Notes from the first afternoon session on developing library vendor relationships.
Scott Hargrove, Jeff Narver, FVRL
How to develop a relationship of trust, mutual respect, and partnership.
You’re the customer, you can do whatever you want. Vendors are an integral part of a library’s business.
Goal of the Presentation
- define and enhance optimal vendor/library relationships.
- confidence in working with vendors.
- asking the right questions
- managing expectations
- true partnerships: Vendors should be seen as partners of providing services. Should each want success of the other.
Relationship Stages Vendor
Similar to personal relationship stages.
- Romance and Promise
- Settling Down
- Rebellion and Power Struggles
- Reconciliation and Renewal
Stage One: Dating
- understanding what you want
- understanding who you are
- what are you looking for? produce/process improvement/technology, vendor, rep
- anxiety and jitters are natural
- sometimes need to understand, people need to vent past baggage
Stage Two: Romance and Promise
- who does what? roles and responsibilities
- understand that sometimes speak in different “languages”
- expectations: are you making my life easier/better?
- fear: can be hard to articulate expectations, concerns; afraid not getting the right thing, work into future, etc.
- conquered by understanding what you want, asking peers, relationship of trust
- suggest bringing in vendors at the right time
- you’re the expert on your own business: tell them what you want done, and let them come up with the solution
- should expect vendor to know the library as well or better than you do
Stage Three: Settling Down
- don’t assume: reaffirm needs and wants
- clear communication, and have communication structures in place
- review expectations and ensure meeting requirements
- meet the “family”: bring staff in early by giving overview and then to vendor meeting; vendor should bring appropriate staff at the right times: technical, sales, IT, marketing, management
- sometimes it’s the little things: remember special events, interests change over time
Stage Four: Rebellion and Power Struggles
- challenges are opportunity to review relationship
- revising expectations
- conflicts can build stronger relationship
- good partners will stick around and make it work
- staff change will create tension
- need to make sure things are stating things clearly
- if vendors don’t hear, often assume nothing wrong.
- want vendors who regularly check in
- ask about what is coming down the line in short term: if good vendor, will tell you
- generally have to go to market every 5-7 years
- how to keep loyal: example: vendor suggested using RFP from another library
- vendor might be able to provide services not known for: art, legal, purchasing (RFP)
- modern alternatives e.g. EOI
- should there be such a thing as loyalty? should earn the right to work with the library
Stage Five: Reconciliation and Renewal
- use your consumer experiences as a guide
- project post-mortem/regular reviews
- need to involve vendor in reviews and post-mortems. Vendors are experts in this area.
- only limited by the creativity of your organization: ask for what you want, ask for the moon/sun
- attend vendor events, vendor should reciprocate and attend special events
- it is all about trust
- mutual support
- manage expectations
- first mover advantage
- don’t assume