Lessons learned from a valuable supplier

Originally Published in Materials Management Distribution Magazine

When I started Reimer Associates, one of the most important things I needed was a database to support the growth of the business and to function as a useful networking tool for the future. To be clear, my skill set certainly doesn’t include database design or the ability to build a functional and scalable recruitment network. So it was time to do some research and find people who could help.

It didn’t take long before I found the perfect people to work with. Keith and Warren had a small but growing software development business. What struck me immediately was their ability to speak to me in terms I understood, while obviously being extremely bright and well schooled in the world of software and technology. Even though I asked many “dumb” questions, none were ever met with anything but an intelligent and respectful response. To make a long story short, over the last 18 years the database they built has served us extremely well. Not only has it grown with our needs, but in many cases it has acted as a catalyst for new and efficient ways to work. I couldn’t be happier with the result.

As I think back on the process and why I decided to choose KMP Designs, and remain with them through all of the demands of growth, there are four things they brought to the table that remain critical to our joint success.

Firstly, they took the time to truly understand my goals within the business and the industry I was venturing into. We met for hours while they asked intelligent and important questions that caused me to think through important issues that would need to be addressed. They sparked my thinking about start-up issues and many other items that would be important several years into the business. Not only did they fully immerse themselves in the business of recruitment software, they spent enormous time understanding my personal goals for the growth of the business and why I felt it was a viable business.

Secondly, they met me exactly where I was in terms of my knowledge of their skills and what would be required to build the database. Admittedly I know very little about their skill sets and yet they never for a moment made me feel like I was uninformed. We’ve probably all experienced working with someone who’s extremely bright, and every few minutes they have an overwhelming need to remind you of what you don’t know. My experience couldn’t have been more different. There was never any judgment – just an overwhelming desire to take my ideas and build software around them.

Thirdly, as the business grew and our requirements for the database evolved, they have truly embodied the spirit of “never say never.” Every request we make is met with a thoughtful response and even if at first it seems like it’s complicated or may have some significant issues to work through, there’s always been an attitude of “we will find a way.” Contrast this with some suppliers who have zero flexibility in the way they deal with their customers; you must fit into their plan or you don’t do business with them. What a refreshing experience it’s been to be consistently listened to and have every idea met with “we can do that.”

Lastly, throughout our working relationship over all these years, I’ve continually been treated like a highly valued client. I’m by no means their largest client. In fact as their business has grown I suspect I’m not even in the top 25. That said, every call is answered within a ring or two (by a human being, not a machine), and every request for changes or tweaks to our system is met with “we will get right on it and be back to you soon.”

As I built the business I’ve consistently followed widely recognized business leaders who’ve written extensively and have important things to say. I have learned a lot from them. And yet, sometimes it’s worthwhile to look much closer to home and recognize the people we’ve been working with for years who have taught us many things as well. A trusted supplier like KMP Designs has been an enormously valuable part of our business and I’m grateful to have been able to work with Keith and Warren over all these years. Take a close look at your suppliers; you may have lessons to learn as well.

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