A supply chain is a sequence of companies that each deliver a contribution in a product’s transformation stages from “nothing” to “delivered product”. You can depict it like this:

Supply Chain examples

All of these companies operate independently, and all of them have a number of competitors, but at a higher level, they shape this coherent chain “from nothing to delivered product”. Now this sounds quite abstract and not too useful for your daily business, but there are four ways in which thinking about the supply chain can reinforce you.

Conditions & Relations

Companies are connected via conditions and relations. Is your position stronger in relation to companies who you do business with? Then you can demand more favorable conditions (better price, better service, faster delivery, etc). If you position is weaker, then you know which relations to improve (see here how), as to work on a more favorable outlook.

Develop yourself in the client’s chain

You have a role in the supply chain of your client. But the thing is: there is not just one supply chain. “The” supply chain is usually depicted around a primary process. But support processes (like administration) also have their own supply chain. Check which supply chain you are in, and which other needs “live” there. If you give business trainings, you are in the HRM supply chain. A different need that lives there is employee motivation, so why not develop a service for that, now that you already are in the client’s HRM-chain?

Stop & Start doing things yourself

You have certain stronger and weaker points in your own activity system (the whole complex of things you do for your business). If you have found your weaker points, consider to outsource them. Sure this costs money, but if it is a strategic activity (resounding in the success of your business), you better have it done right. Conversely, if you have to capability to do things that you currently outsource (e.g. administration), save yourself this money and start doing it yourself.

Team up

There are several good reasons to start collaborating on a structural basis with parties who are nearby in the supply chain. For instance, you could bring a combined proposition that therefore becomes unique. Teaming up also helps to build up power versus other parties, like common competitors, or common suppliers. And you could team up to share resources.

As you can see, these four areas are much more practical and nearby than the abstract concept of the supply chain initially seemed. Which improvements will you go after for the next couple of months?

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