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Contractor’s Corner: Letter to the Editor

By Stan Walerczyk

If you have not seen it already, Ed Miller, President of Strategy Development Services, LLC, wrote the following letter to the editor regarding my September column.

The value of the local distributor to the contractor, in my opinion, is much more than what this article emphasized. In fact, if the distributor’s principle value is as a bank with generous terms then I question whether they’ll be around for the long term. Instead, the distributor must mean more than just a bank to their customers. Yes, they do play an important role of having local availability, but they can also help the contractor win, plan and execute their jobs in the most efficient and expedient manner.  

Distributors can package and label material needed for that days’ job so that material doesn’t sit around where it can get lost and damaged.  The distributor can help with job take off and material selection to help their customer win the job and plan its execution.  They can be a local source of knowledge for their customers bringing new things from the manufacturers and facilitate training events.  As well as bring Lean Enterprise ideas linking tightly with their customers and their suppliers for the most reliable and fastest supply chain.  

In essence the distributor can play a pivotal role in the entire value stream that none of the other channels mentioned (on-line, big box, etc) can offer.  After all, the distributors have the local relationships and need to continuously improve and deliver their differentiated value proposition to remain viable and relevant.

I appreciate this letter to the editor, and my columns have stated that distributors can provide a very valuable and comprehensive role that other sources cannot.

These columns have aimed to show the difference between very good distributors and ones that are just order takers.

Here is a story that I recently received from a person, working for a contractor, who wants to stay anonymous. This contracting firm was buying from several distributors, mainly based on which one had the best pricing and terms.

A salesman from one of these distributors really tried to deserve more business from this one employee of the contractor. This sales person found the listing of a local public library which was going out to bid on a retrofit project. The salesman told the employee of the contracting firm about this, helped on the bidding documents and provided very good pricing and terms. Since the contractor would not be paid until the project was completed, the distributor terms were 90 days. This contractor was awarded the project, which went well. Now this contractor employee works mainly with this one distributor salesman.

I still remember what one distributor salesman did for me when I worked for lighting retrofit contractor. One project needed narrow U-bend T8 lamps, because the 2×2 troffers were too short for 2’ F17T8s and the end-customer did not want to spend the money on new fixtures. The distributor sales person told me that the lamp manufacturer that they carried did not have the best narrow U-bend T8 lamps and recommended a specific different brand sold by another local distributor. After that, every time he told me that he had a good product, I believed him and did most of my business with him after that.

As mentioned at the end of all of my columns, contractors, please send feedback and input for new columns. You can email me at stan@lightingwizards.com.

Stan Walerczyk, LC, CLEP, HCLC

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