Northwind-Trust-492x328In his book, Start With Why, Simon Sinek challenges us to define the purpose, cause, or belief that inspires you to do what you do.  When it comes to presenting your company, product, or service to the outside world, the question of purpose is important but the bigger question comes from the audience.  Why should I care?  Why should I choose to work with you?  The answers to these questions define the nature of the relationship between customer and supplier, partner and partner, investor and startup, and so on.

From a functional perspective, Northwind Pharmaceuticals serves a niche in the $650 billion U.S. wholesale pharmaceuticals marketplace.  We provide prepackaged medications, software, and support services that enable our medical practitioners to dispense prescription drugs to their patients.  To this point, we are virtually identical to a handful of other suppliers in our niche.  We supply the same basic product provided by our competitors.  So why partner with Northwind?  That depends on you.  Yes, you.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

1) Do you want a smaller, more nimble supplier or are you more comfortable with the biggest?

Northwind is not the largest player in our niche.  However, we are big enough to provide competitive products, pricing, and technology while remaining nimble and responsive to our customers and prospects.

2) Do you prefer a corporate culture or something more entrepreneurial?

Northwind is not corporate.  We are a family-owned business that has been around since 1981.  We continually explore new business  models, help our clients solve problems, and look for new ways to create value.  Do we have processes and procedures?  Absolutely!  Do we have bureaucracy?  Nope.

3) Do you want to buy through brokers or work with the source?

Northwind procures, repackages, warehouses, and distributes our pharmaceutical products.  We are not a broker; we maintain licensure at the state and federal level.

4) Do you want to adjust to your suppliers requirements or have them adjust to yours?

Northwind works hard to flex to our clients’ needs.  There are regulatory requirements that must be met.  However, we can accommodate most customer requests and are happy to do so.

5) Do you want to be a small fish in a big pond or a big fish in a smaller pond?

With Northwind, every single client is very important.  We are flexible and responsive because we care, but also because we’ve found that these are our most effective competitive differentiators.  Whether you operate a single location or 50 locations, the Northwind team will ensure that you are getting the highest level of service every time.

6) Do you expect more than just drugs from your supplier?

As an entrepreneurial business, Northwind has to move quickly and evolve.  We stay close to market trends and regulatory changes.  We frequently consult with our clients on changes in the market and share best practices when appropriate.  We help clients analyze data to make stronger proposals to their customers.  We collaborate on solutions to regulatory challenges and our customer’s ongoing efforts to meet shifting requirements.  We connect our clients with prospective customers/patient groups and we make ourselves available to support their growth.  We want to see you succeed and we work to help in any way we can.

7) Do you need a partner who can keep pace with your growth?

Many of our customers are in expansion mode.  Whether it’s fast growth or incremental expansion, this type of organization requires specialized support.  Your supplier needs to be responsive to requests, flexible in their approach, and have the resources and depth to grow with  you.  As a high growth company itself, Northwind offers a strong platform to enable and respond to your growth.  We understand that as you grow, processes change,  requirements shift, and you are frequently having to move quickly to accommodate your patients and customers.  We live in that world and are well-structured to scale with you to meet opportunities of all sizes.  We know because it has been our mode of operation for the last 7 years.

These questions are important because no vendor is a perfect fit for all customers.  There are many important factors to consider when choosing a supplier partner.  The six points above are just a start.  Only you can determine the right answers to “Why?” for your organization.

As a final set of thoughts relative to the points above, I’d like to offer some concrete examples.  The following list highlights some real-life examples that describe Northwind’s “Why”:

  • Our clients call our cell phones to place orders.  Morning, Noon, and Night.
  • Our clients text us for follow up questions.  Morning, Noon, and Night.
  • Our clients ask us to provide input on proposals.
  • Our clients ask us to support their sales efforts by attending customer meetings.
  • Our clients ask us to breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  • Our clients provide career support and networking for our children.
  • We provide career support and networking to our clients.
  • We have former clients who seek us out for personal and professional support.  (Hey, when you’ve been around as long as we have, things are bound to evolve!)
  • We share life events with our customers: births, deaths, marriages, successes, and failures.

No, it doesn’t have be personal but our personal and professional lives are not always separated.  We walk these paths together for many reasons.  The Northwind Team is happy to simply process transactions and support the care you deliver to your patients – that is what we do. However, how we do it may be something altogether different.  When it comes to being present for the intersection of your professional and personal lives, my question is: “Why not?”

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