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But It Wasn’t Us! Communities Have Zero Tolerance For Your Vendors

July 30, 2019

You have a different company name on your business card and truck than your vendors, but that doesn’t matter in the eyes of your stakeholders.

If an elected official or community member stops one of your vendor’s trucks and ask the driver what project they are working on, they will probably say your company and your project.

Why Does This Matter?

Two years ago, an oil and gas representative of a relatively small operator was contacted by county staff on the Front Range. The staff asked the company leader about a truck that had rolled over and spilled liquid not far from the county building. In response, the oil and gas representative said, “That wasn’t us. That was our vendor.”

Six months later the same oil and gas leader awkwardly found himself in front of the county commissioners asking for a permit. Not surprisingly, one county commissioner brought up the spilled truck situation and said they had lost trust in the company, not because of the incident, but because they did not hold themselves accountable. 

Just like you, elected officials and stakeholders do not like it when people don’t hold themselves accountable and take responsibility. Was your employee driving the truck? It doesn’t matter. The stakeholder knows you have the authority to hire and fire vendors. They know that the truck wouldn’t be driving if you didn’t have a project in the area. They know that the liquid was a result of your operations.

What Can You Do?

First, when a vendor incident comes to your attention, you must listen carefully and take responsibility. Then, research the issue, take appropriate action, and follow up to close the loop with your stakeholder. In broad terms, you can take several measures to ensure future scenarios go more smoothly and don’t jeopardize important relationships. You generally will not get a second chance.

Training

  • Ensure all vendors go through training that pertains to their part of your operations. Vendors should understand (and live and breathe) your values.
  • Only hire vendors that are willing to participate in regularly scheduled training and evaluation.
  • Explicitly communicate your expectations of vendors as one of the public-facing components of your company. How they drive, whether they walk in stores with muddy boots, and how they interact with community members all reflects upon you.
  • Expect your vendors to keep you apprised of community incidents and interactions so that you can proactively engage and address any issues

Tolerance

  • During training, thoroughly explain that your company has a zero-tolerance policy for not adhering to policies.
  • For example, if a driver gets a traffic violation, they are removed from the project.

Accountability

  • Always take ultimate responsibility.
  • We understand that there is occasionally a situation with legal liability or enforcement considerations — that does not change the way you engage with your stakeholders. Holding your vendors accountable fits this expectation.
  • Always take ownership to research the issue, thoroughly address its root causes to decrease the likelihood of it happening again.

Follow Up

  • Make sure involved stakeholders know how the situation was resolved, preferably as soon as possible.
  • Notify all parties of what actions were taken to address issues and what your company and your vendor will do differently in the future.

Industrial projects are facing increased scrutiny throughout the country. Building trust and maintaining rapport with your community leaders and neighbors is critical to company and industry success. Taking steps to ensure your vendors are adhering to your policies is an investment in certainty for your local project development.

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