We’re All (HR) Vendors

HR Practitioners are Vendors in a way

Earlier last week I had an active email discussion between someone I respect very much in the human resources industry I’m sure many of you know.  John Sumser was questioning my motivates as part of a campaign I helped launch.  John asked if my intentions and involvement were out of the goodness of my heart or because of the client I am working for.

The answer was yes and yes.

We’re All (HR) Vendors

Yes, I am a business.  Yes, I am a vendor.  Yes, I believe in helping to change the human resources industry for the better.  Yes, I like networking and helping people in the business.  Sometimes to a fault.  And yes, it doesn’t hurt when a very public campaign goes off with great success.  And yes, I am very selective about the clients I work with.  Their values and goals must mesh well with my own.  Because reputation is important, so is perception, common culture, and organizational alignment.

John’s email had me thinking.  Aren’t we all vendors?  And are our attentions ever 100% pure?  Wasn’t Mother Teresa motivated to impress the big guy upstairs?  Serving as a vendor earning her rightful place and seat the table?

Whether you are a practioner inside of an organization, business software or service, Chief Executive Officer, or individual consultant, the fact is that we all provide services and value to an organization or organizations.  Some of this may to departments within our organization or multiple clients across a variety of organizations. To me, that’s what a vendor really and truly is.

We’re all vendors in HR.  Serving our clients, customers, or the companies in different ways.  Our motives while genuine serve a secondary interest outside of the greater good or the even the stockholder’s interest.  And that interest is to generate revenue, be successful, and make a living for our children, our families, and ourselves to be comfortable and content.

And that is what I intend to do each and every day.  So while you may be in the business of human resources research and analytics like John, a corporate compensation analyst, or a boutique consultant like me, we’re all vendors.  And at the end of the day the difference between me and a corporate human resource department is that the my company success is measured by revenue and dollars earned.  Not turnover, cost per hire, or my stock price on Wall Street.  And at the end of the day I answer to not thousands of stock holders or a board of directions but me, my family, and the clients and friends I work with.

Because we’re all vendors including me, your CIO, and even Mother Teresa.  Don’t let anyone tell you any different.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Lance Haun says

    Just to push back on this a bit, I think there is a bit more nuance here.

    Bernie Madoff is different than Mother Teresa even if they both ultimately had something to sell. People who deceptively sold mortgages are different than those mortgage brokers who sacrificed quick sales to do the right thing. Media outlets who sell content space to advertisers undisclosed are different than those who don’t.

    While Mother Teresa, the honest mortgage broker and transparent media outlet may all be selling product, most people would (and should!) agree that they are better than the alternatives. If we are all vendors, then the message should be to be cognizant of that and the motives (perceived or otherwise) that impact how you’ll be viewed in the marketplace.



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