News and Views from the Coatings Community
When I entered the finishing business 20-plus years ago, instant communication didn’t exist. No desktop PCs, cell phones or pagers. Much more time was spent on developing relationships. When people got together for a meeting, they concentrated on the meeting at hand. They weren’t being buzzed, beeped and constantly interrupted. The “fast food” mentality of instant communication allows us to get a message out quickly, but it doesn’t allow us to convey any emotion. It’s that emotion that allowed us to build successful relationships. We knew when someone “cared” about doing business with us.
This topic has hit home lately because people I built industry relationships with early on are beginning to retire. Will today’s workforce have those types of relationships in 20 or 30 years? Why are they so important? Those relationships advanced the industry. People worked closely together to benefit both their own company and their customers. We cared if someone besides ourselves succeeded or failed. People often committed themselves to a company and its customers for their entire career. Is that even possible in today’s environment? I hope so.
So how do you go about the art of relationship building? First, you have to believe it’s an important aspect of your life that deserves some of your time and attention. Then you have to find opportunities to build and nurture those relationships.
In our industry, you can begin by attending the Coating 2003 Conference & Exhibition scheduled for October 28–30 in Indianapolis. This is now the only industry event where you can meet with others (both users and suppliers) involved in the various industrial coating processes.
The annual industry conference and trade show was where I began to develop many of the relationships that have helped me grow in the industry and that are still a vital part of my business today. An industry event allows us the time to learn in conference sessions (educated people always perform their jobs better), meet a wide variety of industry suppliers, and compare what’s available in the marketplace. How can we be competitive and crank out better products if we don’t take the time for continuous improvement?
“I can get all the information I want on the Internet or by calling a salesperson to come in,” you say? Hardly! Again, there is no human emotion in comparing products online. Written information, while important, only goes so far. How many salespeople do you allow to visit you in a day’s time? Certainly not enough to afford the kinds of opportunities you get from walking a show floor. It’s still very important to see things in person, learn from industry experts (believe it or not, many of them work together in developing educational programs that benefit the entire industry) and compare products and services. An industry-wide event is your only opportunity to do all these things at one time.
Another way to build relations is to join one of the many trade organizations that serve the industry. Associations are a source of information, education and networking. Long-term relationships built through associations are invaluable, particularly when times get tough.
If you are an end user, I encourage you to build a better relationship with your vendors. They should be much more than simply the supplier who has the “cheapest” price. Users should be relying on their vendors to support their finishing processes. They can help you solve problems, improve your processes and ultimately be a partner in producing a better product at the end of the line.
Likewise, suppliers should work on developing closer relations with their customers. Instead of constantly chasing new customers to try and feed that bottom line, consider taking care of your current customers better. If you are providing great service and added value to your product, you will have an edge in maintaining that business.
We have to get back to what’s important—people, not just the bottom line! If we don’t get back to caring about the “people” aspect of business, there won’t be any business down the road to worry about. Dedicate some time to learn the fine art of building solid, trusting relationships and everything in your business and manufacturing process will be stronger because of it.