Nurturing relationships with the right suppliers is one of the keys to success in the home improvement industry. Whether you buy from a wholesale distributor or directly from a manufacturer, a good supplier will bring additional value to your business by providing product training to help support your sales and installation staff, and by offering things like free literature and samples.
It’s important, however, to realize that these “extras” are just window dressing. Though they may initially help to earn your business, they’re not a supplier’s main function. The main function of a supplier is to get you the material you need on time and to bill you correctly for it. When a supplier fails to achieve these basic but critical goals, it can really hurt your company. If material is delayed or orders arrive incomplete or damaged, you jeopardize the ability to keep work flowing and customers happy.
These sorts of mishaps occasionally happen to any supplier, but if you notice that a supplier consistently fails to live up to obligations or that the quality of products and services it delivers is steadily deteriorating—and if there’s little improvement after numerous conversations with that supplier—then it may be time to look for a new relationship.
The way to go about finding a new supplier will vary depending on the products and services involved. If you switch lumberyards, for example, you’ll likely still be able to purchase most of the brand-name products you routinely use. But if you buy windows direct from a manufacturer, when you change to a new window manufacturer you are changing both the relationship and the finished product. In that case, warranty issues and replacement parts are also something to consider with both the old relationship and the new one.
If you’re contemplating a change that will result in your using a different product, you need to do your homework before making any kind of switch. In our company, we maintain good relationships with a couple of window vendors. One of them is our main supplier, but we do a significant amount of business with both. If our main supplier starts to slip and our efforts to resolve the issues fail to improve the situation, we already have another company we know we can work with.
Changing suppliers is a disruption that should be avoided by pairing with good partners from the outset. For products and services that are at the core of your business, it makes sense to hedge your bets by building and maintaining redundant relationships with more than one supplier.