October 29, 2021
Written by
Darragh Toolan

How to structure an account plan with your strategic suppliers

Aligning with your suppliers around shared vision, goals and strategic objectives is a fundamental foundational part of engaging more collaboratively with one another.

Two whiteboards, one with graphs, one with post its.

To do this, the first place to start is the Account plan. The Account Plan acts as a beacon for the future and unites all parties around shared goals and social norms. More importantly for you, it ensures that all work being done collaboratively is pointing in the right direction.

Today we are going to focus on building out the Shared Vision which relies a lot on the visionary Vested series created by Kate Vitasek.

What Is A Shared Vision?

A  Shared Vision is a short statement or sentence that outlines a common understanding of what the parties hope the future will look like and/or how the organisations want to focus their shared attention.

A Shared Vision:

  • Focuses on the future;
  • Is a source of inspiration;
  • Creates a sense of direction and opportunity.

The Shared Vision statement aligns the companies towards a common goal and transcends each company’s self-interests:

  • It sets forth the larger purpose for the business relationship, setting the foundation for the partnership;
  • It exposes all stakeholders (managers, employees and even customers) to the desired future state;
  • It keeps the companies focused on how to drive the business forward as ‘business happens’, providing a clear direction for decision-making.

What Henry neglected to mention is that this just doesn’t happen by chance. It needs to be architected in a codified way.

The Pitfalls Of Not Having A Shared Vision

Not having a shared vision, and the supporting strategic objectives (which we shall cover off in a later post), means that everybody starts to row off in different directions. So while everybody around the partnership is putting the time and effort in, its uncoordinated and results in inefficiency of effort towards what the partnership is trying to achieve.

So for example: Let’s say that we outline we want to be more “innovative and collaborative with a supplier in order to drive speed to market” and yet all we ever do is talk about cost-savings and negotiations, it means that we are pulled away from the core ideals of what we are trying to achieve. Multiply that across your strategic supply base and very quickly you can see how that disconnect, between what is articulated and what’s being done, causes huge problems.

By having a jointly worded shared vision, it gives you the mechanism to constantly come back and view everything that you do as a partnership through this lens.

Examples Of Shared Vision Statements

One of supplier collaborations visionary thought leaders, Kate Vitasek, worked with the University Of Tennessee to create a course called Vested® that focuses on how you actually bring this to life.

Below she outlines some great examples of what Shared Vision’s could entail:

Example 1:

The service provider agrees to perform facilities management service under the scope of the relationship. The parties agree to collaborate to identify improvement opportunities to reduce the price of facilities management services and increase service levels.

Example 2:

We deliver innovative solutions and drive operational excellence to enhance customer experience and stakeholder value.

Example 3:

The parties work together to provide world class services and business performance to offer a work environment for both employees and guests that continuously delivers memorable experiences, aiming to beat expectations in every detail. Doing so will strengthen the brands of both parties, and contribute positively to attracting, satisfying and retaining employees.


Steps To Draft A Shared Vision

As part of Kates Vested methodology it’s important to step through this in a methodical way.

As outlined on Vested Way “partnerships that have a clearly articulated vision for the future have a much greater chance of reaching long-term success.”

“Creating a Shared Vision statement helps parties direct their efforts away from each other and onto their partnership – and achieving the Shared Vision. Without it, businesses and individuals tend to fall victim to a short-term WIIFMe approach as they sit across from each other at the negotiation table. Shared Vision process gives the parties a reason to stand side by side as they pull together on the rope, rather than pulling against each other in the usual game of negotiation-tug-of-war.”

A Shared Vision not only strengthens the relationship between the parties, it can also lead to a deeper understanding of each party’s business and how to leverage each other’s strengths for mutual gain.

1.First Draft Shared Vision

Develop a first draft of your shared vision. This should be short, preferably one sentence but no more than two sentences. Use the example shared vision statements above for some ideas of what others have done.

2. Refine Your Shared Vision

Go through iterations until you have a draft shared vision statement that all can agree upon. If you have done the exercise in smaller groups, add words or phrases from each of the draft statements that team members are passionate about. Continue to refine until you have consensus.

3. Develop Consensus on Goal/Objectives

Go through the list of potential goals/objectives you would like to achieve. Develop consensus for no more than five goals/objectives you would like to achieve as part of the relationship. This will help provide your relationship with increased FOCUS, which is key to improving compatibility and trust.

The First Step…

A shared vision is the first step on the path to true Supplier Collaboration & Innovation, and is also one of the most formative. As with anything, a rocky foundation leads to a house of cards, so to run a successful program, this is a foundational part to successfully executing on a new way of working with your suppliers.

Kate Vitasek is an international authority on the Vested business model for highly collaborative relationships. She is the author of six books on the Vested model and a faculty member at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can learn more at: https://www.vestedway.com/

Published May 2020.

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