Tips on being included in a corporate supply chain

Being included in a corporate supply chain is a dream come true for many small business owners, as it often provides a steady stream of large orders that actually get paid for on delivery. However, there are several hurdles that must be cleared by entrepreneurs before large corporates will consider them as suppliers. The following six tips will help you in your quest for these big contracts.

  1. Get your paperwork right
    As a supplier to a large corporate, your business will have to be above board in all respects. Corporate procurement policies place a heavy burden on suppliers in terms of paperwork. Make sure that you have a valid tax clearance certificate and a letter of good standing from your bank. It is also important to be able to produce any relevant certificates from industry-related bodies, such as SABS approval for your products.
  2. Be clear on your value proposition
    As much as you want to be included in a supply chain, so do all of your competitors. It is important to be clear on your value proposition. When your prospective corporate customer asks, “What makes you different?” you need to be able to state your answer clearly and concisely. Your value proposition must be real and you need to be able to prove it with facts and figures.
  3. Keep your references updated
    As always, the most trusted form of marketing is by word of mouth. To leverage your past successes in this way, it is essential to keep a comprehensive list of past and present customers who are willing to endorse your company and recommend your products. A word of caution: your list must be kept current and the people on the list must be contactable. Uncontactable references will reflect badly on your business.
  4. Check your ability to deliver
    Often, small business owners make the mistake of going after big contracts and then failing to deliver on them as promised. There are three facets to consider when figuring out whether you will be able to deliver as part of a corporate supply chain.

    • Can you produce the quantities required? Be very mature about the size of the chunk that you bite off – you need to be able to chew it! I would advise that you ask for a quantity that people would reasonably believe you can deliver. If you currently produce 2 000 units per month, don’t go after a contract to deliver 100 000 units per month.
    • Is your quality at the required standard? The quality of your products must be on par with, if not better than, your competitors. Again, ensure that your products meet industry standards and that you have any required certification for this.
    • Can you deliver timeously? Overemphasise your ability to deliver on time. If possible, ask your references to specifically mention this aspect in their recommendations.
  5. Make sure that your BEE certificate is up to date
    Although this forms part of the paperwork mentioned previously, it is worth a separate mention. Procurement is one of the major elements in the BEE scorecard of large corporates. They need to be able to demonstrate that their suppliers are BEE compliant. Having a valid, up-to-date BEE certificate available will help demonstrate your understanding of what it means to be in a corporate supply chain, giving your prospective corporate customer a confidence-boost in your business knowledge.
  6. Keep trying
    If you go after a large corporate contract and are rejected, don’t let this stop you from trying to land others. Find out why your business was rejected, take the criticism on board, and try again. Rejection in this context represents a learning opportunity. The advice you are given will enable you to improve your business in a concrete way, making it ever more likely that you will succeed with the next contract.