In my experience with starting a business from scratch, there has been one main part that has been the largest burden to me. Talking with suppliers. From searching for the right supplier to keeping tabs on them to make sure your orders will be fulfilled, suppliers are simply difficult to deal with. However, it is difficult for a good reason. The actual manufacturing of your product is a crucial step in the value chain. Once a customer opens your product, you can throw all of your marketing out of the way because that physical product in the customer’s hand is the only thing that they will judge you off. So it has to be right.
Manufacturing isn’t easy. Almost every manufacturer is making a variety of goods, so your products specifically may not be a high priority for them. This is why you need to give your suppliers constant attention. Check in to see how operations are going. Are there going to be any delays? When do they expect to ship out? When do they expect product will get where it’s going? These are all questions that will be repeated on a weekly or even daily basis.
As for the earlier stages of a supplier relationship, you need to express what your expectations are to them honestly and clearly. If you don’t clearly tell them what you are looking for, then they won’t be able to fulfil your needs properly. While you’re searching for your supplier, it’s good to take a process of elimination approach. Have you criteria that you absolutely need to have, then one by one vet each of them out until you have a list of about 5-7. At this point, set up a short call with them to discuss your needs in more detail. If you’re anything like me, this can be annoying to do. I prefer to communicate through email, however for some things, a call is necessary.
This initial call is important. You will tell them about your business and they will tell you about their business. And you decide if the fit is right. Ask for prices, MOQs, product catalogs, shipping terms, payment terms, or anything else that is relevant to your operation.
Once you pick the supplier you want to work with, that’s when the fun begins. You will get to see your product come to life. You will be able to take pictures of the product and post them on your social media sites and online store. And most of all, you will actually have something of yours people can buy.
Communication with suppliers isn’t easy or fun, but it is necessary. If done wrong, you can really screw up your product and the perception of your company. For this reason, it’s one of the most important aspects of starting your own product company. Take these steps and take your time choosing the right supplier. Ask the right questions and you will have an easier time seeing if that relationship works for you.