Summertime and the deliveries are easy….not so much! You want to flood the block with your products and services, but when supply chains run dry, you become scared to look for new orders, knowing you may not be able to fill them..
As a small business, chances are when you place an order with a supplier, it’s not their highest priority. This isn’t a mean or malicious act, it’s just the fact of the matter that the larger the order, the more important it is to the supplier. As I have mentioned previously, many suppliers don’t even deal with small or new businesses or require significant bone fides to make sure they are paid. And who can blame them? It’s cash that keeps the doors open and the lights on, dollar dollar bill y’all.
Many times in the summer, small businesses tend to slow down or even shut down. I have worked several places where the week of the 4th of July is just considered a wash. It’s common for many industries to have, “summer Fridays”, where they leave after lunch. While this relaxed summer schedule is great for all of the employees at your local small business, it wreaks havoc on you and your production schedule. Luckily for you, all my hair pulling and teeth gnawing trying to get ahold of suppliers has helped me to learn how to keep your products close and suppliers closer, especially in the summer months.
Before we jump to any conclusions, the majority of suppliers are great and not all small companies run their operations in this fashion. We are highly indebted to companies such as Grand River Rubber and Plastics, and people such as Alan Blackenship who helped to turn Pretty Knotty from a concept into an actual product. This article is merely how to deal with the few bad apples in the bunch that are causing you trouble.
First of all, let’s approach this from a supplier perspective. Monday is your busiest day, because everyone is back from the weekend and not too enthused to trade the bed for the desk. It’s best to assume that Monday morning is probably the worst possible time to contact any business during any season. This is especially true for a small business in the summer, where many Friday tasks are shoved off to Monday because Nancy left early, it’s a holiday weekend, lunch went for 2 hours, or some other situation happened.
Friday’s not a great day either. It’s best to assume Friday is a skeleton crew with many of the senior folks using their accrued vacation to dip out. Those that are in the office have their mind on the weekend and may reasonably push more complicated tasks for another time. With Monday and Friday gone, the best time to contact a company, in any capacity, would be Tuesday through Thursday.
While most would agree that they are 1 person doing 2 or more jobs, it’s especially true for small business leadership, especially when staff is on vacation. When you’re a small business with junior staff that change by the season, people seek out the senior staff as their point of contact. To put it simply, not only are small business leaders doing a ton of work, but they’re directing a lot of inquiries meant for someone else. In other words, when you send Becca the boss an email, to her it’s not a fire to be put out and really, the question is meant for Ben the Bean Counter, so you may not get a response for a long time, if ever.
Once again, I can’t blame them. I get tons of spam emails and I don’t always have time to read through all of them to find the hidden gems. Unless you’re someone like Mark Cuban or Warren Buffet, it’s best not to count on people answering your emails. Think of email as something in addition to, not your entire communications plan.
How do you get ahold of someone who doesn’t answer always emails and is usually overwhelmed? Call, at specific times during the week. We already said that Mondays and Fridays aren’t great days to communicate, and in general the morning isn’t a great time either. After 2 pm is always a good time to call, as usually all the fires of the day have been smoldered, if not at least contained. In the same way, before 9:30 or after 5 is a great time to avoid all the gatekeepers, that’s if the company is known to keep long hours and it’s their busy season.
What would I recommend? Send an email at first, calm, asking to check in. Give it 2 days, then send another calm email and call after 2pm. Leave a message if you can, otherwise call again the next day after 2 pm. I’m impatient usually, so I call each day and email every 3rd day until I hear something, unless I’m able to leave a message. Before 9:30 or after 5 is up to you, if it’s a larger company it’s more likely to work.
Happy sourcing! Any horror stories from you about non-responsive suppliers or clients?If so, what did you do?