How to Keep Your Vendor Relationships Ethical
The way our work/life balance has morphed into a work/life blend has also allowed for vendors we work with professionally to become personal friends. It’s more important than ever to proceed with caution regarding ethical concerns in vendor relationships. IREM specifically refers to preferred vendors as Friends of IREM. IREM views these members as friends because of the critical services they can offer to make members’ jobs easier. The ideal relationship between you and your vendors is one in which each can serve the other’s interests for a long-term relationship. However, the pressure to win or maintain contracts can lead to ethical nightmares if not properly managed.
- Read your company’s policy regarding vendor relations.
Familiarize yourself with your company’s policy regarding vendor relations including past, current and future jobs. Your priority is to make sure that you are following the company’s wishes. If there’s no policy in place, get written clarification from management as to how vendor relationships should be handled.
- Ensure that all vendors receive the same information.
Deliver a scope of work to the vendors to ensure that all companies selected for the process are pricing the same items. Host a formal walk thru where all vendors are present at the same time so that all vendors can receive the same information. When questions are asked via email or individual visits important information can slip thru the cracks. Additionally, with individual on-site visit you might demonstrate biases that you are unaware of.
- Retain professional relations while doing business with vendors
One of the most prominent ethical issues in vendor relationships occurs when you or someone on your staff has a familiar or personal relationship with the vendor. All personal relationships with vendors should be disclosed, and nobody on your staff should engage in vendor relations if they have such a personal relationship on the other side of the negotiation.
If you are unable to maintain that professionalism, remove yourself from the situation by disclosing the details to another member of your team and delegating the bidding/RFP Process to them. This allows for a team member to grow and expand their relationships with vendors in the industry and learn the RFP process with your oversight, as well as keep everything ethical.
Keep in mind that you may not control how your vendors conduct their business, but their actions may reflect poorly on your company if they do not act in an ethically responsible way. Your vendor agreement should clearly spell out what practices would be grounds for an immediate termination of the contract which protects you and your company if a vendor has ethical shortcomings.
As with anything, trust your experience and expertise to guide you. If something feels like it crosses a line, could be viewed as unethical, or even just gives you pause, reevaluate the situation.
About the Author: Blaire Moreland is the Vice President of Deane Realty in Houston, TX. One of the Up and Coming professionals in the Commercial Real Estate industry, Blaire Moreland has excelled in a variety of roles within her six years in the industry. Prior to joining Deane Realty, Blaire was with Evergreen Commercial Realty, Stream Realty, and Griffin Partners performing a variety of real estate services. She is a Certified Property Manager (CPM), a licensed real estate sales person in the state of Texas, and recently completed her MBA. She is one of the founders and President of CREMM (Commercial Real Estate Millennial Misses), serves on the Mentoring & Leadership committee with CREW Houston, and is a Director of CREN Houston.