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How Great Plains motivates vendors.

Doug Burgum, president of Great Plains Software, has an intriguing theory about how to get better service from his company's outside suppliers: He holds a party in their honor. Once a year, Burgum told us recently, Great Plains hosts a "Vendor Appreciation Day" for the employees of local Great Plains suppliers--printers, typesetters, delivery services, telephone installers, office furniture dealers, and the like. Vendors who provide above-average service or quality are presented with awards, and are likely to find themselves featured on a bulletin board in the company's lobby. "We're moving away from adversarial relationships with our vendors," says Burgum.

A key part of the vendor relationship program, Burgum adds, is a detailed briefing about how the company is doing. Great Plains has become a major employer in Fargo, North Dakota, "but people here were mystified by our perpetual growth." Burgum now delivers a "strategy and directions presentation" to his vendors (complete with sales projections) and explains why Great Plains, as a major player in the accounting marketplace, has to meet high quality standards.

"We've told our vendors that weld love to keep our work in local hands, but we'll have to go elsewhere if the quality isn't good enough," Burgum says. Now that they see the big picture, they're more likely to put in a little extra effort to satisfy us." Burgum says one local printer invested in a new press "largely on the basis of future business with us," and other vendors have shifted their pricing strategies toward long-term relationships."

Burgum adds that the vendor day also helps emphasize the value of quality to Great Plains' own employees. "The vendors we thank are introduced by the people they work with most closely within the company. That makes it very clear how many people at every level of the company rely on outside help to do their jobs well."

Doug Burgum, president, Great Plains Software, 1701 Southwest 38th St., Fargo, N.D. 58103; 701/281-3150.
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Title Annotation:Great Plains Software throws a party
Date:May 8, 1991
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