Quick answer - who is the most important part of your business? I’d venture to say that most of you thought “customer,” regardless of what type of business you are in. After all, without customers, there are no jobs/sales, there is no money, there is no business. You’re not wrong...but I have a different answer - vendors. Stick with me.

Vendors are anyone who provides a service or product that helps you do what you do - computer store, packaging company, paper supplier, etc… In my experience, the vendors are the heroes of the small business world, and if you don’t remember anything else from me, remember:

Treat. Your. Vendors. Well.

Learn their names. Where are they located, if it’s not local? How long have they been there? Forgive them their mistakes (we’re all human), because they will be more apt to forgive yours. It may take months or even years to get to a first-name basis with them, and you may be tempted to think of them a mere cog in the wheel, but I promise you it is worth it to have made that human connection.

Sheimein is my contact at the main company where we purchase high-end paper. I’ve been working with her for over 6 years now. She has changed positions in the company a few times, but she’s always been my go-to person. I know when she usually is in the office, what time of day is best to call her, what questions she is - or is not - able to answer, and what miracles she can work to solve my problem or fix a mistake. She has absolutely saved my butt - and kept my customers happy - more times than I can count.

Jeff and Steve run the local office store where we get studio supplies. They are warehouse guys, and have been in the business for decades. They have forgotten more about paper and the office world than I will ever know. It doesn’t matter how I’m feeling, what the weather is like, how busy I am, when I go and shop there I take time for them; I learn from them, I discuss the changing industry, we talk through new products. They send people to us for projects now, and have started carrying some higher-end solvent that we use on a regular basis (even though we’re the only customer in the city who buys it!), which saves us on time and shipping. The relationship is worth it. They have my back.

Vendors are your support AND your safety net. When everything is going smoothly, it is a transaction, but when it all hits the fan, they will be your first call.

Beth Dekker