Choosing A New Business Partner

    December 2, 2003

Choosing a business vendor is serious business. In my opinion, the dynamics are similar to a serious personal friendship and/or marriage. Trust and dependability is involved. In my book, Eleven Leadership Tips For Supervisors, I deal with selecting a technology vendor in chapter ten. I currently view all my technology choices as 2-5 year decisions.

This article will address three sets of questions, for a manager to consider:

  • Technology vendor questions
  • General business vendor questions
  • Political questions to privately consider
  • In some industries, the number of major and minor companies is constantly changing. As a manager, the decisions you make can drastically affect the existence of other companies.

    If you are attempting to choose a technology vendor, I would consider the below questions:

  • What kind of background do the people have who are heading up the new company?
  • Can this new product or service affect the security of my position or industry?
  • If so, why has the new product or service not already had an impact?
  • How long will it take for the new idea, to affect my position, organization and/or industry?
  • Does the idea or product make sense but lack industry support?
  • If it makes sense, will people involved with the new idea or product end up being a leader in the industry?
  • How long would it be before the new idea or product would be replaced?
  • Is my industry ready to accept the new idea or product?
  • Below are a list of general questions to consider asking a potential business vendor:

  • Please give us a brief organizational overview.
  • What is your Customer Service approach for your current business partners?
  • Do you have any plans to increase staffing in your Customer Service department?
  • Are Satisfaction surveys conducted with your current business partners?
  • What successes did your organization experience during the past fiscal year?
  • What challenges do you expect to face in the upcoming fiscal year?
  • Please update us on your goals for the upcoming fiscal year?
  • For the upcoming fiscal year, are any new services or products available?
  • What other companies, similar in size and scope do you currently serve?
  • Can we call 2 – 5 of your current customers, to discuss your product and services?
  • Again, selecting a business vendor is serious business. A lot of agreements are easy to get involved in and hard to dissolve.

    This last set of questions should be privately considered before you make a final decision:

  • Is a potential conflict of interest involved?
  • Does the vendor’s parent company have a vested interest in me also using their other products? If so, are their other products up to my organization’s required standards?
  • Does the potential business vendor have political connections involving my organization’s upper administration? If so, will I truly be allowed to make the decision?
  • I have utilized the above approach in making two major technology decisions in the past three years. Both choices have moved our organization forward. If at all possible, take your time making a decision. Good luck in choosing a new business partner.

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    Kenneth McGhee is the author of Eleven Leadership Tips For Supervisors. This book is available online at and You may contact Kenneth at