Peter Hancock, chief executive of luxury hotel marketing consortiumPride of Britain Hotels, says building good relationships with your suppliers isn't just good business; it also minimises your chances of being let down
Would you make the same effort to retain a regular supplier as you would to hang on to a key member of staff? And if not, why not?
For some reason, outside suppliers are often seen as more easily replaceable and therefore of less value than the people who surround us every day. They come and go when it suits them. They cosy up to our competitors. They make profits out of us. Some of them even have the gall to raise their prices in a recession.
I do not argue that every company deserves to be showered with love and appreciation. We've all been let down by tradesmen at one time or another and it's no bad thing to look at alternatives in the quest for maximum value.
Just imagine for a minute, though, that we treated payroll staff in the same way. "Don't bother coming tomorrow, Pete; we're going to try a new gardener - he wears a nicer-looking hat" or "Sorry Pete, another waiter's willing to work for 50p an hour less than you. Cheerio". We'd be in court quicker than you could say "employment tribunal".
Yet this is exactly what we do to wine merchants, butchers, commercial laundries and countless other suppliers all the time. I've done it myself.
Building a relationship in which each party trusts and respects the other isn't just good business, it also saves time and minimises the chances of being let down. At Pride of Britain we have a foot in both camps because a handful of leading suppliers give us financial support, with very few demands made in return. They are recognised by the members as equal stakeholders in the consortium.
Of course everyone expects good value and excellent service - that's how it should be. But I now see a growing interest from customers in where things have come from, be it cheese, linen, marmalade or works of art. To keep one step ahead of the competition we need to hang on to the best suppliers of these things. They may not always be the cheapest. But then again… are we?