Non-Cash Liquidity: Love Your Key Vendors To Create Competitive Advantage

"It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed." - Napoleon Hill

With thousands of layoffs announced each week, it is easy for fear to penetrate even the most hopeful and optimistic business owner. What will happen if unemployment exceeds 10% for 6 months or more? Do you have what it takes to maintain your business if these extreme economic times continue?

Many businesses "circle the wagons" during these times. Just like the public in general, and their employees, business leaders begin to watch their spending; make only necessary purchases, hold cash as long as possible, and remain as liquid as possible. However, as a friend reminded me,

When the market is down, you should be buying. And the market is way down. But you shouldn't sell to become liquid. The market is down! Don't violate a principle to exercise another principle.

So, if you have some liquidity, now is a wonderful time to be on the offense. Now may be the perfect time to take advantage of some terriffic opportunities.

But many of us are not very liquid, correct? Are all of your assets tied up in a shrinking 401k or a home that's dropping in value? Liquidity may not just mean "cash" liquidity. Cash is a trading exchange, but it's not the only one. Now more than ever, there are things of value that can be exchanged to help a business get on the offense during these times. Just about anything you can do to build quality business "friends" can be made to help grow your business if you think strategically.

For example, you are (or should be) valuable to your suppliers. You're their customer! Have you ever considered selling to your vendors? You're probably pretty dependent on a couple of companies. What would you do if they failed or if they increased their prices by 30%? What if their quality deteriorated rapidly? Your vendors contribute to the strength of your company. You're already their customer. Maximize the benefit of that relationship.

Rather than defensively act on the fear generated by the questions above, why not step into the battle and see if you can create some competitive advantage? You can help make your supplier the best in their industry. Take the most strategic suppliers you have and arrange to meet to discuss how you can be a better customer. Maybe there are things they need that you can provide at little or no cost. Would it help them if you agreed to speak about them at a conference or provide a reference to their creditors or within their industry or to their other prospects? Would they be willing (or able) to guarantee your pricing for some period? What about a simple press release as a result of extending your contract with them? Would they provide some type of advertising incentive or participate in some marketing for your company? Can they recommend other potential clients for your business? The list goes on.

Take some time and prioritize your key suppliers. Pick up the phone and call them. They would love hearing from you when you're not complaining anyway. Ask what you can do to help them. You will create goodwill, leverage and opportunity. You could be creating the competitive advantage that makes the difference between surviving and winning over the next few months.