Last modified on August 25th, 2023
By Brittany Benz
Having solid relationships with your residents and owners is key to your success as a property manager, but did you know it is also critical when it comes to your vendors?
When you think of vendors, your relationship might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but it should be. Why? Because having vendors who respond promptly and resolve maintenance problems efficiently will ensure happy renters and owners.
However, in today’s tight labor market, finding quality vendors who have the staff on hand to respond to your maintenance needs can be challenging.
The labor shortage in skilled tradespeople is still ongoing, with approximately 77% of tradespeople agreeing there are insufficient hands to go around, according to a Angi Skilled Trades Report. This means building relationships with vendors is more critical now than ever before.
How do you build (and maintain) strong working relationships with your vendors that will save you time, money, and frustration? Read on to find out.
1.) Be an excellent communicator
Poor communication causes errors that make you and your vendor lose credibility. Missed deadlines, confusion, and a myriad of issues all stem from a gap in information caused by a lack of clear communication.
For example, a vendor arriving at the job site to find they need a specialized tool that’s back at the shop will leave them frustrated, slow the work down, and create extra work for everyone.
Here are a few strategies that will help you be an excellent communicator:
- Over-communicate key details regularly. It only takes a few moments to add extra information, but this precaution can help to prevent miscommunication. Get into the habit of being overly detailed.
- Set expectations on how and when you want the work to be completed up front. Include a detailed written statement along with your verbal instructions so the vendor has something to refer to if they forget.
- Offer digital ways to communicate, including text, email, or your very own vendor portal.
- Hold weekly Zoom meetings with your vendors to monitor progress or check-ins to build rapport.
- For new vendors or those you haven’t worked with in a while, schedule a walk-through of your properties and highlight the nuances and needs of each location. Ask for their recommendations and take notes.
- Ask for their feedback about what is or is not working. This will improve two-way communication and help you uncover hidden inefficiencies in your processes.
- Use the same communication skills you already deploy with your residents and owners with your vendors.
2.) Recognize their efforts
Just as you realize there is a need for recognition for jobs well done by your team members, recognize that vendors are also part of your team and need your support just as much or more so.
When a vendor feels recognized and appreciated for their hard work, they are more likely to continue to do top-quality work for your business.
- Show physical appreciation (hand-written thank you notes, gifts for “above and beyond” service, or a monthly fruit or cookie delivery).
- Host a vendor appreciation event where everyone can network and spend time building relationships.
- Provide referrals. This is a crucial way to show your vendors their continued success is important to you. Remember to first get permission from those you refer.
- Introduce your vendors to your residents and owners as members of your team, and treat them with the same respect you expect to receive.
- Actively work with your vendors to get them to the much-coveted status of “pre-approved vendor.”
3.) Pay them on time
Nothing speaks louder to vendors than on-time payments. Late payments will quickly erode your vendor relationships. Paying vendors on time keeps you top of mind as a customer, provides transparency, and builds trust with vendors while retaining the processes and control that work for your accounting team. In addition to being paid on time, according to an internal AppFolio survey, vendors also prefer digital payment methods: 68% of vendors prefer eCheck digital payments as opposed to 9% who prefer to be paid with a paper check.
By utilizing a vendor portal with online payments and/or offering payment preferences you can pay vendors on time, meet their needs, and ensure nothing falls through the cracks. Monthly vendor statements from accounting should also be on your to-do list. Additionally, file your 1099s on time. Using property management software with built-in accounting tools like AppFolio Property Manager makes it simple to automate accounting processes and reduces errors and late payments.
4.) Stand out from the crowd with automated, digital tools
In today’s world, there is a good chance your vendors are already using technology. According to the Angi Skilled Trades Report:
- 21% of tradespeople adopted third-party financing tools
- 39% added digital tools to generate quotes
- 47% added digital payment solutions
Make life easier on your vendors by providing the on-demand digital tools they want and expect. When you use digital tools for work orders, invoices, and communication, you can streamline processes and save time and money all around.
For instance, the Vendor Portal in AppFolio Property Manager allows vendors to receive work orders, submit invoices, and select vendor payment preferences all from one central hub. The Vendor Portal is also secure with two-factor authentication enabled for vendors, reducing the risk of fraudulent invoices getting submitted to your accounts payable team.
Along with offering a vendor portal, consider implementing artificial intelligence (AI) tools like AppFolio Smart Maintenance to further streamline the work and optimize your operations. Smart Maintenance uses automation to intake maintenance requests from residents and convert them into work orders, which are dispatched to pre-approved vendors so you’re not switching between systems to send out requests or going back and forth making phone calls. This feature also works around the clock, so you can better serve your residents — no matter the time of day or night.
Your vendor relationships matter
Making your vendors feel like a part of your team and providing them with the digital tools they need to succeed will strengthen your relationships. Stronger relationships often lead to improved work quality, and efficient work often leads to happier residents and owners.
Being in partnership with your vendors also means increased savings to your bottom line. Start by reaching out and providing digital tools for them. Additionally, using a single property management platform can help you maintain transparency with your vendors and optimize your workflows. For more tips on how you can maximize your operations, download the free guide below.