Tough Call: Is the biggest fish worth it?

Oct tough call biggest fish
istock.com/redmal

Securing the business of the biggest builder in your area could mean sacrificing your existing customers’ needs. What would you do?

When you launched your lumberyard in 2010, the demand for building materials was lower than it’d been in years, with new construction and remodeling both suffering. So, you did exactly what you had to do to get your fledgling company up and running: you hired good people and made sure they all understood that your mission was to help your customers make more money.

One of your first tasks was to call on established builders in the area, focusing of course on those still building homes. The biggest builder in your market was John Fish, owner of Biggest Fish Homes. He’d carved out a niche in mid- to high-priced homes and grew his business by consistently delivering more house than the competition.

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When you met with him initially, he struck you as the kind of person you wanted to do business with. Which, no surprise, made him the kind of client your competitors protected fiercely. “You seem like a good guy, and your focus on pro builders definitely suits us. I especially like your on-time and in-full promise. That’s lacking from some of our current vendors,” he shared. “However, until a current vendor gives us a reason to switch, we’re going to stay the course. We’ll definitely keep you in mind for the future.”

Fast-forward ten years. Your business has grown significantly, and your yard is now a leader in your market, serving most of the top builders in your area at least occasionally. The one builder you’ve yet to sell a single 2×4 to is Biggest Fish Homes. Despite staying in contact, his story has stayed the same. Until he called this morning.

“Remember when I said I’d call you when we had a reason to look for a new vendor? Well, our primary supplier just announced that they can’t deliver all the product we need. This is a problem, because we’re on a schedule, and the projects have to be done by a certain date. So, here’s your opportunity. If you can deliver what we need, when we need it, you’ve got our business. What do you say?”

Finally, here’s your opportunity to secure the biggest builder in your area. The problem is that many materials are in such short supply, and you’re doing all you can to service your existing customers. Unless the material pipeline suddenly opens up, which is unlikely, taking on a big new builder customer would almost certainly mean that some builders who’ve been with you longer may have to go without. What would you do?

• Just do it. You’ve been after his business for years. Here’s your chance. Agree to the challenge, and make sure your team understands that Biggest Fish is first in line for all materials.

• Yes, but … Tell him that you’ll do everything you can to get him the material he needs, but make sure he realizes that many building materials are in short supply, so no guarantees.

• Not now … In normal times, you take great pride in your on-time and in-full promise. But getting his business based on a promise you can’t keep is a very bad decision.

• Maybe … Before saying yes or no, learn what specific materials his other vendor can’t If you can, you’re in!

What would you do?

Something else? If you’d take a different plan of attack, email your suggested solution to James@LBMJournal.com. If we publish your reply, we’ll send you an LBM Journal mug.

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