before a sale then nothing more. Your procurement team wants answers when they’re enquiring about a back order.

After sales support is a necessity in these days of social media and online reviews. You have the power to notice and take issue with a lack of customer service.

Great after sales support will have these characteristics:

  • Quality. Their interest in you and their passion for solving your problem stays the same as before you ordered.
  • Speed. Their processes and team will prioritize getting you answers as quickly as possible.
  • Human. You’ll be able to reach an actual person when you need them. They’ll have experts on the team who can handle your situation, with a true solution not a ‘fast fix’.

If the answer to the competency questions are: 

  • they can deliver now and into the future
  • they’re simple to deal with
  • they provide on-demand customer support… 

You have a winner!

Your Reward

The rewards of partnering with aligned and capable organisations are trust and collaboration.

You won’t need administrative checks and balances, because you’ve proved them, and you trust them. 

You can invest your time in expanding your facility’s resources and increasing your customer satisfaction.

Take these questions to your team and ensure your success for the future.

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