April  2004

The Window Guy
A Dealer’s Perspective

Are They Friends or Foes?
by R. Mark Reasbeck

What happened to Christmas? It seems like it was just December 23, the first official day of the holiday shopping season for every red-blooded male. Now, spring is on our heels.

When I took the assignment of writing this column, I didn’t think deadlines would bump into each other so soon. I’ve never been known to have comments or opinions on back order, but this is tough sometimes. This is my third offering, and I’m striving to make each column better than the previous, but you’ll have to make up your own mind on that one. (Personally, I actually think this column is better than the last one.)

Don't They Know Who We Are?

Bouncing my ideas for this column off of my top (and only) salesperson, Kyle Otto, he reminded me of how we are the “dinosaurs” in this business. 

Between the two of us, we have been peddling windows for nearly 40 years.

“Don't they know who we are?” is the question that comes up when we have (here it comes, folks) an “issue” with a manufacturer.

We are their sales force. Oh sure, they have sales representatives who set up dealers and come to take you to lunch every six months, but we as distributors/dealers are the ones out there promoting the advantages of their products, convincing the builders that these products are the best on the planet.

Manufacturers, take note. Look at the sales force that is assembled to promote your products, and they aren't even on your payroll.

We are the ones begging for appointments to do the “dog-n-pony” dance for purchasing agents and homebuilders. I don't think manufacturers appreciate us. I’m calling Hallmark Cards and getting a day set aside for us and a round of price decreases for everyone while I’m at it.

Still More Pet Peeves
I’m truly amazed at the buzz words we latch onto to make us sound smart, sophisticated or “on the cutting edge.”
This column’s pet peeve entry was found at my bank. It’s a cool bank where you can sit down to do your financial duties. As I was sitting there, I noticed a new crystal-clear desk plaque. Being attention deficit of the adult kind, I picked up the plaque up to read the inscription. 

The plaque read: “Empowering our banking associates with …“

Empowering? What power did these people need to take my deposits, cash my checks or loan me some money?
I’ve got this mental picture that the manager has a ceremony where the Knights of the Vault are bowing before his branch-hood and he christens them by touching each of their shoulders with his mighty double-edged, interest-free sword.

Cast Your Fate to the Manufacturer
Over the years, I have dealt with suppliers that could make or break any business. I am the only face the builder puts with the sticker on the window. His only contact with their products is through my company. 

He expects service, on-time deliveries, prompt warranty claims and, of course, all of this with the lowest bid. This is all in the course of doing business if you have a manufacturer that's running on all cylinders. If you have a supplier that is not consistent, your life as a dealer is excruciatingly difficult.

As dealers/distributors, cash flow is king. Product sitting on the floor is making us a total of $0. Since most of my work is supplying housing tracts, I have one employee who calls the job superintendents weekly to make sure our timing for products is within a few days of when it is actually needed at the jobsites.

Dominos (And I Don't Mean Pizza)
I have a great group of people in my office, but it is beyond the call of duty to have to make these kinds of calls to a superintendent:

• “The truck was supposed to be here today, but …”
• “We got one truck in, but your orders are on the next truck, (finishing in a low voice) which will be here next week.”
• “They shipped it, but somehow the low-E 
got …”
• “The International Soccer Cup was played and the plant workers didn't show.” 
• “They ran out of window locks, so they held the order.”

I hope you get my drift here. If the manufacturer doesn't perform, then the dominos fall. 

We waste time with calls. Our planned deliveries are now moved, the superintendent has to reschedule other trades, inspections are held up, the closing date on the house is moved and the daily interest clock the builder is paying isn't on daylight savings time.

So even though we, as business owners, distributors and dealers, pride ourselves in being business savvy, we are only as good as the supplier behind us.

In the past year, I have changed my business strategy and have abandoned using a single supplier and moved to multiple suppliers. This has worked out well because each one has its strong suits and weaknesses, which allow me to tailor my bidding to fit the best product. 

I never play one manufacturer against another. Instead, the strategy allows me to offer more than one bid and an extra chance of being awarded a contract.


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