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Who Are Your Back-up Suppliers?

Posted by attorney Robin Gronsky

Business owners spend a lot of time and energy finding the suppliers of products and services who can best fulfill their needs. And each business has several different types of suppliers - materials and products you use to create your product, software you use to keep track of sales, and your professionals (your accountant, lawyer, insurance broker, financial advisor). The more heavily you rely on one of your suppliers, the more at risk you are if that supplier is struggling in its business or goes out of business altogether. Vendors that are struggling in their business could have hit a temporary emergency (are they in one of the parts of the country that just got hit by tornadoes or flooding?), or they may be facing cash flow issues that cause them to cut corners or stop shipping their products. Your vendor may without notice file for bankruptcy, leaving you unable to continue in your business. Before you get to the point where a supplier going out of business jeopardizes your own business, create a backup plan. For every supplier that you use, find another one that you would be happy to use. It is rare that one company or person has a monopoly on what you need. It is smarter for you to try out your back-up suppliers before you really need them to see if they are as good as you need them to be. If you don't like their prices, their product or service, or the speed of delivery of their product or service, find another supplier now. Test each back-up vendor out until you have a second supplier for every service and product that you use. This way, if your primary supplier is out of business or you find that their quality has changed, you can turn on a dime without major consequences. You may decide that it is better for your company if you bring a function in-house. That way, you can cross-train employees to take over certain tasks and diminish the possibility that you will be left in the lurch by the departure of a supplier or employee. Bringing some jobs in-house may increase your costs or it may decrease your costs. It may decrease response time and give you greater control over those functions in exchange for costing you a bit more. Finally, check out whether you have business interruption insurance and whether it covers bankruptcy or other supplier difficulties. This type of insurance could give you a financial cushion while you gear up with a new vendor. The ability and willingness to adapt to changing business conditions is what sets the successful entrepreneur from the pack of just-getting-by businesses. Know who your back-up suppliers are before your current vendors' crisis becomes your crisis.

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