CHICAGO — Full-service laundry equipment distributors can offer many benefits to their store owner customers.
While a laundromat owner’s relationship with his or her primary distributor may not make or break the business, this connection can prove helpful in many ways, particularly when the laundry business is just getting started. It’s about finding common ground and building a rapport that lifts both parties.
Retired American Coin-Op columnist Howard Scott once called the store owner-distributor relationship one of the most “pivotal” for what the distributor can produce beyond providing products and equipment in a timely fashion.
“He can be your eyes and ears to the industry,” Scott writes. “He can be a sounding board as well as adviser. He can help you solve some sticky problems. He can help you run your marketing events. He can even point to good potential employees in the industry. The key is how you develop your distributor relationship.”
Part 1 of this article listed the traits to look for in forging a distributor relationship. Let’s conclude:
GET TO KNOW THE INDIVIDUAL
It’s likely that a distributor will assign a representative to be your point of contact.
“Become his friend,” Scott writes. “Understand his needs. Relate to the individual as a person. This doesn’t mean that when John drops in, you take him out for lunch and treat him to a ball game, enjoying the beers and the woozy feeling you both share afterward. This means that you study the person, see what makes him tick, understand his inner needs, and develop strategies that enable the two of you to be friends.”
Like you, the distributor rep is an individual, unique in his or her way of thinking and doing things.
“This isn’t always the easiest thing in the world,” Scott writes. “You are two different people. One might be a quiet, self-contained introvert and the other might be a booming extrovert. One might hate politics while the other might think arguing Democratic vs. Republican values is just about the best thing to do.
“Plus, there’s an inverse relationship. You both want to do business together, but one wants bottom prices and impossible service while the other wants higher prices and less-urgent service.”
Should you find the distributor rep’s personality off-putting and the prospect of friendship unlikely, find a path to tolerance, Scott advises.
“You must overcome these obstacles, find common ground, and make that the basis of a friendship. At the very least, you have something in common—you are two individuals trying to make a living, often with families to support, and you both know that it is done through compromise. Certainly, that understanding can be a basis for a good relationship and mutual respect.”
Once the relationship is in place, keep the lines of communication open. Inform the distributor rep about how you like to receive information and how often you would like him/her to contact you, whether it be by text, email, phone, video conference, or in person.
An engaged store owner draws on many sources of information in managing and operating their laundry but none may be as important as their distributor.
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE.
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].