I’ve always been a very loyal person—if the vendors I work with continually exceed my expectations. Why? Because my clients expect me to do the same for them! Exceed their expectations! For example, I’ve worked with the same South Florida equipment rental company since 1988. They supply most of my basic rental equipment needs and I can always count on them to come through; even go the extra mile. I look at them as partners in my business. In the event I need some price concessions on their part to close the deal, they’re on my team. If my client, one hour before the event, forgot to tell me that they needed a particular item, I can call or text them and they will get me whatever is needed—nights, weekends, or early in the morning.
We have many other vendors that are also our partners. We treat them fairly and do not take advantage of their generosity—and that’s one reason I’ve owned a profitable catering company going into my 38th year.
Demand the best
But this doesn’t mean that we are not demanding. We must be, since our clients are very demanding of us. Our loyalty will be lost in a nanosecond if any of our vendors fail to exceed our expectations. But in return, we are loyal, pay them on time, treat them with respect, and recommend them to others.
Great vendor partners will work with you to help you get the contract. They will offer favorable payment terms. One great takeaway for any caterer reading this is: Rather than pay a deposit up front, issue a purchase order guaranteeing payment within 14 days after the event. This helps preserve your cash during the lean, off-season months. (For us in South Florida, the third quarter is always our worst quarter, and as you read this we’re smack dab in the middle of the off-season.)
Great vendor partners will get you what you need, even if they do not carry it. They will buy it, make it, or sub-lease it to keep your business.
And equally, if not more important, great vendor partners will refer business back to the caterers with whom they work. They understand that a partnership is a two-way street.
Here are a few of my take-away rules for building great vendor partner relationships:
• Be demanding, yet fair. After all, our clients are demanding.
• Be honest with them. Never try to obfuscate or cheat them.
• Pay them on time. Not early or late. (Pay early only if they offer a discount for early payment.)
• Be loyal if they continue to exceed your expectations.
• If they drop the ball, in most instances it’s time to find another vendor.
• Treat them with the same respect you would offer any other partner.
Bill Hansen is CEO of Bill Hansen Luxury Catering and Event Production, South Florida.