When COVID and a thunderstorm threatened to derail our 2020 outdoor recital, a vendor stepped up to save the day.
As general manager of Dance It Up with Music in Hamilton, New Jersey, I understand how the circumstances of that day could have left us scrambling. Yet our stage vendor—who we have worked with successfully for 15 years—called us proactively with an alternative plan. Together we readied an indoor facility that had room for our audience to socially distance, and the show went on without a hitch. Our students’ hard work was celebrated, and the whole experience left our families feeling well served.
From costumes to flooring to recital gifts, every purchase from a vendor is a relationship opportunity. Their good service grows your loyalty, which in turn supports the vendor financially, which in turn encourages the vendor to offer a level of quality, professionalism, and integrity that underpins the entire dance education industry.
Since vendor relationships are key to our industry ecosystem and our success is interdependent, how do we cultivate strong bonds? A mutually beneficial experience starts with some thought about why you are choosing a particular vendor, how that relationship will look, and why you want to maintain it.
Pick the right vendors
Select vendors that match the level of service excellence that you provide your clientele. If you feel it’s important for your customers to speak to a real human on the phone, you might support companies that provide stellar customer service support lines. If you pride yourself on delivering your students’ dancewear needs with lightning speed, then find a local vendor or one that offers expedited shipping.
Remember that the vendors you choose are a direct reflection of the product you provide. When something goes amiss, parents connect it back to you, even if the error was out of your control. Negative ripples are real, so it’s worth your time to vet vendors before working with them.
When considering a new vendor, test out smaller quantity orders, take a look at past reviews, and use their product or service first on a smaller group within your studio, rather than the entire student body. Employing a trial-and-error approach will lower your risk as you seek out products and service that fit your needs. It works the same way trial classes do—both the studio and the potential student are looking to learn a bit about each other before a full commitment.
Steer clear of red flags such as poor communication, and consider important variables like turnaround time, products offered, and bulk discounts.
Vendors play a major role in your business’ success, so take care to maintain a positive attitude. Just like with friendship, a pleasant vendor-studio relationship requires mutual understanding and respect. If you provide ample lead time, follow their processes, and pay on time, your studio will quickly become one of the vendor’s favorites.
Communicate with vendors with the same respect you desire from studio parents. Last season one of our vendors struggled with uncontrollable circumstances and was unable to fulfill an order by the anticipated date due. The contract allowed us to cancel, but we chose to hold firm and communicate the reason for the delay to parents. The vendor was grateful, parents saw us showing empathy, and our studio strengthened connections with both.
Support the industry
Former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan said it best: “Every successful individual knows that his or her achievement depends on a community of persons working together.”
For non-dance purchases such as rubber wristbands or drawstring bags, consider supporting a company within the dance industry. Your business and their business keep the dance ecosystem thriving. Reach out to your usual suppliers to see if they offer these items or services—you might be happily surprised.
It’s good to also note that frequenting the same trusted vendors allows you to reduce complexity and (possibly!) save money. You know you can rely on the quality of the product and/or service. In this way your business builds capacity for when it’s time to order again next year.
Through careful decision making, professionalism, and positivity, you can grow your vendor relationships and eliminate future headaches. When you give your business to trusted companies, benefits abound: better products, great service, saved time, streamlined processes, less stress.