I got an email from a customer today. He was very happy with some samples I had sent him recently. We had requested samples from about 4-5 vendors over the past 4 months and although some vendors did not pass muster, one did. This is a design driven product and my customer has high standards. He wrote: “I just received the hats today and they look great! Even better than our originals.” I am sure he is very excited because the search for a new vendor has taken some time. My client’s first vendor kept raising prices on him and there were some quality issues with his last order. 10,000 hats he had to repair himself. That is when he came to me.
So it looks like we have found a new vendor. But it is far too early to celebrate. So much work still needs to be done. The first step should be to send someone up to inspect the vendor’s facility. Vendor visits are invaluable because until you actually see a vendor’s factory you have no idea who you are dealing with. Vendor visits also tell the vendor you are serious about doing business with them. They appreciate the visits and it is an opportunity for you to reinforce your quality standards and tell the vendor how you do business. Then you have to get the order to the vendor which means you first need the order yourself ( my client is in discussions with his customers but still does not have a hard order). It is important here not to wait too long can because if you do then things can change quickly. A vendor that was hungry for orders in Nov. 2012 may not be hungry for orders in April 2013. And who is to say that the vendor will not raise their costs after they get a first order, what happened with another client of mine as I detailed in a previous blog post. In the event the vendor does raise costs we have to find other vendors, something I am now working on.
In short there is just so much work to be done yet. Still if you find a vendor who can make a quality product and meet your target costs you should see yourself as going into the locker room at halftime with the lead. But don’t lose sight that there is still an entire half to play. How you manage your vendor in the second half will determine the outcome of your business.
Forgive the football analogy but this is Super Bowl Weekend. Enjoy the game !