Two critical aspects in any supplier meeting.
NOTES, NOTES ,AND MORE NOTES.
Once I was working for a company, which had decided to hand off the full sourcing and operations of one of our brands to our US partner, as the brand was only distributed in America.
This required the operations guy to join me in China, for supplier follow up meetings. A really nice fellow. We walked into our first meeting with the intention of him handling it, and me giving input or taking over when there was a problem. I am in no way an expert, but after you do something a few hundred times, you develop a process.
Imagine my surprise, when the gentleman in question asked for the supplier's copy of the order, and started asking the status of each style. "When will the counter sample be ready?", "Labdip date?", "Artwork status?", etc. Keep in mind that there were about thirty styles with this supplier, and each had at least 5 separate questions minimum.
The supplier rattled out answers. The problem was that this gentleman was not writing anything down. He did not bring a pen and notebook, or any other implement to write anything down. You might think that this guy is an idiot, but he was very intelligent, just not when it came to formal meetings. Obviously, our MD who was with us blew a head gasket at this. Like anyone will remember one hundred odd answers in their head.
Funnily enough, I have seen suppliers do this as well, along with clients of mine. Discussing critical issues and not recording anything discussed in any way. No notes, or on a computer, or even an audio recorder. Nada!
WHEN YOU WALK INTO A MEETING, YOU TAKE DETAILED NOTES. PERIOD.
When the meeting is over, you need to put together a detailed email based on your detailed notes, and send to your supplier. Do not just send and forget. Ask your supplier to confirm he or she agrees with all the points as discussed, and ensure you get a confirmation back in writing.
I will guarantee that your supplier will do something in contradiction to this mail, and you will have to refer to this email to give the supplier the proverbial smack across the knuckles.
KEEP YOUR WORD, FOR BETTER OR WORSE.
Often things will go wrong. Whether this is your supplier's fault or yours, you stick to the agreement.
For example, if you have agreed that you will give your supplier a seven day extension for late delivery, and that there will be a penalty that kicks in once this seven day period is up, ensure you enforce this. If the supplier is eight days late, you will hear the usual story that it is "only an extra day". Tough luck. Enforce the penalty. Do not cave. Next time it will be 9 days, or 10 days. You get the picture. Your suppliers will constantly push for concessions to see how far they can push before you push back. It is the nature of the beast. Push back immediately. Your supplier needs to know, in no uncertain terms, that all agreements will be stuck to. No "buts".
The same applies to to you. If you are in any type of breach of any agreement, take your hit. Do not try to weasel out of it. It needs to be a two way street. If you promise your supplier a 24 hour turnaround on any approvals, and you take 48, you give one day back to your supplier. This is critical in gaining respect from your supplier, and the only way to do this is by being firm, but fair.