Handcuffs money salesThere’s a new trend out there in today’s market. I call it the “How to Lock You in with Technology Trend”. And it’s happening in the cabinet industry.

Cabinet manufacturers are investing in technology for their dealers – not necessarily to help our businesses, but to help theirs. These “helpful tools” at first seems just that way – helpful. But user beware – they are actually designed just like your cell phone contracts.

It’s funny how we become dependent on devices these days. I remember when we signed up for the Blackberry years ago. It would have been a simple switch if we had changed our minds (minus the cancellation fee, of course which still IRKS me to no end). But after two years of integrating that phone into our worlds we had created a little bit of a mess. We had integrated email, our lead tracking software and all sorts of other helpful things into that crazy little phone.

The iPhone Wake Up Call

It was all so slick. That is until one day when our company needed that damned iPhone.

We needed to further improve our productivity – especially in the declining market. We decided the iPhone would help our people out in the fields give even more awesome customer service. But as we started counting up the number of things that would break if we changed, it was enough to give you a headache and some mild diarrhea just to figure out how to untangle it all.

We had inadvertently become handcuffed by our technology. We didn’t even see it coming.

Meet the Sharks

Recently we met with a new cabinet manufacturer to consider their line. We were very impressed with their product and customer support. Taking on their line would make it so that we could actually reduce the total number of suppliers – a concept we found attractive, at first.

Then they showed me their software. It was cool and looked very helpful, but here was the catch: We didn’t have the option of not using their software. To take on their line we HAD to take on their software because that’s the only way we could get an order to them. A chill went up my spine. I wanted to scream “You @#! VERIZON SHARKS!”. But I held it together (somehow).

The software they had built seemed to work great – but it was only for their line. It didn’t handle anything else. Just imagine 2 years from now as little pieces of their software made our lives a little easier here and there. The manufacturer knows that if they offer us a product AND get us hooked on their technology, we’re very unlikely to leave – even if they want to raise prices. It was another example of the age-old golden handcuffs. To rip this supplier out years later wouldn’t just be removing a showroom display – it would be software and a set of business processes wrapped around them. Like that knot in your daughter’s necklace that you know in your heart there is no possible way of untangling.

We’re All Just Starving Dogs, Really

So we said “No Thanks.” A painful No, really. But having lived this before in many previous lives, it just wasn’t worth the pain of it all. They’re a vendor and vendors inevitably want a hand in your pocket it seems. It amazes me that time after time we dealers keep falling into the same trap. We want so badly for things to be easier. Less headaches, less emergencies – life on easy street, right? It’s like we’re all a bunch of starving dogs and as soon as someone comes around with some food we pig out like crazy until we start vomiting. And the manufacturer’s know this. Why?

Because I bet you can’t name ONE manufacturer whose technology is designed to aid your ENTIRE business. That’s because they are all focused on THEIR portion of the pie. You can’t blame them – but I do.

Just for once it would be nice to meet a manufacturer that was genuinely interested in my business being successful instead of their sales of their product being successful.

And before I get another blast of emails on how you know just the manufacturer who doesn’t fit that mold – I’ll just remind you to look at their technology they offer. If it handles their line and just their line, I’m going to say you’re full of it. Or say you’ve been brainwashed. Or maybe just call you ignorant. But either way I’ll be insulting, I’m sure of it.

And if it just happens to be an entire solution for my business – then I’ll eat my hat. Of course, no one listens to me. I’m just the guy that gets the bad rap for stirring up the pot!