Hotrod & Restoration

August '13

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n n n n INTERIOR INSIGHTS Choosing Vendors I have found that one of the most difficult decisions a new or established trim shop makes is choosing what to buy and which vendors to use. Finding suppliers who carry the product you are looking for might not seem like a big deal but it can be. Thinking back some 25 plus years ago when my wife and I started Weimann's Interiors we were starting from the ground floor. We had many things to consider when finding vendors. During the 1980s it wasn't quite as easy; technology wasn't what it is today. We really had to research using different methods than a trim shop might have available to them today. Finding vendors was difficult. The other big factor was the lack of vendors selling the exact or comparable products you needed. I relied on magazine advertisements, attended shows, such as the big show in Carlisle, Pa. and asked other trim shops who they were buying from. It took time and effort to track down where to purchase the products I needed. By being relentless and patient I was able to establish a vendor database that suited my needs. Looking back at the time when we were establishing our business, the most difficult issue was not just finding vendors but finding quality products and materials that were cost effective. Trim shops today still have the same concern. Now we have many resources available and don't have to rely on just magazines, shows and word of mouth when looking for vendors. Technology has made life much easier when researching products. The Internet and the emergence of social media allow researching products to be right at your fingertips. Now, with that said, more and more products have become available through research and development; shows like SEMA and the Hotrod & Restoration Trade Show have allowed vendors to show off their products to thousands of people each year. These types of shows allow trim shops to not only view products hands-on but also give them the ability to meet the vendor face-to-face. I like the fact that at these shows I can ask many questions about product design and can view many of their products first-hand. I use these shows to build relationships with key vendors. It's good to be able to put a name to the face, especially when you are purchasing products online or over the phone. Building that rapport is very important. Another area of concern that I, like many others, struggle with is quality and cost. I'm sure if you took a survey and asked trimmers around the country which is more important—the quality of the product or the cost—you would find many different answers and opinions. Many might say it depends on the job and customer and that can play a factor if you are buying products because of cost. Ideally, the customer or the type of work you are doing shouldn't drive your decision to use a product based solely on cost. Your reputation is at stake, so installing products based on cost alone could get you into trouble, especially if the product doesn't fit or is flawed. Just because a product is higher priced than another, does not necessarily mean it is a superior product. 52 By Harry Weimann My personal thought process when selecting vendors and determining whether or not to use their products has been tested over the past 25 years. I have run into issues with fit and general product defects. Remember, the products and number of manufacturers were fewer and farther between than are available today. I don't believe vendors want to produce inferior products, and in most cases, if the product was defective the vendor wanted to correct the problem. I think technology two decades ago limited some manufacturers' ability to produce exact-fit products. If you had a problem with a product, many vendors would allow you to return the product free of charge and send you a replacement, or in some cases issue a credit to you. I believe both are good practices; but, if I received another defective product from the same vendor that's when I threw up the red flag—especially if they are also the manufacturer. Many times choosing the right vendor isn't a scientific issue but it comes down to buying the product and seeing if it fits. Talking with others who use the same product is not a bad idea. Getting feedback on their level of satisfaction can save you much time and inconvenience. Reading other customers' reviews on-line will also provide insight into whether the customer was satisfied or not. As I said earlier I have found that over time, technology and the development of new products has played a very important role in the quality of the product. Product manufacturers have spent huge amounts of money in research and development to produce and reproduce products such as sunroofs, convertible tops, etc. that meet OEM specifications and fit. The trim shops and consumers are demanding it. We have to make sure that, not only is the quality of the product superior, but also the installation. Price plays a part when the customer is making their decision but it's your job as the trim shop to sell yourself and the products you install. Don't sell the job on price alone. Make sure to take time to explain what the warranty of the product is and what your shop warranty is also. Stand behind your work and products. If you do your homework and buy quality, yet cost effective products, and your customer leaves satisfied, you most likely could have a repeat customer or a customer who could possibly be your best salesman. As I have said in many of my past articles, my goal is to always have happy customers. Word of mouth is your best advertising tool. Make that customer a customer for life! HRR Harry Weimann is the director of education at WyoTech Blairsville in Blairsville, Pa. He has been in the trim industry since 1980 and has owned Weimann's Interiors in Delmont, Pa., with his wife since 1986. He can be reached at happyhar@comcast.net. Hotrod & Restoration August 2013 HRR_August13.indd 52 6/28/13 1:36 PM

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