Vendors And Partners – With A Little Help From My Friends

As John Lennon and Paul McCartney remind us, friends support us when we need it most. Our friends are the ones we count on for advice and the ones we trust in tough situations. They help us succeed.

These friends are our partners.

Why, then – when faced with difficult problems in your department or division – do you call a vendor?

What’s the difference: Vendor vs Partner

Traditional vendors are the type that will sell and sell, but seldom deliver what you need. What’s worse, these vendors will often push technology or strategies that don’t fit your unique HR situation, benefit resources, etc. They apply “cookie cutter” approaches and instill little trust in their products or solutions. Your HR team is unique and so is your benefits package.

Not all vendors fall into this category, thankfully. The vendors and third-party providers who belong in the “partner” category fit nicely into the description of a “friend” as provided above. You can count on them. They help you succeed. They understand your HR team’s goals and shortfalls. And they probably do the following:

Collaboration Comes First

You should immediately be suspicious of a vendor who promises the moon and the stars – you should be even more suspicious if they tell you that they’ll “handle everything.” As you know, it takes a diverse group of individuals and groups to successfully navigate the world of HR and employee communications. You rely heavily on personnel in all levels of your organization to build successful programs, create cutting edge technology solutions, foster relationships with brokers and carriers, etc. Any vendor that doesn’t understand that collaborative approach probably isn’t partner material.

The-Key-Point Ask Questions First

While selling may be a necessary part of the process, no one appreciates being sold to – especially when a vendor barely understands your HR strategy (or worse, your company as a whole). True partnerships cannot be built when you dread accepting a phone call from your “partner” because you know you’re about to be pushed into a sales conversation; valuable partners seek first to understand, then to develop solutions.

Tell you what you need to hear, not necessarily what you want to hear

From technology to department culture, sometimes our friends need to tell us how it is. Your third-party partner should be comfortable having real conversations with your department leadership about both successes and pitfalls; honesty and accountability should be central to their operations.

Focus On People, Not Just Numbers

You understand and appreciate your organization at its very core – most of all, its people. This level of understanding should also be found with your partners in the vendor community and should be evident in planning meetings, solutions and strategies developed, and the consultations they provide. Pay attention to how they treat their people – this will give you a glimpse into their integrity, their priorities and the importance they place on personnel.

The difference is pretty simple: when a vendor steps back (or falls down), your partner steps up. 

You don’t have to be a part of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to get by with a little help from your friends, nor do you need to be a Beatle to build strong partnerships.

So next time you need someone in your corner or you’re looking for a solution, don’t talk to a vendor – seek out a partner that possesses the qualities of a friend.

“The lowest bid may be enticing, but be sure to know what

you’re getting – and what you’re not!”