When you are selecting an outside company to do business with, whether it’s one for purchasing parts or turning over your service work, look beyond selecting a vendor. Instead look for what I call a vendor-partner.

The word vendor implies a transaction. And while the term vendor-partner is not a legal arrangement, it is a contractual one. In a relationship with a vendor-partner there are shared expectations. For example, a vendor-partner does not merely sell tires; it sells cost per mile.

What does that mean? It means the company is going to help you maintain and manage your tire program to see that you get the most out of your tires over the life of the vehicle. This would include looking at things like tire selection, wear patterns, maintenance/repairs, number of recaps, casing age and warranty.

With a vendor-partner, you are not dealing in single transactions. Instead there is an expectation of continued service. In the case of vehicle maintenance, a vendor-partner will set your fleet up in its system to maintain your trucks based on time, mileage or hours. The vendor-partner is maintaining your trucks all day/every day, fixing things both small and big. To some degree it could be considered the difference between preventive maintenance and breakdown maintenance.

Vendor-partners are looking to establish long-term relationships with you so they are going to make decisions based on what is best for you over the long term. The vendor-partner is not looking for one big transaction from you, but rather is looking to work with you day-after-day, year-after-year.

Of course implicit in this arrangement is the fact that the vendor-partner needs to be successful as well. In your relationship with a vendor-partner, there are shared goals and common interest that are mutually beneficial.

For a relationship with a vendor-partner to be most effective there should be transparency and visibility. When you find that visibility and transparency, you’ll know you’ve moved from dealing with just a vendor, to having a relationship with a vendor-partner.