As I write this week’s thoughts I am simultaneously preparing for the Cotswold Fayre New Supplier’s Conference tomorrow. This annual event is when we spend a day with our January launch suppliers and allow them to get to know us, our company and culture. We also ensure all the ducks are lined up for successful launch in 2018. Yes, we could do the event as a webinar or maybe send them a VT or put something on YouTube. But nothing can beat looking into each other’s eyes, hearing each other’s voices and understanding each other. I am sure many of you have spent hours gazing into the eyes of the one you love – certainly in the early stages of the relationship, at least. Through the eyes we communicate sometimes far more than words! And through heart-to-heart relationships things are achieved and built.
Where there is good relationship there is often good business. Buyers that distance themselves from their suppliers often do not find solutions, innovation and development in mutual business compared to those that are more open and spare a little more time. These days, many business relationships are conducted by e-mail or messaging, which, of course, can be very efficient in terms of information transfer. However, if buyers and sellers want to get underneath each other’s skin, and find answers to problems, then there is no substitute for a face-to-face meeting. Now I am aware that many buyers are encouraged by larger retailers not to build relationships with suppliers. That is one reason they are constantly moved from category to category. But, just as sales people may sometimes be able to gain more business from buyers they are closer to, often buyers can extract a better deal from a sales person they know better through the emotional deposit. Often both businesses can benefit each other – it’s called “win win”!
Now, it would be remiss of me not to mention the environmental impact of face-to-face meetings. From the planet’s point of view, it is not good for sales people to be driving from one end of the country to another each day. Often video-conferencing can achieve much of what I am talking about there. Having the balance right between, say, Skype, and face-to-face meetings is probably the best compromise. Tomorrow, at our Supplier Conference, we have made it compulsory for new suppliers to come to the event to be included from January 2018. Several come from other countries, so it can be quite a sacrifice. But as we are going to be doing business with most of these new brands for years to come, it is important that they hear our heartbeat and we theirs, and the only real way I know of doing that is by proper human contact. Business is not divorced from emotions.
In good relationships outside of business, we invest our whole being in relationships, body, mind and soul and I am yet to be convinced there is a different set of rules for business relationships. Maybe that’s why many of my business associates become friends. Now answer me this; does that not make the 40+ hours I work a week more enjoyable or not? You know the answer.