This will be either the most difficult column to write or the easiest. And it's a column that addresses a problem you have faced in the past and will, undoubtedly, face in the future.
In previous columns, I have mentioned Adams Hudson, a friend and president of Hudson Ink, as the best HVACR contractor marketer in the United States. Adams has been a contributor to this publication and also to its sister publication, Contracting Business.
I have another friend, a very savvy, experienced and personal friend who has joined the marketing firm Warm Thoughts Inc. as vice president. Blaine Fox has an outstanding resume in the HVACR industry, which includes 14 years at Weinstein Supply and seven years with ServiceMark, one of the largest HVACR contractors in the mid-Atlantic region. Both are friends, both are competitors, both have assisted me with HVACR-related issues, and both have contributed to this magazine. More importantly for you the readers, both are outstanding at what they do.
So in the future, who is Tom Peric' going to favor?
I'm convinced that many of my HARDI wholesalers have faced the same problem. You have friends with whom you do business, and they were friends before you started doing business or it became “personal” in the course of business. Suddenly, you have to choose to do business with one at the risk of offending the other. It's easy to say business is business. As Mario Puzo noted in The Godfather, “It's not personal.” But as his Michael Corleone concluded: It's always personal. In real life, while the bottom line counts, what you feel matters too. After all, our hearts and not our hard drives continue to influence how we make decisions.
How do you choose? Do you decide on the lowest price, the one who offers you the best terms, the one who ships the fastest or the one who allows you more time to pay invoices? On the personal side, do you choose the one who came to your father's funeral, picked up a weekend tab during the HARDI conference or sends you gifts galore to remind you that he appreciates your business and enjoys your company? Do you choose the vendor who joins you on vacations or the one who wrote a recommendation so your kid could attend a top-notch school? Difficult, isn't it? You could, theoretically, alternate your favoritism, but how do you keep track of who did what for you and when?
When I heard of Blaine's appointment, it dawned on me that I might have a dilemma. I wanted to be fair, wondering if I mentioned someone's name first, would a reader infer that's who I favored, however slightly? (I decided on alphabetical order.) And being the editor I hope I am, I also realized two important items: This is a conundrum that wholesalers face, and this issue was great fodder for a column as I wrestled with the issue.
I read an article about U.S. Supreme Court judges, and it mentioned one (forgive me for not remembering) who had decided on a First Amendment case that the best possible formula or resolution was to allow as much information as possible in the open and allow the warmth of sunshine to destroy any vestige of doubt, darkness and mistruths (I'm paraphrasing now). Be open about it, be fair and explain why you're making the decision you made. Occam's Razor as a business tool: Sometimes the simplest answer is both the most elegant and correct.
Some “hard-nosed” business types might dismiss my comments with a wave, saying: “Make the decision that is most likely to improve profits.” Maybe I am a tad too idealistic.
But the idea of openness appealed to me, and that's the path I chose. I have given you the background. I can tell you that my esteem and respect for both Adams and Blaine are sky-high and that I intend to praise them when they deserve it, ask them for advice when I need it and expect them to contribute a byline in articles to come.
For a wholesaler who might consider Adams's or Blaine's services, especially to increase the effectiveness of your contractor's marketing success, I would answer that YOU have to decide which individual or firm better suits your style, approach, technical understanding and budget. I can say both are terrific ad infinitum. In the end, I've done all I can: offer an introduction, provide a background and extend an invitation.
You figure it out. It is your time, money, problems and perception that matter. The only way you'll ever know is if you reach out. And while you mull over whether you need marketing assistance, I'm still very lucky. I'll continue to have two friends and experts virtually at my fingertips, ready to help, eager to educate our industry and contribute to my magazine.
HVACR Distribution Business welcomes letters to the editor. Please send correspondence to: Tom Peric', Editor 2040 Fairfax Avenue Cherry Hill, NJ 08003 856/874-0049 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.