Reflections on establishing and building strong supplier relationships in the time of Covid 19

Developing new technology is a challenge at the best of times, during a global pandemic it becomes a Herculean task.

Over the last few weeks, Alex and I have been reminded over and again how vitally important our relationships with our suppliers are: the ‘mutually beneficial supplier relationship’ is always key. Under Covid-19 restrictions, every strand that forms those successful relationships is stretched severely.

As a product developer at the cutting edge of subsea innovation, our supply chain is our business’ life-line. Maintaining the best possible rapport with our suppliers has been one of our highest priorities and after so many months of working across national borders, lockdowns, and quarantines, I thought I’d take a moment to capture my thoughts on the lessons we have learned while building strong and durable supply chain relationships.

Good communications – regular and open dialogue is, or certainly has been for us, the key factor, fostering transparency and trust both internally and externally.

Being open to and aware of cultural differences – this is especially true of international suppliers and can’t be underestimated. Diligent research and speaking to country experts like the team at SDI really helps to work out what to be aware of when approaching international suppliers.

Setting the tone – first impressions really count, taking time to start business relationships on the best footing is absolutely worth it. We strive for this via early meetings detailing our objectives, timescales and budget as clearly as possible

Understanding our suppliers – how they operate, their mission and purpose so that we can align with them and grow together.

Ensuring everyone in the company is on the same page – regarding the processes and principles in cultivating strong supplier relationships. This goes hand in hand with my first point – taking time to ensure that everybody is well informed and on board, makes it much easier to build strong, honest supplier relationships.

Meeting suppliers in person wherever possible – clearly difficult during the restrictions that are still ongoing, so we have utilised the many internet meeting platforms now available to get face-to-face. In my experience, we build the strongest business relationships when we spend time together with the people we are doing business with.

Being as honest as possible – owning the good and the bad with equal candour. If you are able to be completely open, it allows creative and effective solutions to be found, especially when exceptions to normal operations occur.

Setting the example – As Mahatma Gandhi may (or may not) have said: ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’. We do our utmost to embody the characteristics we would wish to see in business and work hard with our supply chain to become a preferred client.
Good client supplier relations are like friendships: mutual, candid, and respectful, and strongest when they have their foundations in trust and integrity.

To everyone picking their way safely and productively through the lockdown client / supplier maze we thank you and salute you!

Matthew Kennedy