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Partner vs. vendor


I heard someone on the client side of the table say their payment terms are what theyarrows up are because of problems they've had in the past with other vendors. They said they even pay some vendors on a net 60 basis. Yikes!

I think this comes down to the fundamental difference between a Partner and a Vendor.

Partner vs. vendor:

  1. Partners receive timely payments. Vendors wait and wait well after the work is done.
  2. Partners work within reasonable timelines and may be rewarded for exceptional performance. Vendors are held to a strict schedule and may be penalized for missing deadlines.
  3. Partners engage with clients in a spirit of cooperation and open communications. Vendors are told what the client wants them to hear, when they want them to hear it.
  4. Partners build trust with clients and commit to making the relationship a win-win situation. Vendors are kept on a short leash and are often pushed to perform beyond the scope of work without additional compensation.
  5. Partners focus on delivering measurable results on an ongoing basis that are aligned to business objectives and values. Vendors are accountable to billable hours related to tasks often not connected to strategic business goals.
  6. You know you've received partner status when you've learned something of fundamental importance to your client's business and are regarded as 'one of us.' You know you're stuck in a vendor-like world when no one seems to listen to your ideas and your client treats you like a feckless, replaceable outsider.
  7. Partners receive warm handshakes. Vendors get handed unwieldy RFPs.
  8. Partners are asked to help set the agenda. Vendors are told what the client wants done.
  9. Partners earn business based on demonstrated expertise, business value and cultural fit. Vendors secure the work by slashing their price, being willing to make concessions and hoping something more profitable is in the cards for them in the future.
  10. Partners are human, they make and admit their mistakes for which they are forgiven. Vendors must walk on water (or tread on thin ice) at all times and God help them should they slip up and commit any sin.
  11. Partners are viewed as advisers and have their client's ear. Vendors are looked upon as a potential adversary, who, if not managed properly could cause trouble and would then need to be shown the boot.

Some questions we must ask ourselves:

Are we a partner or a vendor? More one than the other? If we talk like a partner but walk like a vendor how credible is that? How do we improve to become more of a partner than a vendor?


Are you a client looking to hire a partner or a vendor? Which holds the most promise and value to your business? What could you do differently in your business practices and processes to foster a client-partner relationship?