As a new contractor, here are some ways to fast track relationship building with material suppliers
Construction businesses usually need a lot of materials. From lumber and siding to windows and concrete, everything must ultimately come from a supplier. Often, supplier relationships are valued and forged over many years.
Unfortunately, suppliers aren’t always able to deliver the right materials for the right price, even if they do their best. Prices can increase for many reasons, and shortages can develop both during times of uncertainty and because of building booms. For that reason, most of us need more than one supplier for the same type of material.
If you’ve been struggling to find new suppliers, you’ll find some helpful tips here. Not only will we tell you how you can go about meeting new distributors, but we provide some criteria that you can use to assess them. Let’s begin with how you can go about forging beneficial connections.
One of the key things you need to do is ensure you have a presence at the leading industry events. This is where you’ll meet suppliers’ representatives and get a first-hand look at new products and technologies. Conferences, trade shows, and similar events also provide an opportunity for you to network with your peers. They may have connections or information that would benefit you. Whether you want to find new suppliers of windows and doors, paint, concrete, or other materials, you’re likely to get some leads by attending events. Given that more and more shows and conferences are being hosted virtually, you won’t always need to worry about booking flights and hotels.
Speaking of conferences, many of these are put on by trade organizations. In fact, most of us associate these entities almost solely with events. However, industry organizations, like the NAHB do much more than host conferences. Not only do they lobby on behalf of members, but they are a valuable resource for everyday operations. Each has a website and front office that are intended to support members on an ongoing basis.
In particular, many trade organizations keep a list of suppliers of various materials. These lists change periodically based on who is in business and who has what. Besides the lists, trade organizations often hear about the problems facing individual companies within the industry. Knowledge like this is often gathered during everyday interactions. For instance, a homebuilder might complain about the difficulty of obtaining a particular brand of window. Trade organization reps might help them find a new supplier or pass on the news that imports are severely down, and it might be best to try to find a substitute.
Advertising through trade organizations can also help. Many building supply distributors purchase banner ads on trade websites or print ads in trade publications. Check out websites that are relevant to your construction specialty and material requirements. Hopefully, you will find a company that you haven’t yet used, along with the contact information. Recent editions of print publications can help in the same way. Just be sure that the information is current.
While most of us started using social media to keep track of friends and family, these days, the construction industry also leverages this powerful medium. Why? Because this is often the place to see and be seen if you can’t travel to a convention. Not only that, but social media is a great place to reach out to consumers who might order a product or service.
One way to find distributors on social media is by following the profiles of various manufacturers. For instance, Kohler regularly shows off their latest products so consumers can see what they’re offering. Consumers include not just homeowners but also builders and developers. Browse their profile, and you might get news on who carries their most sought-after sink model. That distributor might even be advertising that they have one in stock.
Besides finding materials on manufacturer profiles, you might get some news by asking around. Social media can act just like the local watering hole, except that the geographic boundaries are minimal. Who knows? Maybe someone has a line on that hard-to-find set of cabinets. At the same time, you can build lasting connections with other builders.
While construction material suppliers have traditionally resisted online distribution, this is beginning to change. Nowadays, there is as mall but growing number of suppliers and startups that offer online purchasing and delivery. Not only does this reduce your need to leave the office, but it reduces the impact of geographical differences in supply availability.
One example of this is Joyne. More than a material supplier, Joyne helps you to determine how much you need to purchase for each project. Add this information to your estimate in-house or hire one of their experts to help complete the process. From there, you can order the materials online. Joyne is an integrated construction-industry planner and supplier. Best of all, they offer bulk discounts and 60-day interest-free financing to help boost cashflow.
Finally, industry contacts you’ve already built up are great resources even with social distancing. After all, everybody is either looking for or selling materials at some point or another. Contacts can tell you if there is a new supplier for certain products. This can be through the grapevine, advertising, or personal experience.
Not only that, but some of your contacts are likely to be from different segments of the industry and not competing with you. They might be subcontractors, or they may cater to a different type of client. Just give them a call or send an email, and most will be happy to let you know if they’ve heard anything. Even social media messages can yield what you need.
Price will no doubt be an important factor as you seek to establish new relationships with suppliers of building materials. However, you shouldn’t prioritize price over everything else. You need to make sure that your supplier will be able to provide exactly what you need when you need it. Any distributor you hire should have:
Challenges will come up from time to time, and supply chains can be disrupted. This means you’ll find yourself hunting for new suppliers at some point in the lifecycle of your business. Fortunately, there are multiple ways of getting information. With a little ingenuity and the tips we’ve discussed here, you have a great chance of finding suppliers.