Activate your force multipliers, deliver change with supplier engagement

At the heart of all we do at S4RB is a belief that supplier engagement enables brand owners and their suppliers, to achieve more, together, on-time and right first time. And therefore, I found myself in a discussion with one of the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software-providers we work with and he asked me “Why is supplier engagement so important to deliver change?”

My answer was in two parts. 

Suppliers are a ‘force multiplier’

The first, is that every private brand team (or indeed any team) is resource constrained. It is a commercial reality. And therefore, if you can enable and empower suppliers, they become an extension of your team. They are your producers. They are you developers. They have the domain expertise in their product or category. And so, we draw many parallels between supplier engagement and associated engagement. In recent decades we have seen most companies transform their associate engagement to better empower their teams. Better communication. Better support. Transparency and visibility around performance. Supplier engagement applies the same philosophy to your suppliers. Here at S4RB we champion the three pillars of supplier engagement: communication, transparency and support. From a supplier’s perspective: what are we doing and why? (Communication). How am I doing against those objectives? (Transparency). And how can I improve? (Support).

As one client put it, “supplier engagement means that suppliers are a ‘force multiplier’ to deliver operational efficiency and to deliver change”.

Be inclusive, that means 100% of your suppliers

The second part to my answer was about inclusion. Supplier engagement is about all of your suppliers. I appreciate that many organisations will use Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) methodologies to focus on the top N% of suppliers, or retailers will tier suppliers. And that can be an important part of a broader supplier engagement strategy.  But to enable successful supplier engagement, you need to enable all of your suppliers.

If you make a commitment to have no artificial ingredients in your private brand products by a certain date, then this means all of your products. And therefore, you need to engage all of your suppliers in that project or initiative. 

If you commit to 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging on your private brands, then this means all of your products. And therefore, you need to engage all of your suppliers in that project or initiative. 

It may seem like I am stating the obvious, but many organisations will often pareto the impact and start with the largest suppliers or the largest range (which in itself is not an issue). But businesses cannot reach the objective unless all suppliers are on the journey.

Want to understand more about the benefits of engaging suppliers in your change and transformation journey? Read our white paper and enable your force multipliers: "The Supplier Engagement Imperative for Transforming Private Brands". 

James Butcher

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