Organizations are relying on third-party suppliers more than ever to achieve their business goals. As integral business partners, these vendors represent your company – and your reputation, your brand, and your bottom line are at stake. Any missteps on their part could come back to bite you. Here are five steps to make sure you’re protected.

  1. Know your vendors. One bad decision by a vendor could be all it takes to inflict lasting damage on your company. Do your due diligence upfront, and contract with vendors you trust that operate in a manner consistent with the way you do business. And keep your list of vendors up to date. You can’t protect yourself from the actions of vendors you aren’t aware of.
  2. Restrict access. Limit vendor access to the data they absolutely must have to get the job done. Keep in mind that rigorous security controls on your systems won’t guarantee protection from all threats. Trouble can come in through gaps in the security of your vendors’ systems – and gaps in their vendors’ systems. Spell out detailed security guidelines in your contracts, and know who specifically has access to what information and how exactly that information is being handled.
  3. Compliance counts. You could be held accountable if a vendor violates any government or industry laws, rules, or regulations. Make sure you have the proper processes in place to evaluate and monitor ongoing compliance with appropriate legal regulations. And if anything falls out of compliance, you’ll know immediately and can act swiftly.
  4. Document it. Don’t just take your vendors’ word that they are in compliance with the law, your own security protocols – or any other requirements you have for doing business with your company. Send detailed questionnaires to each of your vendors to assess the level of risk they pose. And have a system in place to monitor each vendor on a regular basis to make sure proper protocols continue to be followed. The greater the risk posed by the vendor, the more frequently you should reassess their risk.
  5. Nurture the relationship. Like any good relationship, your bond with your vendors will get stronger the better you communicate. A little old-fashioned human connection can pave the way to constructive collaboration that benefits everyone. Knowing who is on the other end of the line also makes it much easier to deal with any issues that do come up.

Bringing in vendors can help balance workloads, control costs, drive efficiency, and much more. But all of those advantages come with a cost – unwanted risk. How well are you protected?