Achieve Business Goals Through Partnering
Originally published: 06.01.07 by Jackie Rainwater
Assessing key areas for alignment is important for mutually beneficial relationships.
I want to let you in on what seems to be somewhat of a secret in our industry . . . partnering works!
In this instance, I mean partnerships between hvac contractors and their primary hvac equipment manufacturers and suppliers. I make this statement because I have practiced partnering successfully during my 47 years in our industry. I was with a major hvac manufacturer-distributor for 21 years followed by 21 years as an hvac contractor. During the most recent fve years, I have been involved in consulting and training for hvac manufacturers, distributors, and contractors.
Early in my years in manufacturing and distribution (1961-1982), I realized that partnering with contractor-customers was a much more enjoyable, stable, and profitable way of doing business than the shortsighted "we vs. them" (sometimes adversarial!) relationships between manufacturers and distributors and their contractor-customers.
As a contractor (1982 2002), I continued partnering. It was instrumental in the success our company enjoyed. We worked closely with our primary supplier to assist in increasing its market share, sales, and profits. In response to our cooperation, loyalty, and substantial purchases, the supplier not only provided us with superior products (a given), but also worked very closely with our company in the development of programs and support specifically tailored to help us execute our business plan.
In order for any business relationship to be a true win-win partnership, both parties must establish trust, confidence, and respect for each other; fully understand each other's motivations and goals; and then willingly assist each other in the achievement of those goals.
Establishing a mutually beneficial, long-term relationship with your supplier- partner, requires you to:
1. Determine whether the partnership will be a good match by assessing:
- What is your company culture, (see my June through September HVACR Business articles on company culture at www.hvacrbusiness.com/rainwater) and how well does it align with that of your primary supplier?
- Does your primary manufacturer and supplier support the efforts of important industry organizations such as NATE and ACCA?
- What hvac/IAQ business segments do you participate in (your business mix) and what are your future (one-year, five-year, and 10-year) plans and goals?
- How well does your primary supplier's products, services, and business plans align with yours?
Here are some of many areas to consider when evaluating this question:
- Brand-name recognition and image
- Quality and reliability
- Consumer features and benefits
- Operating-efficiency ratings
- Product applicability
- Standard and extended warranties
- Engineering innovations
- Product availability
- Parts availability
- Availability of local delivery service
- Ease of installation and service
- Availability and costs of floor plans
- Product costs
Marketing, advertising, and sales support
- Manufacturer's national, regional, and local brand advertising
- Print, direct-mail, radio, T.V., and billboard ads for dealers
- Co-op advertising programs (including "ad clubs")
- Manufacturer's Web site (with local dealer locator)
- Dealer Web site programs
- Consumer financing plans
- Consumer rebate programs
- Consumer incentive programs
- Tie-in with local utility company consumer-incentive programs
- Dealer-incentive programs
- Business management (all areas)
- Marketing and advertising
- Information technology
- Design-and-application engineering
- Indoor-air quality
2. Plan a meeting with your key managers and the supplier's key personnel to discuss the above points in detail. This meeting may also involve someone representing the equipment manufacturer if your primary supplier is an independent distributor. The meeting's agenda should include your one-year, five-year, and 10-year goals. Plan on a minimum of four uninterrupted hours for the meeting.
3. Following the meeting, get input from your management team about the meeting. Follow up with your primary supplier on issues or problems raised by your management team.
4. After getting satisfactory response to these issues, meet with the representative as well as his manager for a final agreement for your partnership.
As you move forward with your partnering agreement, you are certain to encounter obstacles on a periodic basis. Good partners will find a way to work through these "opportunities" and enjoy success together. Sounds kind of like a good marriage, doesn't it?
Jackie Rainwater is a 46-year veteran and former owner of Peachtree Heating and Air-Conditioning in Atlanta. He built his businesses on service agreements.