How to look after your suppliers and contractors during coronavirus

Time 2:01 pm, March 24, 2020

Car dealerships have been closing their showroom doors and deciding to furlough staff in light of the continuing coronavirus crisis – but what about the suppliers and self-employed who work for these dealerships?

Behind the scenes at every impressive glass-fronted showroom is a network of suppliers who keep the wheels of business turning. These companies, large and small, need assistance – and they need it promptly if they’re to get through the current tough times relatively unscathed.

Here are a few measures you could take to ensure their survival.

Pay them fast

Now, more than ever, it’s vital that companies have money coming in to keep afloat. So, it doesn’t matter what size your invoice is, do make sure that it’s settled on time. They’ll truly appreciate it – and it could make all the difference to them. And after all, if that supplier or contractor goes under, you’re going to have to find another – but will they be as good?

Give them work if you can

Has there been something you’ve been meaning to get sorted for a while but just never got round to, thinking it wasn’t urgent? Well, it could well be a priority now – for them. For the same reasons as above, if you’re able to raise that purchase order, raise away!

Perhaps it’s time to carry out some repairs to your premises; maybe the whole place could have done with a deep clean before the coronavirus crisis struck. There’s never been a better time to get jobs like that sorted.

Might you have a surplus of something that they could really do with right now?

No, we’re not seriously suggesting that you’re one of those selfish stockpilers who are making a bad situation even worse. But every business has to have certain materials to continue to function. If you’ve got an excess of something that you could really get by without for a while, you could message your suppliers and contractors to let them know – it could even lead to them helping you further down the line.

If money is tight, can you set up some sort of quid-pro-quo arrangement?

A lot of businesses are feeling the squeeze right now, and unfortunately account balances are undoubtedly going to get a lot lower for some before they start building up again. If that’s the case for you, is there a non-cash alternative that you could offer? Perhaps there’s a service or skill that your company has and theirs doesn’t but needs.

Praise where praise is due

A good review or mention on their website could encourage others to use them, helping them to stay in business. Internet feedback is absolutely crucial in this day and age so this is an obvious area where you could help. Recommend your favoured suppliers to friends and colleagues in the industry too, and the best firms you work with stand a better chance of being around to help you on the other side.

Be patient with them

Yes, by ‘looking after your suppliers and contractors’ we’re not just talking materially. Along with everyone else, they’re undoubtedly under a lot of pressure at the moment and could very well be trying to cope with reduced staff numbers so may be regrouping, reorganising – and quite possibly having to reprioritise as well, in which case your orders may take longer to sort. Try to cut them some slack if you can. A little patience – or forbearance as the money expert Martin Lewis says – goes a long way.

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Make other allowances

As the casualty rate increases, it may well be that the suppliers you rely on are affected by Covid-19. If you have to use an alternative supplier for a particular product or service because your normal firm has staff who are ill or self-isolating, it might be harsh to stay with their rival once all this is over. If they’re genuinely cheaper or more effective, however, few people would blame you! It’s all about making sensible judgment calls and treating people fairly and honestly.

More help and advice for dealers can be found in our new section here.

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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