At IPM, we manage a constant flow of people relocating from one country to another. It is our job to get them and their belongings from A to B in an efficient manner, but more importantly, it is about helping and supporting the people who are leaving their home, social networks and often their comfort zone, and making them feel safe during the process.
Like most companies, we rely on a range of third-party suppliers to assist us. They are an important part of the services we provide, so we strive for excellence in our partnerships, trust our suppliers and expect just as much from them as we do from ourselves.
Whether you are building new partnerships or are stuck in a rut with some of your current ones, follow our tips below to build strong working relationships with your providers to produce successful results and smooth relocations.
Tip 1: Build relationships
A good relationship is vital when it comes to collaborating with providers. You can both be the best at what you do, but if you neglect your relationship, you are running a risk. A bad relationship is prone to disagreements, misunderstandings and problems, and this will cost you time and money.
You are dependent on your providers. They represent you, and it is thus a good investment to nurture the relationship between you with trust, respect and integrity.
Trust your providers to be able to do what they say they can do and let them prove it to you.
Respect their time by keeping them informed and keeping your promises to them. When you respect their time, they are likely to do the same by sticking to deadlines etc. Another way to respect your providers is to listen to them. Make sure you get their feedback and use it constructively to strengthen and improve the collaboration.
Building relationships is an ongoing, never-ending process. All communication and every action with your provider influences the relationship.
Tip 2: Manage expectations early on
We all know the importance of first impressions. At the beginning of a collaboration, we are likely to be on our best behaviour and to be more forgiving of mistakes. This is the perfect time to set expectations!
Know your own expectations and learn those of your supplier. It is far easier in the beginning than later when you are more likely to make assumptions and suppositions based on previous collaborative work. Make sure you have a solid contract, but take into consideration all the things that are not explicitly stated in there.
You then have a great foundation for building rapport and establishing the relationship step-by-step. Relationship building requires time and effort, and it pays off to get it right from the start.
If you have passed this point in your collaboration and are experiencing unalignment, call for an assessment meeting to discuss the collaboration and to set both your expectations straight going forward. It can be difficult to wipe the slate clean once you have built a history with each other, but it is important to have your expectations aligned for a successful collaboration.
Tip 3: Limit the number of touch points between you and the provider
Are you familiar with the game Telephone? A group of people stand in a line and pass a message from one person to another by whispering it into their neighbour’s ear. The last person says the message out loud to everyone’s entertainment – because often the message delivered is not the message the other people passed on.
Telephone is a fun party game and icebreaker, but it is also a good analogy for the noise that interferes with communication on a daily basis. The more people the message goes through, the higher the risk for changes to the message. Sometimes the message’s overall meaning is the same, other times it is lost in between the noise. The person at the end of the line, of course, has no idea that the message has not maintained its original meaning, and the other people only know when the message is repeated back to them.
If you can limit the number of touch points the message must go through, you can limit the chance of miscommunication. How often do you go back to the source and double check their intended meaning? Do you know the original source?
Ideally, you do know the source. We suggest having one contact person for each project, and all your communication with the company about that project goes through your contact person. This lowers the chance of misunderstandings and ‘he-said-she-said’ situations because messages are only passed between you and the contact person.
In practice, it can be difficult to limit all communication with a provider on a project to two people, but you and your contact person should at least oversee all communication. Copy in the project manager on all communication so the original messages are communicated to that person. This prevents misunderstandings and miscommunication, and it is beneficial for internal communication and knowledge sharing.
Tip 4: Communicate
Part of maintaining any relationship is regular communication, which is no different for collaborations.
Speak to your contact person regularly, even if they do not have anything new to tell you and vice versa. Things change all the time, so this is a good way to check in and ensure that you are both up to date. Small details can be just as important as bigger ones, but you might miss out on them if you do not speak to your provider while they are dealing with them.
Regular communication is a great tool for preventing misunderstandings, building relationships and continuously managing expectations.
Tip 5: Create a single point of contact for the assignee
Going on assignment can be a big transition and there are undoubtedly a lot of new impressions. Our job is to make the relocation process as simple as possible for the assignee, and one tool for doing so is providing the assignee with single points of contact.
There are many services connected to a relocation and many providers involved. On top of everything else, it can be overwhelming to the assignee to keep track of the different providers, who is who, and what was said when. A single point of contact with each provider eases the burden.
Moreover, having a single point of contact helps build the relationship. Assignees are people, and no two people are the same. The single point of contact gets to know the assignee and becomes familiar with his or her situation and gains his or her trust. The contact person learns how best to communicate with the assignee, which is valuable for building stronger and more effective communication.
IPM Global Mobility manages all aspects of the assignment programme. Please contact our Operations Team, where a Consultant will happily answer any questions you may have.