Tough Call: The ‘For Pros Only’ distraction

You’ve created a great event specifically for builders in your market, but a vendor wants a free ride.

for pros only

After spending 15 years working for an LBM dealer in your hometown, you decided it was time to strike out on your own. So, you packed up your family, moved to a larger market, rolled the dice and launched your own lumberyard. That was just under 20 years ago. During that time, your company has created a solid niche serving custom home builders and remodelers. You’ve been fortunate to hire a great team of people who are skilled at what they do and take pride in coming up with creative new ways to serve your customers.

One of the concepts that has really caught on is an event called “For Pros Only.” This one-day event brings together builders and remodelers, including several high-profile builders and remodelers who you fly in from other markets, for an afternoon of roundtable discussions, presentations on hot-button issues, and individual networking. “I really look forward to these ‘Pros Only’ events you put on. The other contractor events you do are great, too—the ones with lots of product vendors showing what’s new are invaluable for my whole team,” a builder customer told you recently. “But learning real-world solutions to tough problems from other successful builders has been a game-changer for my company.”

- Sponsor -

Here’s the thing: “For Pros Only” is not cheap. To cover the costs (meeting space, food and beverages, nice dinner with open bar, and airfare/hotel for builder-presenters from other markets), you need vendors to sponsor. But to keep the event focused on builders, you need to limit the number of sponsors. Fewer sponsors means more expense per sponsor. Fortunately, several vendors not only believe in what you’re doing, they see the value in being one of very few vendors in attendance.

With the next “For Pros Only” event just a few months away, builders and remodelers have been registering and reserving their spots. As has one vendor. It’s the same vendor who registers as a builder/remodeler every year. When you reach out to explain that registration isn’t open to vendors, but he can sponsor if he’d like, he’ll have none of it. “This is an industry event, and I’m an influential member of our industry. I’ve been doing this for more than 40 years, and I deserve to be part of the conversation.”

When you explain that vendor attendance at this event is limited in order to keep the focus of the event on builders and remodelers, and again offer the opportunity to sponsor, he doubles down. “I told four of your biggest builder customers that you’re trying to charge me thousands of dollars to spend time with them. They didn’t think that was right. And I’m just getting started,” he said.

You and your team have worked hard to create a positive experience that benefits everyone involved, and the last thing you want is for someone to try to tarnish your event and your company’s name in the market. What would you do?

1. Give in. It’s never good to have someone smearing your company’s name. As much as you hate to, the quickest resolution is to just give in and let him attend.

2. Fight back. Tell him that if he doesn’t stop talking badly about your company, you’ll not only stop carrying his product—you’ll encourage others to avoid it as well.

3. Do business. You know his approximate revenue per sale. If just two sales resulted from your event, he’d more than break even. Three, and he’s way ahead. Share that fact and sign him up.

4. Move on. You’ll never make everyone happy. Keep your focus on making the next “For Pros Only” the best one yet.


What would you do?
Something else? If you’d take a different plan of attack, email your suggested solution to Rick@LBMJournal.com. If we publish your reply, we’ll send you a LBM JOURNAL mug.

See how your judgment compares with others in the industry at LBMJournal.com.
Final results will appear in The Buzz section of the August 2018 issue.