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Too many times it feels like it’s “us vs. them.”

Anonymous Distributor

While I was traveling recently with a territory manager, we went to a dealer and we were told that he didn’t have time for us – we need to make an appointment. As I looked around this one-man shop, it dawned on me that he had nothing going on. He was on the phone and barely took the time to tell us to leave. It’s one thing if you are busy, but when you are obviously not, is that proper? I am anxious to hear from you on this question.

The second thing I want to ask is how you value your suppliers? Are they/we more of a pain than a help? Do you believe that with mutual respect we can accomplish many things? I bring this up, because too many times it feels like it’s “us vs. them.” If it were a prizefight, here might be the way the ring announcer tees it up: “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to tonight’s main event. In this corner, weighing in at 60 employees, more than $10 million in sales, and fighting for your participation in three parts program specials…the distributor! And in this corner, weighing in at 12 employees, more than $500,000 in sales, and fighting for survival…the dealer!” Any way you look at it, that introduction seems to pit you vs. us. It is not supposed to work like that. If a supplier can’t help you with something, you have the wrong supplier.

On a recent plane ride home, I started speaking with the person next to me toward the end of the flight. We talked about various things, then he asked what I do. I said I worked for a distributor in the lawn and garden industry, told him that I lived in ____________, and explained our industry. He came from an industry unrelated to ours and was working part time just for something to do. He was 62 and had retired from his primary business – the transportation industry. It was something he said that hit me like a ton of bricks. While I was explaining some issues we have with Internet companies taking dealer business, he asked why I care about the dealers. He said they didn’t care about me or my company, and there was no such thing as loyalty anymore. Now let me revisit what just happened. A stranger, not in our business, talking to me on an airplane, said that there is no loyalty from you the dealer. You could say that it hit me in a way I hadn’t even thought of before. A.D. is a lot of things, but I have never been accused of being naïve. But if this is true, I have been naïve or have chosen to bury my head in the sand. It was then I reverted my thoughts to the dealer I mentioned earlier. He wouldn’t even take the time to say he didn’t like us, wouldn’t hear anything we had to help him with his business, and felt like we were not worth his time.

Could it be true that you the dealer and we the distributor have forgotten the things that got us where we are today? Is it possible that we think we can do it without each other? Is there a chance that a stranger knowing nothing about our business could be right? Wow, talk about a swift punch in the gut! My personal opinion is that not all dealers, nor distributors, are the same. I visited many other dealers that week and was greeted with open arms. They wanted to know how we could work together to make more money. Can one bad attitude from a dealer change the course of our business? Can his actions and our repercussions affect you, the good dealer?  Yes, they could if we believed all dealers are the same – but  we don’t. There are so many great and fabulous dealers with which we are blessed to work.

So as A.D. closes this month’s lecture – I mean article – I ask what dealer type are you? Do you work well with your distributors or not? Are you loyal to them or not? And finally, if I walk in your business unexpectedly, will you turn me away or welcome me with open arms? Don’t think I am picking on you, Mr. Dealer. Every question I just posed to you needs to be asked of the distributor, too. Do we take you for granted? If you walked into our business unannounced, would we find time to hear what you have to say, and to tell you thanks?

Feel free (because it is) to let me know where you stand on this. You can e-mail me at OPEMAGAD@gmail.com or Tweet me @OPEMAGAD. Until next month, keep your blades and mind sharp!

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