38-CDMost consumers would tell you that the music business is about making music. Most business people would argue that it is about making records (you remember records, right?). Their business is not really about music, it’s about the delivery of that music to consumers. First through records, then tape, and by today’s standards, on disc.

Now the business has not been too kind recently when it comes to that delivery method. The record industry sold 223 million CD’s last year according to Nielsen SoundScan, but that was less than 50% of sales. Worse yet, as recently as 2008 those sales accounted for 68% of total sales.

Where did those sales go? Why, to digital music of course. So the change is on. Soon, there will be no need for the CD. It is older music fans, who demand that physical object that mostly keeps the CD afloat.

The state of selling kitchens today

So what, you may ask, does this have to do with cabinet manufacturers? Well first and foremost, cabinet manufacturers mostly say they are in the business of making kitchens. They’re not. As a dealer, you are the amalgamator of those cabinets into the end product we call a kitchen.

Manufacturers should be in the business of selling kitchens with sales delivered through making boxes. When you think about it, all of the work of selling that kitchen is backed on the outdated notion that dealers take all of the risk of assembling the sale. You spend hour after hour with customers, listening to their needs, making trips to their home and assembling a project. And you occasionally (or regularly) get beat out of the sale for 10% difference; with absolutely no return on your investment.

What needs to change

Manufacturers need to make things easy for dealers. Dealers today have to quote and order through systems that benefit each vendor. Think about it, you do order entry for each manufacturer with which you do business. You quote through a complex pricing mechanism that has no rhyme or reason; a W3030 in door style X can be 15% more in door style Y before we even calculate species, finish and construction modifications. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…

How a different future could look

Manufacturers need to take the time to make quoting easy. Quoting across their brand, or even family of brands, should be seamless. The less time spent finding the right product for your customer, the better for the dealer; it makes that occasional opportunity loss easier to absorb.

Purchasing through a system that allows access to their order entry would have a huge time advantage for dealers as well. No longer would you have to master different systems for different products. Your front end system could interface with the manufacturer’s order processing system saving you time, and perhaps, overhead.

Why manufacturers aren’t ready

One word: paralysis. Manufacturers, and particularly key decision makers at these companies, are risk adverse. They would much prefer to hit a single than go for the wall and innovate. The big risk to them; that someone would figure out their secret sauce, and that you could actually see their products on the same playing field as their competitors. Makes you think that there’s not much difference between product lines, doesn’t it? Maybe it really is only a box with a door and drawer front.

So they continue to print and sell CD’s when the digital age is beckoning… After all, it’s easier to keep doing things the way you have always done them. At least until the market says you’re obsolete.

By then, it’s usually too late…