Trust the key to bridging the communication in supply chain partnerships

by | Feb 9, 2024

Does your 2024 include a journey through the complex world of supply chain partnerships? Do you have a large company in your sights as a potential new customer? How do you communicate with an organisation such as this?

This is a common scenario for many small businesses, and it’s a challenge that transcends mere size differences. You will have to delve into the nuances of different and distinct business languages and cultures. I call it the GAP Effect, and I speak and write on this topic often because it’s such a big issue, increasingly so in Australian and NZ Business.

Understanding the communication challenges

Complex processes: For small businesses, delving into the workings of larger companies can feel like navigating a maze and be overwhelming. These giants operate with a complexity that includes layers of approvals, stringent compliance, and bureaucratic hurdles (and bungles …). The complexity can be daunting for smaller, more agile players.

Decision-making speed: We, as small businesses, often pride ourselves on our quick decision-making abilities. Our leaner structures allow for agility. In contrast, larger organisations, with their layered hierarchies, often move slower, bogged down by extensive approval processes. (Translated into practical outcomes, this means that, while your big competitor is filling out forms to get approval to buy a plane ticket, your company will have contacted the client, possibly visited them, and have the whole problem solved. All while your competitor is still waiting for approval to leave their office).

Cultural divide: There is a distinct cultural gap as well. Large companies usually adhere to formal communications and structured processes, focusing on scalability and minimising risks. We, on the other hand, tend to thrive in a more informal, flexible setting that fosters innovation and personal connections.

How to Bridge the gap – trust and respect play a big role

Fostering strong relationships: The cornerstone of smooth communication lies in trust and mutual respect. I know, that sounds so old-fashioned, but transparent personal connections can help navigate through communication challenges. Regular, open, dialogue and a willingness to empathise with the other party’s viewpoint are vital.

Clear and consistent communication: It’s crucial to simplify complex concepts into clear, understandable messages. Strip away the jargon and ensure straightforward communication. This can significantly improve mutual comprehension and trust.

Understanding each other’s worlds: An effective partnership requires a deep dive into understanding the internal dynamics, limitations, and priorities of our larger counterparts. This means recognizing their adherence to risk management and procedural complexities. Yes, it takes a bit of work, but all successful partnerships do.

Enhancing partnerships for stronger supply chains: Effective communication is the bedrock of successful partnerships. If we can align our communication styles – or at least understand them – we can collaborate more effectively with our larger partners. This improves individual relationships, and bolsters the resilience and efficiency of the entire supply chain. Everyone benefits.

As we progress through 2024, I urge you to focus on understand and leverage your approach to building trust. There are real opportunities for SME owners and managers who understand how important trust and transparency have become in business communications.

As an aside, the Edelman Trust Barometer was released last 15 January and is about how much we trust (actually, it’s how much we don’t trust) governments, NGOs and the media. Once I have digested the report, I will be writing some more articles on this theme, with tips on how to turn a failing of your big competitors into an opening for you.

This post first appeared on on February 7, 2024.