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Bad Economy

From time to time, I will give the floor to a guest blogger.  Today is one of those times.  Meet Howard Bender.  Howard is my friend and also the owner of the only Jewish delicatessen west of Chicago, Schmaltz Delicatessen.  Today, he talks about the need to look for positives in the current economy.

In a world filled with miserable attitude, bad economic times and lots of self-fulfilling prophecy of failure, an attitude as a small business owner and entrepreneur to be a survivor as opposed to a victim is everything. I just want to point out one trashy note today that can snowball and lead to a bottom line of success for me. I have never in my lifetime seen such a buyer’s market. Our vendors are scared of losing us, we are scared they are mistreating us, our customers are looking for more value with the same quality, our bankers are scared and our families are nervous.

In our business, we have driven down on our expenses to re-evaluate each and every line that sends cash out the door. We began about 45 days ago, re-bidding out everything from food and supplies to garbage and toner. Today, I sat down with our bookkeeper and looked at 3 competitive bids on garbage removal. Each and every one was 30% less than our current vendor. Shocked, dismayed and thrilled all at the same time! But wait, our current vendor’s service is superb. Let’s call them too! After reaching our current vendor, putting it on the table in a honest and real manner, I am pleased to say we now pay 30% less for superb, consistent service.

Now, there was a time when I would have felt I had been screwed for many years and no matter what,  I will switch garbage vendors just for that. But having spent the last couple of decades in this business working for hotels, restaurants, bakeries, and even on the other side as a foodservice distributor, I am convinced I have not been getting screwed. In fact, up until just months ago, I was paying a very competitive price. We bid this service out a few times over the last few years and all vendors were around the same price that I was paying up until today.

The rules have changed. They have changed for me, they have changed for my vendors, and they have certainly changed for my customers. The concept of competitive pricing is swinging on the pendulum. Always competitive but only the price changes. So in the inflated economic times of a few years ago, the price was competitive… and high. Now our competitive price is on the other end of the pendulum and is very low. The trick is to get a contracted price at the end of the pendulum… I’m working on it. I’m also opening my eyes a little wider to asking every vendor for a break… everyone knows they will charge more when they can. When I was a sales manager for a foodservice distributor, I used to tell my sales staff that if your customers are not complaining or questioning your price, you are not charging enough. Today is a really, really good day to question.