Relationship Building: How to Be More Than a Necessary Evil

Supply chain is often written off as an unnecessary evil when it comes to the inner workings of a company. Parts/services/assets flow through a predetermined process and at the end, an invoice and/or purchase order is cut for the specific product and/or deliverable that has been manufactured. Everyone needs a supply chain but nobody likes to think twice about it. Before you dismiss this blog as another article about developing good working relationships between suppliers and your business – hold that thought!

Before your product goes out to your consumers, it needs to go through the aforementioned ,boring. process. Let’s talk about who is in involved in those processes. Managing your supply chain is more than ensuring all phases of the chain are operating efficiently. Relationships play a critical role within an organization’s supply chain, and if they are not properly managed, ramifications can be felt from employees to suppliers, to consumers. Coming out of graduate school my mentality when it came to supply chain was that it’s boring and routine. After spending several years working in regional and global supply chains for Fortune 500 companies, I’ve come to learn that it is anything but boring!

Multi-million dollar equipment, and complex manufacturing processes are the vehicles by which products are created, but it is the people behind machines and their respective working relationships with one another that really set supply chains apart from one another. Relationships I was able to forge with manufacturing leads on the production floor helped me get my products and deliveries out the door on time. If I had any quality issues, my colleagues in engineering would prioritize my requests over others. Why did they do this? Yes, it’s their job but there were certainly other products, clients, and issues they could have addressed over mine. These are people that, over time, I forged a sound rapport with. Whenever they needed something from me I always tried to help out as best I can, and it paid off over time.

Over the four plus years I’ve spent working in global supply chains, I’ve really focused on client fulfillment, and the importance of relationships has become clearer to me every day. Here are a few tips on building relationships with your colleagues, counterparts, and peers as you go about your day-to-day responsibilities:


Sounds simple enough right? Well it’s not. Too often we listen to reply instead of listening to the actual question. More often than not there is a legitimate reason behind the question and if you automatically tune out everything once the question is asked you’ll miss out on the point. Are they reaching out because they need your help? Your advice? Is it something you can do? Do you know who can help them? There are usually multiple layers to the question, as well as potentially multiple reasons for reaching out. Listen to them. Understand their request. Respond accordingly.

Follow Through

Whether or not you’re the right person to solve the problem, make sure you point them in the right direction or attempt to do so. You may not always know what to do or who to talk to, but the asking party will remember the effort you put in to help them the next time you reach out.

Be Polite

Again, something this simple can go a long way within your organization. I cannot begin to count how many times over the years I’ve sat in meetings or conference calls and encountered people who were just plain rude. How many times have you been in meetings and when a certain someone’s name is mentioned you cringe due to the fact you know they’ll be difficult to work with before you even pick up the phone! People remember those encounters. Always treat others how you would like to be treated when you reach out for help. It goes a long way. Just because everything appears to be going well on the outside doesn’t necessarily mean things are as good as they can be on the inside. Respect the needs and contributions of your peers, and in turn they will gain respect for you. Ultimately respect is priceless, and will be the driving factor in adding value and substance to your professional relationships.

About the Author:  Nicholas Harasymczuk is a Senior Analyst at Source One Management Services. In his role, Harasymczuk helps clients optimize their supply management operations through strategic sourcing. With his deep understanding of supply chain and logistics and focus on stakeholder engagement and supplier relationship management, Harasymczuk is a proven asset in streamlining processes to drive sustainable cost savings.