ASK THE EXPERT: Vendors Behaving Badly

By / 2 years ago

This new column by a seasoned industry veteran features thoughtful answers to tough reader questions.


Vendors Behaving Badly Ask The Expert

Dear Mad,

 Know that this type of bad behavior from your vendor is not new. If given the opportunity, aggressive market share driven suppliers, misguided with very narrow thinking managers, can be so consumed with making the sale they’ll compromise both their integrity and relationships. My three-part solution (having worked for me successfully numerous times) is pretty simple, but will involve a commitment from both your firm and your vendors.

First, on an individual basis I would invite to a nice lunch or breakfast any of these vendors who are behaving badly to meet with you and your purchasing manager. A personal investment of your time over a nice free meal goes a long way.

Secondly, I would share with them briefly your upward vision for your company, and their important role as part of your team. The fact is for most dealers, we need their support as much as they need ours. In return, I would then make it clear that they have to choose to either be your supplier-partner or your competitor, effective immediately. Either their recent competitive sales behavior ends today, or does the relationship with your firm. In my 35 years in the LBM industry, I have never had a vendor who was important to our firm choose to end the relationship. Often times an apology is offered and the relationship is changed for the better going forward.

Thirdly, both you and the vendor have to make a commitment to each other. Something is obviously missing in the relationship if your vendor is wandering. Have your purchasing manager spend some time with this vendor. Update them on your goals. Ask them what product emphasis and purchasing volume they’d like to see from you. Discuss an action plan to get the job done. After executing the plan with both your sales staff and the vendor, conduct a year-end review with the vendor to discuss what worked and what didn’t.

The bottom line? If both dealers and vendors treat each other with some respect and commit to working together, we are much stronger and far more likely to attain our mutual goals.

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Scott Hartmann

Scott Hartmann has spent the past 35 years leading established construction supply companies to greater levels of success. As the founder of Hartmann & Co., he now provides management consulting services to independent LBM dealers. He can be reached at or visit