Category Management, Covid-19 & Relationships!


Again, before I start, please know that The Mpower Group has all our readers in our hearts and prayers as we all get through this very difficult time together.

As we are all working from home, trying to keep up with our daily work and doing whatever it takes to ensure that we have businesses to go back to, we need to take a few minutes to recognize that relationships are EVERYTHING!  With the little time I have on my hands these days, I am reaching out to family, friends, colleagues and clients to listen to their stories.  One theme that has emerged quite strongly is the value of relationships and our need to draw on our connections for support and strength.  It is times like these that truly separate those that “talk” relationship and those that “live” it.  Here are a few stories I would like to share.

On the customer side, one colleague is an account executive for a major television network.  His role is to not only sell advertising to his clients but to also nurture and manage those relationships on a daily basis.  He finds himself in a very interesting position these days.  Prior to COVID he was more than meeting his sales goals and the future looked great.  Today he is doing nothing but fielding calls from clients that want to either cancel their buy altogether or reposition their ads to focus on how their business has changed recently (e.g. delivery service for quick service restaurants).  His bosses want him to stand firm and NOT entertain refunds or make any changes because after all they have contracts with their clients and frankly they are NOT required to do anything BUT this young man sees it quite differently.  He has spent years (a few, anyway) cultivating these relationships and knows that his actions today will determine if those clients stick around tomorrow.  In fact, he is spending most of his time convincing his executives of this – it’s ALL about relationships!

On the supplier side, one colleague who is responsible for the Supply Chain in his global manufacturing company has done several things with his suppliers to cultivate relationships. First, he looked at his supply base across all his plants because several of his plants are closed and over  50% of his suppliers are closed as well.  By collaborating internally he has been able to have his suppliers ship to plants that they don’t normally work with to keep both his plants running and keep his suppliers in business,  In addition, he has reached out to his key suppliers and offered advance payments (in return for additional discounts) to help keep even his shuttered suppliers in business. The response he has gotten from his suppliers is overwhelming and he recognizes that this strategy will pay huge dividends post-Covid.  It’s all about relationships!

On the customer / supplier side, one colleague is a relationship manager for a large GPO (group purchasing organization).  His role is to play the intermediary between his customers and the suppliers that provide product through the GPO.  He has been inundated with call from his customers, some who simply want someone to listen to their woes,  Others, have reached out to see if the GPO has any supply sources for PPE and they have been able to respond quickly.  On the supplier side, one supplier who provides roofing services has pivoted to sanitation services and has asked the GPO to offer that new service to their customers and they have.  It’s ALL about relationships!

The illustration below outlines the 2020 trends we laid out for our clients in early January:


Please note that the stories above along with the numerous other stories I have heard over the last few weeks focus  on many of those trends. From managing talent in a remote world, to global supply risk, to supplier relationship optimization, to the move from cost to value we are all trying to move towards Category Management. We talk a lot about both Customer and Supplier Relationship Optimization.  Now is the time to not just “talk” about it but to actually “live” it!  

Please stay safe everyone!  Let us know what you think and join in the conversation . . . . . . .


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