Obtaining strong relationships with the providers your school partners with for products and services can sometimes be difficult. Vendors should truly be thought of as partners in helping to reach your outcomes at your school. Everything from the company you contract with for janitorial services to your accounting firm - are all equally important for your school to achieve its mission. Below is a list of the top 5 things to think about when walking through the process of choosing the best provider to meet the needs for your school. All providers should be ready and willing to be a true partner!
- Be the Customer! Quality providers serve the needs of their customers. As the customer, set clear expectations and manage them. Approach the purchasing process with the mindset that a provider is lucky to have you as a customer, not vice versa. Be transparent with your needs and ask the questions that concern you before signing a contract.
- Use the RFP Process As A Group Brainstorm! Using an RFP process to invite multiple providers provide solutions to a clearly articulated outcome is an efficient way to leverage the knowledge within the market. Often, in creating an RFP, it is easy to get swallowed up into wanting to define the solution, rather than the outcome. However, the customer typically is not the most qualified to create a solution. Take the best ideas then choose the provider(s) that are the best fit for your team and work creatively to reach your outcomes. Need help creating a rubric? Check out the Marketplace and download templates to get your team started today!
- Understand the Contract! Before signing on the dotted line, it is vital to know exactly what you are signing up for. Does the contract offer a performance clause that allows you as the customer to cancel if defined outcomes are not being met? Does the scope of work and/or outcomes clearly define the purpose for the contract? Do you know what your total expenditure will be? And, does the contract period align with the goals you have set? Contract negotiation can be challenging. Take the extra time to ask questions in order to ensure you have made the purchase you intended.
- References go Beyond Paper! References should be a part of every purchase process but not just as an item on the checklist. It can be assumed that any reference listed for a provider will provide positive feedback if asked how they like working with the provider. Otherwise, why would they be listed? The key to using references to your advantage is developing very specific questions regarding a process that you may have concern about. Using references to better understand approach, test the implementation of the proposed process, gauge the flexibility and drive for growth and any other concern you have had related to a process, is valuable. Insight from peers that share similar values and face similar challenges carries a great amount of merit and validity.
Check out the Marketplace next time you are in need of a product or service for your school. It is a simple way to begin your shopping experience. With easy search functions, a large selection of providers, and tons of reviews from your peers, the Marketplace is a convenient resource to utilize. Check out the list of resources to aid your team in choosing the best provider for your school too!