Many times, I have seen people from PCB shops cringe when one of their customers starts talking about having a partnership with them. Normally, when a PCB shop hears this, it often means they are going to have to give something up, and the customer is finding a way to get more out of them.
In the past, when a PCB shop heard the word “partnership,” it usually meant they were being asked to do one of these things:
- 'Sharpen their pencil' and lower their price
- Participate in a just-in-time (JIT) program where they have to hold all of the inventory of their customers’ finished PCBs so that they wouldn’t show up in their customers’ inventory
- Pull in some dates or pull out some dates for PCB delivery
- Invest in some equipment to build the customers’ new products
- Help them teach their technology to offshore vendors who would eventually take their business, which is the worst partnership request of all and has happened a number of times
Most of these requests are reasonable, and the good board shop partners already assume this is part of being a cooperative partner and will comply happily. In the end, the partnership was about the customer getting what they needed, and the PCB vendor found a way to agree to it. That’s something good for all parties.
Sometimes, a PCB vendor will cringe when one of their customers says the word “partnership” because, once in a while, their customer will go a little too far. For example, they might ask to cancel an order with no charge or ask them to help provide technology to their (the customer’s) offshore partners so that they can move their business offshore. That’s when the partnership becomes 'cringe-worthy.'
Are you a good and true partner to your PCB vendors? Are you doing everything you can to participate in an honest partnership where both partners equally look out for one another? Here are 16 questions to consider when contemplating how good a partner you are to your PCB vendors and others. Do you:
- Participate in open communications with your PCB partner and share all vital information that they need to effectively service your account?
- Offer your PCB partner help when they are in trouble and facing challenges?
- Help with a financial investment if that new project you are investing in requires your PCB partner to invest in equipment to build your new technology boards?
- Share your technical knowledge with your PCB partner?
- Make sure that the business decisions you make are good for you and your vendor partners?
- Consider how a change in your company’s direction will affect your vendor partners, and if it is something that could possibly harm their business outlook, do you discuss this change with them and see if you can help them through it?
- Have an attitude that is based on your partner as an asset rather than a liability?
- Find ways to help your PCB partner grow their business, and do you offer to provide them with references, success stories, testimonials, and referrals?
- Share industry information that your PCB partner could benefit from?
- Try to go the extra mile in finding ways that will make your partnership stronger?
- Share information about the future direction of your companies?
- Invite your PCB partners to your sales and planning meetings?
- Offer to attend their sales and planning meetings?
- Encourage the forming of co-company cooperative teams?
- Make buddy calls with your PCB vendor partner to your customers?
- Hold mutual strategy sessions to develop cooperative plans for winning more business for your company?
The true definition of a partnership is when two people come together and agree to work together in selfless cooperation to do something bigger than either of them could do alone. Is that the kind of partnership you have with your trusted PCB vendor partners? Is your partnership a two-way street?
The phrase “We are all in this together,” has been used many times during the COVID-19 pandemic. That is a great—if not slightly overused—sentiment that we should adhere to at all times, not just in hard times. There has never been a time when working together in partnership with your PCB vendor partners, as well as others, has been more critical.
If you have been following the advice about building a strong partnership with your PCB vendors that has been steadily administered in this column over the past year, then good for you; I am sure that you are now reaping the benefits of that kind of positive and generous philosophy. But if not, this is the right time to start. Now, more than ever, you are going to need some great vendors for all of your products and services that you can trust and that trust you. This is the time for all of us to do all that we can to be great partnerships.