Your route to the top: Cultivate your supplier

Get to know the person as well as the product. Do they have kids? Where do they go on holiday? By uncovering mutual interests, you can build a relationship beyond the contract that will produce exceptional results.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Define the goalposts. Be clear on what you want at the start of the project and how you will evaluate your supplier's performance. The more detail you can provide, the more likely the firm is to deliver what you want.

Ask for specifics upfront. Find out who they've worked with in the past. Ask what happened and how they coped with problems. Past performance is a predictor of future delivery.

Share the success. If the work they have done with you has led to greater things, be sure to thank them and show how their contribution helped steal the show.

Be direct. When they've missed the mark, tell them promptly. Be clear on what you would like them to have done differently.

Ask their advice on matters beyond the brief. You chose them for their skills, so make the most of their expertise.

Arrange regular reviews. But don't just reflect on the past. Set them the challenge of showing you how they can help your business be more successful in the future.

Seal the deal. Negotiate hard, but once you've reached a deal let it rest rather than coming back to commercial terms every time you're in the meeting room together.

Check that they're learning. Find out what they do to improve their service, month-by-month, year-by-year.

Keep your eye on alternatives. No matter how happy you are with your suppliers, be aware of who else is out there. What is different about their offering? It will help you realise how lucky you are or spur you into trying someone new.

- 'The Mind Gym: Give me time' is published by Time Warner Books (£12.99). Contact the firm at

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