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A question of trust: how can organisations build strong relationships within supply chain?

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A question of trust: how can organisations build strong relationships within supply chain?

Over the past few months, trust has become an even more crucial element of the supply chain. It can build and sustain partnerships, and is undoubtedly a key factor in decisions made about where to nurture relationships and where to cut ties, particularly in uncertain times.

It’s never been more important for organisations to build trust within their supply chains and among their stakeholders – so how can they achieve this?

We spoke with Callum Sinclair, head of technology and commercial at law firm Burness Paull LLP, Eamonn Keane, head of cyber security and Innovation at the Scottish Business Resilience Centre, and Keith McDevitt, cyber integrator at the Scottish Government, to understand how they define trust – and why it’s now more important than ever to cultivate it.

What does trust mean to you?

Callum Sinclair (CS): “Trust is formed when you have a partner that understands your business inside-out, who is willing to invest in your long-term success. A strong partnership must be built on mutual respect and recognition of one another’s corporate values and principles.

“Value is also delivered when trust and knowledge of the business is there - this enables confidence in both parties to invest in long-term success. Trust is also built when your partner can act as an extension of your team, actively listen and engage in honest conversations. The suppliers that we enjoy working with ask questions and go the extra mile.”

Eamonn Keane (EK): “The quality of your product along with regular communications are paramount in building trust, reassurance and resilience within your supply chain. Businesses also need a good understanding and knowledge of the customer’s business model to effectively assist and support clients, and increased communication engagement in these challenging times.”

Keith McDevitt (KM): “Having open conversations is crucial. Honesty and transparency are what trust is built on – if an organisation breaches this, you can’t go back.”

How can you ensure shared understanding of your business priorities within your supply chain, particularly in times of crisis?

CS: “Trust is stretched at times like this, particularly when there are existential threats to businesses or jobs. But the partners who work with you in extreme circumstances, like we have now, and where the bond of trust is retained, will be with you for life.

“Pressure and stress can change relationships, particularly when livelihoods and business survival are at stake. When businesses look to pivot from their existing operations to help those in their supply chain, lifelong relationships can be built. The opposite is also true for businesses that treat staff badly or aren't proactive, who would do well to remember that the corporate memory is long. How businesses act during this period could have long-term implications.”

EK:“This current pandemic has changed the goalposts for so many businesses. Organisations need to be agile and be willing to facilitate, or at least explore, how they can meet the new demands of suppliers or clients.

“Business priorities and challenges have changed and the necessity to holistically support displaced staff is a key priority. Building connections within your supply chain is difficult – but it’s more important than ever to reach out to understand the concerns and challenges that organisations are facing.”

How should the industry and businesses come together and collaborate to help each other come out of the other side of this crisis?

EK: “The challenge for every business leader is to consider how they can lead and explore ways to deliver services to keep businesses viable, and fundamentally contribute towards a greater societal impact.

“One example of this is the Scottish Tech Army. This initiative has recruited 500+ volunteers from furloughed staff and those not working full time in cyber to offer their services, to support community-based initiatives in innovation, growth and cybercrime prevention.”

KM: “Industry and businesses are already coming together to collaborate and help each other come out of the other side of this crisis. There is plenty of outstanding work being done, including the work of the Global Alliance, which is dedicated to reducing cyber risk. It’s inspirational to see how organisations are working as a collective, and understanding that there is a shared responsibility to work towards much more cross-organisational collaboration.

“Of course, there are commercial opportunities involved, but it’s important that the sales pitch is left at the door. Right now, collaboration is about resolving issues for greater collective good, meaning that services can grow and new skills can be developed, with benefits that will reach far beyond a single supply chain.”

Ultimately, trust is a crucial element of any healthy supply chain, and these conversations highlight that it takes work to build and maintain it. However, with regular communication, proactivity and a willingness to collaborate, organisations will be well-placed to not only survive in a newly transformed economy, but thrive. 



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