By Cheryl Higley
Each year, Snow Business magazine encourages snow and ice management companies to nominate their All-Stars – those people who go above and beyond to provide your customers with an exceptional service experience.
Companies usually nominate an employee that deserves the spotlight; but last year, Ian Ashby of Arbutus Landscaping in Calgary nominated someone just as important to his company — long-time supplier partner Colleen Kinch of Albert Plows.
Ashby knows the importance of developing quality, long-lasting relationships with suppliers and vendors like Kinch. He demands excellence and loyalty but willing gives it in return.
“I’m intensely loyal to people who have supported my businesses. Most of my suppliers have been with me for 15 years or more,” he says.
To show his appreciation for his local support network, earlier this year Ian and his wife, Penny, planned a get-together for them at their credit union, took out a newspaper ad thanking all of their all-stars and made a donation in their names to Ronald McDonald House to support a cause near and dear to their hearts.
What happened at that meeting shows the impact of building relationships that extend beyond the snow and ice management landscape. With the mayor and a representative of Ronald McDonald House on hand, the $1,000 donation the Ashbys planned grew to more than $4,000 as the suppliers turned the tables and honored the Ashbys with donations of their own.
"This started as a simple thank you from us to our suppliers and they individually turned it into something huge. The Town of Cochrane and its core businesses never disappoint with their level of service or caring. I was shocked but not surprised by their actions," says Ashby. Arbutus Landscaping owners Ian and Penny Ashby are shown with some of their loyal, long-time vendors and suppliers: (back row, l to r) Todd of Mark’s Work Wearhouse, Lottie Wenger, Denise of Ronald McDonald House, Cochrane Mayor Ivan Brooker, Mike Fenton of Fenton’s Automotive, Scott of Bow Valley Credit Union, Ian Ashby and Marlisse and Steve of Satellite Printing; (front row) Penny Ashby and Colleen Kinch of Albert Plows. Missing from photo: Archie Hall of Tractorland (Kubota), Peter Curran of Jack Carter Chevrolet Cadillac GMC, Janelle & Cooper of Cochrane Landscape Supply.
Following are a few suggestions to finding quality vendors: Look beyond price
. It’s no secret that you get what you pay for – so the lowest priced provider of products and services to an industry that is dependent on weather and timing isn’t always the best bet if that provider is going to leave you hanging at 3 a.m. in the middle of a snowstorm. Access to replacement parts and availability of 24/7 customer service and assistance are things to consider. Do they understand your business?
Seek suppliers who want to learn about your business, the challenges you face, the specific demands you may have so they can best offer the products and services to meet your needs. Get to know your suppliers
. Similarly, get to know your suppliers. Take the time to establish a rapport with face-to-face meetings and communication. Visit their offices, invite them to your shop so they can see what makes you tick, etc. Building these networks can open up new paths toward referrals for business as well.
Be honest and respectful
. Relationships are built on mutual trust, which is built on loyalty and open lines of communication. If there’s a problem, let them know so they can work with you to fix it. If you are thinking about price shopping but are otherwise happy with the vendor’s service, work with them to see if a better arrangement can be made.