Regardless of whether a company is just beginning to set up an office space for a new business, or whether owners are considering changes that can lead to more cost effective and efficient function, having the right office supplier can vastly impact the success of the endeavor. Although there are many basic supplies that may be required to get a workspace running optimally, even the highest quality equipment can have varying applicability.
Starting with the Functional Needs
Business decisions will always need to be practical and will also need to consider the bottom line in terms of how a supply investment will show in returns. However, many companies are also realizing that functional considerations also need to appeal to human reactions, as this is another way that the proper office supplies can enhance employee performance. This means that while generating a list of practical needs is vital, a business should also look at things such as:
- Selection of products
- Scalability of equipment
- Quality of supplies
- The ability to auto-deliver when supplies are low
- Customer service and support
- Business solutions â€“ including the ability of the supplier to tailor orders based on specific company needs
- Completeness of supplies â€“ including workplace considerations that are beyond just the obvious business functions
It can be very important for companies to compare the pros and cons of several office suppliers in order to determine where there will be a best fit. In order to do this, a business will also need to develop a complete plan that incorporates human and manifest resources for the most synergistic expression of improved morale, productivity, and overall functionality.
Developing a Plan Based on Office Space and Goals
Before selecting the ideal office supplier, it is also necessary to have a complete vision of the office space and how it will operate. This means that part of developing a plan will include:
- Technology that facilitates efficiency
- Equipment that can meet production needs
- Supplies that are high quality and cost effective
- Supplier support which empowers the business to maintain control over operational efforts
- Adjunct resources that enhance the workspace and promote productivity
This also means that identifying workplace goals will be a necessary part of critically comparing the benefits of different office suppliers.
- Is the business solely focused on the numbers?
- Is the company promoting a healthier workplace culture?
- Does the plan include expansion and growth?
- Is the company reputation practical, innovative, or a combination?
In many cases, one office supplier can ideally meet some of these concerns, but may fall short in terms of selection or customer support. As the optimal outcome is to work with a supplier who can meet all the needs of the company plan, a little patience, good research, and the ability to compare supplier benefits can all facilitate finding the right fit.
Developing Professional Relationships
Another important aspect for companies to consider when selecting an office supplier is the ability to establish a professional relationship with the distributor. Some suppliers may require minimum orders in to qualify for special pricing, and this can become counterproductive to costs, especially if rush orders and emergency supplies are required.
Office suppliers who are willing to negotiate with businesses to establish the best ways to meet company needs can indicate a resource that is highly focused on support and success. This can also indicate a relationship that is able to grow as the company expands, and this client centric approach can also mean that businesses have better control over the ensuring that resources for employees and clients are always available.
In the process of establishing a relationship, companies may also wish to consider whether the use of a single supplier or several distributors will best meet needs. This can be precipitated by the actual selection of products that are offered by any supplier, but it can also be a wise strategic move in regards to controlling costs.
Having several reputable office suppliers can become beneficial in cases where new negotiations or changes in management may alter the initial relationship that was established. When a company is only operating with a single supplier, there can be:
- Less leverage for negotiations
- Fewer options for growth or contract changes
- Limited resources for emergency offers
- Greater susceptibility to cost changes
The use of several trusted suppliers will change this dynamic, but will also let the company explore a wider number of distributors that can ultimately meet needs. This also ensures that a business will still be able to operate, even if a supplier goes out of business or changes their scope of operations.
Get to Know your Suppliers
Once the actual company needs have been identified, it can be easier to narrow down the list of potential suppliers who are able to best serve the business. Research will always be a vital part of this entire process, so along with defining business demands, it can also be wise to categorize different suppliers based on what they can offer to a company.
- Consider reputation â€“ making sure that suppliers have a history of reliability in delivering on orders and on customer support can vastly impact how well a business is able to run. Office suppliers who are unable to meet deadlines and demands will also translate into a company that is unable to attend to clients, and this can become a counterproductive relationship.
- Quality and consistency â€“ office suppliers will frequently establish relationships with different manufacturers in order to deliver high quality equipment and products to a company. However, internal negotiations for the supplier could cause changes in selection for the purchasing companies. This makes it important for businesses to not only consider the value that is in the products which are being supplied, but also if this value will remain consistent throughout the course of the professional relationship.
- Customer service and support â€“ this can apply to general interactions with the office supplier, but it should also extend to the specific history that a company is able to establish with the supplier. Good communication and collaborative efforts are likely to lead to more productive and cost effective solutions, while suppliers who are unwilling to dialogue or are difficult to reach may create more problems than the value that they offer.
- Company principles and foundation â€“ it can also be vital for businesses to research the ideals and founding principles of the office supplier in order to determine reputation and fit. This can include running a background on the financials and history for the supplier to see whether sound business practices are in place, but it can also include determining whether the foundational principles of the supplier are in alignment with business goals and plans.
- Willingness to collaborate â€“ many office suppliers do seek to establish a good working partnership with the companies that they service. This indicates that suppliers are also open to encouraging growth and meeting these increasing demands. Some office suppliers even have services that can aid in re-designing office spaces to become more ergonomic and efficient, and this can further align the company strategy with what the office supplier has to offer.
Using these points along with the goals of the business plan can aid in the process of selecting ideal office suppliers. This also means that while the company needs to define needs and means, it also needs to ask the right questions of the office supplier in order to determine how well a partnership can develop.
Taking the First Step in Selecting an Office Supplier
While the entire preliminary process for selecting an office supplier may seem extensive, it is also necessary. The guidance that is established through identifying company needs and researching the value of potential suppliers will also be the basis for initiating these relationships. Without the clarity of an end result vision, it can become overwhelming for businesses to navigate the choices that office suppliers are offering.
This also brings companies to the actionable steps of the process, and this can include generating a list of office suppliers who may potentially meet these needs. Although the initial list of potential office suppliers may be fairly large, this will tend to be easily streamlined as each supplier is examined based on the above criteria. However, starting this list of suppliers can still be better modified through the use of external resources.
- Trust the opinion of others â€“ using the input of other companies who are in the same industry can lead to a selection of office suppliers who are already established and able to meet specific needs. This tactic also allows companies to receive feedback and reviews from other professionals, and this can help to discern the reputation and reliability of the supplier.
- Trade directories and other industry networks â€“ online directories and even traditional search sources, such as the Yellow Pages, can provide a list of potential suppliers. The use of industry based directories can also narrow down choices to meet the specific needs of the company, and can often provide professional assessments of the services and products that are offered.
- Local business associations â€“ even in the internet age, it can be vital to think locally. Municipal business associations are often able to match companies with potential suppliers both in the area and for the area, and this can open up further options as well as the ability to compile reviews and research on the potential suppliers.
- Industry events and publications â€“ trade shows and other exhibits can be ideal venues to research and make contact with potential office suppliers. This not only gives a company the chance to compare distributors in real time, but it also allows for the necessary interactions that can aid in establishing a working relationship.
It is generally beneficial for businesses to start with a relatively large list of office suppliers, which can then be winnowed down according to needs that are met, effectiveness in terms of cost, and overall supplier reputation. It is always better to have more choices that can lead to an ideal fit, instead of settling on the first supplier that is contacted.
Making the Hard Choices
The second stage of selection will include reducing the long list of potential office suppliers to around four or five ideal choices. This may lead to the use of several of these distributors, but can also result in a good relationship that is able to grow and evolve through changing expectations.
Finding the best fit will be a combination of business goals and supplier offerings, but reputation is also an important consideration. When going over the short list of office suppliers, a focus on stability and reliability should dictate the research that will eventually lead to a good choice.
Points to look for in a reputable office supplier include:
- Flexibility and accommodation â€“ can this supplier do what the company needs, when it needs it? Is the supplier willing to establish both an acceptable schedule for resources, but also able to work around emergency or high volume circumstances?
- Financial stability â€“ does this supplier have a strong fiscal history? Is this company recognized for good business practices and financial sustainability?
- Longevity â€“ how long has the supplier been in business? Has the supplier undergone management or operational changes recently, as these could be indicators of lack of experience as well as poor reputation.
- Reviews â€“ do other professional peers utilize this supplier? What type of feedback or recommendations is available about the supplier, as this can better inform a business on their choices?
- Endorsement â€“ is this supplier recognized within the industry? Does the office supplier have any awards, validation, or support from trade associations?
Although these points still tie in to many of the company specific considerations for the right office supplier, these factors can further influence a wise decision for reliable workplace resources.
The combination of planning, research, goal setting, and communication can all lead to the best choice in an office supplier. Starting a conversation with a potential distributor can further facilitate the decision, as this can also begin the negotiation process for price comparisons and value added options.