We’ve most certainly entered into another boom time in Hawaii. Home prices are up 50% or more since the bottom; the stock market is booming; tourism will see 7% year-to-year growth and unemployment is less than 3%. One builder I know has a three-year backlog of projects.
This, of course, is good news for our economy and our locally-owned businesses. It does, however, present some challenges if you want a house built or remodeled: there are very few qualified and available providers. If you want to go to your favorite restaurant, the one you could always just show up and get a seat, you might now need a reservation. If you are looking for a new vehicle, you might not have much bargaining power as many popular models are sold as soon as they get off the delivery truck.
So, what are some strategies you should consider as a customer to help you get what you want in a timely manner?
1. Establish relationships. At Kona Impact, we try very hard to buy our supplies and procure our services locally. We want to be on a first name basis with our suppliers, as we know it gets us better service and access to preferential treatment if we have a special request.
2. Leave some meat on the bone. Every business has clients who are always trying to cut costs to the point of being a “no profit” or “minimal profit” client. If you don’t let your suppliers make a fair and reasonable profit, you should expect to always be at the back of the line for the best customer service and delivery of products or services. I know, this is not the way it should be. That said, it is!
3. Be loyal with small and big projects. At Kona Impact, we have some clients who always come to us with their $10-$75 projects and go elsewhere for all their bigger projects. The fact is that we make very little profit, if any, on these small projects, and it is the big projects that keep our doors open. At the end of the day, if you aren’t letting your supplier make any money off you, he or she has very little incentive to maintain you as a client.
4. Pay immediately. Never ask for a service or product for which you don’t have the money to pay. There is nothing more aggravating in business than customers who mistake a business for a bank or financing company. Here’s the simple questions every business owner asks himself or herself: Which is better, $300 now (when the job is done) or $300 thirty or sixty days from now? By paying on time, you are immediately put the front of the line for projects, as you are a guarantee of immediate, no risk, cash flow for the business.
5. Don’t waste your supplier’s resources, which for most companies is time. Assuming that your supplier can effectively fill all the time he or she has with profitable work, wasting the time of your supplier is wasting his or her money. Typical ways customers waste the time of a business include: 1) not spending the time to figure out what they want, 2) coming to a meeting or appointment unprepared, 3) excessive design or order changes (see #1), 4) not following through on a project once it has begun, 5) excessive calls or email, and 6) a lack of planning and consequently always putting the supplier in crisis mode.
We like to say the following, “Everything has a cost. It is who pays that makes the difference in the sustainability of a business.” Ideally the client assumes all costs and the business can make a reasonable profit. All the items above are ways for clients to reduce unnecessary costs and build relationships with business. There is, of course, no free lunch, especially in times of a boom economy, so whatever customers or clients can do to make it easier for businesses to help them, the better access they will have to timely products and services.