Suppliers Are the Key to Our Success: Get Them Involved!
Suppliers Are the Key to Our Success: Get Them Involved!
and trust takes time and effort.
The last couple of months, I’ve talked about the importance and value of relationships with those outside the structural components industry, from lawmakers and building officials to framers and specifiers. An obvious group I haven’t talked about yet is our suppliers. Given how dependent we are on each other, you could argue our relationships with them are more important than any other. In that context, I want to explore the value and benefit in having them involved in our trade association, both at the national level through SBCA and at the local level through state chapters, and why it’s in your best interest to encourage them to participate.
Like most volunteer organizations, ten percent of SBCA’s membership does close to 90 percent of the work for our association. There are many component manufacturers (CM) from across the country who regularly participate in SBCA’s Open Quarterly Meetings (OQM), but there’s so much we couldn’t get done without the involvement of our suppliers. From a big picture perspective, our suppliers and their sales networks have a lot of knowledge about the marketplace and trends that we CMs wouldn’t necessarily know about or learn about on our own.
Beyond serving as an informational resource, our suppliers bring a valuable perspective to the table that helps us make better decisions for the benefit of the entire industry. In my opinion, one of the best things about being involved in SBCA is hearing the different perspectives CMs and suppliers provide, and how our industry’s reasoned response is stronger because of all the wide variety of ideas that are generated. Of course, when we tackle big issues together, our relationships with the suppliers in those meetings grow deeper. Through those discussions, we nurture relationships built on respect and trust.
Respect & Trust
Let’s face it, respect and trust are qualities that separate our “go-to” suppliers from everyone else out there. It separates those who I reach out to from those who have to come to me to make their sales pitch. I know I can rely on certain people to get something done at the eleventh hour, and that reliability separates them from all their competitors. In other words, as long as I have a choice, respect and trust are what determine who I give my business to.
Suppliers earn my respect and trust by providing a quality product or service, being consistent and proving they understand my company’s success is in their best interest. Regular participation in SBCA and local chapters is a part of that process. By showing up to meetings, listening and giving good counsel when they know something about an issue, they prove they understand our industry’s success is in their best interest.
Like any worthwhile relationship, it doesn’t just occur overnight. It takes time. Attending one meeting and expecting a ton of new sales leads is probably not going to turn out well for a supplier. A prolonged commitment is the only way to build trust. Prove to me repeatedly that you care more about the success of our industry as a whole than on gaining a customer, and you’ll eventually get my business because I trust your motives.
I am very thankful for all of the supplier companies who have shown this kind of commitment to SBCA and our local chapters over the years. I’d like to think that part of their success has come as a result of their participation, and I know our industry has grown in a positive direction thanks to their involvement.
This is probably a good time to point out the obvious—these relationships work both ways. It’s important for us, the customers, to do everything we can to foster respect and trust among our suppliers. For example, we all know how disruptions cause us to be inefficient. I stress to my employees that not every repair call to our plate suppliers should be an emergency. If we do that, we abuse our relationship with them and, in turn, lose their respect and trust. We only go to them with an emergency when we truly have one.
Face to Face
There is no substitute for face-to-face meetings. I’ll give you an example of what I mean. We have a builder in our market who sends some of the meanest, brashest emails I have ever received. If you show up in his office, however, he can be the nicest guy. When you talk through issues and expectations with him at the table, he is understanding and fine to work with. It’s easy to blame email as the root of the problem, but really it’s the personal interaction and the give and take that is possible only when you’re in the room together.
That’s part of the magic of SBCA OQMs and chapter meetings. With all of us sitting in the room together, we can talk through problems CMs face in the marketplace and brainstorm ideas on how to solve them. I’m always amazed at how I learn something new at every meeting I attend, and what I have learned from those who attend.
Scott Ward, SBCA’s Past President, and I have become friends over the years through our involvement in SBCA. He’s in Louisiana and I’m in Iowa. We don’t compete on any level. A few years back, we got to talking about employee incentive programs. I had an effective program for my sales and design staff, he had a pretty good one for his production guys. Due to our friendship, we felt comfortable sharing our programs with each other and I feel confident we’ll both benefit from that going into the future.
What I’m trying to say is that our organization, and our industry as a result, is better off the more involvement we have. I want to encourage every CM reading this to look up and down your supply chain and encourage the companies you respect and trust to participate either in SBCA OQMs or in chapter meetings.
To the suppliers reading this, if you aren’t already involved, I ask you to strongly consider getting off the sidelines and joining us. Your input is welcome and needed as we help steer this industry into the future. The more you come on board with an attitude of service and giving to the industry, I promise you, the more you will get out of your