It seems that supplier consolidation is a daily occurrence in the promotional products industry. In January 2017 alone, J. America Wholesale merged with Top of the World, FEY Promotional Products acquired Magna-Tel, Ball Pro acquired Diversified-Adtee, and Ennis acquired Independent Printing Company. With that kind of activity in the first month of the year, 2017 will likely be a record one for supplier consolidation.
While these mergers and acquisitions create cost efficiencies for the suppliers, many times it leads to confusion among distributor clients. Think of it as the law of unintended consequences – no supplier knowingly creates turbulence for distributors, but when a merger of two companies takes place, this is often the case.
Instead of waiting for communication from the supplier that’s been acquired, take the bull by the proverbial horns and drive the conversation. To ensure your business as a distributor isn’t negatively impacted, focus on the following when working with a supplier that has recently been part of a merger or acquisition:
- Updated Terms – It’s critical to understand whether your terms with the company changed and, more importantly, if it impact any current orders. Finding out after an event date has been missed that a new policy suddenly put you over your limit may cause you to lose a valuable client.
- Updated Documentation – Related to updated terms, find out if they need any updated documentation from you to ensure transactions continue to flow in a smooth manner. Do they need an updated credit application or resale certificate? Don’t rely on the supplier to ask you.
- Don’t Blame Employees – It’s far too easy to vent to a front-line employee how things “used to be so much better.” Remember, they are also going through a transition which may include learning new systems, policies, and procedures. Giving the customer service representative grief about how the merger has impacted you won’t help the situation.
- Provide Realistic Lead Times – Distributors who form the best relationships with suppliers for the long haul – especially after an acquisition – don’t abuse a rush order policy. During a transition, it’s imperative to give suppliers as much lead time as possible and keep them abreast of any significant changes to the timeline.
Developing and maintaining good relationships with a supplier after a merger is not a complicated process. Drive communication, ask important questions, don’t point fingers, and be realistic with lead times. Like the old saying goes, “treat others how you would like to be treated.” It really is just that simple.