The ability to find and build a top-notch international supplier team can be the make-or-break key to the success of any business.  Choosing well helps ensure you protect and enhance your reputation and ability to deliver; choosing poorly almost guarantees significant financial and operational distress.

Nobody ever said that sourcing is easy.  When you are half a world away from a potential supplier, how do you find the confidence to begin a relationship that could impact your reputation and your profitability?

The trick is to develop a strategy and a plan for vetting that will mitigate risk and provide you with a clear and accurate picture of your sourcing target.  Relying on search engines that seek to pair companies with potential suppliers may be a first step, but internet searches can be as dicey as dating services.  On the surface they look spectacular, but you’ll need to do a lot of courting before you propose a permanent relationship.

At ICAT Logistics Detroit, we begin by tapping into our international network – companies and individuals we rely on as partners and advocates who represent us in markets around the world.  We listen to their advice and ask for feedback about firms they have dealt with.  But that’s just a start.

From there we follow a checklist that begins to provide us with the information we need to determine if we’ve found a supplier worthy of our business:

Financial Due Diligence:  Check credit reports, online reviews and news reports.  Does the supplier have a clean reputation, a strong balance sheet and ample cash flow?

Structure, Size and Management Team: Are you looking for a large supplier who does it all, or a smaller supplier who will provide custom service?  The experience and philosophy of the management team —often stated on the company’s website — and the company’s structure may begin to define how you will interact.

Ability to Communicate:  Is this a team that shares information freely — the kind of people who will keep you in the loop no matter what?  You can only determine so much by telephone or video conference.  The next step is critical.

A Face-to-Face Meeting:  If the relationship is important enough, a face-to-face meeting at the target’s facility will provide the best information and is essential for helping you to answer the important questions that remain.  Is the company well organized or chaotic?  Is the facility convenient to transportation?  Is the team transparent about its strengths and weaknesses?  Do employees seem competent,  cooperative and proud of the products or services they provide?  Do you share the management team’s philosophy on customer service, safety and fairness?

At ICAT Logistics Detroit, we have learned during the past 25 years that taking shortcuts when you are vetting a new supplier is risky business.

We want to learn from our supplier partners, share our experience with them and develop the kinds of relationships that last.  No relationship is perfect, but trust and good communication, combined with a deep and shared understanding of capabilities and expectations makes for valuable, long-lasting and profitable partnerships.

We’re your custom shipping resource. Solutions to our customers’ most challenging issues are derived from decades of success in global logistics.