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Your Supplier Is Your Friend You must establish good relationships with suppliers to keep your business stocked with success.

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Reliability is the key factor to look for in suppliers. Goodsuppliers will steer you toward hot-selling items, increasing yoursales. If you build a good relationship and your business isprofitable for them, suppliers may be willing to bail you out whenyour customers make difficult demands.

Remember, though, that suppliers are in business to make money.If you go to the mat with them on every bill, ask them to shaveprices on everything they sell to you, or fail to pay your billspromptly, don't be surprised when they stop calling.

As a new business owner, you can't expect to receive thesame kind of attention a long-standing customer gets right off thebat. Over time, however, you can develop excellent workingrelationships that will be profitable for both you and yoursuppliers.

Once you have compiled a list of possible suppliers, ask forquotes or proposals, complete with prices, available discounts,delivery terms and other important factors. Don't just considerthe terms; investigate the potential supplier's financialcondition, too. Ask for customer references; call them and find outhow well the supplier has performed. If there have been anyproblems, ask for details about how they were reconciled. Everysupplier relationship hits bumps now and then; the key is to knowhow the rough spots were handled. Was the supplier prompt andhelpful in resolving the problem, or defensive anduncooperative?

Be open, courteous and firm with your suppliers, and they willrespond in kind. Tell them what you need and when you need it. Havea specific understanding about the total cost, and expect deliveryon schedule. Keep in constant communication with your suppliersabout possible delays, potential substitutions for materials orproduct lines, production quality, product improvements or newproduct introductions and potential savings.

Suppliers often establish a minimum order for merchandise, andthis minimum may be higher for first orders to cover the cost ofsetting up a new store account. Some suppliers also demand aminimum number of items per order.

Excerpted from Start Your Own Business: The Only Start-UpBook You'll Ever Need, by Rieva Lesonsky and the staff ofEntrepreneur magazine

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