Key Supplier Relationship Will Increase Cash Flow

by Doug Smith, President, The Woodhaven Group

The relationship between a key supplier and customer can be like family.

Executed correctly this relationship can profitably grow the sales and profit of both companies.

As you become more important to your supplier here are a few tips that can act as a guide to increase the amount of cash available for you to grow your business:

  1. Ask for and get extended terms on each invoice.  Once established you should not have to pay the same terms as a new customer of your supplier.  If 30 days is normal then ask for 60 day terms.
  2. If you have inventory make sure your supplier exchanges slow-moving inventory units for what is being used or sold the most.  This should be done a minimum once every 6 months, preferably once per quarter.  In some industries it makes sense to do it once per month.  Show future sales projections so your supplier can justify taking this action. 
  3. When the above inventory is returned make sure there is no restocking charge applied.
  4. If your business is seasonal, you may want to negotiate paying less during the slow months and more during the busy months.
  5. Have your supplier fund the purchase of a major capital item you need to buy to grow your marketshare. This may be a new piece of equipment needed in your manufacturing facility that will allow you to be more productive.  The payment can be spread over a multiyear term with a small amount added to each unit of inventory purchased from your supplier.
  6. Once you have become a major customer or “partner” of your supplier negotiate putting the key items being bought on consignment in your facility.  This inventory remains on the books of your supplier until you are ready to “pull” them for use in manufacturing.  Only then does the terms begin on your invoice.  If you combine consignment with extended terms then your cash flow really explodes.  To properly execute a program like this requires the use of security agreements and physical inventories but the cash savings is worth it.
  7. Negotiate additional advertising coop and simplify how it is processed.  Many companies offer a marketing rebate or credit to their best customers but then make it almost impossible to get due to extreme rules and regulations.  If possible, agree in advance on an advertising coop amount and deduct a fixed amount each month from invoices.  At the end of the year you can reconcile any differences.
  8. Ask for a price decrease.  You may be surprised how often a supplier will grant this wish to a major customer.  They realize the cost to acquire a new customer is high and realize your increased margin dollars over time will make up for a 2-3% drop in price.
  9. If you cannot get a price decrease, then get an agreement that the price either will not be increased or will be increased only by no more than a certain percent for a specific period of time.
  10. Regardless how great the relationship is and regardless how many concessions you are given, you need to still periodically compare prices in the market place.  If not locked down  prices can start creeping up.  There should be an understanding in a good relationship that you are always getting the best price possible.

Suppliers can be a great source of cash flow.  I have successfully used every one of the tips mentioned here.

A lot of the cash or money used to grow your business can come from well executed cash flow strategies.

This is one of them.

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