I got a chuckle out of this NPR story about a man that took a car for "six days on a 1,988-mile test drive" (hat-tip Amy Edwards). But it also made me think about the more serious side of taking suppliers for a ride prior to a final contracting decision. The question -- which is never black or white -- is just how much can you expect to get out of suppliers without giving them an unfair advantage in a competitive negotiation or having them feel that you’ve taken them for a six day test drive. In complicated services negotiations, for example, it's not uncommon for a firm with an inside track to try to get an insider's window on the deal criteria and decision framework by attempting to influence an RFP. Or consider a situation in the direct materials world where a supplier voluntarily gets involved in suggested design changes or part standardization that will reduce costs prior to the final contract award. As I said, this is very much a grey area. But think twice about the dangers for both parties -- even with established, long-term supply partners -- about a test drive that extends for more than a few miles.
- Jason Busch