The golf industry has been tested in 2020 and found new ways to be relevant and successful. One thing that has stood out is the need to maintain highly functional relationships between buyers (superintendents and course managers) and sellers (vendors). There is a clear partnership within the golf industry that exists between those who sell products and services and those who buy and use them. When this relationship is nurtured, both parties win, especially in difficult times. Here are three ways to keep your vendor relationships strong.
1. Follow the golden rule
Treat people (especially vendors) like you would want to be treated. Vendors all want a fair chance to earn your business and your reputation in the industry will be influenced by the way you treat vendors, even the ones you seldom purchase from. Remember to be courteous in person, on the phone or in a virtual format. Tell the facts of the situation. I am looking to buy Product X to solve Problem Y and I need it delivered by Date Z. Schedule meetings with the vendors that can supply your needs and be sure to post any rules or procedures that you use for appointments and property access. Keep contact information readily available either in your phone or in an old-school stack of business cards. Meet or speak with as many vendors as reasonable, telling them the parameters and hearing their recommendations.
When you decide to make a purchase, reach back to those not chosen with honest feedback investing time in future transactions. Having been on both side of the desk, I know that you can really improve your network by supporting multiple vendors openly and consistently. This approach will create multiple streams of supply and build a network of vested experts who can help you find success in any situation.
2. Communicate obligations to all stakeholders
Make sure that every vendor transaction is clearly communicated to all stakeholders. This has multiple layers of responsibility. For example, the buyer expects that the seller will deliver the product or service in satisfactory condition at a specific time. The vendor expects that you will inspect and take delivery of the product or service and make financial restitution by the agreed upon date. You as the superintendent must function as the conduit that ensures all obligations are met and thus the transaction is completed. You should verify services rendered and confirm accounts are paid.
Every month when you review the financial statement you have an opportunity to be excellent. This critical step in building business relationships is often overlooked, but the most respected and successful superintendents make sure the product and services are as expected and that all invoices due are paid on time. If accounting has made an error or experienced a delay, take ownership and notify the vendor to work out a fair deal. It is just as important that you function as the financial steward for the property as well as the agronomic steward. Vendors will appreciate the effort.
3. Create win-win situations
Every successful business is measured by profitability, so do not expect your vendors to take a loss to improve your bottom line. Do your homework and find the best value in the market. Go beyond the base price and look at all factors such as service, convenience, rebates/reward programs, flexibility, previous history and industry support/sponsorships. Choose your vendors carefully and make sure that the partnership will be positive for both parties. Get to know your vendors beyond just product inquiries. Many vendors are former superintendents and are valuable resources as well as conduits for agronomic patterns in the area.
A sales visit is an opportunity to exchange information and literally build trust. Personally, I want our vendors to be just as successful as our club. The key is to constantly evaluate the results of earlier purchases, personalities and potential, ensuring that the results were as advertised. If you feel a vendor or product change is needed, do so quickly and professionally. People who are driven to succeed prefer to do business with like-minded people. You can often improve an operation by setting a professional/personal standard that guides vendor selection and expectation. Your goal should be to work together with your vendor partners to create synergy that improves both organizations.