Volume 44, Issue 3 - March 2009

Buyerís Block

Stop Waiting; Start Preparing
Get Ready Now for Good Times to Return 
by Paul Bieber 

The economy has you down. You have laid off 40 percent of your staff, yet there still are times when you donít have enough work for your people. 

Now you have the opportunity to expand your relationships with key vendors. Now is the time for you and your team to learn more about glass and customer service.

First, meet with your glass fabricator and set up workdays for all of your shop people at the fabricatorís production center. Your team will learn handling techniques and safety tips. They will also learn how an insulating glass (IG) unit is made and what is involved in tempering glass. They will learn about your vendorís inventory and computer systems.

Your estimators and installers will have a better understanding of tolerances. Your crew will read your vendorsí packing lists better. They will place orders in a logical way that will get you glass correctly and on time. When Mrs. Smith asks Bill the Installer a question about glass, and it is answered with confidence, your company shines. Knowing what can be provided from your fabricator, Bill also will be able to suggest other glass work to Mrs. Smith. Itís good business for you when Bill suggests a special mirror color or a sandblasted shower door with a scene that Mrs. Smith likes.

Your estimators will understand why oversize glass costs more, and wonít forget to create the up-charge on your quotes. 

Improve the First Contact
Placing the people on your customer service desk with your vendors will give you the biggest bang. Since the first contact with your customer is so very important the more your staff knows the better that contact is. Your staff will close more sales, add-on more items per sale and will make fewer mistakes when they understand what your vendors can do. 

Your customer service people should go to multiple vendors. You have a glass vendorómaybe someone special for tabletops, a window and door supplier and your metal house. 

Donít forget yourself! When was your last refresher on thermally broken aluminum or bullet-resistant laminated glass? Have you thought about the machinery you want to purchase when the economy comes back? Now is a good time to visit a couple of plants picked by your vendor. If you are a serious buyer, and your vendor knows this, ask them to pay at least half of the travel costs. I bet theyíll pick up that tab. You have the time now and, I promise you, the vendors have the time to spend with you.

Your Own Trade Show
Now, letís reverse this process and plan a mini trade show at your shop. Ask each of your vendors to come for an afternoon. They should bring any interactive displays, literature and samples that will help you sell their product. Invite all of your customers for an open house, setting up light snacks and soft drinks. The number one item to show is low-E glass and its energy savings characteristics. Your IG supplier should have a good display for this. Work with your laminated glass supplier and bring in, for example, Vanceva colored interlayers from Solutia. Demonstrate how bullet-resistant glass works. Working with your temperer, bring in 20- by 20-inch samples of 3⁄8-inch tempered and have your customers hit them with a hammer. Then let the customers hit on the edge and watch the light bulb go on over their head.

You will have to work hard to get your place spit-polished perfect. Your employees will be proud to show off what they doóbe sure to let them invite their families. Just as your staff will learn by going to your fabricators, your customers develop a closer relationship with you. This is the real key to success in the glass business. 

Paul Bieber has 30 years in the glass industry, including nine years with C.R. Laurence Co. Inc., and 21 years as the executive vice president of Floral Glass in Hauppauge, N.Y., from which he retired in 2005. Mr. Bieberís opinions are solely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of this magazine.

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