How Businesses are Blowing it with their Vendors

This is a post I have been wanting to get out for a bit as I have witnessed business after business fail miserably with their vendors.

Just so that we are all on the same page, what is a vendor? A vendor is a third party who provides a niche service to assist your company, also known as service providers and agencies. Many businesses will outsource legal, consulting, PR, web development… the list goes on. Vendors are a great option for businesses for so many reasons.

  1. They are professionals in the service you need (aka they’re a lot better at it than you are).
  2. Less commitment than hiring full-time employees. They are temporary. You can move on when you need.
  3. Speed. Lots of times, these service providers can push out a project for you much quicker than your team would be able to. 

In a nutshell, vendors can and should make your business run faster, better, and more efficient. Now, there’s a cost that comes with outsourcing these jobs- it gets to a point where you have to evaluate the cost you are putting out for the results you are getting (ROI) vs. hiring full-time employees.

What are your expectations for your vendors? So many businesses just don’t get it. Here are 5 tips to set you and your vendors, service providers, outside agencies, etc. up for success:

Quit calling them vendors. Start calling them partners.

This is a fundamental shift in how you are viewing your relationship with your vendors. Yes, I said relationship. If you begin to view your vendors as an extension of your own team, you will be in really good shape. Yes, you are their client but don’t treat them as such. You both should have the same goals, treat them like a partner. Give them a hi-five when they are doing great, be upfront and honest with them if they aren’t performing- just like you would any other teammate.

Quit relying on vendors to make your business.

One vendor shouldn’t be able to make or break or company. If that’s the case, you need to rethink what you are doing as well as your expectations. Give vendors 1 specific task and expect them to do that 1 task well.

Here’s a great anecdote from my friend Paul Klein, the creative director at White Rabbit, a full-service marketing agency: “Let’s imagine that each business is a house. White Rabbit’s job is to paint and landscape the outside of the house. Many businesses come to us when they have fires going on in the backyard and in the kitchen, their plumbing is broken. These businesses wonder why they aren’t getting results they want. We can’t paint a house that is about to burn down.”

Any questions?

Don’t hire on a vendor if you aren’t ready for them.

Vendors need your time and you need to have your ducks in a row if you bring them on (see reference above about burning houses). Make sure you have your specific project, internal team, processes and procedures laid out so that these vendors can come in and do their job well.

Have realistic expectations.

Vendors won’t tell you this, or at least they shouldn’t…So, I will: You aren’t their only client. What are your expectations of them? You must remember that you are hiring a third party company, they aren’t at your business everyday- don’t expect them to produce results that would equate to that. Don’t get me wrong, many vendors can produce excellent work, and excellence should be expected- however, remember that you are paying for an outside company to do a specific inside job for you.


This is the biggest one. Communicate. Over communicate. Be transparent about what you want and what you need. No piece of insight from you can be too much, give detailed info whenever you can. Constantly check in. Remember that part about vendors not being at your business everyday? You have to commit to having a very open line of communication.

Now, there are some bad vendors out there, and there are great vendors who just aren’t a good fit for your business. This post isn’t an excuse for vendors not delivering good work on time. We have fired vendors before, it happens. But, I see it over and over again, businesses having completely unrealistic expectations with their vendors and it does a lot of damage to your business’s reputation. Take some responsibility!

I will shamelessly plug partners that the Bristlecone Holdings marketing team works with: Influence & Co., White Rabbit and Zen Virtual Assistants. These people make our team look like extremely productive bad asses and I constantly thank them for putting up with our shenanigans.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s