Office supplies management falls squarely on the shoulders of administrative professionals. Successful monitoring and ordering become the basis for the relationship you have with your business supplies vendor. A close, informed relationship can help you get the best pricing, as well as give you access to services, technology and support that will make you excel in your role.
Use these tips to get the most from this critical relationship.
Ask for Advice
A vendor that understands your business can offer ways to save you time and money. Invite your account manager in for a conversation, and explain the specifics of your role and what the office needs to run smoothly. He or she may be able to suggest products or services that you might not be aware of: For example, some vendors may offer electronic waste recycling, or have negotiated discounts with car rental companies and other business services. Your account manager can also recommend ordering options or account features that could save you time.
Look to Consolidate
Ordering from fewer vendors can yield cost savings, since higher-volume purchasing can mean more favorable pricing. Be sure you know the range of products that your vendor offers. For instance, an office supplies vendor might also be a source of facilities supplies like paper towels, cleaners and soaps. Expanding your relationship can mean better service. Your account manager may be more likely to recommend new products, or make sure orders are delivered at more precise times and locations (such as directly to you instead of elsewhere in the building).
Take advantage of tools or features that your supplies vendor offers to streamline purchasing. Some supplies purchasing platforms, for example, allow users to create lists of frequently ordered items for fast reordering. Others integrate with barcode scanners that let users scan items and have them automatically added to their shopping carts. If the ability to place orders on the go is important to you, check whether the ordering platform includes a mobile app. Also, look for tools to simplify budget management, such as spend dashboards or cost reports.
Buy in Bulk
Consolidating purchasing with fewer vendors can cut your costs; look to lower costs further by purchasing bulk office supplies when it makes sense. Review your purchase history to know what your office uses most or tends to go through quickly. Talk with your co-workers about upcoming needs that might call for ordering extra. Along with savings, bulk ordering also means less packaging waste, and fewer purchases can make it easier to track and review expenses.
Evaluate Supplier Performance
Even the best business partnerships can benefit from periodic check-ins to help ensure the arrangement is still meeting expectations. Have a tool for gauging vendor performance, such as a simple supplier scorecard. Keep track of the criteria that are most important to the relationship’s success, such as timeliness, order accuracy and communication (for example, about issues that impact product availability). You don’t have to share the scorecard with your vendor, but use it as a reference tool for important points in your check-ins.
Of course, your relationship with your office supplies vendor runs both ways. Be sure to uphold your end by clearly and promptly communicating any changes in your needs. Dedicating the time and effort required to build a mutually beneficial partnership will pay off for you, your colleagues and your company.