Look for partners, not suppliers

Mike Parczuk
Mike Parczuk

In an open letter, Sternfenster’s MD, Mike Parczuk, shares his views on companies staying afloat as leads slow.

It has been turbulent few months in the PVC-U window fabrication sector, as one major profile supplier exited the market, and some fabricators folded as they struggled to balance the books due to falling order numbers and high overheads.

I think we are through the worst of it now, but it is an unfortunate situation to be in, and it is sad to see people’s jobs put at risk. Many businesses – especially the bigger ones – tend to be key regional employers, and their withdrawal from the market will likely have serious repercussions within their communities.

What people often forget to consider is the impact this has on retail companies. When a company calls in the administrators, all eyes turn to those left exposed financially – the suppliers. Little consideration is given to the window companies who relied on those products to make a living.

They would have built up a suite of marketing literature, maybe even invested in a showroom, the employees will have learned about all the products’ key features and benefits, and the installers will have trained for many years to make sure each completed job is the best it can be.

There will be many now surveying the market to see which fabricators offer the best product ranges with the best support. And I do enjoy discussing everything we have to offer.

But I do scratch my head when one of the first things other fabricators do is drop their prices to win new business.

I’d be naïve to think that the unit price isn’t important, but I know that it isn’t the only reason why one supplier is chosen over another. In fact, retail companies stand a better chance of being – and remaining – profitable if they form a strong partnership with their suppliers, and look at the whole package, and not just the price.

We are convinced this is the best approach, and we will walk away from new business if the conversation doesn’t move beyond the issue of price.

And that’s because we’ve so much to offer. For one, we have invested heavily in designing and building systems that help our customers operate more efficiently, reduce the chances of error, and sell more. This includes our online EasyAdmin service, which gives our customers access to a virtual showroom, along the tools required to quote and submit orders into our manufacturing process. They are given a two-hour delivery slot, and can track the lorry as it completes its journey.

This isn’t just a nice-to-have. This allows our customers to control their working day, so that time isn’t needlessly wasted waiting for deliveries. And combined with the other features, they get greater control over their relationship with us. This frees up their employees’ time, could give them greater confidence to pursue more work, and build in more margin as overheads are reduced.

It’s a virtuous circle: more orders, happier customers, increased profit.

Now, compare that to the supplier who is selling only on price, and has to cut back on all services to make that viable. Where does that leave you?

Sadly, some companies will never move beyond that race to the bottom, especially when times get tough. But you don’t have to be a part of that race. Look for partners and not suppliers, and you could benefit from modern ways of working that allows you to work efficiently and profitably.