The words ‘supplier development’ have been tossed around quite a bit during the last number of years. Although most of us are somewhat familiar with the concept, I think the idea remains somewhat vague to many of us. I’m sure the concept can be defined in a variety of ways but from my perspective (as the Business Manager of the Burin Peninsula Chamber of Commerce) supplier development means enhancing the capabilities of local businesses to increase their likelihood of being able to compete with other businesses who wish to supply some item or service to a project or projects. In my experience, organizations such as the Chamber can provide most benefit when they aim such programs at small and medium sized businesses. Larger businesses are often already part of the supply chain.
What I would like to share with you are some essential skills/tools that I believe that owners/operators of small and medium sized businesses must have if they wish to capitalize on opportunities related to large projects in the province. These include the ability to network effectively, knowing what information to present, having an online presence and persistence.
The importance of networking is often overlooked and many of us find walking into a room full of people we don’t know overwhelming. Having grown up as an extremely shy person, I appreciate that it can be scary. Believe it or not there are tools and strategies that you can employ to develop your networking skills and learn to live with the mild discomfort. Heck, you may even discover your inner social butterfly. I found two books particularly helpful in my quest to overcome shyness and become more effective at networking. These were “Good-bye to Shy” by Leil Lowndes and “Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Women” by Marny Lifshen and Thom Singer. From these resources I learned strategies such as preparing an opening when introducing myself and goal setting.
Throughout the Chamber’s Supplier Development Project it also became clear that procurement people are looking for specific information and they would like to be able to access that information in a well laid out, easy to read and easily accessed document. Having a pdf file prepared to be distributed via email, your website and/or through social media definitely gives you an edge. The file should include your business name, contact information, person of contact and the goods/services that you specialize in at a minimum. I’d recommend viewing a number of project websites or contacting procurement departments to identify the specific information that they require from suppliers.
I cannot overstate the importance of having the information online so that it is easy to access. If you do not have your own website, you may be able to expand your directory listing on your local Chamber’s website, develop your own website using a free provider or utilize social media. Bar Codes are also becoming increasingly popular. The benefit of having a Bar Code is that people can scan it right from your business card or documents and it will take them exactly where you would like them to go. There are many websites where you can create a Bar Code for free. For a fee you can also access analytical data which tells you how many people accessed your page using the Bar Code.
Lastly, like so many things in life persistence is required. In the words of Winston Churchill “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”. If you have been successful in supplying a large project, that’s wonderful. Keep at it! If you have not, keep at it! Employ some of the skills and tools outlined here, utilize organizations like NLOWE and your local Chamber to learn, grow and network. Always keep your eye on the prize and never give up on a goal!
Lisa MacLeod has worked as the Business Manager at the Burin Peninsula Chamber of Commerce for the last two years. Since joining the Chamber she set and met a number of goals including the development of the Chamber’s strategic plan and attaining the distinction of being accreditated through the Chamber Accreditation Council of Canada. She has also managed numerous projects including Connections, targeted Initiative for Older Workers and Supplier Development. Lisa is married and has two children. For more information about the Burin Chamber of Commerce visit their website: http://www.burinpeninsulachamber.com or Facebook page.