A Good Supplier Can Make All the Difference
Based upon my observations over the years, it seems obvious that a good supplier will make the climb up the ladder of success much faster and easier.
The longer you are dealing with a supplier, the more he/she/they will become a "center of your universe," not only your source for equipment and supplies, but also your go-to source for knowledge and advice. This will ring true to those who work with a dealer who is responsive to your needs, keeps an adequate inventory of competitively priced equipment and supplies on hand, and maintains a service department that will keep you running in the clutch.
As time goes by, your dealer and the various functions they host will become your social center. CADs, product introductions, classes and other special occasions will give you, among other things, an opportunity to meet your competitors in a friendly setting and learn informally from your peers. These are just the opportunities you need to network and grow your business. Knowing your competitors can be a very valuable tool in growing your business and widening your menu of offerings; jobs involving services you don't currently offer can be subcontracted to someone that does if you know who they are.
That said, it pays to offer a variety of services yourself: never shortchange the education budget! Try to attend as many classes as possible to widen your personal body of knowledge of the cleaning and restoration industries. You will find that this same dealer that meets your every need will also develop into a school of sorts through a balanced schedule of classes and educational offerings that will help shape your business into the successful cash machine you want it to be. While there are numerous avenues of expansion you may choose for your growth all of them are best approached with a big dose of classroom education. As Derek Bok, former president of Harvard University, put it, "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance!"
If you are fortunate enough to have a local dealer/supplier most of your purchases will probably be from that supplier just as a matter of convenience Being able to walk into a location and find the cleaners, spotters, tools and equipment needed for success makes your business growing that much more easy. Your dealer may also become your business mentor and the "go to person" for info and help with problems that will arise regularly. The "good dealer" you are looking for will be up to date on the cleaning/restoration industry and will know about improvements and advances in cleaning/restorations sciences giving you the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of technology and equipment while increasing profits.
A major role to be played by the good dealer is to be your "keep on running" center. Equipment and tools that don't work become a liability, costing both time and money. This is, of course, where the well-stocked parts department pays dividends for the customer in the form of rapid repairs and a quick return to service and profits. Often, they'll also be your "keep on cleaning'" center, allowing you the luxury of wandering down aisles of chemicals and other supplies to fill the tool box and to replenish products exhausted since the last trip to this cleaner's candy store. The good dealer will be there to answer the myriad questions and concerns that inevitably arise as your business grows. They may have rental equipment available that will allow you to tackle larger jobs than is possible with the equipment you own, or else you may wish to try out some new equipment before you make a buying decision.
If you are not among the blessed that have a good local supplier, you will probably end up being an e-customer of an Internet supplier. Internet purchasing is a growing trend for many fields, not just our cleaning and restoration fields.
But it's tough to repair equipment online. Certainly, many of the technical questions you face can often be answered online if you have the time to wait for an answer. If you are monitoring your chemical and supply levels, you will generally have the time required to order on-line and wait for delivery. Some online purchases may be money savers; others will end up being more expensive when shipping and handling are calculated.
Walk-in or online; the decision is yours. But one thing is for sure: whether your supplier is local or online, your business has reduced expectation of success if you try to "make it" without a business plan. Take the time to attend some business classes, not just technical classes. Ask business-focused questions, not just technical questions. Ask your dealer to help with business plans if necessary and with planning for equipment purchases Remember, "Failure to plan is like planning to fail."
See ya next month! In the meantime, hug your friendly supplier!