Leveraging Your Supply Chain Partners - Collaborating for Mutual Growth

Most of the programs I work on are initiatives that include our client's top customers and prospects.  This can be in the form of a Customer Advisory Council, Executive Sponsor Program, Executive Summit, etc.  The role of our client is to listen to the needs and aspirations of their top customers, understand their challenges, and ask clarifying questions so they can in turn respond with a plan of action to meet their customers’ needs.

For the last year I have worked with a client to develop a different kind of Council – rather than a select group of customers, this Council is made up of my client’s top Supply Chain Partners.  This changes the dynamics of the typical “advisory” council where customers tell the client what is going on in the market and identify their related challenges.  For this Supply Chain Council initiative, my client has identified their biggest challenges – key issues they are facing as they transform their business.  Hence, the role of their Supply Chain Partners is to collaborate on ways they can help by providing guidance and assistance in areas where they have experience and expertise.  They do this because they have a vested interest in my client’s success – they are top suppliers, so anything they can do to help my client be successful helps them, too. 

Program Planning
As you might imagine, program planning is a bit different for this group as well.  The agenda topics focus on specific issues my client seeks guidance on, so much thought went into providing clear context around those issues.  Extensive planning was done up-front to:

  • Agree on the top challenges to be presented to the Supply Chain Partners
  • Develop a clear-cut definition of each challenge
  • Provide Council members pre-reading material to help prepare them for the discussions

Additionally, we arranged a pre-meeting conference call to address any questions and provide further clarity around the topics.  The call was well attended, which told us the Council members wanted to come to the meeting prepared and ready to help! 

Rich Dialogue
Our most recent meeting was just a few weeks ago – the group’s second meeting.  The response from the Supply Chain Council members was phenomenal.  For topics outside of their area of expertise, many members brought information gathered from their colleagues ahead of time to share with our client.  Roundtable discussions were rich in dialogue and members fully immersed themselves into helping our client, offering to open the doors of their companies to do so. 

Actionable Results
During the post-meeting debrief with our client, the leadership team carefully reviewed all the input, focusing on the items that were most relevant and strategic to the issues they were facing.  In the end, the team settled on a list of seven prioritized follow-up items which they communicated to the Supply Chain Council members. 

Continuous Engagement
We are currently developing Mission Statements for each activity and arranging meeting schedules, which include engaging with the Supply Chain Council members one-on-one as well as in small sub-committee groups.  I look forward to assisting in this process, helping my client gain the collective guidance from their important Supply Chain Partners as they join in collaborative next steps.

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