How to improve relationships with business partners

Introduction

In light of recent market instabilities, due to a plethora of world-rippling events and the ever-increasing expectations of customers, improving relationships with business partners has never been so crucial for the success of any business. In this blog, we will point out the link between better business partners and increased business success, aspects to improve your relationships and how to implement them into your supply chain. If you love yours or hate them, 2024 is the year to dedicate some time to maximising what they can do for your business.

What do business partners do?

Business Partners can come in different shapes and sizes within an ERP world.  From Vendors to Customers to any party that in which your company has a business interest and needs to interact with (internally and externally).  Business partners can provide goods or services to other businesses, forming a critical link in the supply chain. They source, manufacture, or distribute products needed by their clients, ensuring a steady and reliable flow of resources. Suppliers play a pivotal role in meeting demand, maintaining product quality, and influencing overall business efficiency. Successful relationships with suppliers often involve negotiations, contracts, and collaborative efforts to optimise costs and ensure timely deliveries. The effectiveness of suppliers profoundly impacts the operational and financial success of the businesses they serve.

Why business partner relationships matter

Whilst there’s many reasons business relationships matter, which we will get to, it all amounts to one simple reason- strong business partner relationships enable a business to be more successful.  How? For example, take two fictional large manufacturing businesses. Both require large amounts of cardboard for boxes and shipping of their goods. One has strong business partner relationships with multiple cardboard suppliers, all checked through a stringent onboarding process, has regular communications with them, and has built trust with them with payments and orders. The other uses one supplier from China, only sends a PO through when necessary and has no other communications other than to complete invoices. Now, let’s take these two companies and put them in June 2020, when COVID was stopping production but also demolishing weak supply chains. Famously it caused a cardboard shortage, leading many companies to have to delay their orders- which were ready and sitting in factories, to their destinations. Which company do you think would have a better chance of getting its products on shelves with the least interruption?

The point here is that the impact business partner relationships impact the whole supply chain and need to evolve to be more than just a transactional service. We have previously noted with our own customers that stronger relationships buy preference and leniency with them over customers with weaker relationships. That’s the difference in meeting customer demands and expectations or potential drops in credibility and customer loyalty.

Why strong business partner relationships are essential in 2024 and beyond

As we begin 2024 with a relatively smooth start (albeit with some small economic blips), businesses shouldn’t get caught off-guard. It’s been reported that there may indeed still be a recession in the UK, the Chinese economy is weaker than is ideal and with inflation still high and the cost of living crisis still in full swing in the UK, customers are being forced to tighten their belts further and attempting to make their money go further. With these potential hurdles to overcome, strong partner relationships need to be in place to help guarantee smooth supply chains.

Aspects to Improve relationships with business partners

Communication

Establish a regular and clear communication channel with your business partners. Whether through scheduled meetings, emails, or collaborative platforms, ensure that information flows smoothly. Listen actively to your partners. Understanding their concerns, ideas, and feedback fosters a more collaborative and responsive relationship.

Credibility & trust

Consistently deliver on your promises. Reliability and consistency in meeting deadlines and commitments build trust over time. Be transparent about your organisation’s capabilities, challenges, and future plans. Openness contributes to a sense of trust and partnership.

Personalise

Tailor your interactions to the specific needs and preferences of your business partners. Recognise the unique aspects of each relationship and adapt your approach accordingly.

Personalised gestures, such as sending personalised messages or remembering key dates important to your partners, can go a long way in strengthening the personal connection.

Make them feel important.

Acknowledge and appreciate the contributions of your business partners. Publicly recognise their achievements and milestones. Seek their input and involve them in decision-making processes, making them feel like valued stakeholders in the success of your joint endeavours.

Future-proof

Anticipate future challenges and proactively address them. Demonstrating a commitment to long-term success shows that you are invested in the sustainability of the partnership.

Stay informed about industry trends and emerging technologies. Share relevant insights with your partners to collectively prepare for future opportunities and challenges.

beer production in factory

Make it easy.

Streamline processes and remove unnecessary barriers to collaboration. Simplify communication channels and project management to make working together as smooth as possible. Provide clear and concise information. Avoid unnecessary complexity in documentation and procedures to ensure ease of understanding and implementation.

Invest in the right tools.

All of the aforementioned factors may seem fluffy, qualitative factors. How are you supposed to implement and maintain them? Well, it’s simply about having the right tool which can take care of relationships.

Technology has been in the spotlight for other ends of the supply chain, like Gen Ai with chatbots for businesses, improving customer satisfaction, but what about further back, which business partners? Traditionally, it’s the boring bit. The necessary bit, but it’s not the ‘sexy’ bit for most business decision-makers. But consider if it was. Consider, if instead of onboarding a new supplier in months, it could be done in hours to a better quality than before. Or indeed having instant updates from BP’s regarding shared product catalogues or NPD information, it could empower the supplier to have a greater involvement in the process. The right tool makes all the difference in the battle of building stronger business partner relationships. Putting this into perspective, onboarding times can be reduced by 88% and product introduction efficiency gains of 200%

Conclusion

In navigating the business landscape of 2024 and beyond, the significance of robust business partner relationships cannot be overstated. As market uncertainties persist, the interconnectedness of supply chains underscores the need for proactive measures. The hypothetical scenario of the cardboard shortage highlights that strong relationships, built on effective communication, trust, personalisation, and foresight, are pivotal for business resilience.

Amid potential economic challenges, cultivating and enhancing relationships with business partners emerges as a strategic imperative. The aspects discussed—communication, trust-building, personalisation, acknowledging importance, futureproofing, and simplifying processes—serve as actionable steps towards fortifying these vital connections.

Moreover, the role of technology, often overlooked in the context of business partnerships, emerges as a game-changer. Implementing the right tools can revolutionise onboarding processes, reducing timeframes significantly and empowering partners for greater collaboration.

In essence, the success of a business in the current landscape relies not only on its individual capabilities but equally on the strength of its collaborative network. Nurturing and improving relationships with business partners becomes not just a recommendation but a strategic necessity for sustained success in the ever-evolving business environment.

For more information about a platform for building stronger relationships with business partners, click here.