When I became involved with Southeast Publications, I was following a regime that was in place since the inception of the company. I saw some antiquating processes and a lack of knowledge and/or use of technology.
I wanted to see how far behind we were from the competitors in our space, technologically speaking. When I did an analysis, I realized that we had a HUGE opportunity to make a difference in our space because everyone was following similar processes and no one was as technologically efficient as they could be.
So I began creating new systems and procedures, while augmenting technology at a pace that didn’t overwhelm our internal staff and associates. Eventually I knew I would have some obstacles to overcome as it relates to resistance in changing certain aspects of the business. One of these changes involved changing a vendor that supplies our paper because I knew that if I found issues with some items, all areas had to be equally under developed and money had to be practically flying out the door. Besides, I really didn’t like the representative who frequented our office.
I was hell bent on making this change; after all I am going to make the difficult decisions and LEAVE MY STAMP! So I informed our GM Jim of what I wanted to do. Jim, being the easy going guy that he is simply said, “We’ve been with this company forever but if you can find us cost savings, let’s do it.” There it was a have full authority to make this vendor change, now I am going to roll it out.
I called around and found a better price for paper so I gleefully called the paper representative and told them we decided to go with another company. The vendor pleaded his case with me but I was going to continue bettering the company. His product was pricey and he was far from a monopoly in the paper business. I left the call feeling powerful, ready to take on any challenge you can throw my way. At least I thought…
Fast forward our first shipment arrives late and I noticed the paper felt light. I weighed it; sure enough it was 70lb and not the typical 80lb gloss text. I called the new representative, who I thought I could deal with easily. Only to quickly learn he was unresponsive and hardly kept any of his commitments.
Feverishly, I began to solicit other paper providers, some with high rates, some with poor service, and some that only took certain quantities. I even went so far as to pay a higher rate with another vendor, expecting better service and it turned out that the service was worse than my first new vendor. I resigned myself to do the unthinkable, tuck my tail between my legs and ask for our old vendor to come back.
To make a longer story short, the representative I fired was gracious and took us back and we resumed business as usual. I since took on another provider at a smaller capacity to be sure that our business was protected in case our current provider experienced shortages.
The decision I made was a mistake that I learned from, but I see being made constantly in the Outdoor Recreation Industry. You have a change in guard with regards to marketing or operational directors entering companies or buying properties, wanting to make changes that make zero sense. Granted, everything can be improved but when these professionals choose to change, systems, processes or vendors without fully understanding the potential ramifications, it leaves their businesses exposed to missing deadlines, not fulfilling commitments or creating a customer experience that ensures attrition within their business.