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Opinion piece: How to become a customer of choice for your suppliers

In an interview with procurement expert Anna Williams, we look at the importance of becoming a customer of choice for your suppliers.

become a customer of choice for your suppliers Canopy
Each day we're increasingly used to being rated as customers. It’s time to become the customer of choice in business too.

Procurement professionals rightly focus on how their suppliers can provide them with best value and help them meet their business objectives. But they don't always think about how their own behaviour impacts their vendors. In our private lives, we're getting used to being rated for being a good customer. Replicating that approach in your business will reap benefits, especially in a seller's market. So it's worth exploring how to become a customer of choice for your suppliers. In an interview with industry expert Anna Williams, we look at how Canopy can help you become better at procurement.

The challenges of operating in different jurisdictions

Anna is an industry expert with 25 years of experience in procurement for facilities and property management companies. As an experienced head of supply chain, Anna has established the policies, procedures, and systems to manage the supply chain at various companies. One challenge is how to deal with rapid global expansion, as you need to respond to local regulatory and cultural differences. Here Anna talks about the challenges of procurement in a global business, and how working with Canopy gave her the toolkit to meet those challenges.

For any company, you'll need a simple and cost-effective way to manage a rapidly expanding supply chain across new and unfamiliar markets. For some start-ups, it can mean increasing from being live in a small handful of countries in year one, to tens of countries in year three. That might mean dealing with thousands of suppliers, many of which are vendors that operate across borders. From payment terms and currencies to tax, licensing, and health and safety arrangements, there are a lot of practicalities involved in such a complex supply chain.

Complying with legislation, complementing local diversity

Procurement teams have traditionally been focused almost solely on cost-saving measures. But good procurement should be about making you better. On the one hand, there's the responsibility of making sure all your suppliers are compliant with relevant regulations. The risks of getting it wrong are that you could be responsible for someone dying and your company director going to jail. But on the other hand, being a customer of choice is how you can make longer-term savings by building more meaningful relationships with a wider range of suppliers.

For Anna, it's important to think about user experience in each country, including responding to local diversity measures across every tier of local supply chains. Understanding how many vendors are owned by women, have a good approach to disability, or are small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can help meet your own business's ESG goals. And it can extend to being respectful of local business culture too, such as ownership by veterans in the USA, or being responsive to broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) in South Africa.

Manual processes don't cut it in the 21st century

For many companies, though, this is difficult to achieve. As Anna puts it, "in a lot of organisations, procurement is a mess, especially when a company has come into being through M&A." There's so much that is the purchaser's responsibility when it comes to compliance. But you're not always able to trust or easily share the data in manual processes. And when data is siloed between business functions, it's more likely to be inaccurate.

In Anna's view, companies need to take the plunge and automate their supplier management. Not only will joining up your data allow you to operate more smoothly, but your processes become easier to understand for your suppliers too. You need a system that provides consistency, but where you can change the question set for local conditions. That way, you'll be asking the questions that are needed in each particular market. What's more, if you can get the vendors to enter the data into the system themselves, you can have an even higher level of trust in the data.

Using Canopy to become a customer of choice

Anna has previously used our supplier management platform as the trusted master record of all the suppliers in the companies she's worked for. With Canopy, teams can quickly and securely find, select, engage, and monitor suppliers from their rapidly evolving supply chain. With ongoing expansion to launch complex projects in new markets, there's a power in knowing their local teams are only working with the very best suppliers. And onboarding all suppliers through Canopy gives a procurement team total confidence that all compliance standards have been achieved.

Canopy integrates with existing ERP systems, ensuring they're maintained with the latest supplier information. Vendors are automatically put on hold in the event of a non-compliance incident. With a trusted record of the supply chain at their fingertips, buyers and other business functions can tap into the latest site-specific assessments, diversity, and sustainability information. And that empowers the best possible supplier selection decisions.

"I feel passionate about the platform; it's brilliant in its agility, breadth, and consistency", says Anna.

Dealing with global expansion is a challenge for any company. By providing site-specific question sets, risk assessments, and integrations with other systems, Canopy is flexible enough to meet changing needs as a company grows across borders. With Canopy, procurement teams can maintain the highest standards for worker conditions for suppliers and subcontractors globally.

To find out what drives the passion for Canopy, and how it can help you become a customer of choice with suppliers, contact one of the team today.

Post by Nick Verkroost

Nick is an experienced business leader and the CEO for Canopy (OCG Software), the rules-based Supplier Management platform. Nick's focus is on commercial and operational excellence and ensuring our clients maximise the opportunities that Canopy offers.

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