The 10 Cs of choosing suppliers and contractors

It can be hard to find the right suppliers and contractors for your business. You want them to be experts at what they do, of course. You want them to do it at a good price. You want them to add value to your business. You want them to fit with the way you and your people work.

You want a lot, basically. And that’s fair enough – you’re going to be paying for a service, you want it to be the service you need.

But you probably also know that sinking feeling when, after all that procurement/recruitment time and effort, you realise that they’re not a good fit for your needs at all. And now you’re faced with making the best of it or starting all over again.

If this feels like a familiar problem, the 10C model might well be answer…

What is the 10C model?

If you have experience of managing contractors and suppliers, you know that any difficulties (non-performance, contract disputes, commercial failure, below-standard service quality…) often have their roots in the procurement process. Hindsight is wonderful.

The 10C model (originally the Seven Cs of Supplier Evaluation) was first proposed by Dr Ray Carter of DPSS* Consultants IN 1995, in an article in the Journal of Purchasing and Supply Management. It is now widely recognised, and widely used, and is part of the syllabus for the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply and the International Association for Contract and Commercial Management.

*(Developing People Serving the Supply Chain)

The 10 Cs are criteria by which you can assess any potential contractor/supplier’s suitability. Read on for a quick overview…

The 10 Cs

  • Competency – Put simply, can they do the job you need them to do? You need to assess their capabilities against your specific business needs. What do their past and current customers/clients say?
  • Capacity – They may be great at what you need, but do they have the time and resources to do it? This will influence both quality and speed of service. Also, what about fluctuations in their workflow or supply chain?
  • Commitment – Whatever the service, you need a commitment to quality. What quality standards do they work to? Maybe there’s an appropriate certification (ISO 9001? Six Sigma?) – do they have it? Apart from quality, there’s also their commitment to you, the client – what happens when they have conflicting priorities? Where do you stand?
  • Consistency – How will they ensure that standards will be maintained? What’s their track record in the industry?
  • Cost – Yes, cost is always going to be one of the criteria. How does it compare with other suppliers on the market (make sure you compare like with like).
  • Cash – How is their financial health as a concern? Can you be sure that they will remain in business, or are they overextended. You don’t want to choose what appears to be the ideal contractor only to have them shut down two months later.
  • Communication – How do they / will they keep in touch. What comms channels or methods do they prefer? And do those fit with how you like to work? What about response times (especially in times of crisis)? Who will you have access to – the people actually doing the work, or is there a gatekeeper?
  • Control (internal) – How much control do they have over their services/products? Are they reliant on other suppliers – how long is the chain? How do they propose to ensure reliable performance?
  • CSR (also known as ‘Clean’) – Corporate social responsibility, it’s a question of ethics… Are they committed to sustainability? How is their environmental footprint? Do they any ‘green’ certifications? And, importantly, how do they treat their people?
  • Culture – What are their values? Does their workplace culture match (or at least, complement) yours?

Finding a new supplier or contractor is always a time-consuming process. All the more reason to invest enough effort to ensure that time isn’t wasted and that instead, it’s the beginning of a mutually beneficial partnership.

Oh, one final thought: remember that any potential supplier or contractor may also be applying these standards to you as part of deciding whether they want you as a client…


If you’re looking for more about procurement – especially if you think the 10C model could help – the In-House Training Company has a comprehensive menu of training options, all of which can be delivered to your people either in-person or remotely.  Give us a call on 01582 463463. We’re here to help.