closely cooperation with suppliers: Partner support makes it possible
In many cases, the relationship between suppliers and customers is characterised by intense competition: What one has less of, the other has more of. The discussion about the prices paid to farmers by wholesalers and retailers is just one example. In the GFT that is different. There is a partner support service that reconsiles the interests of suppliers and members. Jürgen Stapel works here and ensures that partner support does not remain an empty phrase.
Mr Stapel, negotiating good conditions for GFT members is an important part of your job. But you do this on the basis of a close partnership with your suppliers. What does that mean?
Stapel: Exactly, we work together as partners with the aim of cooperating with our partners in the long term. Because our members need reliable supplier relationships and deeply networked processes - keyword: integrated value chain. We need framework conditions for cooperation that are oriented towards the respective needs. In this context, suppliers are real partners whose interests are very important to us.
But that sounds very much like a "cuddly meadow".
Stapel: It may sound like that, but this "cuddly way", as you say, works on the basis of entrepreneurial advantage thinking. It's a win-win situation, which is of course also a piece of our cooperative culture, but above all of how GFT works.
You have to explain that. So let's start from the beginning: what does partner support do?
Stapel: Basically, we take care of our suppliers and try to win new ones. Then we are responsible for drafting contracts with new and existing suppliers and negotiating terms and conditions. Once this framework is in place, it's a matter of managing the supplier relationships. This includes the maintenance of article masters and price lists, bonus settlements, the preparation of monthly and annual financial statements, controlling, margin checks and, and, and.
That sounds complicated and time-consuming.
Stapel: It is. But in the end this creates a unique advantage for members and suppliers: We provide our members with the price lists of about 70 of the more than 80 contracted suppliers. If the GFT did not exist, each member would have to process 70 price lists individually and each partner would have to hope that their offers are accessible to our 186 members. Via the GFT intranet, all our members have access to all price lists of our partner companies, including article descriptions. In addition, we provide contact persons, conditions, terms of delivery and bonus agreements in a separate price list sheet.
But GFT is not a wholesaler that stands between the system houses and security technology companies on the one hand and the suppliers on the other?
Stapel: Exactly. We are rather the well-oiled hinge and make the cooperation as simple as possible. This includes the security of conditions, legal security through framework agreements and, as I said, deeply integrated processes and systems. The actual "deal" then takes place between suppliers and members. Therefore, the final agreement on conditions also takes place there. The supplier confirms his performance directly to the member, he delivers directly. We then take over the downstream processes, i.e. order entry, invoice reconciliation on the basis of the conditions agreed between member and supplier, invoicing, controlling and margin checking. The bottom line is high cost savings through outsourcing of back-office activities, favourable conditions and secure and simple processes on the member side. The latter are also in the interest of suppliers. In addition, there is article maintenance and, if you like, the suppliers benefit from a special kind of sales support from GFT.
And if there are conflicts?
Stapel: Because we are not a "cuddly meadow", there are sometimes conflicts. These regularly arise during negotiations on terms and conditions, but they can also ignite in other places, for example in the case of quality deficiencies, delivery bottlenecks, warranty issues, etc. In all these issues - you remember the image of the hinge I used for the regulatory process - we act as mediators without direct interests. Our only goal is to reach a compromise that helps both sides and also allows for future cooperation. This is highly appreciated by both sides, members and suppliers alike.
How many staff members are involved in this task?
Stapel: There are two of us in partner support, plus eleven more in order processing.
Through which channels do your members receive the necessary information? Through the good old catalogue?
Stapel (laughs): First "cuddly meadow" and now the catalogue - no, we are very modern in that respect and we will take another giant step in the course of 2022. However, much but not everything at GFT is digital.
First of all, there is our member intranet. Here our members can find all the information they need on prices and products. They receive the latest news and circulars with information about new suppliers and conditions.
Extremely important - especially for intensive cooperation and solution-oriented compromises - are the workshops we offer with suppliers to present new products. In addition, there are the performance circles where partners and members come together for a regular exchange. We offer these events both analogue and digital. And then, of course, there are our industry meetings in spring and autumn, where personal togetherness is cultivated over a glass of beer.
You spoke of a "giant step" in 2022 in partner support.
Stapel: Correct. After our homepage is relaunched in 2020, we will migrate a new GFT merchandise management system this year. Here, new interfaces (GFTWAWI) will facilitate communication between the various ERP systems of our members with the GFT head office. We will also modernise the GFT intranet in 2022.
Which three questions are most frequently asked by partners?
Stapel: You can't name questions exactly. But there are key topics: Prices and conditions, changes in conditions and complaints.
May I ask something personal?
Stapel: Go ahead.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Stapel: I am a numbers person. That's why I particularly like doing evaluations and performing controlling tasks.
But without the partnership exchange, the togetherness, the fact that we also know each other personally, the many positive feedbacks we receive, it would be a job like any other. But fortunately it is not.
are partners of GFT members. For a wealth of good conditions for mutual benefit.
GFT personally - Jürgen Stapel
Jürgen Stapel is a GFT veteran: on 1st July 2022, he will have been working in and for the cooperative for 31 years, in partner support since 2012. When you sit across from Jürgen Stapel, you sense a great deal of calm and balance. This seems to be part of the job description, because in partner support, patience is required when balancing the interests of members and suppliers in order to find good and beneficial compromises. Stapel is not only a Fortuna Düsseldorf fan - he is also a GFT fan: "At GFT, I appreciate the spirit of partnership from which everyone benefits. The prerequisite for this is a game with open cards. That is honest and a prerequisite for the success of our cooperative."