One East Coast development director ignored our advice. He purchased a gross of sweatshirts every couple weeks – red HANES raglan-sleeve sweats with a gorgeous and very tricky metallic silver imprint.
Janice and I insisted he was overdoing it. We urged him to get a better handle on his inventory needs.
He ignored us. Said he had constant reports from his fulfillment house.
We became pushy. He became resolute. The orders kept coming.
We knew that his fundraising numbers did not justify these reorders! We insisted he stop relying on third-party inventory reports. We said “Go count the shirts with your own hands.!”
He ignored us. Kept ordering. He had become a sweatshirt junkie!
So we cut him off! COLD TURKEY! No sweatshirt reorders until he visited his fulfillment house and counted what he owns.
He was furious! Vendors don’t clamp down on clients this way. But we had two things going for us.
- First, VisABILITY was one of the few vendors in the country that could properly imprint the station’s brilliant logo in metallic ink on a sweatshirt surface.
- Second, we had forced a bit of self-doubt on our development director client.
Begrudgingly, he took our advice. Drove to his fulfillment house (about 50 miles away)intending to take a physical count. A few blocks from his destination our client stopped for a red light. There, on the corner, was a little kiosk………….. from which a couple guys were selling his station’s sweatshirts to passers-by!
It turned out these two entrepreneurial clowns had been stealing all sorts of merchandise from the fulfillment house for months and selling it on the street. We subsequently calculated they had stolen between 350 to 400 sweats from our client. Thus, the unnecessary reorders. (Plus they stole an assortment of products owned by other organizations.)
POSTSCRIPT: From that day forward our client accepted our advice. He became a sincere convert to the doctrine of cautious ordering and calculated reordering. He also began to manage his inventory responsibly.
BOTTOM LINE: Sometimes your ideas will be goofy. It’s OK to be wrong. It is essential to listen. A good vendor can explain why a product may have inadequate quality. Or unreliable supply lines. A good vendor may tell you if a product is inappropriate for your market or too expensive for your intended use. A good vendor can tell if you are choosing a product because it is a reflection of your personal taste rather than the taste of your market. When experience and integrity dictate, a good vendor will urge you to reduce the size of an order. Or tell you to select a different product. Or insist you step down to a less expensive imprint.
Being committed to the relationship, instead of to a sales commission, a good vendor applauds an appropriate product choice, urges caution about a doubtful one and gladly gives up sale to help clients avoid costly mistakes.
A good vendor will tell you to buy cautiously and reorder wisely.