Every business needs a constant stream of satisfied customers backed up by a reliable source of business supplies. Without either, the concept of buying and selling is bound to fail.
Finding the best business suppliers takes time, effort and constant attention.
Places to start your search include directories such as Yellow Pages or trade magazines for your particular industry. Visiting local suppliers can give you a deeper understanding of their ability to meet your requirements and help you build a better relationship if you can meet the people you'll be dealing with face to face.
Trade fairs are another option for seeking out multiple possibilities, as are trade associations where word of mouth or recommendation can open up avenues you hadn't previously considered.
Look at the size of the company you're considering opening an account with and make a judgement as to their reliability and speed when you place an order with them. Indicators of how well they're likely to fulfill their obligations to you include how long they've been in business and their size; larger companies will have the infrastructure and logistics to efficiently process orders and the financial backup if things go wrong.
But don't discount smaller, new businesses as their eagerness to build their reputation will fire their determination to pull out stops for you. Also consider the suppliers reputation. Are other companies who use them satisfied with the service they receive?
If possible, find two or more alternative suppliers as occasionally bad things happen. If your preferred supplier lets you down you'll need a backup if you're to avoid letting down your own customers in turn.
Price Versus Quality
While you definitely want to get the best price you can for the business supplies you're buying, you need to balance the price you negotiate with the level of service you can expect. The company that offers the cheapest price may not offer the quality you want in the areas of either contract terms or product reliability.
Low level products may seem a bargain in the beginning, but if they end up costing you time and money in returned items and customer support your overall costs become higher. Even worse, the cheaper option may lose you customers and reputation if your supplies fall below expected standards.
Similarly, if the company that supplies the best quality product also fails to deliver on time, or sends out the wrong items, you may be left with outstanding orders you can't fulfill.
Finding the best suppliers is a balancing act and a judgement call that can't be hurried.
Treat finding suppliers as an ongoing exercise that's constantly on the back burner. Business changes rapidly, and the company you've successfully dealt with to date may let you down in the future.
Having other options not only gives you a backup should the worst happen, it also gives you leverage when it comes to negotiating terms and prices with your preferred supplier.
Ongoing supplier research also gives you an added bonus: it keeps you up to date on your competition.