When a Vendor Management Review Turns into an Epic Fail

An awkward, cringe-worthy vendor mid-year review that had nothing to do with the supplier

The beginning…


I can’t say vendor management is the favorite part of my job, but it’s  a necessity in working with suppliers. Most of the time, they tend to be uneventful. Minor nit-picking of services and then a round of patting each other on the back.

So when a business partner specifically asks you to conduct a review, you can rest assured there’s going to be some interesting conversations to come. And this time, I was shocked by where the meeting took us.

To start, my initial conversation with business partners was pretty status quo. The common complaints including: scope creep too many staff members on calls or traveling for meetings, etc. Nothing shocking except for a bit of a technical glitch. Which created a bit of a stir at the Executive level,  But the supplier was sucking up the costs on the fix.

It appeared everything was being managed, so I was a bit surprised my business partners wanted to formalize the process. If they already had a bi-monthly review, I wasn’t sure how a Quarterly review would be different.

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vendor management

So maybe I should have been paying more attention to the complaints.

But with vendor managent reviews, we know that they will make you feel more like a complaint department for divas than a driver of a thoughtful business process review. Don’t get me wrong, most complaints are warranted. I’ve just heard them all so the entire process has become mundane.


So I’m guessing that’s why I missed the signs.

Supplier complaints become just as standard as the internal ones when it comes to vendor management. We’re not getting paid on time, the team is terrible with communication, legal is taking to long… blah, blah, blah.

So when the supplier complained about the internal team and lack of decision making, it just seemed like a small deviation from the same old song and dance. As it turns out, it wasn’t only a minor problem; it was the problem. And it was bad.

I decided to start with the internal feedback first. Considering there wasn’t much of it, I figured we’d fly through it. And given half of the new team were new hires, how much could they say?

As it turns out, a whole hell of a lot. Between the old and the new team, their ideas were always on opposite ends. Neither was willing to move or concede about anything…  and this was about a vendor management review.


That’s when it dawned on me…


How in the hell could any supplier, get anything done if the team never agreed internally? And I mean NEVER. The answer was apparent.

There wasn’t a single decision-maker, there were way too many cooks in the kitchen and it just caused the continual churn of work, fights, and loads of heartburn passed on to the supplier. They were on their umpteenth review of the work, and nothing had been finalized. In months.

So if you’re a step ahead, you’ve guessed we never got past the initial review of the supplier, which made for one of the most cringeworthy meetings. Ever. Because it should have been a vendor management exercise. Unfortunately, the meeting was more like trying to high five someone who was blind. It just wasn’t going to happen.

There so much internal tension, I wanted to hide under the table. Between the tangents on internal issues to finger-pointing (although in the nicest way) there was no escaping. Half the time I think they forgot the point of the meeting. The other half I’m sure they didn’t realize we were even there. And it didn’t end there.

That’s why this vendor management meeting had little to do with managing the vendor.


The supplier knew it. The Executive who asked for my help knew it. It was myself and the brand that was left in the dark. But, the internal team eventually found some middle ground. Just enough to be able to make some decisions for the supplier to move forward with specific projects.

Unfortunately, they still left the meeting with a fair amount of drama to resolve. But I am hopeful they were turning the corner when we left. Especially considering the alternative is to burn the cash we were going to pay the vendor.


Other vendor/supplier blogs:


Advertising supplier management – Link

IT Negotiations – Link

How Service Based Companies Increase their Profit – Part 1 and Part 2

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