One of the leading articles in ‘The Grocer’ this week was an article on buyer-supplier relationships, which told us “that a new study from the University of East Anglia claims to have unearthed new lessons about the buyer-supplier relationship. Dr Ricardo Santana and Professor Andrew Fearne, of UAE’s Norwich Business School, say "it’s not squeezing suppliers’ profit margins but treating them fairly which encourages the best results from them.” 

I’m not sure why it took time and money from university to tell us this. Anyone who has spent any time in business would be able to tell you this without doing research. Respect, trust and honesty are all a supplier asks of a buyer. Any game playing is likely to be viewed dimly and reduce the loyalty of the supplier to the buyer. Likewise, it must be the same the other way around, the supplier must be the complete model of integrity with the buyer, which isn’t always the case. In fact, I have experienced the opposite of this only this week from a company that should know better. 

Whilst most of the ‘people’ content within my soon to be released book is about how to treat your own people well, there are also chapters on collaborating with customers, suppliers and even competitors. This passage comes from the ‘Collaborating with Suppliers’ chapter:

Behaving in a more relationship-orientated manner, I would argue, would benefit buyers far more. Indeed, our own buying team makes friends with suppli­ers and this is why we tend to be the first choice for new brands. Rather than supermarket buyers distancing themselves from their suppliers, I would propose that building closer relationships would benefit their business rather than harm­ing it. If I were an account manager selling to a major supermarket, I would do absolutely anything I could to help a buyer I liked and trusted and who behaved like a decent human being. If that type of buyer needed a favour one day I would try far harder to make it happen than for another buyer who treated me like dirt on the bottom of her or his shoe. It’s simply human nature. Collaboration achieves far more than antagonisation. 

The key message is to treat people as people not as objectives to achieve your goals. Some compassion and love within business doesn’t go amiss!