There are times where you find yourself in a less-than-desirable business relationship that needs to continue, despite challenges.  Over the years there have been a few vendors that have become a challenge, but sticking to some simple rules have kept the relationship amicable, if not greatly improved.  Try to treat vendors the way you would like your clients to behave.  Sounds simple, but it really makes a difference.

Clear communication
This is tremendously important when hiring an expert in a field you are not an expert in.  When hiring someone to do work on a house, don’t tell them HOW. Only tell them WHAT.  It’s up to the vendor to ask questions, but not at the point of confusion.  Be clear in stating what you want and if you don’t know, they are happy to recommend a solution.

Be responsive
It’s really easy to get in the bad habit of “I asked for it, so where is it?” without any distance of time between asking and receiving.  That distance, you’ll remember, is where the actual work is done.  Also, during that time is where you will need to be very responsive to any questions or changes to scope when key decisions need to be made.  There is nothing worse than missing a deadline due to waiting on a client who didn’t know they needed to make a decision.

Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate the relationship
This is a key factor in having good, long-term relationships.  Business models, markets and economies change.  We always try to approach our relationships with clients as a partnership.  We want to help our clients become successful and that doesn’t simply add up to asking for more money every year.  Always look for ways to improve the relationship, even if it means a smaller bill.

Honor your agreements
Obviously this is key.  Business relationships will always hinge off of some amount of leverage, even if it’s “I pay you, so therefore I have leverage”, but honoring an agreement is the fundamental part of any relationship.  Even something as simple as respecting your vendor’s time by showing up for a meeting has a certain amount of value.  There are many projects and clients that do require contracts and many that do NOT.  Small companies prefer to operate without the overhead of lawyers, and if you honor your verbal and written agreements, your vendor will help you be successful.  Simple as that.