A Supplier Nightmare and Why Should You Go to Trade Shows
After attending the Specialty Advertising Association of California (SAAC) trade show in California last week, I again have come back invigorated! Full disclosure here... I like trade shows. I believe good business is based on strong relationships and trade shows give me the opportunity to meet face-to-face with my colleagues. Trade shows give me access to a variety of worthwhile educational opportunities and product information I can't get from a catalog.
At this show, I had the privilege of visiting with PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE and Eric E. Ekstrand, MAS, PPAI Chairman of the Board. Click here for a 2-minute State of the Industry Address video with our Association leaders.
For those who don't know, I have a distributor business that is affiliated with a large national company. I enjoy the sense of community we have in addition to having the burden of running a business off my back. We had a nice lunch together at the show and it was good to hang out with my "business family."
At this show, I had a problem resolution situation to deal with—a 288 piece terra cotta flowerpot mug order with a crooked imprint. Click here to see the mug. Would you want your clients to take these mugs? This supplier had printed these before without issue. As with most deals gone wrong there are two sides to every story and I am willing to own my part in what went bad in this situation. One thing I did miss was not noticing when I placed the reorder that this supplier is no longer on our company's Preferred Supplier List. On face value, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. We use many good suppliers that aren't on this list. But perhaps I should have noticed they had been removed from this desirable positioning and questioned why.
The order was placed in June and now it's almost September. Three weeks were lost trying to get resolution with their sales manager who told us he would get right back to us. Our initial conversation was promising. Typically those who are in this position are empowered to take care of things like this. That didn't happen here. Unfortunately, he failed to return our calls, despite our ongoing follow-up efforts. I understand people in this position are always on the road, but this additional delay made a bad situation worse.
In the end, ultimately the two options presented by the supplier were not favorable resolutions. One offered a significant discount for the client to keep the mugs. My business savvy wife brought to my attention that accepting that offer basically says that we can't deliver a quality product. This isn't the image we want to present, nor is it the way we want to take care of our clients. The other option was to return the mugs so the supplier can review them. Hundreds of dollars in freight costs would be incurred and they would then charge us only for the mugs they determine are good. This of course would add another 2 to 3 weeks on to this mess.
We are well past a reasonable time of resolution at this point and have already gone through enough of these mugs to know that many have crooked imprints. We felt this was also an inadequate resolution. The supplier's cost to redo the mugs correctly would have cost less than shipping them back and forth. Call me crazy, but I think sometimes good business is just taking care of the customer. That's what we are choosing to do with our client who was caught up in this mug order disaster. Unfortunately the supplier here does not feel the same way.
FACE TO FACE PERSONAL CONNECTIONS and BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES
Trade shows give us the opportunity to connect in person and attending this show was a way for me to meet face to face with the sales manager for the company who produced these mugs. I was hoping that we could communicate more effectively in person. That's where their two options to resolve this were again presented. With everything that had happened here... as noted, these options weren't acceptable to me. He really is a nice guy and understanding of my plight, but apparently is not able to come up with a more favorable resolution.
But as trade shows are so good for doing, I came across the solution to this mess. While visiting my friends at the PPAI booth, I stepped across the aisle to my friends at SAGE to see what supplier at the SAAC Show carried the terra cotta flowerpot mug I needed. Using the SAGE search engine tool, I found 777 Promotional Products, a supplier that specializes in drinkware. Bill Kerr, the affable Chief Operating Officer who was at the show, was sympathetic to my situation and we worked out an arrangement to have them cost effectively produce the mugs. While we will incur some expense, we feel comfortable the client will end up with mugs printed correctly in about a week. I've seen their imprinting and they are good. I look forward to introducing 777 to you soon through FreePromoTips and you can get a sample of their quality work.
I use this current example of how a personal connection I've made with a supplier partner at a trade show has helped me. But this is just one of many relationships I forged that have enabled me out of jams and allowed me to see new things that I would never know about if I stayed in the office.
Why go to trade shows? To benefit from the power of business connections! There is no substitute for building personal relationships.
By the way, NOW is the time to register for The PPAI Expo!
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