As a Footwear Buyer I deal with a variety of people everyday and dealing with people effectively is crucial to success. Not only do I need to manage my relationships at the office, I also need to effectively manage my relationships with my vendors. No one role is more important than the other and most times ego can get in the way of furthering a working relationship. I’ve heard horror stories of “buyers” that act like royalty and make unrealistic demands of their vendors and it’s very one-sided. This isn’t the type of relationship that lasts and it can be detrimental to your reputation. My relationship between me and my vendors are of the outmost importance and it’s the most significant factor in whether I accomplish my goals and become a success. I develop good vendor relations by making sure there is an equal level of respect, that communication flows both ways, I constantly work on building trust and I try to keep things light and fun.”The single most important ingredient in the formula for success is knowing how to get along with people.” - Teddy Roosevelt
Respect is earned and it comes with time. Most of the vendors I deal with have been in the business for 15 + years and as a Buyer (a newbie of 5 years) it’s important to me that they see me as their equal and vice versa. I treat them the way I like to be treated and building this trust factor is a large part of earning respect. I can tell you from experience, the biggest mistake a person in my position can make is thinking that they have the power seat all the time. I always try my hardest to give vendors some of my time, I always return calls and/or emails and I make sure I maintain a rapport with them.
Effective communication is not only about actively talking but it’s about actively listening. The buying and selling process is about building rapport and the sharing and exchange of information. It’s up to both parties to ask each other the right questions and somewhere amongst the conversation will be information to help both of us with our business decisions. You’ll be surprised, when you listen more you tend to be the one that gets more out of the conversation.
Trust is the cornerstone in any vendor and buyer relationship and like respect, it is built over time. Especially when meeting new vendors and working together for the first time, I find it beneficial to discuss what expectations and end goals we both have of our working relationship. As time passes and expectations are continually met, the trust will just continue to grow stronger and stronger.
Regardless of what you think, we live in a small world and the fashion industry is even smaller. Be sure to maintain good relations and try not to burn bridges. One piece of advice I will always remember that was given to me by an old boss, “Always say hello to everyone on the way up as you’ll definitely see them again on the way down.” Relationships are never difficult, people are and just remember that we are all human. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes from time to time. I’ve alway said that what I do for a living is not brain surgery and I try not to take myself too seriously. I find that my “light” and humorous attitude is a major reason why I get a long so well with the people I work with. During even the most difficult times in business, if we can all insert some “fun” here –> ” ___” every once in a while, we can all build longer lasting, quality relationships that can be beneficial to both parties.
Sunny Shum, Footwear Buyer for Sterling Shoes Inc, Blogger & Your Industry Insider | Follow me @partly_sunny
Please visit www.styleninetofive.com for more of my articles.
*Photo Credit Credit: Paul Melo, www.stylequotient.ca