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5 things that have helped us build great relationships with our suppliers

Gifts of the World is a social enterprise that sells art, craft and fashion from designers in developing countries. This means we need to bring in stock from other countries.

There’s lots of tasks and processes that have to go right when importing stock– some of them within our control – like ordering systems, and some of them out of our control – like the price of the dollar.

There’s probably plenty more, but we’ve identified 5 things within our control that have really helped us develop great relationships with our suppliers.

1. Quick turnover from them

Our suppliers are amazing. When we give them notice, they provide quick turnover to us. Even though we are far from their largest customer, they still respond as though our order is important to them. This builds trust and respect and we know they can deliver on deadlines.

2. Quick payments from us

When the bill comes in, we pay it. There can be some complications with international transactions – i.e. delays, transaction fees and conversion fees. All of these contribute to the timing and cost of international payments. But the bottom line is regular, on time payments means our suppliers trust us.

3. Regular product updates from them that are relevant to us

I’ve already mentioned our suppliers are amazing. One of them is always experimenting with new designs and emailing us photos and product descriptions of their new stock. Sure part of this is a sales pitch, but it’s a targeted sales pitch that is helpful to us. They don’t send us random stock, but rather stock they know is within our budget and within our product range.

4. Regular feedback from everyone

The bottom line is that if this supplier-buyer relationship works out, we will both benefit. So it’s in both our best interests to maintain the relationship and provide regular feedback on what’s working and what’s not working. As we import overseas stock, most of our feedback happens on the phone, via email and Skype. Whatever it takes, keeping the lines of communication open and clear has been a must.

5. Transparency from everyone

Sometimes things go wrong – products might arrive damaged, freight companies might stuff up or there may be issues with international payments. Occasionally the supplier-buyer relationship can get tested. So we’re quick to confess and quick to forgive. And so are our suppliers. When we’re transparent with each other we know we can trust each other.

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