Homestead Outdoor Products
Ken Burkholder, Director of Marketing
Client profile: Homestead Outdoor Products is a building supply distributor based in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. They sell fencing, decking, and railing, and provide expert advice for contractors and builders of all sizes working with the aforementioned products.
As a building supply company, how have you seen the industry change over the past 3 years?
- The last two years were obviously wrought with challenge and change due to COVID, but I think some of the issues were happening before—price and expense were climbing, and the shortage of truckers was always going to affect supply chains.
- Longer lead times are a new norm.
- Manufacturers used to supply a huge array of options, but they’re reducing those now to more of what is selling fast.
- Keeping inventory in stock has become important again. The pendulum is shifting away from the “just in time” inventory management system.
- With trucking being more expensive, it now makes sense to buy more at one time and keep it on the ground.
- Suppliers that didn’t have stock during the pandemic really lost.
In an industry where businesses frequently compete on price, how do you differentiate Homestead from the competition?
- Price is always going to be part of the equation, but we try and compete through deep knowledge in our sales force—not superficial knowledge from the sales sheet. Installation knowledge and oddball questions that may come up can really make the difference between a challenging project and a success.
What can building supply companies do to establish better relationships with customers?
- Listen and hear what your customer is telling you. They know what they need!
- Be proactive in terms of anticipating needs with orders and where the market is turning.
- Make sure information can flow freely. If your delivery driver hears a builder grumbling about the timeliness of the order or treatment by sales staff, he should be able to take that information and get it to the right person.
What can contractors and builders do to have better relationships and services from their distributors?
- Speak up. If something isn’t working for you, be willing to say something, and ask if something can be worked out.
- Try and understand the dealer’s point of view. Be easy to work with.
- Low-maintenance customers get prioritized service. But when there are issues, you’ll be treated much better if they are few and far between. We try to keep in mind that every minor issue is not a fire!
- Buy from as few dealers as possible so you can establish partnerships, eliminate variables, and gain a better understanding of the relationship between suppliers and contractors.