Last week I spent a couple of days traveling to Jacksonville. Inevitably this means relying on fast food for subsistence, which resulted in three dramatically different experiences.
I stopped for breakfast at one of the fast food giants. The drive- through line looked like I-4 in Orlando, so I parked and went inside. One register was open and there were six people in line. Because of this company’s experience and longevity, I did not think the wait would be long. Fifteen minutes later I had not made it to the counter, and by now it was too late to go anywhere else. Once I made it to the counter I ordered and waited another 10 minutes until my order was ready.
Hopefully lunch would be different. It was later in the day (2 p.m.) and the popular, sit-down, side-of-the-interstate restaurant was not crowded. I was immediately seated and started playing the games on the table. The waiter attentively served the two ladies to my immediate left. More people were seated and drink orders were taken while I twiddled my thumbs. The waiter (who I assumed was my server) continued to serve the table to my left with drink refills and humor. I stopped him and asked if I could order some iced tea. He said he would be right back. I saved him the trouble by leaving. I’m normally not so negatively impulsive but consecutive horrendous service was getting to me.
The next day I was almost hesitant to eat lunch but my appetite dictated otherwise. Lunch on this day would be at a Southern-based restaurant chain known for something besides burgers. This place was immaculate and from the time that I walked through the door until I ordered was about 20 seconds. They gave me a placard to place on my table and brought my food to me within a minute. The food was excellent and one of the workers offered to take my tray and refill my drink. My faith was restored, and more importantly, this experience reminded me of the importance of service. By the way, this restaurant was more expensive than most of the alternative fast food choices, but well worth it.
How can this possibly apply to the drywall business? If you treat people the way that they want to be treated you will easily surpass your competition. It seems like the most obvious and longstanding rule of commerce – and most businesses continually ignore it for the sake of empty profits.
I will avoid two out of the three businesses above unless there is nothing else available. Our goal – and what we strive for every day at Gator Gypsum – is that we will not be the business that any customer avoids. We will be the business that they look forward to visiting – every time.
I hear the word “culture” thrown around as it relates to the principles of people and business. Culture is defined as: the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. But for this particular exercise, I am more comfortable with an alternate definition: the good things that we have in common. We look to do business with companies that have similar interests and characteristics.
Some of the big box home improvement stores used to employ tradesmen (plumbers,electricians, etc.) who could walk customers through small projects and recommend alternative methods. For a do-it-yourselfer this was a perfect match. If you were proficient enough to do a small repair, the advice was invaluable.
Nordstrom’s has the reputation of being the ultimate customer service retailer. Frequent customers are greeted by name and products are ordered according to their individual taste. In a way it is the opposite of the big box home improvement stores because they would prefer that you do nothing with regard to shopping other than show up.
So, what is the Gator Gypsum culture and what does it mean to you as a customer?
- Longevity – Gator Gypsum has been in continuous operation since 1984. This means that we have conducted ourselves in a businesslike way and have maintained business relationships that support growth and stability.
- Personnel – We hire the best and create an environment that makes them want to stay. Come look at our Years of Service board and you’ll see a long roster of people who have looked forward to coming to work with us for decades.
- Communication – It is critical in the business world that we have a complete understanding of the customer’s expectations of us. Any misunderstanding can cause a strain on a relationship. It is our responsibility to maintain an open and continuous line of communication throughout the sales process.
- Empathy – If we are put ourselves in our customer’s shoes we fix issues before they become a problem. Understanding our client’s mindset will always help us make the correct business decision.
- Profit – Both sides of a business relationship need to make money in order to continue operating. It is our responsibility to always put our customers in the best position to continue profitable operations. This is accomplished with product training, maintaining important equipment, and educating our clients on anything new in the marketplace that may affect their bottom line.
Common characteristics within our culture are essential to a good customer/supplier relationship. We are constantly looking for ways to improve and evolve. Please let us know how we can help your business grow.
The sales cycle is fairly basic. A customer comes into town and is not familiar with the current suppliers. They talk to local contractors and get a couple of names and make some calls. Depending on their needs, a salesperson may come out to talk to them. Quotations are done and the customer makes a decision to do business with the company that they feel the most comfortable with.
Behind the scenes there is a tremendous amount of activity. Our purchasing team is constantly monitoring the market to make sure that we are buying the correct quantity at the right time. We use nationwide buying power to assure our clients get the best pricing and value.
Our accounts receivable department is checking pricing on orders to make sure that it matches quotes within our system. They are monitoring credit limits and adjusting them to meet job requirements.
Our accounts payable team is taking advantage of quick pay terms to guarantee lower transactional costs. It is extremely important to Gator Gypsum that our vendors see us as a financial partner and that our bills are paid in such a way to keep this relationship intact.
Our warehouse staff keep our products organized in a way that gets our customers in and out of the yard quickly. We understand that often we are the first and last stop on the way to a job. Our warehouse is laid out in a way that keeps traffic flowing and allows for optimal time savings.
Our delivery teams drive the newest and most efficient trucks with the latest GPS technology. If there is a traffic issue on the way to a job we can easily reroute and let the customer know of any changes in the ETA. Our local branch and safety managers check any site that could present delivery challenges (power lines, trees, etc.) and communicate these issues to the customers in order to prevent delivery delays.
Anyone who answers the phone at our yard should either be able to answer any question that you have or find the correct person to answer the question. We have an extensive amount of experience at all seven Gator Gypsum yards and we pride ourselves on quick and correct responses.
Our counter personnel serve as a resource to our entire customer base. No amount of classroom training could ever replicate customer contact and that is the knowledge base that our counter sales has. There are probably not very many questions that they have not been asked.
While the sales process is straightforward, there is critical infrastructure in place that makes the process flow seamlessly. All support personnel are the fuel that makes Gator Gypsum run. We appreciate your business and do all that we can to assure that every contact with our company is professional and beneficial.
I’m fairly certain that anyone who has exposure to any type of media is familiar with the $5 Foot Long. This is Subway’s war cry and provides the company with a great amount of revenue. Promotions are done by the corporation, but recently franchisees have revolted. Their objection arises from the claim that they do not make much money off of a $5 foot long. The story offers some insight into our economy.
Franchisees claim that their expenses break down as follows: sandwich ingredients, labor, electricity, gas, royalties, credit card transaction fees, and rent push their cost to well above $4.00.
How many times have you walked into a retail store and wondered how they can get away with selling a widget that probably cost them a penny for over a dollar? These numbers are particularly relevant in the drywall industry. Company A and B sell the same sheet of drywall for $1 and $1.25, respectively. Logic tells us that company A should get our business.
But let’s dig a little deeper. Company A’s trucks are 15 years old and constantly in need of service. Company A’s employees have no experience and have had no safety training. Company A has no drug screening requirement and their turnover is the highest in town.
Company B insists on having the newest and most efficient equipment. Company B has constant training, holds regular drug screenings, has employees that have been with the company for over 35 years, and has a passion for giving back to the community.
On a 1,000 board job that 25-cent price difference is $250. To some, that’s enough of a reason to do business with Company A. However, if Company A’s broken-down truck causes 10 drywall company employees to stand around for 4 hours ($15/hour x 10 workers x 4 hours =$600), that lower price does not represent a savings – and may in fact end up being the more expensive option.
In addition to being a drywall distributor, Gator Gypsum is a service provider. These services are the best in the industry because of the additional expenses that we incur. Providing good service costs a little more, but as shown in the example above, good service has value that’s not always reflected on the price tag.
Think of it this way: we could greatly reduce the cost of a sandwich by having a robot make it on a street corner … but that sandwich is not particularly appealing.