At an April home show in Chicago, I sat in the Remodelors Council booth and listened to a homeowner rant for a good 10 minutes. After one particularly grim story about a remodeler who had done her wrong, she paused to look me dead in the eye. “I had to leave the state because I thought I was going to kill him,” she said.
Though a bit tightly wound, she reminded me of remodelers talking about their negative experiences with suppliers. In both cases, while the anger is justified, the unprofessional behavior of a few taints the reputation of many. For the most part, dealers and distributors aren’t out to fleece anybody.
Still, the remodeling supply chain has been a tough nut for all involved parties to crack. Manufacturers and suppliers find it difficult to pinpoint the needs of remodeling firms, as small companies whose materials differ from project to project. Yet I know of more than one remodeler who treks from booth to booth at trade shows, attempting to educate manufacturers.
Some suppliers — from big retailers to local lumberyards to design centers — are also competitors, which makes writing them a check pretty painful. Yet they keep trying to win the professional market, as evidenced most recently by Home Depot’s launch of Home Depot Supply, a makeover of Home Depot Pro.
And while it’s true that production builders have a direct-to-manufacturer purchase option that’s seldom available to remodelers or custom home builders, no one in the residential construction industry has figured out an effective way to bring materials purchasing online.
In her search to find industry best practices, senior editor Marjie O’Connor found a number of dealers and distributors who “get it.” They understand that quality, service, education and on-time delivery matter even more than price. Don’t do business with companies that don’t meet those standards. Otherwise, subcontractors and suppliers who can’t keep their promises end up running your business to their lower standards.
It’s a lesson I was reminded of when reading the latest book from Michael E. Gerber, The E-Myth Contractor: Why Most Contractors’ Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. It hit home for me in chapter 13, “On the Subject of Work,” where he defines the difference between strategic and tactical work.
Part of what we’re all trying to do as managers, as leaders, is to minimize tactical work and focus on strategy to get our companies to the next level. We hope Professional Remodeler’s first Buyers’ Guide will help. In addition to detailed contact information, the manufacturer index includes a key to indicate distribution channels — from lumberyards to manufacturer-direct — and remodeler-oriented services such as co-op advertising and referral programs. Like any good supplier, we don’t want to just meet expectations but to exceed them.