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When the Music Stops


5/9/2007
By Mitch Schneider

Circumstances like career changes move people around like a game of musical chairs. You must move strategically and quickly to guarantee a seat in the circle.
 
Mitch Schneider

We’re going through a really interesting exercise here at the shop.

I can think of much more colorful expressions than ‘interesting’ to describe what’s been going on, but that is probably the most appropriate euphemism I can use here in the magazine!

It is centered on two outside sales professionals we’ve become very close to over the years: one for more years than I care to remember, and the other long enough to make a difference when you go to pick up the phone. They worked for two of our suppliers: one, for our First Call, and the other, for a long-term, stocking-staple kind of “pick-up” supplier. We see them both just about every week. We’ve shared good times and bad times, illnesses and recoveries, slow months and busy ones. They, as a result, have become an integral part of our business and in some cases, an important part of our lives. We’d like to believe they feel the same way.

Like everything else, things fall into a comfortable pattern of “sameness.” One guy shows up on Monday and takes care of whatever he’s been taking care of forever and the other guy shows up on Wednesday. You smile, shake hands and exchange greetings, share a joke or maybe even something more personal. The order gets written and you wave and say, “Goodbye!” And the ‘stuff’ shows up as if by magic!

Like breathing, it’s something you don’t think about after awhile. It just happens and you kind of take it for granted. You take it for granted until something changes and then you have no choice but to analyze and evaluate every detail and that’s what just happened to us.

The music started to play and our two sales pros began to walk quietly, yet quickly around the chairs. And when the music stopped no one was sitting in the same seat. Our First Call guy moved to a well known, but long-abandoned source and our staple-stocking professional moved to our First Call supplier.

I don’t know about you, but I’m as uncomfortable with change as you probably are — it makes me nervous. I accept it because I know I don’t have much of a choice. It’s going to happen regardless of how I feel. But, that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Because of our relationship with the guy who was our First Call sales representative, we’re doing exponentially more business with the company he is working for now. It’s not First Call volume, but it’s certainly more than the zero volume it was before the move. The salesman who was taking orders for oil filters, belts, batteries and more, is now getting the lion’s share of our First Call because that’s where he landed.

All of that sounds great, until the battle for that first phone call begins. Two great relationships and two good companies — all resulting in a couple of really hard choices. For now, the choice isn’t all that difficult. One of the companies isn’t as close and delivers on a fixed schedule. The other is really close and gets me what I need when I need it. But, we can already see things starting to heat up, and despite the fact I might ultimately benefit in a convoluted kind of a way as the service improves and the prices drop, it’s still uncomfortable. You see, no one wants to be left standing when the music finally stops because there just may be no place left to sit!















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