Dealing with Suppliers in Your Cleaning Business
As you start your cleaning business, one unavoidable and
necessary step is finding a supplier. While you're still a small business, you
might be able to buy your supplies in small quantities and not suffer
financially. As your business grows and expands, however, you will benefit from
using a supplier for all your cleaning needs. Knowing how to find the right
supplier and then deal with them in the long run can save you from a lot of
stress and financial difficulties.
of Supplier Do You Want?
- The answer to this question might not be so much
in terms of what they sell, but in how they sell it. You might first think
of price, and that a reasonable
price would be a great motivation for picking a specific seller. While this is
certainly important to keeping your business financially stable, remember that
low prices can sometimes equal low quality and service. With low quality
equipment that doesn't work properly, you'll end up paying what you saved on
repairs or replacements. Therefore, there is more to finding the right supplier
than just the money aspect, and if you try to bargain them down to a point
where they no longer make a profit, then you might found yourself without a
supplier. Remember that they have a business to run as well, and if you want
quality goods and services, then you will have to pay to make that happen.
- One important characteristic that you should
seek from a supplier is reliability. If
you pay the price for quality but then you don't get the supplies on time or
they aren't what you ordered, then that price suddenly isn't going to be worth
it. When your business is relying on the efficiency of another business, like
you are with your suppliers, then you want to be absolutely sure you can rely
on them to get the correct products to you, and on time too. You can look into
the reputation and reviews of suppliers you are interested to see what their
current and past customers say about their reliability. Even a supplier with a
great reputation can prove to be unreliable, so this is something you might
just have to watch over time as you continue forward with a specific supplier.
- One way to find a company that is dedicated to fulfilling their
responsibility to you is to look for a smaller company, rather than a large
corporation with handfuls of clients. Working with a smaller client can make
you a larger priority for them, especially as your business grows and expands.
When you are the priority of your suppliers, then they will go out of their way
to make sure they fulfill your responsibilities, whereas with a large company,
you might be lost among the masses. This is one benefit for going with a small
supplier, but there are pros and cons to each side.
- The one bonus about using a large company as your supplier is that they often have more resources and backup systems to ensure
that their supplies get out the door and to you on time. So when deciding
between a large company and a small company, you have to determine whether you
prefer vast resources or a more personal connection and prioritization. You can
always check with small companies to see if they would be willing to acquire
resources they don't already have if you agree to give them your business. They
might be willing to go out of their way to build their resources if it means they
will also acquire a large client.
- When determining shipping rates, take location into account, as further
distances will mean more time and higher shipping costs. If you are talking
with a supplier, trying to figure out if they're a right fit for your business,
ask how long it will take for the merchandise to get to you, and how much
shipping will be in addition the cost of the actual supplies. Ask suppliers
what deals they might do to get free shipping; for example, if you purchase a
certain quantity of the supplies you need anyway. This can help you cut a few
corners financially, since every dollar matters and will add up as your
- Along with all of these other traits, you should
also take customer relations into
account. You're going to be dealing with this same supplier for a long time as
you grow your business, so make sure that they appreciate you as a customer and
treat you respectfully. Be sure that their employees are competent and you
would trust them not to mess up an order or give you wrong information. For
example, if an incompetent worker told you that there was a discount when you
buy a certain quantity, but they were incorrect in that information, then you
might end up spending far too much on supplies and hurting yourself
- Lastly, do they have what you really want? Can
this supplier offer the latest and greatest in the industry, so that you can
stay on top of the game? If the quality of your service depends on having the
right equipment, then don't settle for less, but also don't give up on a great
supplier just because they don't have the right supplies if the quality of your
service depends on having the right equipment, then don't settle for less, but
also don't give up on a great supplier just because they don't have the right
supplies yet. Speak with them and see
if they will work it out so they can offer the products you need, since you
will be a long-term customer and can guarantee your business. If you find a
supplier you that have great rates and all the other traits you're on the
lookout for, then maybe you can work it out so you can get the products you
How To Find
Maybe you know what you want from a supplier, but don't know
where to even begin finding one. There are a few ways you can approach this, so
start looking by one of these methods and see what you come across!
Magazines: Trade magazines are usually specific to a certain industry, so
you'll want to search for them based on a cleaning service. Google can provide
you with a number of possible trade magazines that will display the latest and
greatest in the industry, and you might even be able to qualify for a free
prescription for some of them.
Internet: If you are looking for a wholesale supplier in your area, there
are online sources and wholesale directories to help you with exactly that. You
can even just search by product, followed by the service you are looking for
(such as "manufacturer" or "supplier") and then add your zip code to the search
in order to localize the results. This will also bring up choices
that you might not find in a trade magazine or trade show.
Shows: These are great opportunities for you to connect with wholesale
manufacturers, as long as you have the time and money to attend a trade show.
How to Make
the Best Out of Supplier Relations:
Dealing with suppliers may not always be a smooth operation,
but with a few tips you can get the most out of your business-to-business
discounts: Business-to-business commerce is far different than
business-customer relations, and you can use this difference to your advantage.
There is typically not one single set price for all businesses that a supplier
serves, so ask about discounts and see how you might qualify for certain deals.
Some of these price cuts will depend on the length of contract, quantity
purchased, or other varying factors. You might be able to alter the specifics
of your contract so you can fit into these categories and qualify for a
discount, so always look for the best deal before signing on with your new
problems: In large companies, such as your supplier might be, a supervisor
is not going to be aware of all that goes on within the company and customer
relations. He or she instead might not know of an employee's wrongful behavior
if a customer doesn't report it, so if you aren't satisfied with your service, speak
with a supervisor or someone else in charge about the problem. The most likely
explanation is that they were not aware that the employee was being
disrespectful or whatever your complaint is about, and they will work to solve
the situation. If you have already signed on to a contract with this company,
then you can't be turned away by poor customer relations. Instead, you have to
do something about it, and the step that you
can take is contacting somebody in charge. If you bring the issue to their
attention and they don't anything to solve it, then you know that you need to
switch suppliers as soon as you can.
With Your Supplier: Your best supplier relations will come from
face-to-face conversations and first-hand observation of the factory. This
might not be a luxury you get if you are a small business working with a large
supplier, but as your business expands and grows, you should get used to
working face-to-face with your supplier. Having more of a personal connection
will benefit you in many ways, as your supplier might be more willing to work
harder for a customer they are personally familiar with.
The time may come that you need to sever the ties you have
with your current supplier, and move on to one that suits your business needs
better. How do you know that you need to switch suppliers? Look out for a
couple distinct signs:
Inconsistency: You can't run a successful business while working with a supplier that is
unreliable. As mentioned above, reliability and consistency are key components
to supplier relations, and if your current supplier is frequently late or
messing up on your orders, then it might be time to move on. If it's a very
rare occasion for them to slip up, then it doesn't hurt to be forgiving, but
you can only tolerate that kind of service for a short time before it starts to
hurt your own business.
You might be happy with the price you got starting out, but what if you start
to notice the price from other suppliers is going down while your supplier
isn't doing anything to save you money? Before jumping ship and running from
your current supplier, take the time to ask why they haven't made price cuts when
all of their competitors have. If they are afraid to lose your business, they
should make the effort to offer you the best price. If their prices don't
continue to please you, consider going with the other supplier's better offer.
Keep in mind, however, that you might be paying higher prices for higher
quality goods, so be sure to compare the quality along with the price before
making the switch.
Communication: Are you constantly trying to make efforts to speak with your
supplier, but they aren't ever taking the time to talk with you about issues or
questions you may have? Your business relationship with your supplier should
have communication, and if they're not making their effort, then maybe you
should find a different supplier who will take the time to speak with you. Just
make sure that your end of the communication is respectful and appropriate,
because if you are shouting at them on the phone or sending angry emails, then
it might not be a huge surprise if they stop communicating with you.
Advice for Supplier-Related Issues:
No matter how well you deal with your supplier relations,
there are still some mistakes you want to avoid when it comes to suppliers!
of Over-ordering: Your supplier might talk you into buying more of the
product than you need in order to get a slight price cut. This can be a good
opportunity to save a little cash, but you also need to be careful of ending up
with too much overstock. For example, if you overbought on a cleaning chemical
but then realize that it isn't working the way you would like, you're left with
a great supply of products you no longer use. Give a product a test-run before
you decide to purchase a large bulk of it.
Subcontracting: Always investigate where your products are actually being
manufactured, as some suppliers might subcontract out your order to a smaller
manufacturer. Your supplier might just have run out of space or work capacity,
but they don't want to lose your business, however, they might not always tell
you that they are making this decision. The problem with subcontracting is that
your products are now being made in a factory or workshop that you have not
approved or agreed to work with, and you might end up with unsatisfactory
products. You can prevent this by getting a written commitment from
your supplier that your products will be manufactured in the workshop that you
have approved. This might seem like a drastic demand while you're still a small
business, but as your business expands, you will want to know where your
products are coming from exactly.
Written Promises: If you have an important conversation with your supplier
about prices, delivery times, or any other critical aspect, always try to get
their promises or guarantees in written form. If you have the conversation over
a phone, just write down notes of all the key points, and then send an
immediate follow-up email for confirmation and physical proof. This keeps you
from agreeing to a deal that they don't follow through on, and you can't prove
their promises because it was all settled without a written agreement.
Questions: You aren't sure what something means? Ask for clarification.
This will keep miscommunication from occurring and you will better understand
what is going on so that you can negotiate. The more you learn about how your
supplier's business operates and what all the different terms mean, it will be
easier for you to identify where there might be an issue or recognize when
you're getting a good deal.