Are you missing opportunity in the way that you manage your vendors. Shawn Casemore, the author of Operational Empowerment: Collaborate, Innovate, and Engage to Beat the Competition thinks that way. Shawn is my guest next week to discuss operational empowerment and how companies are leaving valuable knowledge and opportunities on the table. And it is just not about suppliers. An excerpt from the podcast:
Joe Dager : I think you even suggest empowering your suppliers. Can companies do that and what suggestions do you have to create that environment?
Shawn Casemore: Well it definitely can be done but here’s what’s happening. This might not make sense for a smaller company but if you’re looking at any organization over let’s say 20 million or even 10 million a year. You start to have people that are responsible for dealing with external suppliers, maybe you have a purchasing group or department, maybe you just have accounting handling those relationships. Here’s what happens, everyday suppliers, contractors, service providers, I mean you and I can both speak to this, we’re knocking on doors of companies saying, hey I’ve got some interesting information. I’ve got value to add. I’d like to talk to the people who make the decisions because I’d like to share this. If they decide it’s not of interest to them, fair enough, but what happens is the door gets closed by those managing those relationships, and there’s no possible way they can be in touch with all of the needs of the organization.
What we need to do is realize that any organization, service-based or manufacturing-based, a lot of their business today relies heavily on suppliers; suppliers of equipment, suppliers of technology, it could be suppliers of people, and if we’re closing the door to meeting new sources of suppliers, then we’re not able to tap into new innovations and new opportunities in the marketplace that will actually set us apart.
The experiences that I’ve had with my history, my career history validated this for me, so some of the work I do with clients today is we actually create forms and methods and means to tap into suppliers. For example, setting up a supplier day where we sit down, we bring executives in from the company, we ask only executives from certain key suppliers to attend, we present some of the company objectives or goals or maybe some of the challenges they’re facing and we have brainstorming sessions where we ask suppliers – what would you do, how would you approach this. To them, the value is, hey they might be able to contribute to contribute something. They might be able to sell something.
There’s got to be an exchange of value here. But on the flip-side of that, you’re able to tap into their resources, very intelligent people at typically no cost because they’re more than happy to provide you that time. You’re able actually to build your company through tapping into your supply base, rather than closing the door and saying, no we don’t need any; we’ll call you when we need it. It is again, a very upside down approach to managing the supply base because they have the next innovations for your company.
One of the companies that we’ve all know of and heard of that does this very well is Procter and Gamble with their Connect and Learn. They solicit through Connect and Learn the entire world to say, hey inventors, companies, the guy in the garage, you have an idea, get a hold of it, here’s the process to do it. I’ve got colleagues, and I’ve also got clients who’ve actually gone through that process, now it’s a slow moving animal because Procter and Gamble is huge, but it works, and they’ve been able to bring products to market through Procter and Gamble.
We have to start to approach our suppliers differently and not in such a regimented or a strict approach. We have to start to let them into the business and let them offer value and assistance to us.
About: Today, Shawn is a consultant, speaker, and author investing significant time studying top performing organizations around the world, consulting with and advising CEOs on how to build a more empowered organization in order to dramatically improve performance, create a compelling competitive advantage, and maximize profits. You can find Shawn at CasemoreandCo.com