The final post in our series based on the research report The Perfect Link by the National Center for the Middle Market. This post looks at ways in which middle market companies can become more effective links in their customers’ supply chains.

Among middle market companies that serve as links in the supply chains of other firms, some are just all around more satisfied with how they handle their role. And according to our research, those middle market businesses that say they are the most satisfied tend to be among the fastest-growing middle market firms.

Do what the best suppliers do.

If your business is looking for ways to be a better supplier to your customers and a better partner to your own suppliers, start by seeing how your supply chain management practices compare to companies that appear most successful.

For example, our research shows that highly satisfied, fast-growing middle suppliers typically do the following:

  • Focus on one or two key customers.
  • Listen to customer feedback and deliver to customer specs.
  • Regularly meet with their suppliers and expect supplier to deliver to specs they set.
  • Use 3PLs for warehousing and transportation.
  • Use benchmarks to measure success.
  • Leverage data exchange to increase supply chain visibility.

See the full checklist here.

Take a cue from the pros.

Clearly, if your supply chain practices differ greatly from companies that are performing the best, adopting some of their strategies is a good place to start improving your own operations. But if you are already engaged in many of these best practices, and you’re still looking for ways to be a better supply chain link, consider these tips from leading industry experts:

  • Focus on your key enterprise capabilities. Some activities and services differentiate you as a supplier and add value to your customers. Others don’t. Consider outsourcing the non-differentiating activities to other best-in-class vendors. Doing so may ultimately serve your customers better while freeing up time to focus on your highest value offerings.
  • Keep it simple. As shown above, the best suppliers focus on fewer customers. Are there other areas where you can cut back, such as your supplier base or the number of products and services you offer? Simplifying complexity wherever and however you can makes the supply chain that much easier to manage.
  • Remember that supply chain management is a team sport. This means that the companies you choose to work with both upstream and downstream have an impact on your business. Partnering with companies that share your commitment to innovation and excellence can help fuel your own success.

For more tips and insights into supply chain management practices, view the Center’s full report, The Perfect Link: How Middle Market Companies Operate Within Supply Chains.

Others in this series
Post 1: Understanding the Role of Middle Market Companies in Supply Chains
Post 2: Less is More: Focusing on Fewer Customers Is Key to Middle Market Suppliers’ Success
Post 3: The Control Factor: Giving Some Up Could Be Good for Middle Market Suppliers

This post is part of a larger research project by the National Center for the Middle Market. Get the full picture through the resources below: