Strategic Procurement is a comprehensive, systematic business process to assure that an organization acquires the correct goods and services at the lowest total cost over the long-term of the business operation.

Small- and medium-sized companies can benefit from understanding how large companies approach their suppliers. Those smaller companies need to understand and be able to succinctly describe their value proposition in order to keep the business they have and win new business. In light of the continual push for the large company to lower their own costs, smaller companies may need to get creative to find ways to stay competitive.

“Today, the creation of value often requires careful coordination of activities across the boundaries between functions, business units and firms,” says Joseph Carter, the Avnet Professor of Supply Chain Management at the W. P. Carey School of Business, and leader of the Strategic Procurement section of the 2012 Small Business Leadership Academy.

Suppliers can get stuck concentrating on the day-to-day operations of their companies, ignoring or avoiding the important work of optimizing their existing relationships. It’s while nurturing those relationships that suppliers can discover ways to increase their value to the customer.

This means that just having the lowest price doesn’t always guarantee a contract. A lower price combined with a longer repayment period, plus a quicker fulfillment schedule, could push one company ahead of another. Determining what their value proposition is can be one of the most challenging parts of an RFP process for a small business owner.

Conversely, the large company has decisions to make as well. How many suppliers should they have for any one part? “Rationalize, rationalize, rationalize,” says Carter. “Rationalization doesn’t necessarily mean ‘fewer’; it just means being able to explain why you have the number of suppliers that you have, whether that ends up being more or less than what you have now.”

The supplier/client relationship is ever-evolving. Both parties are looking to lower costs and maximize profits while maintaining a strong and synergistic business relationship.

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The Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) is an intensive executive education program designed to strengthen the business acumen of small business leaders in Arizona. The program was jointly developed by the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding sponsor. Other seat sponsors this year include: Arizona Lottery, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Hahnco and U.S. Bank. Each week we will bring you a few salient points from each class as well as comments from the professors themselves and the impact the information has had on the students.

For more information about the Small Business Leadership Academy, please visit SBLA’s website.