Supply and demand
As small business, Webb Dowse is a supplier and also a customer. Many much larger players than us still seem to believe in the dinosaur attitude – putting the screws on suppliers is good business sense. After all, there are few quicker and easier ways to fatten the bottom line than to squeeze your suppliers until they bleed.
Of course, the bigger you are, the more you may be inclined to bully your smaller and more vulnerable suppliers. ‘Take it or leave it’ is their mantra – if you want our business, these are our terms. There are hundreds of others lining up if you don’t want it.
There can be few small suppliers, just like us, who have not come across this kind of attitude. And of course, not many SMEs are financially strong enough to refuse business, even when the terms may be odious. The sight of that precious big corporate logo on the client list can be intoxicating, as can the illusion of turnover as a sign of financial health.
In the UK, the supermarket giant Tesco recently stepped over the fine line between hard-nosed negotiation with suppliers into blatant bullying and even (allegedly) fraudulent practices, with subsequent massive damage to its corporate reputation – and the ending of the careers of some very senior managers. It will take years and many millions to rebuild trust with its suppliers and its customers.
But what can a long-suffering SME do? About big corporate bullies, not much, maybe, except to be brave enough to say no when we’re pushed that little bit too far. And I can say from personal experience that it feels good to do that. But there’s something we can do every day – we can renew our determination to treat our own suppliers with respect.
In business, as in life generally, what goes around, eventually comes around.