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It’s About Time

By Scott Costa, Publisher, tED magazine

As I have mentioned in the past, there are real-life situations for me that make me realize what’s important in business.  Here’s another one.

Over the Labor Day weekend, I was pretty locked-in on doing what many Americans do on a three-day holiday: Pretty much nothing.  I went out to dinner.  I did tiny jobs around the house.  I barbequed.  I watched my Kansas Jayhawks get beat in college football.  Like I said, pretty much nothing.

Then, my 15-year-old son texted me that he needed more hair product stuff.  The store is maybe a mile and a half from my house.  It’s a task I could complete in 15 minutes or less.  But for the first time, I thought about just getting the stuff through Amazon.  After all, I had pretty much nothing to do, and I didn’t want a trip to the store to interrupt it.

Truth be told, I am not an Amazon customer.  Part of the reason is out of loyalty to our supply chain.  Part of the reason is because I am hesitant to buy every-day products online (although I have bought clothes, shoes, music, sports tickets and items for my home online).  But I also have a lot of respect for Amazon. The company does focus on its customers, it’s extremely innovative and it has an incredible library of items for sale.  If you wanted to buy a book on time management from Amazon, you would have 8,139 titles to choose from.  Its brand is simple.  Anything you want to buy, Amazon will do whatever is necessary to get that product to you as fast as possible.  Sooner or later, Amazon will be getting you the products that you order within a few hours, instead of a few days.  Or, as Jeff Graham recently wrote in the Huffington Post, “Amazon is about drastically cutting the time it takes to get the lawn mower you ordered to your front door. That’s it.”  To Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, it’s about time.  And I can respect that.

Let’s not make that your first priority.  There are certainly other issues involved, including credit offerings, value-added services, product knowledge and a well-trained team.  Those are all essential to success and your customers will appreciate all of those offerings.

Just yesterday, Apple announced its plans for the new iPhone, which includes some additional services from Apple TV and Siri that will save you time.  While hair products, books from Amazon and iPhones are not necessarily B2B products, keep in mind what I wrote a few weeks ago.  That second “B” in B2B isn’t really “business.”  There are people inside that business that make decisions about which companies will be their supply chain partners.  It’s up to you to target your strategies at people, not things.

In the September issue of tED magazine, we talked with contractors about their pain points and how to help them overcome their problems.  One of those issues is that a jobsite can often be a hectic place, and many times orders are not sent to distributors until after 4pm.  The distributor who is able to fill that order and get the materials to the jobsite before the crews arrive the next day are the distributors that will have the customer loyalty they need to survive.  Otherwise, the contractor will have a number of employees waiting, while on the clock, to do the work that is needed.  And in that case, time is money, and it’s not money that is well spent.

The next time a potential contractor asks you what you can do for them, go ahead and list off the services you provide.  But don’t forget to add this selling point.  You make time for people.  And that should never be overlooked.

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