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Lessons from an Entrepreneur: Vendors – the Good and the Bad

News & Blog

Throughout the years, we have worked with a lot of vendors and service providers, but a couple have made a larger than normal impression. I have an example of a good vendor and one of a bad vendor. Let’s start with the bad because I always like to end on a high note!

The bad.

Over the years we have used many different agencies helping us fill positions. When you are small this can be extremely helpful as they do the screening and interviewing and then can present you with some options for open positions. We worked with one agency that was very good at identifying our specific needs and finding good candidates for us.

It seems they got confused about how it was supposed to work. They were supposed to be FINDING candidates for us. Turns out, while they were taking specifications for open positions we had, they were also recruiting for other positions from our existing employees. This was something that went on for some time and when it came to light we were able to pull together emails, voicemails, and testimonials showing proof.

It’s amazing the feeling of betrayal you feel when something like this happens. They had been a “partner” of ours for years. They communicated with a lot of managers and knew the kind of positions we were looking for, as well as the positions we had on staff.

After going back and forth we ended up having to get our attorney involved. The result of all of this was a settlement in our favor. That really only covered the cost for the time we spent on this distraction and the attorneys. And in the end, we lost a vendor and they lost a client. It hardly seems worth it and reminds me of our second attorney, who used to say, “We always want to be the one wearing the white gloves”.

The good.

The experience we had with the other vendor was awesome. They were also a staffing agency and our rep, David was excellent. Not only did he do a great job in helping us fill positions, but he would also come to town and usually take one of his placements to lunch to see how it was working for them. He was always bringing gifts of treats and candy for everyone, with a friendly smile and the feeling of true concern for the well being of our company, and our people.

One of my most embarrassing moments happened during one of David’s visits. He was standing in my office doorway, talking with me. Someone walked by and started talking to him and so he stepped out into the hallway. I got up and as soon as I stepped around my desk, my skirt fell to the floor! Fortunately, David was facing the other direction. Tom walked in about the time I was pulling my skirt up and laughing hysterically. We all had a great laugh about it.

We were also invited to their annual Christmas party. These parties were all over the country, wherever they had an office. All of the executives would travel to each party, interacting with their staff and clients. It was always a great time.

The CEO of the company, Jay has a great story. He was a practicing (medical) doctor and had an interest in business and technology, which evolved into him starting a staffing agency. He loved what he was doing and loved people, and it showed in their success.

Jay heard our story from David and wanted to meet us. David brought Jay to the office, where he spent quite a while with us, exchanging stories, both personal and business. Jay has a warm smile and familiar handshake and when you are with him he is engaged in the conversation. He’s like your favorite uncle. We immediately liked him.

We landed a prominent account with a project to work on a system that was large and antiquated. There were developers working on it internally, and when we needed to bring in additional resources, we decided to work with a partner company to help us finish it up.

After months of working on it, the client was not happy with the progress and in spite of our best efforts, we lost the account. Obviously I am leaving a bunch of details out, but the end result was a $170k debt I owed, specifically to Jay’s company. I reached out and explained the situation. Arrangements were made (for payments) and Jay made it clear to his team, we were not to be pressed for payment, and not to be charged late fees or interest.

We paid what we could, when we could, and a year later, we paid it off. The timing worked out where I was able to hand-deliver the final payment to Jay at the Christmas party that year. I wanted to personally thank him for his compassion and for believing in us.

It was a chapter I was happy to finish.


As vendors, we must always remember our clients and potential clients (usually) have plenty of options. It can be easy to only see things from your perspective, but our vendors teach us how it feels to be a customer, and we should pay attention. Those lessons we learn as owners need to be shared with those on your team.

I am very aware that my business reputation is directly associated with my personal reputation. That is very important to me and I am proud of the responsibility everyone on my team takes to represent me and our company well.

I have made the choice to run a business. I could just as easily be working for someone else, but I don’t. My responsibility is to the people I employ and the customers we serve. So I choose to hire the best people I can, treat them the best I can, and give them the proper tools and training so we can deliver our best to our clients.

In my next blog, I think I’ll talk about some friends and women in business. Did you read my last post all about employees?

Until next time,


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