Volume 49, Issue 2 - February 2014

ShopSavvy

Who’s Your Buddy?
Your Fabricator Is Your Best Friend—Or Should Be
By Paul Bieber

My wife, Elaine, is my best friend. My dog, Molly, is my best four-legged friend, and if I owned or managed a glass shop, I would want my main glass fabricator to be my best business friend. A good glass fabricator will assist your business to run smoothly and, hopefully, profitably. A bad one will take you down and make it so you can’t fulfill your promises to your customers.

People Factor
How do you know a good one from a bad one? Quality products and services, accurate and complete deliveries, availability of key products, tints and coatings, and pricing to you are all important. In that order. Buying simply from the cheapest will never work. You will get what you pay for, and your business will suffer.

But the single most important feature of your fabricator is (drum roll please): the people with whom you interact. Do you know the key players at your fabrication company? You know the sales guy who comes around occasionally showing you a new product or handling a credit memo, but this relationship is not enough.

You should know, on a first name basis, who the key decision makers are, the head of shipping and manufacturing and a key technical person. For it is not the day-to-day operations that are most important; it is what happens when the silicone-hits-the-fan that defines a fabricator. This is when you need to talk to the right person to solve the problems.

Set a Meeting
Once or twice a year, schedule a meeting with the general manager (GM) of your key fabricator. Go to lunch or a ball game together. Discuss your upcoming needs and ask this GM what can be done to help you achieve your goals. Ask what is new in the industry and how that will impact your company.

Visit with each of the key department heads for a few minutes as well. Let them put a face to the voice on the phone that is asking for a quick turn-around on a special order.

If you are not comfortable with the GM and the other managers, or they don’t respond to you, it may be time to look for a different key vendor. Here is one test that works: Let’s say your business was hit by lightning and burned to the ground. You get a nice insurance check, decide not to reopen a new store, and get a job at a fabricator. Would you want to work at your key fabricator? Do the people there make you comfortable? Are your business values the same as theirs? If you answer “yes” to these questions, you have a good vendor. If you answer “no,” then it is time to look for a new key fabricator.

Also, keep in mind that a fabricator-glass shop relationship goes two ways. Both you and the fabricator need to make a buck to stay in business. If you nickel-and-dime your fabricator you will see higher prices and less service. You want to give about 75 percent of your glass business to your key fabricator and spread the balance around to special fab shops with unique capabilities. Let your key supplier know that you are not going to shop them on every order but do check pricing randomly on the larger orders.

Paul Bieber has 37 years’ experience in the glass industry, with C.R. Laurence and as executive vice president of Floral Glass in New York. He is now the principal of Bieber Consulting Group LLC and can be reached at paulbaseball@msn.com. Read his blog on Tuesdays at http://usgpaul.usglassmag.com.

 


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