It's a people business

ILM Editorial blog - Martin Ricker
Published:  23 July, 2014

Perhaps more than many other industries, the leather sector is a people buisness and personal relationships between customers, suppliers and colleagues around the world are vital in this industry. Maybe that's why there are so many trade shows? We all need to see each other regularly!

Yet, disconnected managers, office politics and the dreaded "corporate restructuring" can break close relationships and lose companies business.

I was recently involved in a discussion between a tanner and a major chemical supplier. The tanner spoke of the days in the past when an experienced sales rep (from a different major chemical company) would drop by to his office. They would talk, he would show the company's latest products and more often than not the tanner would buy based on their trusted personal relationship as well as the quality of the products and price.

The conversation continued on. A while later the experienced chemical rep was replaced because their face no longer fitted with the new "corporate management" and the new "corporate strategy" and they left the industry. Subsequently, the tanner in question didn't "get-on" with the replacement. The business was lost and the chemical company took many years to get some, not all, of the business back.

Leather is a natural product from hides and skins which are all different. Buyers have to trust sellers and vice versa - its a people business. Tanners have to work with their customers and understand their needs and explain the difference and benefits of their leather compared with others. Otherwise the buyer goes solely on price and a gut instinct rather than confidently knowing they can trust the supplier. Or they just don't buy "from a stranger". Building and keeping personal relationships is as equally crucial as a good product and competitive price.

Experienced employees, especially customer facing, with years of knowledge, contacts and technical skill are the most valuable asset of any company. As the moral of this tanners tale shows with a good product it is people that make the difference between a sale or not.

Martin Ricker

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