When it comes to finding the right vendors, the adage that you are only as strong as your weakest link couldn’t be truer.

Great advice given to me when I first started to build my business was “think like a big business and you will grow.” I realized if I did that, but kept the company nimble and agile at the same time, I could bridge the best of both worlds. Thinking like a big company forces you to think about processes and what you would bring in-house, versus what you would outsource, regardless of your size.  Balancing big business thinking with staying nimble means building slowly and outsourcing to best-in-class vendors. Pairing up with the right vendors will allow you to compete with larger companies, who have those capabilities in-house. But, finding and keeping good vendors, who make you “bigger,” is a challenge when you first start. The key is treating them like partners and ensuring they follow the same processes you do, so that together, you deliver the product seamlessly. When it comes to finding the right vendors, the adage that you are only as strong as your weakest link couldn’t be truer.
This became painfully clear to me at a product launch in my first few years of business. My client was a large, high-end beauty company. We had gathered the key media and 200 VIP guests into a beautifully appointed room. Every detail had been thought through. We dimmed the lights and the President stepped up to the podium and said to a hushed audience “With no further a-do … roll the video please.” To my horror, the junior AV technician pressed the wrong button and rolled the wrong clip.  Realizing his mistake, he paused it and scrambled for the longest 60 seconds of my life while he found the right video. All that time spent rehearsing, matching pantone colours to décor and pouring over new product messaging was gone in an instant.
It was at this moment that I knew I had to mitigate the risk of vendor mistakes if I was going to grow and be successful. In my business, your AV partner is one of the most important suppliers. So, we developed a process called TechTalk that addresses possible issues that could emerge, from batteries dying in a wireless mic mid-speech, to a projector bulb blowing. We also work with our speakers during the rehearsal to “manage the gap” should the power go out or the technology falter. I have found an AV partner – I can truly call them that – who we bring to all our events across North America, because I know that they don’t make mistakes. They follow a trusted, shared process and success metric. We have executed 47 high tech events this quarter and had not one AV issue, which anyone in events can tell you, is a great record. And – we still work with the same beauty company, just recently executing a technically flawless product launch for them.
It takes time, trust, experience and process-sharing to develop a seamless relationship with your vendors. But, if you have this, you will deliver best-in-class services seamlessly – and take on your larger competitors with your “big company thinking and small company agility.”

Grail Noble is the President and Founder of Yellow House Events, an event marketing and planning agency based in Toronto, Canada. Follow her on Twitter @grailnoble and her team @YellowHouseTO or on the Yellow House Events Facebook page. Grail can be reached at [email protected].