How to Find Reliable Suppliers (Part 1) – Gauge Quality
Lyall has been doing business with manufacturing suppliers for a long time—more than 40 years, actually. And that’s plenty long enough to have become quite sure of three things: (1) A supplier can make or break some of your most important business relationships, (2) great, trustworthy suppliers can be tough to find and (3) there are a few sure-fire ways to avoid winding up in partnerships with really bad ones.
This post is the first in a series of four we’re putting together to share with you the tricks we’ve learned in choosing suppliers the past 40-plus years—tricks that’ll help you keep your company flying smoothly on its course toward success rather than send it into a terrifying tailspin.
These “tricks” are really just four main areas of inquiry that can help you avoid problem suppliers. And you can fully explore these areas from the comfort of your laptop using two simple, yet powerful, sources: Google Search and the supplier’s website.
So, let’s get rolling with the first of these four key areas of inquiry—the supplier’s overall quality. Gauging quality can seem like an abstract endeavor at first glance, but we’ve found that it boils down to a few practical pieces of information.
Source #1: Google Search
Online product and service reviews are huge clues to a supplier’s overall quality. When a company is incredibly awesome or incredibly bad, people tend to talk about it. But don’t head straight to Yelp or Yahoo: There’s a much easier way. If you give it a solid search query, Google will be able to aggregate links to all the review sites you need in one tidy URL. And you can bookmark the results page, so you don’t have to rush through your research.
A solid search query for the info you need might go something like:
[Company Name] customer [OR] product reviews [OR] ratings
Also, think about whether there are any words relevant to the supplier’s business that might give you tighter results. And try adding “Yelp” or “Yahoo” to the end of your search term. Depending on the industry, this could help the search engine understand the specific kind of reviews you’re looking for. Your set of results won’t be limited to that review site; it’ll include sites considered similar.
Source #2: Company Website
If you know what to look for, you’ll find all kinds of clues to a supplier’s product and service quality on its company website. Following are three ways you can investigate.
Check out what they say about themselves
In business, there’s no shame in tooting your own horn. Words like “best,” “most” and “only” are particularly revealing when it comes to quality, because they imply an achieved status. As you likely know, companies can get in big trouble for making claims they can’t support. So, if a supplier claims it has “the best on-time delivery record in the Tri-State area,” it probably does.
See if they highlight any client testimonials or feedback
It’s a guarantee: A top-notch supplier is used to receiving compliments from its happy partners, and many suppliers opt to publish them on the company website (a smart move!). If the supplier you’re researching features a few of those words of praise on its site, there’s a very good chance it will live up to its reputation. Know, however, that if a supplier doesn’t include testimonials on its site, that doesn’t necessarily mean much. There are plenty of great suppliers out there whose websites are totally testimonial-free.
Do a basic site quality check
You might be surprised to learn that checking for a few website quality red flags can tell you a lot about a company’s overall culture and philosophy. If a supplier’s site disregards a few subtle, yet important, details, it could indicate a lack of attention to detail or even a company culture of neglect. So, here’s what you don’t want to see:
- Website text with a lot of grammatical errors
- A significant number of non-working pages and/or links
- Spammy display ads promoting products or services unrelated to the supplier’s industry
- An outdated site copyright (older than the previous year)
So, there you have it. Next time you’re ready to sign on the dotted line, be sure you’ve done your quality homework ahead of time. And, be sure to check back here on the Lyall Blog for Part 2 in our series, “How to Find Reliable Suppliers,” when we’ll talk about ways you can be sure your new potential supplier is well positioned for risk mitigation.