How to avoid supplier disasters

Always trust your gut instinct and have a plan. This is the advice offered by Catherin Larkin, PCO and owner of CVLC Communications. “In your client’s eyes, you and your suppliers are one. If your suppliers mess up, you look bad and unprofessional – and rightly so.

“When it comes to your suppliers it is essential that you do research. Get references. Qualify your expectation upfront with suppliers so they understand your needs and deliverables.”

Larkin says transparency and open communication are essential to the relationship between PCOs and their suppliers. “It is important to share certain information about your client so that suppliers understand them better. You should not feel threatened with sharing this information. You and your suppliers should be partnering and that requires trust.”

Riedwaan Jacobs of Ilios Conferences agrees and says when it comes to things going wrong it is best to nip it in the bud very quickly. “The moment I feel dissatisfied or uneasy with a supplier I cancel before real damage is done. For example, I decided to give a different printing company a chance and started off with a small order as a tester. I ordered some brochures from them and paid a 50% deposit. I needed these fairly quickly. I had to follow up with them each time and had to battle to get a quick response. They missed the promised delivery date and then avoided answering my follow-up emails. I decided not to risk waiting any further and cancelled the order. Despite their pleas and promises I decided to cut them loose and cancel. I absorbed the deposit loss and went back to my old reliable supplier. That is the key piece of advice I can give, if a supplier shows any sign of potential trouble, rather cancel the appointment at an early stage. The other advice is to nurture reliable suppliers and stick to the ones who have proved their reliability.”

Helen Brewer, managing director of the Mice Academy, says her top tip to PCOs is to always do in-depth reference checks. “Most importantly with similar types of clients and event. Planning a product launch in comparison to a workshop is not a fair comparison,” she says.

Because one is dealing with people, says one PCO who preferred to remain anonymous, there is a human element that makes things unpredictable or risky – suppliers being late, not delivering on the brief, people falling ill before the event or taking on too many jobs over a busy period so they are spread too thinly. 

“I have seen caterers run out of food or venues that are not ready when the guests arrive or certain dietary requirements not met. These things happen. It is essential to use suppliers/vendors that you trust and that you have worked with before or have a reference for,” she says. “Also, ensure you have a detailed schedule of events/production schedule that you share with your suppliers so they know what your expectations are. Ensure you don’t get complacent, you have to manage your suppliers. Communication is key.”

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