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COVID-19 forced 95 percent of the U.S. economy into shutdown earlier this year, spurring the largest unemployment rate (14.7%) in post-World War II history. Bleak, though it may seem, the fallout would be far worse if not for essential businesses that risked their safety to keep the midnight oil burning. Economists believe that the US could recover faster than expected from the “unprecedented magnitude of the decline in employment and production”—but it won’t be easy. To ensure that top-line growth is profitable, small business leaders will need to expand supplier relations and lower acquisition costs while protecting the health of their employees. Here’s how to stay safe and well-stocked through COVID-19:

Mitigate Exposure to COVID-19

Your greatest asset is (and always has been) your workforce. With a potential second wave of COVID cases on the horizon, stocking up at Sam’s Club is out of the question. Last-minute store runs are like a crutch supporting inefficient procurement processes. What’s worse, they can unnecessarily expose your entire workforce to COVID-19. Instead of depending on physical vendors (who undoubtedly have stock issues of their own), small businesses should turn to digital storefronts that provide a broader range of products, better stock predictability, and contactless delivery.

Build Supplier Partnerships to Skirt Inevitable Shortages

The global pandemic triggered end-to-end supply chain disruptions, which means shortages upstream and downstream are imminent. Even large competitive suppliers are not impervious to the effects of COVID-19. Rather than assume that your go-to supplier can fill orders on time, build a network of back-up tier-one and tier-two suppliers. A broad, multi-tier network will ensure flexibility by providing plenty of options and stimulate competition in the market by holding tier-one suppliers to higher performance standards. Furthermore, look for suppliers that offer services to help protect your employees and your bottom line, such as an online shopping portal or accurate product forecasting.

Update Procurement Processes With Advanced Technology

With over half of a product’s final sticker price coming from the supply chain (i.e., manufacturing, packaging, transportation, warehousing, and distribution), small businesses that depend on price shopping alone to cut costs are missing massive savings opportunities that will be pivotal to their survival in the months to come. However, developing a strong multi-tier network of suppliers and identifying cost-savings opportunities further upstream will be difficult, time-consuming, and virtually impossible without advanced procurement technologies that enhance agility, visibility, and decision-making capabilities.

Two Must-Have Procurement Technologies:

  1. ELEVATE is a free digital consulting tool that helps small businesses optimize their procurement processes by first understanding the business needs driving procurement decisions. Unlike any other tool in existence, ELEVATE analyzes your current procurement strategy and prioritizes the needs of the business before recommending suppliers and product solutions that align with business priorities and objectives.
  2. Shopfront™ is an online procurement platform that provides small business owners with an expansive catalog of products that strategically align with their product needs and business objectives. Compare prices on thousands of products, make purchases without unnecessary exposure to COVID-19, order shipments of any size or quantity, and find local distributors across the US (including rural areas) to keep costs down.

On average, AFFLINK’s procurement solutions cut annual supply chain expenses by 30%.

More than a supplier, AFFLINK strives to be a trusted consultant for small businesses, which represent the backbone of our economy. As the U.S. market re-opens, we will continue to do everything in our power to keep our team and yours safe, stocked, and supported.


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About Michael Wilson

Michael Wilson is AFFLINK'S Vice President of Marketing and Communications. He has been with the organization since 2005 and provides strategic leadership for the entire supply chain team. In his free time, Michael enjoys working with the Wounded Warrior Project, fishing, and improving his cooking skills.

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