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Have a New Major Supplier? Here's What to do Next

To improve the likelihood of a successful assimilation of a major new supplier or product line into your company’s operational infrastructure, policies and culture, create and execute a "new supplier deployment" process.

You have just signed up with a new, major supplier. Representing a new, significant product line can be an instant gain for your company. Congratulations!

What do you do NEXT?

To improve the likelihood of a successful assimilation of a major new supplier or product line into your company’s operational infrastructure, policies and culture, create and execute a "new supplier deployment" process.

I. Why and When to Initiate a “New Supplier Deployment” Process

Execute a “new supplier deployment” process to cleanly assimilate a new supplier into your company’s operational infrastructure, policies and culture. Doing so will increase revenue and decrease customer and supplier dissatisfaction.

Consider executing a “new supplier deployment” process under any of these circumstances:

  • Your company has just signed on to buy/resell a major supplier’s product line(s).
  • Your company has just signed on to represent, as a commissioned agent, a major new manufacturer’s product line(s).
  • An existing major supplier of yours has introduced a new product line that your company can sell.
  • An existing major supplier has acquired another manufacturer, resulting in a new product line that your company can sell.

What is a “major supplier”? You decide.

II. Who Should Participate?

What are the significant operational disciplines in your company? Those disciplines should define which employees should participate in a new supplier deployment process. While it easy to simply include department/discipline managers, consider including frontline employees in the process. Not only can it be a good training experience for up-and-coming employees, but it can also give them a chance to shine in front of future peers.

Suggested departments/disciplines to be included in the process:

  1. Executive (typically the person who negotiated the new supplier agreement)
  2. Accounting
  3. Customer Service / Inside Sales
  4. Information Technology
  5. Marketing
  6. Purchasing / Inventory Control
  7. Sales
  8. Warehousing / Material Control

III. Process Steps and Timeline

A “new supplier deployment” process can consist of these basic steps:

Step #1: Company executive announces new supplier agreement to department/discipline managers, distributes copies of the new agreement to them, and schedules a deployment launch meeting early the following week.

Step #2: Department/discipline managers assign themselves or a staff member to the deployment team.

Step #3: Deployment team members meet to agree on the list of tasks required for this particular deployment project, working from a “new supplier deployment guide” template.

Step #4: Deployment team members complete tasks, in sequence, per the agreed-to-timeline.

Weekly meetings (typically on Friday morning) of deployment team members ensures that the process stays on schedule and forces accountability of team members. A little pressure in front of one’s peers is a good character-building experience. ;-)

The faster you complete these steps and assimilate a new supplier into your company’s operational infrastructure, policies and culture, the sooner you will enjoy hassle-free revenue and satisfied customers. A process timeline of no more than five weeks is recommended. In this scenario, an initial internal announcement is made in week #1, and all tasks are completed by the end of week #5. Modify this timeline to meet your company’s needs.

IV. “Gotchas” to a “New Supplier Deployment” Process, and How to Mitigate Them

It is not a perfect world. Life is unfair. Here are some possible challenges associated with executing a formal “new supplier deployment” process, and how to deal with them.

  1. No one has time to do all of this, in such a short time. But everyone will have time to deal with the fallout from NOT doing these critical tasks, up front? By setting everything up correctly at the onset of a new supplier relationship, you and your coworkers will avoid re-work and reduce displeasure from customers and suppliers later on. Involve your managers. Pay frontline employees overtime.
  2. Many of these tasks do not apply to our company. That is fine. Create your own list of tasks that are better aligned with how you run your company.
  3. We do not have an IT Manager. Or a Marketing Manager. Or other department managers listed in this article. That is fine too. Surely someone in your company has responsibility for the operational disciplines listed in the guide template. It is OK if the same employee is responsible for more than one list of tasks.

V. Who Creates Forms for Your Company?

Even if your company is completely “paperless”, the ability to create custom business forms (for internal or external use) can help your business processes run more smoothly. Our favorite applications to create printable or electronic business forms are MS Word, MS Excel and MS Visio. (We’re still learning how to use Apple’s “Pages” on our fancy-schmancy MacBook Air.)

To create a form that is printable by anyone without the PC application with which the form was created, create a copy of the form as a PDF document. (Most applications allow you to save the document this way.) PDF documents can be printed using Adobe’s free “Acrobat Reader” application. Forms made in Excel or Word can be filled in electronically, and can perform basic calculations and field copying. If you distribute electronic versions of forms, be sure to password-protect them from being edited. (With Excel, you can prevent the document from being edited, but still allow selected fields to be filled in and saved.) Who at your company knows how to create business forms?

About the author

After a successful career in sales and operations management in the wholesale-distribution industry, Mark Tomalonis is now principal ofWarehouseTWO, LLC. He amuses himself by writing articles, such as this one, to help wholesaler-distributors execute their operations better. Mark’s articles and tips are published in WarehouseTWO’s monthly e-newsletters.