The Third Man
People like people. No matter how much one might hold a sense of distrust towards mankind or a misanthropic attitude regarding civilization, even the hardest cynics need partners and friends. People are social animals; they need to have some support from other individuals.
When someone decides to enter the business world as an entrepreneur, there is a tendency to get defensive in the process. This is understandable, as most rookie business types do not want to make mistakes thanks to bad partnerships. There’s often no room for the “one eye open, one eye shut” philosophy in one’s own business; both eyes have to be open at all times.
But there’s a certain amount of dexterity business pros need to have to keep their relationships with others in business both proper and professional. This is particularly the case in product fulfillment, in which you will have to make partnerships with others, as well as know how to manage them correctly.
In product fulfillment, there are all kinds of third parties you are going to be dealing with. It’s not so much their jobs you have to worry about—it’s keeping tabs on the pros themselves, to make sure they do the best job they can. It’s not hard to do; however, it requires some preliminary investigation.
A lot of online pros noticed that when e-business took off over a decade ago, there were some people who were all talk and no walk, saying how great they were and then failing to deliver. As a result, those people messed up their businesses. Product fulfillment pros don’t have to worry about this, provided they check the external party’s credentials.
Third-party fulfillment for one’s own product fulfillment business can be outsourced through a variety of avenues. Typically, warehousing companies and on-demand printing services are the most common, as many product fulfillment pros can’t house those services at their own locations and have to use other parties such as these to help them out. If you go looking for these folks to assist you, be sure to see how good they are before forming a partnership with them.
First, check recommendations, as the really good third-party fulfillment sources have clients who will vouch for them. Second, check their background. You don’t have to play Sherlock Holmes here, but you should see if they have any official certification or award-winning accolades to show for their stated abilities. If they are good at printing under pressure, or store goods under tight security but with easy access for their clients, they might be the real deal. In both of these stages, be sure to check around a lot. As you may have seen from your last convention or networking event, there is a lot of business-to-business marketing going on out there, so you have to check around to see who has the reputation and solid pricing you need for your business.
There’s actually a third component to third-party fulfillment, one that sometimes gets forgotten by a lot of pros: keeping the good ones. There are lots of pros who have fallouts over petty disputes or a failure to realize how good their relationships were. For example, if you have e-fulfillment services that are working for you that might be a little more costly than their competitors, think long and hard before abandoning them—they might be good for a reason, price included.
While it’s unfortunate that there is a shortage of great services out there to employ for product fulfillment, knowing when to hold on to the good ones will keep strong bonds and business success working for everyone for a long time.
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