Unboxing Logistics: An EasyPost Podcast

Building Better Supplier Relationships With Jill Barron From Summit Advisory Team - Ep. 08

October 4, 2023 | 40:21

In This Episode

It sometimes seems like the right technology can solve every problem. But when it comes to relationship building, software can only go so far. In this episode, Jill Barron, practice lead for supply chain operations and strategy at Summit Advisory Team, shares her approach to building and maintaining great relationships with suppliers. 

Why be intentional with supplier relationships?

Jill explains, “If you're a retailer, you set certain rules of engagement. … And when your suppliers don't follow those guidelines, it creates friction. It [takes time] to unravel problems, and time is money.”

She believes that when you clarify expectations, follow up often, and address issues—without going straight into chargeback mode—you can solve problems in a mutually beneficial way.

Communicate often 

After analyzing how suppliers are performing, you should set up a regular cadence of meetings to discuss progress and pain points. Jill recommends meeting once a month at first, then transitioning to quarterly reviews. She adds, “I need to stress here, have [these meetings] with your good partners as well as your poor-performing partners.”

You don’t always have to win

The goal of building supplier relationships is to always get what you want—right? Actually, Jill believes it’s sometimes better to let the supplier win. “Even though you may feel at your heart that you are right … that concession sometimes really starts to build trust. It will come back and benefit you.” 



Lori Boyer 00:00 

Welcome back to Unboxing Logistics. I'm Lori Boyer and I'm your host today. This is the vodcast from EasyPost where we really try to dive into industry topics, get to know those in our industry a little bit better, and just have fun while we're doing it. So, super glad you're here. Today, we are going to be talking with Jill Barron.

Really excited to have her. She is one of my favorite guests, so I'm really glad she's here in person. We're going to be talking about a topic that is really interesting and, and kind of close to my heart. In recent years I'm a little bit guilty of this. We tend to get really excited about new technological advancements and all the cool you know, technology and AI and all the really awesome things that are coming out. 

But sometimes that means that we forget and kind of let those soft skills get a little bit dusty and maybe don't put quite as much emphasis on the relationship aspect like we should. So that is what Jill is here to talk to us about.

She has a wealth of knowledge. So Jill, welcome. You go ahead and introduce yourself to our great viewers out there. 

Jill Barron 01:12 

Yeah, Jill Barron. I'm the practice lead for supply chain operations and strategy at Summit Advisory Team. And prior to that, to really kind of tie into this topic that we're going to talk about today I spent a few decades at a luxury retailer and one of my areas of responsibility for pretty much 25 years was the supplier relations, partner relations programs at that luxury retailer.

Lori Boyer 01:41 

That's amazing. I mean, working with thousands of suppliers. And if we want somebody who knows relationships, we got Jill. So I'm excited for us to talk about it, but before we do, as you know, you've been through this a little bit before. I like to play a little game to get to know you better, so we're going to play kind of a this or that.

And we'll see what you think. So are you the kind of person, if you could, that you'd rather spend a day in the future or a day in the past? 

Jill Barron 02:12 

A day in the past. 

Lori Boyer 02:14 


Jill Barron 02:15 

It would allow me to spend time with people that are no longer here. 

Lori Boyer 02:20 

Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. 

Jill Barron 02:21 

Would like to cherish those things with grandparents and things like that.

Lori Boyer 02:25 

Oh, that would be awesome. Okay. Would you rather have somebody who cooked all your meals for you all the time or kept your house clean for you all the time? 

Jill Barron 02:35 

Cooked my meals for me all the time. I actually enjoy cleaning for some strange reason. So, and I like to cook too, but I don't like to clean up my mess from cooking.

So I think cooking and cleaning together, not the cleaning of the house, but the cleaning of the dinner would be great. 

Lori Boyer 02:56 

Oh, Jill, I'm so jealous because I don't like to cook or clean. It's all just chores to me and I always wish I loved it. But especially, I don't like to clean after I spend an hour making dinner and my kids don't eat it and there's a huge mess.

So I'm with you on that one. Okay. Would you rather have the ability to predict the future ... Or to read people's minds? 

Jill Barron 03:22 

Oh man, read people's minds. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it is a little scary. I don't, yeah, it would be, it is a little scary, but I think it would be super fascinating to know what somebody's really thinking.

Lori Boyer 03:37 

Especially when we're talking about relationships. 

Jill Barron 03:39 

Exactly, so that's a good one, yeah. 

Lori Boyer 03:41 

You really have an in on that. Okay, are you a person who would want, if you were going to live permanently, on a tropical island or like at a ski resort? 

Jill Barron 03:53 

Ski resort. Yeah, that was an easy one. 

Lori Boyer 03:55 

Yeah, Jill was just sharing a story with me about how her dad took her on a crazy ski trip when they were young and went in and it was negative 20 or whatever.

Jill Barron 04:06 

Negative 20, lots of ice, and we even took a plane to get there when there was a ski resort an hour from my house. 

Lori Boyer 04:13 

She only lived in Colorado, so you know, they needed to fly somewhere else to find a ski resort. 

Jill Barron 04:20 

Right. Yeah, but even with all of that I would rather be in a ski resort. 

Lori Boyer 04:21 

You'd still love skiing. Yeah. Yeah. That's awesome. I love it.

Okay, would you rather be able to never use your phone again or never ... You watch TV again. 

Jill Barron 04:37 

Never use my phone again. 

Lori Boyer 04:38 

Never use your phone. Wow. I think that that would, we'll have to see you audience out there, what you think, but everybody's pretty addicted to their phones these days. So I feel like you're a standout.

Jill Barron 04:49 

Well see you can watch TV on your phone. 

Lori Boyer 04:51 

That's so true. That's so true. Okay. And last question. Okay. Would you rather have a really easy job or, but you work for someone else, or would you rather work hard and work for yourself, be like an entrepreneur? 

Jill Barron 05:12 

The latter. Work hard and work for myself. 

Lori Boyer 05:14 

I know you work hard anyway.

Jill loves her job, is so passionate. I love that. Awesome. Okay, we're gonna dive into our topic. I'm excited to talk about this with you today. So, we're talking about relationships, those soft skills, supplier relationships, how we develop those relationships. So for you, what, how, how did you kind of get passionate about this topic?

Jill Barron 05:38 

Yeah. So as I mentioned in the in kind of the beginning introduction, so I've spent over 25 years at a luxury retailer prior to coming to Summit and in that role, I held responsibility for supplier relations, and it was a really interesting journey. So at the beginning of my career with this retailer kind of, you know, kind of an entry-level supervisory position where the program was really about negative enforcement, right?

It was about if you're, you the suppliers didn't follow the guidelines, there was going to be a negative or chargeback kind of repercussions to, to not following the guidelines. And after a while, when you have conversation over conversation with your suppliers and nothing is really positive, they're not happy.

You're not happy. And it just kind of, you know, wears on you a little bit. You know, as I had an opportunity to kind of, you know, move up through the management ranks, whether it be that, that particular department or oversaw that department started to, you know, talk to my leaders of like, you know, chargebacks may not be effective. And in some cases they may be, some cases it is warranted, but let's try to focus on building the relationships with our suppliers versus focus on how, that negative reinforcement.

So that was just kind of how I started the passion. And I know we're going to talk a lot about kind of what that entails, but it was, it's been a great journey. And I even today have a lot of even friends that were previous suppliers in my role at the luxury retailer that those relationships started from early, early on in my career.

Lori Boyer 07:37 

I love that. I absolutely love that. There's so many things about what you said. I love that your company trusted you enough. It says a lot about you that they were willing to make that shift, and a lot about them as well. I love the idea of this sort of positive reinforcement relationship building focus rather than all of that negative kind of punishment feeling.

I read a really interesting study not long ago that was just about this and it was about when you set your own goals. That what research has found is if you punish yourself, if you give yourself negative reinforcement, you are far less likely to be successful than if you give yourself positive reinforcement.

And, and trying to reach a goal and, and celebrate that is far more effective. And so, you were just before your time. You knew it. You knew it. I love it. So let's start by talking about, I guess, a little bit about the benefits. So what are the benefits of focusing on the relationship? You know, what did you see working for your luxury brand?

Jill Barron 08:36 

Yeah. So I think, you know, you start with realizing what poor relationships kind of cost you in an organization and that can be done actually fairly simple by, you know, let's, we'll use the example of setting guidelines and suppliers not following those guidelines, right? So if you're a retailer or even a manufacturer, you set certain kind of rules of engagement, right?

These are the rules to do business with us. And these are the guidelines. And when your suppliers don't follow those guidelines it creates friction within your DC. It creates time spent to unravel potentially problems, and time is money. So you know, that, that's kind of, kind of setting the stage of really understanding that you may need to develop those stronger relationships. 

So at that point that you really understand, like, do I have guidelines? Who's meeting the guidelines? Then, you really need to take a look at your supplier base and kind of understand how they're performing. You know, I had a couple examples lots of examples over the past couple of decades, but a couple of ones that kind of stick out that where there was a kind of a poor relationship or really a nonrelationship with a supplier and a supplier that was creating a lot of pain points within the DC. One example was, you know, the contents of what they were shipping was never what they told us they were shipping, right?

So they may have told us they were shipping 20 units you know, of this jacket in the box. And when we open the box, we have 18 units of this jacket. So you know, through the course of trying to peel away the layers of the onion, if you will, to try to understand the problem, you have to start having conversations with those suppliers and through that, those conversations, we decided to go visit the suppliers. 

And in that, in that visit, we were lucky enough to see a situation where they didn't have enough product to pick for a particular item that we were ordering, but yet they never went back and adjusted the inbound ASN to tell us that they were short-shipping us.

So that's a great example of a problem that came about because of a guideline that wasn't met. And then the beginnings of a really strong relationship with this supplier, because instead of just kind of charging back, we took the time to talk to them, to go visit them to see the process, identify what it was.

And then ultimately, when that problem was rectified, it was rectified for shipments, you know, going forward for many, many months and years. 

Lori Boyer 11:47 

I love that. And if you are a supplier and you're listening what a great opportunity to let somebody come in and kind of look at your processes. That takes a little bit of, you know, you could be a little scared, but that's part of that relationship building too.

What do you feel like are maybe some of the hurdles or, or why is this, the relationship aspect kind of overlooked? Like you said, you had years and years where that wasn't the focus at all. Why is that common in our industry? 

Jill Barron 12:13 

I think that it can be overwhelming. It can be overwhelming for a lot of people that not know where to start.

You know, they may have a supplier list. That's huge. They may have thousands and thousands of suppliers. Like, how do I start? Where do I start? They're not going to listen to me. We're, we're just a small fish and, you know, in the big sea of, of who they sell to. So I think it's really about having the courage to not let any of those things get in your way.

And, and just to go for it, and just start. 

Lori Boyer 12:47 

That's interesting because I can see how if you're maybe a small company, you're thinking, Oh, you know, they're not going to listen to me. But on the positive, you don't maybe have a thousand suppliers, right? So it's a great time to start when you can get to know all of them.

And on the flip side, obviously, when you have a lot, it's easier to kind of like technology just run and say, oh this numbers. They're not performing well, goodbye. Instead of trying to work on the relationship. That's really interesting. Yeah, so, what are maybe some of the less obvious benefits? What are some of the benefits that people don't think about?

Obviously, you know, you said there may be efficiencies or gaps here and there. What are some of the things that people, benefits people get that they wouldn't think of? 

Jill Barron 13:27 

Yeah, so I think that's a great question because when you think about supplier relationships, a lot of times you think about how those relationships benefit that happens within the four walls of a DC. And in our experience, I say our, myself and my, my team that I had at this luxury retailer, they were all very passionate about relationships. What we found was our relationships on the supply chain side really started to seep into other areas of the business, like the merchants or the buyers.

A lot of times that when you, when a vendor or a supplier feels that the retailer or their partner is meeting them halfway, right? They're not coming, you know, hitting them over the head with a hammer all the time and, you know, charging them back. They're a lot more willing to come up with concessions, like whether it be sell through you know, guarantees or helping with markdown allowances when product doesn't sell or potentially giving more in advertising allowances.

Right. So, you know, what we found is typically a supplier's pie of money that they have to spend is only so big, right? And when there's punitive charges that kind of result in a poor relationship, that takes up a big piece of that pie. And when you eliminate that or significantly reduce that, and then you start having really positive collaborative conversations, the more willing suppliers are to maybe spend a little bit more on those other pieces of the pie that are more beneficial for both businesses.

Lori Boyer 15:15 

Yes, I absolutely I, I have worked in a past life in a couple of other industries. And I've been really surprised that I've jumped into logistics and supply chain and how very critical relationships are in this industry. More than in many others I've seen, and if you're not actively working to build those relationships I think that that can be a big detriment to you.

We have people call us here just an EasyPost who ask for advice all the time. You know, just talking, wanting to talk to their CSM or something and get advice like, Oh, I want to go international. What would that look like for my business? Or I'm looking to expand these areas or out of DC, you know, can you give me advice?

And, and that sounds like that plays into it. 

Jill Barron 16:01 

Yeah, we, I have a perfect example for that actually, that, that we experienced. It was for a luxury handbag vendor that was looking to shorten their supply chain. And we had developed such a really strong relationship with this supplier over the years, myself and my team, that when they were looking at ways to shorten their supply chain and potentially bring, bring product into the states in a different port in order to be closer to not only the retailer that I was working at, but their retail stores and others, they came to us for advice.

Just like you said, they, they came to us and said, we want to run something by you. Like, what do you think if we bring product into the port of Long Beach instead of another port? And, you know, you know, that you've hit like the pinnacle of relationship when your suppliers are asking your opinion. And so that was pretty cool.

Lori Boyer 17:00 

I love that. You know, we were just talking earlier at lunch today. Jill and I had lunch and we were talking about the differences from working at home and working in the office. And I think there's kind of a parallel here. We're saying how at home we can just be heads down, efficiency, efficiency, working, working, working.

But there's something about those soft relationships and throwing ideas back and forth that when you do see people in person, have those phone conversations that you do get a little bit more of that relationship building and things ideas to spur. So I feel like that's kind of similar. 

Jill Barron 17:35 

Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

Lori Boyer 17:36 

So I love that. Okay, so let's talk about then how do we actually build the relationship? You know, relationships? Where do we start? You know, whether you've got 20 or 1000 or however many suppliers you've got, you know, what are the first steps to building a strong relationship? 

Jill Barron 17:53 

Yeah, so I think you first have to understand you know, how are your suppliers performing, right?

So how are they performing relative to your other suppliers? And then you need to start having conversations with them. You know, we were talking earlier about QBRs or quarterly business reviews and you know, QBRs are great. I love them. But start with monthly reviews, right? Let's not wait until the end of the quarter to have a conversation with a supplier on what their performance is.

So start with monthly conversations. And I need to stress here. Have them with your good partners as well as your poor-performing partners. 

Lori Boyer 18:36 

I feel like a lot of people lean towards doing it with the net, you know, poor performers, the most. 

Jill Barron 18:42 

Exactly, exactly. 

Lori Boyer 18:44 

And so you don't agree with that. You say, do both. 

Jill Barron 18:46 

You have to do both.

And you have to go visit both too. When we talk about, you know, going out there and visiting suppliers. So I think, you know, monthly is a great place to start because it's a good kind of snippet of time that you can get a good kind of cross-section of kind of how a supplier is performing. When you can advance to a quarterly business review, those are great. 

My one advice there is always to bring your version of the truth to because, you know, typically, your supplier or provider will come to the table of, you know, this is how we performed for you. Or this is how I think I performed for you over the last quarter. And it's good to also have your version of that performance and not that you're trying to, to tell them that they weren't, you know, accurate. 

You were trying to, you were trying to, you know, pull the wool over my eyes. Yeah. Or you're trying to distrust him. That's, that's not at all. But it's always good to make sure that you're aligned on how you're both looking at performance. So I had an example with a service provider not a merchandise provider, but a service provider that I was responsible for the relationship.

We started with a QBR and we were talking about the time in transit to get product from Europe to the United States. And they came to the table with this, "We are meeting SLAs and expectations of service." And our report showed quite the opposite. And what, and it wasn't meant to be adversarial.

It was again, it wasn't a gotcha. But what it enabled us to do is to pull away the covers and to start. And what we realized is our like set point, our start point was different. How they were calculating turn time and the start and the end date was different than how we were calculating turn time, the start and the end date. And I don't even remember which way was right but it doesn't matter. It matters, it matters that they were different. And we walked away from that meeting aligning on what they should be, and the next meetings were much more productive because we were both talking the same language. 

Anyway, so communication, you know, quarterly business meetings, monthly meetings are a great place to start developing a relationship. 

Lori Boyer 21:20 

Yeah, I, I love that because a lot of times maybe we are upset. Or we're thinking that they're messing it all up and we just may not be speaking the same language, like you said.

And so I love the idea of going in with, with the assumption that they're not trying to pull the wool over your eyes. But like they're just trying to figure out. where the disconnect is. I talked to somebody recently who had shared that they were having some issues with the disconnect when they were dealing with some locations overseas because they were calculating things in a different way.

And the technology even calculated things in different ways. So going in with the assumption, okay, let's figure out the solution to this problem. Not that we're just here to punish you, like you talked about before. So I think that completely makes sense. Is it hard, so I really like the idea that you had boots on the ground and getting out to see suppliers.

Is it hard to get buy-in for that? How do you get a culture where that feels worthwhile? And, and how would you make a case? So if somebody was saying, I, I want to get out and do that. How do they make their case? 

Jill Barron 22:27 

Yeah. So I think you have to show how it benefits both. Right. So I think, you know, even just what we talked about and not being, having adversarial conversations and having, you know, like I'm out to get you or got you.

I think if look, no, no supplier is going to want you to come to your facility just to hear you, you know, kind of badger them and their processes. Right. So you need to, you need to make sure that that conversation with your supplier is rooted and the visit is rooted around collaboration and a win-win.

The more that you can explain to them, this is why I want to come see you. I'm not, you know, stealing trade secrets or I don't want to, you know, come and, you know, really, you know, beat you over the coals on this, on this particular situation. But we need to come so we can sit down at the table and figure out how to work through this together.

Lori Boyer 23:26 

Okay. Obviously Jill, despite our best efforts, and I can tell that you put in a lot of effort towards good, positive relationships, there's going to be times when conflicts arise. That even after talking through things, the numbers might not match up. Right. What kind of conflict resolution tips do you have for everybody?

Jill Barron 23:41 

So I think that when you get to a point where it may be uncomfortable there's not a lot of give, maybe on either side. You really need to step back and realize that you may not always need to win. I, you know, sometimes ... 

Lori Boyer 23:59 

Don't tell, don't tell, don't tell me that. Then I'm gonna have to not win with, you know, fights with my husband or something.

Jill Barron 24:06 

Yeah, sometimes it's okay to let the supplier win in the conversation. 

Lori Boyer 24:11 

Yeah, that doesn't happen very often. 

Jill Barron 24:13 

It doesn't. And even though you may feel at your heart that you are right or you don't want to back down, that concession sometimes really starts to build trust. And I've seen it over and over again.

It will come back and benefit you in future days of that relationship in another scenario. 

Lori Boyer 24:38 

It takes courage to take that step and I would think it would be great to do it maybe in not super vital times that you build that step of like, okay, yes, you're right, when it doesn't matter as much, and then later.

Jill Barron 24:51 

Yeah. I mean, you hear, we always hear pick your battles, right? Yes. Whether it be raising your kids or talking to your husband or like pick your battles. And sometimes that goes, that goes across all relationships, right? Pick your battles of, you know, when, when, when am I okay to concede and build trust that, in my opinion, it builds trust.

Lori Boyer 25:13

And builds trust over the long haul. I love that. How can, you know, everybody work together, kind of collaborate to address all the changes? I mean, we're going through a ton of stuff going on right now. What are ways that, those relationships, collaboration can help us move forward? 

Jill Barron 25:31 

Yeah, I really like this question, especially as it relates to technology and the changing, ever-changing use of technology.

So, you know, as you develop those relationships with your suppliers and you've, you've built that foundation, it enables you to sometimes get a sneak peek at what they're thinking of relative to technologies that they may want to implement on their side. And what that does to you is it benefits you of, of not hearing about a technology requirement.

I'll use RFID as a great example, and a lot of people are talking about that today. And a lot of retailers are out there requiring that of their suppliers. But gosh, wouldn't it have been great to not hear about that in an email or a press release or a news article? It would be great to have heard about maybe a retailer wanting to adopt that technology a year ago when they were starting to think about it. And what those strong relationships do is it enables you to have that conversation well in advance and allows you to be better prepared. 

Lori Boyer 26:52 

I love that because in real relationships. Because that's really what we're talking about, building a real relationship, that's why you're still friends with some of these, you know, suppliers.

In a real relationship, you don't hear about some major things from a third party or way after somebody's been thinking about it, right? Those conversations take place early on, and so it's a sign that you really don't have a relationship with somebody when you are hearing about it. I feel like it takes trust, too.

It takes that trust that you're willing to chat back and forth about ideas and feel safe. 

Jill Barron 27:26 

Exactly. And the flip side to that, Lori, really quick is if you as a retailer are looking to adopt new technology, using your relationships with your suppliers as feedback partners. Like, so what do you think?

You know, are you seeing other people do this? How, is this on your road map? A lot of times when you take those new ideas that you're bringing back to your company and want to implement them, it's a lot easier to get the green light when they know that the adoption from the supplier base will be easy or easier. Because you've taken the time to kind of get a preview of your suppliers’ road map as well. 

Lori Boyer 28:12 

So how do you see then, I mean, as technology is obviously becoming more and more and more, you know, we're talking about innovation and technology here is that's becoming more important. What is the future?

I mean, are we gonna scale away from these personal relationships? Are they still going to be a big deal into the future? How do you keep soft skills as kind of an important element of your company? 

Jill Barron 28:36 

You have to be intentional about it. You know, I think we are being, we're becoming much more analytical, right?

You've had great conversations with one of my coworkers, James on AI. And all of that technology can't replace kind of the human interaction between two people. And it, you have to be intentional about continuing to do that. 

Lori Boyer 29:03 

I love the word intentional. I love that word because, especially around things like relationships to me it means I need to schedule times to be speaking, scheduling it even to shoot out an email, or to make a phone call, right? I mean, I do that with my husband and I have a scheduled time each week, where we sit down and talk about what's going on in life, and what are our goals, and is everything okay?

Having that with your, your relationships throughout the supply chain. I mean, that's huge. 

Jill Barron 29:31 

That's right. Yes, we were talking at lunch about being intentional of like nonnegotiable time that you spend doing things for you. It's, it's, it does take intention. 

Lori Boyer 29:43 

Intention. And I think with those soft skills, that's often where intention, which is like, oh, it'll just happen. It'll naturally happen. So scheduling those out. So if you do have 2, 000 suppliers, how do you ... you obviously don't have time to have a personal relationship with all of them, so what is your recommendation for that? 

Jill Barron 30:02 

Yeah, so I think this is kind of a stepped process, that you first need to establish baseline, right? Do I have expectations as I mentioned before, rules of engagement that I need my suppliers to follow?

And then you need to, then you need to get to know who your suppliers are. And that's actually an interesting exercise in some cases of getting a supplier list from your organization and then understanding, you know, what is their invoice volume? What is their importance to my company? And then if you have, you know, most likely, let's just say you have 2000 vendors, you know, most likely 20 percent of them do 80 percent of your volume or your revenue, right?

Well, even 20 percent of 2000 is kind of daunting. So maybe it's not 20%. Maybe you break it down to, well, you know what? I can handle 20, right? I can handle 10. You know, break it down into bite-size, digestible amounts of vendors that you want to focus on. Take a look at those top 20 as an example. Take a look at their performance.

Take a look at how they're performing to those requirements and to those guidelines. And then develop a plan. And we talked about things that they could do. They could, you know, start with monthly conversations with those and then graduate into quarterly conversations. But again, talk to the ones that are really good, as well as the ones that aren't so good.

Lori Boyer 31:35 

Yeah. How often do you recommend being there in person? 

Jill Barron 31:38 

I would recommend twice a year. 

Lori Boyer 31:40 

At least for those top 10, right? 

Jill Barron 31:44 

A hundred percent. Yeah. You know, in my, in my past life before Summit we would travel four times a year to different coasts and, and visit vendors multiple times. Yeah. Exactly. 

Lori Boyer 31:59 

Yeah. I think that makes a lot of sense.

So setting up a regular cadence of communication, plus the quarterly business reviews, plus making sure you're in there in person sometimes and getting to know them. And then I think your relationship will kind of solidify and maybe you can add some more beyond your 10 to, you know, adding a few more.

Jill Barron 32:19 

Get your, get your program down, right? Like, get your playbook set. And then start to expand and add pages to those playbooks. 

Lori Boyer 32:27 

As part of that, so you talked about step one was knowing what your expectations are for your suppliers. So, is part of that communication and stuff a big part making sure they're fully aware of what your expectations are?

Because I feel like I've talked to some people where they're not on the same page. 

Jill Barron 32:42 

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. A hundred percent. And don't expect that by posting them out on a website or even sending them something in an email that they'll understand exactly what they are. There's so much interpretation between what a requirement says, between what, how you envision it versus how the supplier interprets it.

It happens more often than not. You know, we, you know, in my previous role when we would maybe develop a new guideline, right? There would be multiple people on my team that would look at it and review it. And yep, yep, we're really clear on what this means. And then we use some of our feedback partners in those relationships with some of the vendors that they get a preview.

We're like, okay, read this. What does this mean to you? And they would tell us something completely different. We're like, oh, yeah. We need to change how that's worded or what the semantics are. 

Lori Boyer 33:48 

So that's amazing. I watched an amazing Ted Talk with Brene Brown. We all love Brene Brown, who does great Ted Talks.

Anyway, she was talking about relationships and how one thing that she and her husband do is they say, What I'm hearing is this. And then often it's completely different. And realizing, yes, that that's the same again. These are just real relationships we're creating. What I'm hearing is that you want this in three days. And they say no, what I'm hearing is you want this in one day, you know and figuring out where the disconnect is And making sure ... I think a lot of that though can't happen through text.

Is that what you're telling me? Is that what you're telling all of our scared to get on the phone? 

Jill Barron 34:30 

No, no, no text messages. Yeah. Yeah. I'm just, I'm laughing as we talk through this. It's the adage old. I need this ASAP. I'm hearing ASAP. Does that mean in an hour? Does that mean tomorrow? 

Lori Boyer 34:44 

Exactly. Exactly. And we think that everybody knows what we mean.

Right. And that's where a lot of communication breakdowns happen across relationships and of course in dealing with anyone, you know, in the supply chain. So any final, I guess, words of wisdom as we're moving forward. Anything, tips you would give any tools that you would recommend people use. Let's hear all your final words.

Jill Barron 35:13 

Yeah. So I mean, I think my one word that we've used a little bit today is intention, right? Like be intentional with the relationships that you're trying to foster and develop. If you're on this journey and you don't have a team that's big enough or you don't really know where to start, there are there are firms like Summit that can certainly we have, you know, folks like myself and others that are on the team that have experience in helping clients just develop these type of relationship programs.

And then, I'm not a spokesperson, but RVCF is a retail value chain federation and it is all about fostering and developing relationships between retailers and suppliers. It's an amazing group. I've been a part of for over 20 years. They have get togethers a couple times a year and they do this like great thing.

I was telling you earlier like speed dating. It's called one on ones and you have like 10 minutes with the supplier and you sit down and you say this is how you're performing, and this is how I think you're performing and you talk about you know, how you're going to move forward. And then somebody else comes to your table.

It's great. It's great. Yeah. And in three days, you get to have conversations with 25 suppliers. It would take you, you know, two weeks to go visit all of their facilities. So there are organizations like that. And, you know, I'm welcome to you know, if anybody wants to reach out, I'd be happy to provide them guidance. 

Lori Boyer 36:45 

Yeah, I think that it's critical. Anyone who's listening, there are resources out there. Available ways to help you get going with this, whether it's like working with someone like Summit, these other organizations. So I wanted to recap what I was hearing. We'll do that. What I've heard today, Jill … know what you want from them, your suppliers, and then start up intentional communication.

Get on the ground and meet them at least twice a year, have monthly calls, quarterly business reviews. Meet both the people who are performing well, and who might be, have opportunities for improvement. And start with just those top like 10 or 20 or whatever you can do. Just don't let the overwhelming feeling of it keep you from doing anything.

Any other points I missed? You were so great. 

Jill Barron 37:42 

Don't, don't feel like you always have to win, and explain to them why you need them to do what you're asking them to do. 

Lori Boyer 37:50 

Don't feel like you always have to win. I'm gonna tell myself that every night now. So thank you so much for being here. This has been really awesome. I think it's so important for us to not get so overhyped with technology and efficiency that we kind of forget those soft skills and the importance of relationships.

So this was a really timely episode. 

Jill Barron 38:11 

Thank you so much for having me. 

Lori Boyer 38:13 

Jill, if anyone wants to reach out to you, what, where can they, where can they find you? 

Jill Barron 38:18 

You can find me on LinkedIn is probably the easiest and my email is out there on my profile. So feel free to reach out. 

Lori Boyer 38:26 

Perfect. And I'll try to link that here in the description so that you guys can contact Jill anytime with questions.

So thank you again everyone for joining us. We're excited to have this great conversation and we can't wait to see you next time. See ya everybody. 

Jill Barron 38:41