by Dustin Anderson
My emails look different these days. Delayed orders, price increases, overdue bills, collections and even threats. It’s funny how things change. You see, I’m not of the same use to some vendors that I used to be. Most of the current staff at companies that used to contact me have no clue what I look like or even my name. I’m no longer a valued glazier that makes up the lifeblood of the industry. I’m a number on an accounting screen with a balance next to it. I’m an amount of money on the collections list. I’m an address where someone sends the bills or has the lawyer serve papers. It wasn’t always this way.
It wasn’t that long ago that my emails and phone calls looked completely different. At that point, I suppose I was more useful. At that point, I was less of an accounting number and more of a marketing tool. My time and exposure on HGTV were every supplier’s dream come true. I used to hear:
“Use our tools and products on the show.”
“Use our new shower system.”
“Come to Italy and tour our door manufacturing plant. I’ll pay for everything!”
I was tagged on social media like you wouldn’t believe. I had requests from as many vendors as I could dream of to send me free products and tools just to find out what my thoughts were. I talked with a guy once about how I was making my “grid” style showers at a glass show and in 12 short months, his company was offering it as a product with the exact system I described to him. That’s what vendor conversations looked like. It was awesome and fun and I felt incredibly valuable to the industry as a whole. To say I didn’t like that would be me lying to you. That’s not something I ever want to do.
What changed? It’s simple. My value to those vendors changed. I can tell you adamantly that this industry wasn’t always this way. Long before Chip and Joanna had a TV show, I had vendors that I adored. That isn’t an exaggeration. My father, a glazier himself, and I talked the other day about our sales reps back in the proverbial “day.” We can tell you their names and their spouses’ names, in some cases. We knew what they drove and what pastry they were bringing from West. (Side note …West, Texas, is different from West Texas and home to the best kolaches you’ve had in your life. Remember, I told you that I never want to lie to you!) Okay, back to the point. These folks loved their jobs and their companies and we loved them back. Mutual loyalty was the backbone of my business and I suspect it was for others out there still fighting the good fight. As more and more vendors and suppliers sold to bigger companies and venture capitalist groups, the calls and requests for tours of Waco or signed goods still poured in. I was still useful to these groups. Then the final season of Fixer Upper aired and while I had still maintained a great relationship with our industry magazines and their staffs, the vendor calls slowed way down. Then I found myself in the middle of an awful embezzlement situation that crippled my company. I sold everything I could to keep it going. Some vendors showed me some grace but the larger “bought out” companies did not. The fact that I was a useful marketing tool at one time faded and the fact that I owed them money was all that mattered. I managed to catch up and pay every single debt that was accrued during that time. Sadly, just as things caught up … the pandemic. As that faded … supply chain issues. There has been a constant battle to survive what I call “2018 Chapters 1-4” or what you would call the last four year.
It occurred to me recently as I thought about how all of these things have changed that it had nothing to do with me personally. Those vendors and suppliers didn’t forget about me. I shouldn’t be hurt about any of it. I was in a position to be useful and there was a seemingly mutual benefit. While I don’t believe that I came out ahead, that’s not really the point. The point is simple: none of that stuff was for me. Not the invites to Italy (which were actually just words and there’s a great story there for another time), not the tools (which ended up walking away as some of my employees left the company), and not the short lead times and discounts (which were only helpful for whatever that one job was). All of those things were for the SITUATION I was in. I’m at a point in my life where taking it personally doesn’t make a lot of sense despite being an overly sensitive ginger. The lesson I’ve learned is the fun things that came along with being on TV were simply for the SITUATION and not for me. There’s some humility in learning that the hard way and I’m grateful not only for the lesson but for those fun things that happened along the way. In the end, as this industry continues to evolve and change like most facets of life, I’m evolving and changing with it. That’s all we can do.