The Seven Habits of Highly Dangerous Suppliers


The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, first published in 1989, was a bestselling self-help book written by Stephen R. Covey.  The book presents an approach to goal attainment by focusing on a set of universal principles centered on fairness, honesty, integrity and human dignity.

In today’s challenging supply chain environment, being highly effective is a competitive weapon.  The Mpower Group’s experience has shown that many traditional supplier-customer relationships are not thriving and less than effective. At the heart of these relationships is the destructive belief that if someone wins, another must lose.

Tapping into a higher value dimension requires adopting a new mindset, utilizing new skills, and executing new habits.  The Mpower Group’s value approach is to shift the supplier relationship to where there are enough rewards from success to thoroughly share the spoils.

While Covey’s seven habits are meritorious, not following them inhibits greatness.   In that spirit we present Seven Habits of Highly Dangerous Suppliers:

Habit 1:  A Passive Supplier.
Passive suppliers are dangerous suppliers because they refuse to take responsibility for the supply relationship.  Supplier passivity has another risky dimension to it: being reactive vs. proactive.  Solution:  Give your supplier the reigns to assert more power in the relationship but hold them accountable for enhanced results.

Habit 2:  A Directionless Supplier.
Is your supplier everything you wanted him/her to be?  Where is this supply agreement leading?  Where should it be leading?  A supplier that lacks vision represents a dead end.  Solution:  Have suppliers share their vision of relationship success then jointly execute against that vision.

Habit 3:  Suppliers Who Do Not Put First Things First.
Do your suppliers say yes to everything?  Are they overextended?  What are their top focus items?  Are they prioritizing other customers over you?  Solution:  Jointly plan, prioritize, and execute supplier tasks based on importance rather than perceived urgency. By putting first things first, you can help organize and manage supplier resources according to the visions established with Habit 2.

Habit 4: A Narrow Focus On Win.
Dangerous suppliers have a limited view of what winning is.  They tend to focus on the individual (“I”) aspects of winning not the team (“us” or “we”) approach.  They focus on completing transactions vs. securing opportunities.  Solution:  Recast supply relationships as cooperative win-wins not competitive one-time events.

Habit 5: Answer First, Listen Later.
Dangerous suppliers listen with the intent to reply, not to understand.  Abbreviated listening leads to one-sided results where needs stay unfulfilled.  Solution:  Suppliers should be able to explain the 5W’s (Who, What, Where, When, Why) of any request made by a customer before answering.

Habit 6: Separate Efforts, Separate Processes.
Dangerous suppliers ignore partnership synergies.  They view one head as better than two and attempt to solve problems internally.  Many suppliers also refuse to volunteer to outsiders any problems facing their organization.  Solution:  Routinely force supplier-customer brainstorming on problems.

Habit 7: Lack of Sustained Investment.
Dangerous suppliers often commit too much to a supply agreement and leave little room for any on-going investment.  Sustained investment is only possible when there is an economic and emotional benefit to both parties.  Solution:  When crafting supplier arrangements, leave enough margin on the table for the supplier to be able to work with you on future investments.

We welcome our readers to submit examples of how they have broken suppliers from these dangerous habits.  The best examples will be published in subsequent blogs.

For those readers who would like to free themselves from poor supplier relationships by deploying advanced behavior modification techniques contact us at for a no-risk evaluation.


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