Integrity: Know your Vendors

One of the most important relationships for a small-business owner to maintain is with his or her vendors. Vendors are part of a company’s success. Vendors supply materials, management, marketing; the list could go on.

So, it is in a company’s best interest to go with the best vendors possible. Owners and managers will often think a good vendor equals a price-competitive vendor. Price is important. Every business owner wants to know that his vendors charge a fair price, and they should. But there is another element to consider when choosing a vendor. This element is harder to determine than a price or value. It lies behind closed doors and in the thousand mouse-clicks of someone in an office you’ll never see. This oft overlooked element? Integrity.

Integrity:  firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values1)“Integrity.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 14 July 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/integrity>.

This week, USA Today released a story that highlights the importance of vendor integrity. They revealed that a major fuel and convenience chain has settled (to the tune of $92 million) with federal investigators and customers to avoid corporate prosecution. This vendor is claimed to have held back rebates owed to customers – to grow their bottom line and increase profitability. Personal and corporate greed brings shattered trust. Integrity is now faulted and broken. Many customers including business owners and fleet managers will likely take their business elsewhere. Integrity matters.

Trust

2)Trust by Terry Johnston, CC by 2.0 bit.ly/1oYZ4Xj

Most people trust that a national, well-regarded company will operate with integrity. Somethings can’t be controlled and companies, like people, will at times break trust. But there are some steps that a small business can take to make sure they deal with the best vendors; vendors who operate with integrity.

1) Do some due diligence. Look a prospective vendor up online. Do they have a reputable website and a track record of honest dealings? Do they have good reviews by people who have done business with them? While not always objective, sites like Angie’s List and Yelp have now brought the reviewers to you.

2) Get to know the vendor. Many times, small businesses will deal with a large vendor through a representative or sales-person. Get to know your account rep and make sure that they operate with integrity. If you are looking for a local vendor, look for someone who gives back to the community. Your local chamber of commerce is a good place to start. Is the vendor a member and does the company actually do their part to benefit the other businesses in the community? Ask around and you will soon find out if they are a company with integrity or not.

3) Understand your vendors operations. Make sure you understand how your vendors handle their billing, payments, rebates and services. Take a moment to make sure that any owed discounts or rebates have been credited. Are their billing and rebate formulas transparent and easy to understand on your regular bill? When you call do they answer clearly and truthfully or are they evasive?

Vendors are essential to a successful business. Make sure to go with the best. Look for a vendor who operates their business with integrity.

Sound off in the comments: How do you go about selecting a vendor?

References   [ + ]

1. “Integrity.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 14 July 2014. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/integrity>.
2. Trust by Terry Johnston, CC by 2.0 bit.ly/1oYZ4Xj

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