7 Benefits of Being a Partner vs. a Vendor

Greg DabbsPost written by Greg Dabbs, Business Development Manager

I have two words to share with you today: Partner and Vendor.

Most people are familiar with those words but many people don’t really think about the difference between the two and the importance of one versus the other.

Looking at it from a business perspective a vendor is someone or a company that exchanges goods and services for money…an order taker.

Being a partner is someone or a company who engages in a business relationship with another person or company and understands equal participation and being a resource and solutions provider.  The latter of the two, being a partner, is what truly drives your business relationships forward to success.

Below are 7 key components that highlight the benefits of being a partner vs a vendor:

1. Transparency and trust

People see the truth in you through your actions, personality, and in how genuine you are with them. Always be that way and reveal what you’re thinking and what you’re trying to accomplish. Be straightforward. Don’t hide anything. Maintain this approach and you’ll be well on your way to establishing transparency and trust. If you take these traits and establish a good foundation, then the business will grow and take care of itself.

2. Excellent communication

A good line of communication is essential when establishing and maintaining a good relationship with clients. Make sure you’re communicating the good, the bad and everything in between. Attention to detail is key. And don’t make assumptions. Always clarify to make sure you and your clients are on the same page.

3. Be engaged in learning the business and goals of your partners

handshakeDon’t just know what your client produces, manufactures or sells, but gain an understanding of what goals they’re trying to achieve.

Whether it be adding new product lines, acquisitions, growth goals etc. Get to know what is new and groovy going on with their business. That’s an easy way to show them how much you care.

4. Run toward problems, not away from them

Some people are afraid when problems, mistakes or challenges occur in a business relationship. The tendency might be to ignore it and hope it goes away.

You’ll create a stronger relationship if you own up to any mistakes you’ve made and fix them. Or help come up with solutions to problems that have nothing to do with you or your company.

Take the initiative to create a solution, leap out of your comfort zone and help make things better.

5. Measure and re-evaluate

Always measure your actions and results with clients. This includes re-evaluating what needs to be improved, changed, corrected…anything that can strengthen the bond and trust factors.

Don’t sit on your hands if something isn’t working or going the way you think it should. Be proactive in coming up with solutions and switching things up to avoid recurring issues.

6. No hidden agendas

Hidden agendas bring a truckload of negativity. Don’t ever engage in a conversation or go into a client meeting with a hidden agenda. Be straightforward and clear on what you want to say or accomplish.

7. Be a consultant and solutions provider

Go to your clients with something that sets you apart from everyone else. For example, what is the niche where you have the most knowledge and experience? Become the go-to person for your client. Be proactive in showing them how you can make their lives easier.

Make sure they know you’re always there for them. Good service and true authenticity is sometimes the No. 1 thing lacking in this world. Make it happen.

What other advice or thoughts do you have on partnerships vs. vendor relationships? We’d love to hear from you!

4 Pieces of Career Advice from Women in STEM

Jeff Hagen

Jeff Hagen

Post written by Jeff HagenStaffing Exec ◉ Educator ◉ Award Winning BBQ’r ◉ DIY Hack ◉ Rotarian

A few weeks ago Grafton had the privilege to sponsor a Women in STEM event at Wichita State University.

It was a great event that was well attended by both industry professionals and students.

BioKansas was able to secure four excellent panelists to share their career knowledge: Jennifer Akers – AccuWeather, Jessa Wright – ICM, Janet Twomey – Wichita State University, and Sheila O’Conner – NetApp.

Below is some of the great advice they shared that is helpful for anyone looking to make a change.

1. Network

If you’re uncomfortable networking, start by simply practicing. Everyone has heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”


Networking can be difficult for a lot of people. I know I wasn’t even comfortable with it for a long time.

I started by asking friends to introduce me to people and then we’d meet for lunch or coffee and have a conversation.

Today it is easier than ever. If you have difficulty networking, pick three people each day to reach out to on Linkedin.

Pick an old friend you haven’t talked to in years or find someone from the same industry and ask if they’d be open to meeting.

With a little practice and perseverance, you’ll quickly get better and expand your network.

2. Use mentors and sponsors

Mentors are a great asset for anyone. I’ve typically used them to help solve problems that I’m facing at work. However, they can and should be used for more than that.

Mentors can help you evaluate job opportunities as they get to know your strengths and weaknesses.

They have a 3rd party view that can help you determine if an opportunity fits your skillsets and matches an environment you’ll be successful in.

A sponsor is generally someone in your company that has influence and is willing to help you. They can assist you in getting key projects or obtaining promotions.

This type of relationship takes a long to time achieve but will be well worth it over the course of your career.

3. Be flexible

Careers don’t always have to take a linear path…in fact, they rarely do.

Some of the most successful people I know have worked in multiple industries and/or have changed positions to have completely different roles and responsibilities.

If a role seems interesting to you, look into it. People do a better job when they’re in a role they’re passionate about.

4. Use your peer group

A peer group could be people you went to school with or perhaps people you worked with in the past.

Whoever they are, make sure you have a group that can be honest with you. They should be able to give you constructive criticism.

There are choices you’re going to have to make in your career and you want them to be able to help you evaluate options. They should know you well enough to let you why you should take the next opportunity.

Be prepared, though. This group can, and should, be brutally honest with you, but that will help you make well-vetted decisions along your career journey.

Hopefully, you have some relationship with people in similar roles or perhaps people that you went to school with that are in similar points in life. These people can help you navigate career choices. They’ve seen other people in your situation.

Get out there and start networking! Soon you’ll be sharing stories of how “who you know” helped you succeed throughout your career!

8 Tips on How to Proactively Manage the “Little Things”

Greg DabbsPost written by Greg Dabbs, Business Development Manager

If you want to accomplish something big in your life or career, it’s important to remember all of the little things that need to happen along the way. Nobody achieves their goals by going directly from A to Z.

When it comes to your work, staying on task and being consistent with the little things gets you where you want to be every day. There’s so much to do…

Whether it’s the emails you need to send, the customer calls you need to make, the reports you need to complete, the fires you need to put out, the praise you give a coworker, the prompt follow-up you gave to the ten clients you interacted with that day, returning messages promptly, the positive attitude you filled the office with, the hands you shook, the meaningful conversations you had with clients getting to know and understand them, the office lunch you bought for everyone, the positive feedback you handed out, the problems you ran toward and fixed, or the thank you cards you sent to clients.

WHEW! That’s a lot, right?

It sure is, but all of these things you do consistently day in and day out help your business and help you achieve your daily goals.

eightHere are eight tips that will help you make sure you’re proactively taking care of all of the “little things”:

  1. Prepare your daily task/goal list the night before.
  2. Get to work early to review your list and make adjustments.
  3. Attack the most important things on your list that will move you and/or your business forward.
  4. Stay FOCUSED. Stay away from social media, too much office chatter and any other things that easily distract you.
  5. Be a good quarterback. We all have unexpected things that come up throughout the day that need to be addressed. It’s important we give ourselves permission to call audibles, adjust quickly, and enable ourselves to still get to our daily goal line.
  6. Manage your emails. Some people like to respond to emails that come through right away. Others take ten minutes every hour to deal with email. And others manage emails three times a day. Whatever approach you take, make sure you’re managing your emails…and not the other way around.
  7. Show gratitude. Write down three or four things at the end of the day that happened that went well. That simple step will help give you a sense of accomplishment and motivation.
  8. Finally, don’t forget to find laughter every day!

What other things do you do each day that help you stay on task and reach your goals? We’d love to hear your ideas!

Allow Yourself to be Coachable

Mike Bollinger

Mike Bollinger

Post written by Mike Bollinger, Operations and Business Development

Earth is home to over 7 billion people with a variety of different races, cultures, beliefs, etc. We’re all human beings with many differences based on a number of different aspects. That being said, there are also many things that people of all races and cultures have in common with one another.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to try and cover all of the differences/ similarities that the global human population consists of. I do want to highlight one similarity that I believe to be a very valuable trait that I consider to be an individual choice.

That trait is allowing oneself to be coachable.

We all have things that motivate us. Whether it be a hobby, our career, family, athletics or really anything that we as individuals hold a place of importance in our daily lives.

It’s safe to say that no matter what demographic background we come from, all people are striving to succeed in one aspect or another. Allowing oneself to be coachable plays a major role in our ability to not only achieve our goals or dreams but to also maintain greatness once we get there.

The world we live in today is changing on a daily basis. If we don’t allow ourselves to be to coachable, it’s only a matter of time before we fall behind or don’t  “keep up with the times”.


We’re wired to be naturally hesitant to change and to fear the unknown. Try to think of a time where an organization that you were a part of went through a period of change. There were probably 3 different categories your fellow peers ended up falling under:

  • Resistant
  • Undecided
  • Embracing

Those who were resistant were basically not allowing themselves to be coachable or open minded. As a result, they weren’t moving forward in their journey to achieve their goals.

The Undecided folks did what needed to be done to continue to be compliant with operating procedures, but did put in the necessary effort to become a top performer in the organization.

The embracers are the individuals who understand that change is inevitable. These individuals chose to roll with the punches and committed themselves to becoming subject matter experts to maximize their performance and abilities.

The point is that if we’re not constantly learning and adapting, the only place we can go is backward.

No matter what position we hold on the leaderboard, there is always something new we can learn to improve and take our game to a new level.

So remember, the next time you’re faced with change or something new, allow yourself to be open-minded to the opportunity to add a new skill to your toolbox.

Find Out What Scares You and Do It Twice!

Rich Lewis

Rich Lewis

Post written by Richard Lewis, Vice President, Staffing Services 

Do you ever have that “thing” rattling around in the back of your mind and you think to yourself, “No, I can’t do that! That is something I will never do!”

I think it’s a safe bet we all have a fear…or ten.

Some of us fear failure, flying, large social settings, and a host of other things we avoid in our daily lives.

As for me, after graduating college, I had numerous fears, including public speaking, sales and writing. (P.S. – This is my 2nd blog post ever BTW.)

Other fears of mine include snakes, heights, spiders, and flying. One of my boys fears horse flies and June Bugs. (Sorry, June Bugs?  Must be their sticky feet. lol)

But let’s be honest. Fear isn’t a laughing matter. June Bugs might be funny to me because I don’t fear them, but to my son, they’re a cause for anxiety. For each of us, our perception is our reality.

After graduating college, I invested in myself (big fear) and bought a distributorship with a direct marketing company. I had many successes and failures. Ultimately, the company faced tough times and I lost my business. However, I was fortunate to learn from several mentors and they taught me lessons I still use today.

On one memorable occasion, I was spending some one-on-one time with one of my mentors. After I’d won a contest at work, he asked me why I wasn’t conducting training at the office. I tried to make an excuse such as “I’m not interested in being in the front of the room, in the spotlight, etc.” but he knew.

He knew I was afraid of putting myself out there, exposing a perceived weakness. I was afraid of public speaking.

scaresMy mentor said…

“Richard, in life you have to find out what scares you and do it twice. You have to embrace your fear to overcome it.”

Honestly, I thought he was nuts, but the next Saturday there I was, in front of the room, scared to death!  I conducted the training and covered all of the material in 28 minutes. (The training was normally about 75 minutes.)

I ended up doing local and regional training weekly for the next three years. I was amazed at the confidence it gave me in both my personal and business life.

Ironically, even to this day, I still get butterflies before a big meeting or speaking engagement.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being nervous or scared. They key is learning how to deal with that fear.

You can even use that fear/nervousness to keep you on your toes…to keep your focus as you master your fear.

If public speaking is a fear of yours, embrace it! Do it twice…and change your situation.

Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

We all need to continue to learn, change things up and do something different once in awhile…something that scares us.

My challenge to you: Make a list of fears you have about your job, your relationships, your hobbies, your church, etc. and then volunteer to lead a committee or a training, etc. even if you’re scared to death. And then commit to it and watch where it takes you.

Do what scares you and do it twice! Turn your fears into a strength!

A Few Thoughts on Work-Life Balance

Mike Bollinger

Mike Bollinger

Post written by Mike Bollinger, Operations and Business Development

Take a moment and think about the following scenario…

You’re on a road trip halfway across the country. What would make more sense?

  1. Drive your car as fast as it goes until you run out of gas and then hoof it to the nearest gas station.
  2. Drive at a consistent speed and stop along the way to refuel, and then pick up right where you left off.

I think we can all agree that option #2 is far more efficient. The same can be said about life, and specifically, work-life balance. There are a lot of people who believe that 100-hour work weeks are what will get them ahead in life.

I’m not saying that putting in the time and grinding it out isn’t often necessary. In fact, I’m one of those people myself.

In addition, I’m not taking anything away from those who work a lot. I just want to highlight the importance of also making time for yourself…away from work. No matter the title on your business card, this rule still benefits everyone.

The majority of adults have been at a point in their professional lives when the amount of time put in at work has actually had a negative impact. We’ve all sent an email that in one way or another ended with a big, fat embarrassing apology or explanation. Minor mistakes like this can be completely avoidable if we just pump the brakes and take a little time to recharge the batteries.

work life balanceHere are just a few of the major benefits of finding a balance between work and life:

  • A healthier mental state
  • Less mistakes
  • Higher level of motivation
  • The ability to actually enjoy the fruits of our labor

This list can go on and on and will differ among individuals. When you’re done reading this post, make your own list of benefits and post them somewhere in or around your office or home.

From my own personal experiences as a manager, I know that there often isn’t enough time in one day to do everything.

I’ve never looked at people who work for me as my employees, but rather as valued teammates.

I will be the first to admit that I push my team to the limits, but I NEVER fail to not only recognize all of their efforts and sacrifice, but to also reward them.

As an example, I’ve sent people home early for going above and beyond. The result? Much higher results and productivity. I’ve found that between all the incentives I’ve thrown out (bonuses, team outings, meals, time off, etc.), time off has proven to be most effective.

So the next time you or your team are struggling, consider taking a little time away from the daily grind.

Sometimes a little break to refuel is all it takes to get that well-oiled machine back on track!

How Bad Do You Want It?

Michelle NapierPost written by Michelle Napier, Senior Recruiter

There will always be opposition, delays, and discouragement in the workplace.

However, these hurdles are often a sign that you may be onto something significant.

They can often bring you to a place of a certain pressure that creates a test of your passion for the job.

When that happens, I recommend facing the opposition with the expectation of moving past it. Minimize your reactions and refocus on the big picture. There can be great growth and progress if you know how to deal with it the right way.

Look beyond your current situation.

Learn to have a mindset of abundance and prosperity.

Imagine that you’re in the next stage of success in your life and focus on how that makes you feel.

Discover how increasing your expectations actually enlarges your capacity to receive.

Get ready to walk through doors you never thought would open.

How bad do you want it

Focus on making relentless progress and find ways to get inspired…through education, books in your field, coming in early and staying late, thinking globally for your company.

Don’t miss your destiny.

Do what others aren’t willing to do.

Your will is one of the most powerful things you have. Life is part journey and part race.

We all have goals that create that passion in our lives to drive us to continue on. We have to find encouragement inside ourselves and focus our minds on success, abundance and prosperity in our future.

There will always be competition and opposition in our lives. We have to be willing to want it bad enough.

I know I do.

What about you?

The Power of a Positive Attitude

Greg DabbsPost written by Greg Dabbs, Business Development Manager

Has life not always gone the way you want it to?

Have you had challenges that were difficult to overcome?

Of course you have. All of us have from time to time.  Whether it be at work or in our personal lives, we’ve all had, and will continue to have, challenges to face.

One of the best remedies for times like these is having a positive attitude. Maintaining this mindset isn’t always easy.  I’ve often thought it would be nice if we could fill up a syringe with positive attitude and confidence and shoot it into our bloodstream whenever we need it.  But, since that isn’t currently an option, we just have to get it in other ways.

I can tell you, from years of experience with life and the challenges it brings, that maintaining a positive attitude and confidence can get you through the worst of times and help you succeed in life.

A positive attitude has helped me get through a divorce, career changes and many other challenges big and small. That attitude also helps keep me on my path to be who I want to be at work and home.

There are many celebrities who can also attest to the power of a positive mindset. Jennifer Lopez says that she commits at least 15 minutes every day to affirmations.   Steven King kept rejection letters spiked on his wall and received 60 of them before his first short story was published. Oprah Winfrey went from poverty to the richest woman in the world.

positive thinking

How do you maintain a positive attitude?

First,  you can’t listen to the negative voice in your head.

Sometimes I find myself thinking: “I should have done this or I should have done that”.  I then quickly shut off the negativity of the past and focus on the present and the future.

What can I do or what should I do now, and moving forward, that will make a difference?

The second thing is that you have to remind yourself of all of the good things in your life.

Replace every negative thing that happens to you with something good that is happening or has happened, such as a memory that was a “feel good” moment in your life.

A few other suggestions:

  1. Affirmations
  2. Visualize what you want to do and the success you want to achieve
  3. Be mindful of the people you hang out with in your life

Affirmations come from within your mind and soul. You repeat them to yourself over and over again. They remind you what kind of person you want to be in your life and/or what you want to do.

There are a couple things you have to do without fail.

Visualizing your success is huge! I do this at work with daily tasks and meetings and envision how I want the outcome to be. I also like to visualize when I play sports. As a former baseball pitcher, I would focus on seeing the pitches in my head I was going to throw to each batter and visualize them striking out or hitting into a double play.

Finally, the people you surround yourself with might be one of the biggest influencers to your successful positive attitude. If you’re around people who are genuinely positive all the time, who laugh and who always have good things to say, then that will undoubtedly rub off on you.

What do you think? What other techniques do you use to keep a positive attitude? Leave a comment below. I’m always open for suggestions!