Building great relationships with suppliers is one of the most important aspects of any business, but it’s particularly important in the roofing industry. We’ve been able to operate Colony Roofers, an Atlanta roofer, with a “no warehouse” model for years now due to our great relationship with ABC Supply Co. However, I’d be lying if I said I don’t go out and test competitor pricing every now and then. You have to! My reps at ABC know I love working with them, but at the same time they understand that we are running a business with many stakeholders. We’ve maintained a great relationship through the years by prioritizing a few fundamental aspects of our relationship.
Communication is the first and most important step to an effective business relationship. Easy to say, but very difficult to execute. We stay in contact with all of our vendors on a regular basis, whether in person or over email. If you can, schedule an in-person meeting where you can exchange dialogue regarding your companies’ goals and how they can help you reach them and what you can do to be a good client.
Share information, your expectations, changes within the company like new products, special promotions, and a high-level vision for your relationship with them moving forward. This is so important to me that I actually block time each month to physically meet on site with our vendors to stay in touch with the business and the relationships as we grow.
Great communication leads to building trust, which is another foundation of all our business relationships. Most people approach trust from a “you have to earn my trust” standpoint. I like to assume all of our vendors are trustworthy on the front-end and let them prove me right. This has proved to be a far better way for me to initiate relationships than approaching them with skepticism. In my mind, trust is comprised of a few different components, which is what I look for when someone is “proving me right.”
Reliability is crucial to trust someone with our customers. On-time and on-budget is the name of the game in reliability. Vision and character are the other major components of trust that I look for. It’s crucial that I see positive and empowering character traits in our vendors along with a shared vision for the future. While I can’t tell the future, if we’re dealing with high quality people whom share a common vision, we will be able to handle any speed bumps along the way. However, this trust thing isn’t a one way street! In exchange, I promise my vendors prompt and timely payment every time we do business. I also like to open the door, or at least I try to, for them to give me constructive criticism and feedback about how we can better serve them as customers.
If I have a transparent communication channel and trust with a supplier, we are well on our way to a great business relationship. While these are only a couple of tips on cementing your vendor relationships, they are the foundational components I look for and constantly reassess to make sure we are on track. If you don’t have communication and trust, the rest doesn’t matter.
Zach Reece is the COO of Atlanta-based Colony Roofers, LLC.