Never Say Never

Friday, November 13, 2015


During the slipping and sliding through the so-called "Great Recession,” lots of lessons were learned. Many builders simply didn't make it--the well simply ran dry and they had no resources to back them up to "survive." There were exceptions though. We had some local builders that actually kept a fair amount of homes under construction. Several of them, knowing they were now solidly "in the driver’s seat," changed their Modus Operandi....In a couple of cases, they simply told the supplier (who was also struggling to survive) just what they'd pay for material...Didn't matter that it might have been at or below cost. Just, "This is what I'll pay, take it or leave it!!"

We were hooked up with one such builder. But it got worse. We'd get a check at the beginning of the month, but always short. There were "adjustments" on invoices, "back-charges," (usually with no back up documentation), and "credits" taken for this and that. We never had our day in court, or a chance to argue that they were nefarious. It was truly, "Take it or leave it!" So, we decided to "out-fox" this builder...We raised prices where we knew we could, and sometimes quite a bit...Guess what. The next time around, the back-charges, etc., were simply higher, off-setting our hoped for "gain." It was madness! We finally "tossed in the towel" and made the builder go elsewhere. (We fired him!!) Then I announced to all..."Never again"...We don't need the exercise.

Well, wouldn’t you know it but the other day I got a call from Fred (not his real name) the builder we fired years ago. He said, "Hey Al, we're back building homes…in fact we have a quite a few going, and thought since Kimal is the best lumberyard around, we wondered why we aren't doing business?? We need to set up a meeting, and see if we can make it work.” Of course I'd already told him the many reasons why it was not a good so-called "Partnership" for Kimal, but he was persistent. We had the meeting. I agreed to put our best salesperson on it, with the clear understanding that the moment the old madness started, we were out of there!!!

So we're off and running again with this builder because we see good business there. Has he changed? Does he now have a new "Religion" in "Partnering" with us the correct way? Well yes and no! At the moment (Don't you love it!!) he needs us more then we need him. I know what he's up against trying to deal with Brand X...our competitor. Service, quality, etc. that he needs just wasn't there. And we are better at tracking and scheduling his complex work…Something that I know our competitors aren't good at. I told our team, we'll take it and run with it, but don't know if it will stand the test of time. So, we are looking at it now not as "new business" but as "additional business." Once again, just can't say "Never"...Might have to eat those words!

I will say this though, had a customer one time that was so incredibly bad at paying what he owed we tried everything and nothing ever seemed to work. In frustration I finally told him one day how impossible it was to do business with him...I added, "In fact, you're so bad, you have to have a co-signer to pay cash from now on!!” He didn't appreciate it, but that's life…Look around you. There just may be some new/old opportunities you can access. And at least now, we're the ones "In the Driver’s Seat."

Al E. Bavry, CEO, Kimal Lumber & Hardware 11/13/2015

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