A partnership is, by definition, mutually beneficial. For customers and contract manufacturers to develop valued business relationships with one another, there are uniform rules of engagement that should be followed. The keystone to support each relationship is transparency, with each partner having a pillar of clear and communicated expectations rooted in a foundation of trustworthy and honest values.
Communicating expectations early in the relationship is crucial in fostering a trusting, successful partnership. This requires customers to do their due diligence in having questions prepared for potential partners and for contract manufacturers to answer honestly. Requesting a contract manufacturer’s certifications and accreditations is a top priority for customers, and contract manufacturers should offer documentation as proof of the certifications and accreditations they claim. This maintains the integrity of such certifications and accreditations. Offering full disclosure between prospective partnerships before reaching the formal stages ensures each party is confidently entering the agreement.
Finding a business with congruent values and business culture is important in choosing a partner. When this first tier of trust is established, it is more likely that each party will continue with a valued level of transparency and communication.
Likewise, doing business with a contract manufacturing partner that understands and respects a customer’s strategic plans and intellectual property (IP) is critical in maintaining transparency. A customer must trust a contract manufacturer to abide by non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) as well as the manufacturer’s IT infrastructure to remain secure so IP and customer confidentiality is never compromised. While touring a manufacturing facility plays an important role in experiencing first-hand the capabilities of a manufacturer, it’s vital that the manufacturer maintains customer confidentiality during this process. In doing so, the contract manufacturer is able to lift the process’s veil while also building confidence in the NDA.
Once a contract manufacturer has met the values, business culture and confidentiality needs of a client, it’s important for the brand to know the expectations of its own customers and communicate its project needs, including desired timelines for the project; any desired label claims; price points; quality standards; volumes desired; additional staff who should be copied on communication; the point-person/decision-maker for the project; and the desire or need for value-added services, such as graphic design, label support or marketing assistance.
Contract manufacturers must assess their own strengths and align them to the goals of the brand: do they have the necessary capabilities, capacity, accreditations and payment terms that are expected by the customer? Contract manufacturers must identify potential hurdles that may exist for a customer to ensure transparency and develop/maintain trust. Tackling these issues openly and honestly before committing to a partnership will pay large dividends once a contract is fulfilled.
Carrying a lack of transparency, or, worse, offering dishonest or misleading claims about potential risks in meeting customer expectations can lead to a stalled or forfeited project, wasted time, wasted investment, and ultimately the breakdown of a partnership. While this undoubtedly hurts each company’s bottom line and potentially their reputations, this also stalls the progress of the industry.
Once the core terms of the partnership are settled, contract manufacturers should offer clear, accurate ingredient documentation, including raw material specifications and testing results with certificates of approval, as well as contact information for additional team members that will be available for assistance if the project’s point person is unavailable. By being transparent with ingredient documentation, a contract manufacturer allows a customer to maintain confidence in not only the contract manufacturer’s operating procedures but, just as importantly, in the finished product. Likewise, offering additional points of contact affords customers the reassurance that there is open collaboration between a team with a diverse skill-set in order to fulfill their orders.
To keep the partnership momentum and the progression of each company’s values disclosed, it’s important for customers to communicate future concept and product interests. Under-communicating offers far more risk than over-communicating. There should be a high level of collaboration between partners in place, and both parties should be satisfied with the degree in which this is taking place. If one party isn’t satisfied with the other’s level of participation, having transparency in the partnership suggests this dissatisfaction will be openly communicated and appropriately addressed. By withholding such frustrations, transparency is compromised.
It is invaluably constructive for both parties to have an understanding of each other’s ultimate goal. In a healthy partnership, both parties work to not just ensure their own objectives are met but to aid in satisfying their partners’ objectives, as well. This creates long-term, sustainable partnerships. Creating these types of transparent and honest alliances are critical in moving the industry forward in a progressive and safe manner.
For more on partnerships, transparency and beyond, visit INSIDER’s Contract Manufacturing Content Library.
Jennifer Wilson leads the sales team at National Enzyme Company with a background in sales, training and marketing in the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical industries.