Standing in line at the supply house, I heard the fellow in front of me talking to the employee working the counter.
“I’m sorry, but that’s just not right. You can’t rip off people like that. Their prices are just out of control,” he said.
The counterman asked, “Who are you talking about?”
“Hotrod and Yox.”
Well. That was our company. And I recognized that the person doing the trash-talking was our supply house salesperson.
This story happened more than 20 years ago, yet I still feel my blood pressure rise when I relive it. The knee jerk reaction would have been to punch that salesperson in the nose, make a big scene and vow never to use that supplier again.
However, that might have been cutting off my nose to spite my face, or cutting off our primary supplier to humiliate that one ignorant fellow in a bad moment.
The essential nature of business is relationships. That includes relationships with customers, team members, family members, subcontractors, vendors, manufacturers and suppliers. Business is community.
Often, we expect our community partners to be as good as, or better than we are. I’ve come to accept, for the most part, that people are doing the best they can with the knowledge, training and understanding they have. Certainly, we had challenges at our company when we initially raised our prices. We had to dive deep into financial education and open book management to convince ourselves, and our team members, of the importance of charging a price that would cover all costs of doing business and allow us to be profitable.
Over the years, I’ve been disappointed and let down by vendors, subcontractors, manufacturers and team members. It’s easy to throw your hands up and fire them, or sever the relationships, but to what end?
As the saying goes, “When you point your finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you.” Whenever I come uncorked at someone, I end up doing something as bad or worse within days. Sigh.
What if, instead, we committed to helping each other? What if we shook hands and said, “Hey, we all have business challenges and growing pains. Let’s get good together. Let’s meet to clarify expectations and responsibilities. We can create procedures as we go, to make sure we have a mutually successful relationship.”
Here are a few tips for getting the most from your partners:
So, here’s what happened at the supply house. I left the counter line and went to the front offices. Then I asked to speak to the owner. In the privacy of his office, I recounted the incident.
Then I asked him, “How many of your customers are behind in paying their supply house bills?”
He said, “Over 700.”
I suggested that he and his team may benefit from attending a Frank Blau seminar. (For those of you who are younger than me, Blau is an industry legend and the mentor who turned me on to the power of financial literacy.)
You see the supply house salesperson didn’t have the education I had. He had never done a breakeven analysis or put a budget together. A year before, I may have been that ignorant person criticizing a higher priced competitor.
Start with the assumption that people are doing the best they can. You can help them get better. Of course, you could take your business elsewhere. However, are you coming to realize, as I am, that there are no perfect partners out there? Including you and me.