Is your small supplier an entrepreneur or an opportunist?

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OneInMany.jpgWhile “entrepreneurship” is often assumed to be directly related to “passion”, this is not necessarily the case. With an increasing number of individuals choosing to step into the entrepreneurial space as a means of financial survival, buyers need to have clarity about the driving force behind their SME suppliers. If it’s all just about the money or chasing an opportunity they’ve chanced upon, these “entrepreneurs” are unlikely to meet all your contract’s deliverables, says Shawn Theunissen, head of CSR at Growthpoint Properties and Property Point (Growthpoint Properties’ enterprise development programme) in this month’s SmartProcurement.


Even though no two entrepreneurs usually follow exactly the same path, there are a couple of notable characteristics that these individuals have in common. The first is how they view life as a series of possibilities and respond to it accordingly. The second is that they usually want to deliver on their promises and maintain healthy business relationships whilst following their passion.


“These characteristics are complemented by courage and tenacity. They give rise to a very specific mindset and drive – which often prove critical in challenging times,” says Theunissen.


“For this reason, it is important to distinguish between ‘entrepreneurs’ and ‘opportunists’ during supplier negotiation and selection processes,” he continues. “Buying organisations will also need to have very honest conversations with small suppliers during the course of their relationship to ensure they remain suitably focused on their contract KPIs while maintaining their own long-term vision of success.”


It is particularly important during challenging times to know, without doubt, that your small suppliers will draw on their personal resources of discipline, perseverance and motivation in order to continue to work towards your agreements and their goals, despite coming up against significant adversity.


“This is where passion can make all the difference,” says Theunissen. “Because it is linked to purpose and one’s life ambitions, it equips entrepreneurs with the will and determination they need to dig deep even when the odds are against them or their buyers.”


Entrepreneurial suppliers will not sacrifice their vision for an easy opportunity. They will continue to work to equip themselves with the skills they need to maintain supply. They will also step-up and step-in at critical times (whether to complete a tender or collect debts) because of their sense of ownership and personal accountability.


Theunissen notes that “passion” is not an accurate indicator of a capable supplier: a considerably more stable supply is gained from a supplier who commits to a relationship wholeheartedly as opposed to one who “tries” something simply because an opportunity presented itself. “This typically forecasts how the supplier will respond under pressure and the longevity of the supply relationship.”


Theunissen’s advice to buyers is to regularly revisit the driving force behind entrepreneurial suppliers; just as one would a business plan and model. “This will ensure that focus and drive remain a given throughout the supply relationship and that the entrepreneur retains personal integrity, pursuing their life’s purpose and ambitions.”


For more information on developing and working with entrepreneurs please contact Property Point.

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