Adding a Vendor to the Preferred Vendor List for Laboratory Informatics

As I sometimes like to do, today I’m writing a post based on search terms someone used to find this blog. Today’s phrase is “how do i add a vendor to the preferred vendor list”.

In the past, I’ve talked about the advantages and disadvantages of using the preferred vendor list. As companies get larger, they need to control costs, from pads of paper to getting the latest copy of MS Office. In that, they sometimes try to control their laboratory informatics services, which is not necessarily a task that the preferred vendors who provide office supplies or common software can serve, appropriately. To cover the laboratory informatics software implementations and maintenance, companies can create a preferred vendor (or several) just for this specific purpose. This might make sense if the company is large and has many installations of one or few laboratory informatics products and if these products are specifically serviced by this potential preferred vendor. But all of this depends on the preferred vendor program. In some cases, a company can get an exception declared for the laboratory informatics software and can use whomever they can justify has the ability to service their needs.

Thus, the first thing to do in order to add a vendor to your preferred list would be to contact your internal group that handles this. First of all, find out if you truly will be adding someone to the list or merely asking for an exception. Possibly, it’s neither. There are cases where companies state that only specific things are currently covered by the preferred vendor list and that everything else is up to the division’s discretion. The rules come from your company, though, and if you need advice on how to traverse this, it can help to get advice from others in the company who has had to use specialty services on how they got their needs handled. In some companies, you can’t do it. I’m serious on this, that I sometimes hear that a company doesn’t allow anyone onto the preferred vendor list besides the general-purpose companies already on it and if they can’t service your needs that you’re out of luck. If that the case, you’ll have to train your internal people to do the work unless someone has a clever idea for another way to get your work done.

The second thing you’d do is, if you want a company to become your preferred vendor that you would ask if they’re interested and tell them what they’d need to do. Not everyone wants to become your preferred vendor nor is everyone necessarily able to do so. One problem is that some companies will always agree to do it but you will find out much too late for your project’s needs that they cannot or will not, for one reason or another.  I can give some examples of my own and when customers present me with these issues, I look at them to tell them right away whether it is likely to be possible:

Example # 1: Some Requirements are Outside the Boundaries
I had had a long-term customer for whom I provided solutions for many years. I worked with their strategic plans for their laboratory informatics, fixed bugs in some of their systems, surveyed their lab people for their needs, whatever they needed, basically. We liked working together. They were a large company and I got referred all over it. I was motivated to keep their business because of that, because the work was interesting, and because I liked working with them. For years, they’d been telling me that I’d eventually get pushed-out because the company was getting stricter with using vendors off the preferred vendor list. One day, they told me point-blank that I had to become a preferred vendor and gave me the web-site that explained the process. As it turns out, even if I could have complied with every other item on the list of qualifications, there was no possible way I could comply with their requirement that any preferred vendor was required to have per year billables of $1,000,000 minimum. My company is too small and charges too little to make that requirement so, sadly, we had to say “goodbye.”

Example # 2: Making an Exception
Another customer of a similar size (both in the Fortune 100) ran into a similar problem, where their company was cracking-down on the preferred vendor system. But their system was setup so that they could get exceptions for specialty items. This was another long-term customer who wanted to keep me around and whom I liked working with. In order to get me on the exceptions list, they asked me to write something up specifically detailing what my company offers and they were able to keep me on the exceptions list until they finished all the work they needed.

Example # 3: Related – Government Lists
Government lists are a bit like the preferred vendor system. Some years ago, a government agency asked me to apply to be on their state’s award schedule, which is similar to being on a private company’s preferred vendor list. The program was based on the federal government’s similar programs. It was quite a lot of work to get on the list but I was able to do it. It didn’t require my company be any particular size, merely that I had the stamina to get all the right paperwork together and maintain it all. In the end, I didn’t get any business from the state in question and the paperwork required ongoing maintenance so I let my status expire. Some would question that but the other part to this is that, even if it’s possible to get into these programs, it’s not necessarily worthwhile. This is why some companies specialize in government contracting, for example. They make the effort to remain on these lists because they focus their business on this and, thus, it’s worthwhile for them to spend the necessary time to apply for and maintain their status in these programs.

Bottom Line
Figuring out your company’s program is just one part of the issue. The other part is finding companies who are interested and appropriate to be part of it. The second part isn’t as easy as calling potential vendors up and telling them what they have to do. Remember that getting on a list doesn’t guarantee a vendor gets business off of it and those with experience with these lists know that.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

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