The 2013 Vegas Fastener Show has come and gone. Attendance was very strong and I'm sure the show organizers have got to be quite pleased with this year's show. From the feedback I received, I think most exhibitors had plenty of traffic and felt this was a good show.
Certainly one of the unique stories of the 2013 show was the recent acquisition of Porteous Fastener by Brighton-Best International. As big as that story is, the overall tone of the show was not a whole lot different than at past shows. Sure, the Porteous people were in red Brighton shirts and I'm sure there were plenty of private meetings aimed at explaining and reassuring customers. But the Porteous people and Brighton people all mixed themselves up between the two booths and it felt as though this long anticipated merger was finally completed and it was time to accept it and move on. I had a few minutes to spend with Jun Xu at the show and he is a very forward thinking, brilliant man and was very open in sharing his thoughts and visions of the fastener industry. He was very gracious with his time and he certainly did not need to be as I am not a customer or employee. He suggested that having numerous strong, healthy distributors is important to Brighton's long term success. I would agree and feel that a strong network of fastener distributors is important to all of our success. The introduction of this new giant supplier is complete and we can all wait, see and react to whatever develops from here.
While that was a big story, it was not as though other fastener suppliers were not busy promoting their own products and new developments. The last few years in our industry have been strong and many companies have enjoyed strong sales and growth. And that is why I think this was a particularly strong show.
The much promoted Bourbon Room Bash was also a big hit. The Bourbon Room was filled with fastener people and the master of ceremonies at the Bourbon Room was kind enough to mention our industry many times throughout the evening. Fastener industry people dominated the room, just as we hoped and expected. I received an e-mail from the Bourbon Room hoping we would come back again next year!! Seriously. So, I guess our behavior and bad dancing did not scare them off too much. Thanks to all who made time to show up. While I am a big talker, I did not last as late into the night as some of my fastener brethren, and I was up by 6:00 a.m. the next morning posting my last blog. But, it was fun and we need to come up with an idea to top it next year.
Just got finished listening to Fully Threaded Radio episode #68 with, among other things, an interview with Bob Porteous. It was an interesting and candid discussion about what Porteous Fastener is doing to stay lean and move the company forward in a competitive marketplace. It was a good interview and if you have not listened yet I would recommend that you do so.
As I listened to the interview, I recalled a discussion I had just a few weeks ago with Jim (James) Gale of Branam Fastening. While I was visiting Jim and we were discussing the "fastener world" he reached over to his book shelf and pulled out a July/August 2008 edition of Fastener World magazine. I could not find this issue on line to provide you a link to it but the article was a report from the Taiwan Industrial Fastener Institute Talk and the article was called "The Seminar on Value of Fastener Industry in the U.S. Market". One of the speakers at this seminar was Bruce Darling of Porteous Fastener Company. Go ahead, look through your old issues and see if you've still got it. It's buried with your old LINKs, your American Fastener Journals, your Fastener Technologies and your old FINs. C'mon, we've all got 'em.
Later in the article there are some very interesting facts and figures regarding the Total GLOBAL Industry Fastener Demand, The USA Portion of the Market, and info on the Sources of Imports to USA from 2007. Not that long ago really. Also included in the article were Estimated Fastener Sales of some of the larger distributors in the U.S. Market.
Finally, closer to the end of the article, there was a section labeled, "What Else Has Been Happening in Our Industry?" Again, this was the July/August 2008 issue. As stated in this article:
In 2006, Porteous acquired EK Fasteners and PFC consolidated the Atlanta and Chicago locations into local PFC warehouses.
In 2007, Lake Erie Products' was acquired by Fontanta. Feb.22, Heads & Threads announced the consolidation of their Cleveland, Detroit, Tampa and San Francisco warehouses into large Regional Distribution Centers. And on November 13, the article states "At the Las Vegas Fastener Show it was announced that Taiwanese stainless steel pipe distributor Ta Chen had formed a consortium to purchase Brighton Best."
In 2008, March 7 - Vulcan Threaded Products filed an antidumping petition against imports of steel threaded rod and studs from China. April 2, Barry Porteous sent a letter to all PFC customers advising that "the increased prices for fasteners will not be short lived". April 10 - Heads & Threads published a letter to their customers outlining factors that they see contributing to the increasing cost of fasteners. At this point, reading this 2008 article makes the 2013 reader shiver as the article mentions the numerous price increases that took place that year, from Vulcan, Nucor, Lake Erie, Ifastgroupe. And then there also numerous surcharges! Again, not that long ago!
Perhaps the moist interesting part of the whole article was the sales figures reported from the companies labeled as "Imports & Master Fastener Distributions Importers Sell Primarily Through Distribution". Again, since this was printed in 2008 I believe these were sales figures from 2007.
According to the article (and again, I say...according to this article from Fastener World), the sales figures were as follows:
Star Stainless - $200MM
Porteous Fastener Company - $170MM
Heads & Threads - $140MM
XL Screw - $60MM
Brighton Best - $50MM
Stelfast - $40MM
Distributor Sales - $30MM
These figures come directly from Page 130 of the July/Aug 2008 edition. Not sure if they were accurate or not but they are interesting to read. Guess we can see that a few things have changed from 2007 to 2013, wouldn't you agree? To see the data and realize what a short time it has been almost makes your head spin.
So, backing up just a bit in this post, I'd like to once again thank Jim Gale for sharing this article with me. I have known Jim for many years and it was no surprise he could just reach back on his bookshelf and instantly pick this copy out as Jim is a very organized guy and a successful fastener industry veteran.
And, going back to the very beginning, when I referenced episode #68 of Fully Threaded Radio, Eric mentioned on that broadcast that I had recently completed the Fastener Training Institute course offered through PacWest. Eric, just to let you know I did, in fact, pass the test and am officially a Certified Fastener Specialist. So, I guess you can still teach an old dog a trick or two.
Today I will begin the week long Fastener Training Institute fastener training class. It has been a while since I was a student. Also, I took a similar about 27 years ago that was taught by Bengt Blendulf. His training got me this far so I figured a refresher course would not be a bad thing for the next phase of my fastener career. I'll keep you posted how it goes.
I'm sure I will be frantically calling and texting at break times trying to keep up on normal daily activities. Still, I always think it is good to reinvest in one's profession and I think this will be time well spent.
Guest blog from Joanne Bialas, National Sales Manager, International Fasteners:
DOES ART IMITATE LIFE?
I was interested in seeing the movie THE INTERNSHIP for several reasons. One is that my daughter is currently involved in an summer internship where she works incredibly hard and does not get paid. But mostly, I was intrigued by the premise of the movie which is as follows:
After old-school salesmen Billy (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Owen Wilson) find themselves downsized,Billy decides that, despite their complete lack of technological savvy, they should work for Google. The friends somehow manage to finagle internships at the Internet giant and promptly head out to Silicon Valley. Viewed with disdain by most of their fellow interns, Billy and Nick join forces with the rest of the misfit "nooglers" to make it through a series of competitive team challenges.
With actors sure to provide comic relief it seemed worth the $12.00 to venture over to the theater for 2 hours to see if there is anything more to this concept. After all, I am still intrigued by the notion that art imitates life and I am at that age that I am concerned that I too just might be considered an “old school salesmen”. So let’s start there. Our characters apparently work for a sales agency and they are trying to sell expensive watches to a store owner over a nice dinner. They know all about the personal life of their customer including child’s name and activities and what not. When they ask for the order, the customer informs them that the company they work for has closed.
What we come to learn is that the watch industry is failing (because even 70 year old secretaries use their iPhones to find out what time it is) and that getting to know your customers and spending time with them outside of the office and actually looking them in the eyes and asking for the order is now “old school”. Hmmm, don’t get to know your customers and don’t ask for the order...I just might be old school after all...ugh!
Now we are enlightened with this next generation of up and comers that seemingly speak in a different language and make our old-school salesmen appear to be somewhat useless in this new day of technology except for their ability to bring their team of misfits together to actually stand a chance at winning some of these competitions. And just when we think one of the two is not going to make it at all, the final challenge is for these young techies to go out into the real world and yes, sell google space to businesses. They all can not make eye contact or even begin to convince the pizza owner that he should buy into google. They fumble with their words and are struggling to know what to say. As we all know, this group likes to text and email and yes, google. They don’t need unlimited minutes on their phones because they don’t like to talk. Our old-school heroes enter and save the day using their lost-artistry of sales, but also with the help of the young ones gathering quick and useful information off of the internet as they speak. Of course they close the sale and win jobs at Google. I like a movie with a happy ending.
When I got home, I thought about whether there was anything poignant (life v. art) or just a feel good, laugh a little movie to enjoy (there is still nothing wrong with that either.) I have come to the conclusion that I am going to take away the notion that the “old school salesmen generation” needs to work closely with the next “tech savvy generation” because it is together that greatness is achieved. Technology can not replace people, but technology can help people be better at what they do.
I welcome input from anyone who has their own Social Media observations, sincerely, I do. I am still struggling to figure all these things out and figure out which ones work effectively. So, here are some short observations.
On Linked In, I appreciate when someone "endorses" me for a skill. It is flattering and appreciated. However, I often get "endorsed" by people I have never met and it makes me question the value of that particular feature. Any comments on how you see it?
This site, www.fastenerblog.net has 189 Subscribers as of this morning. I'm not sure all the e-mail addresses are still good, but when I post it goes out to 189 e-mail addresses. It gets picked up by other sites or social media outlets so I often get many more hits than I have subscribers. So, if you were to respond, at least a few hundred people would see what you write. Just FYI.
My alter ego, (Not TS), has 539 Linked In connections. The Traveling Salesman has 212 connections, many who are not connected to my other account. I'm not exactly sure how they found that Linked In page (for TS) but I find it kind of kind of interesting.
Finally, I have to look at the facts. When I write a blog post, only 189 people want to read it. When I Tweet, I have 286 Twitter followers so I can conclude that 286 people want to read it. So, when I write less, I get more interest?????
In that case, this concludes this short message. Goodbye!
I'd like to share a personal note I received from Eric Dudas of Fully Threaded Radio. This was in response to a question I had about his upcoming presentation at Fastener Tech '13. He shared:
"Trends & New Tools for an Evolving Industry" will be unlike anything we've
done or you've seen before! A fast paced, hour long session featuring
myself, NFDA president Kevin Reidl, and BB&T Capital Markets analyst Holden
Lewis, you don't want to miss it!
We'll cover the FDI, how the emerging technology of 3D printing will impact
the fastener business, exciting New tools From FCH, And the NFDA's
direction for a changing business climate.
The session happens on Tuesday, 6/11 at 4 PM, just before the welcome
I'd like to encourage anyone attending Fastener Tech to make sure to stop by this presentation. Through their radio program Eric and Brian have brought to the fastener industry more innovative ideas and personalities than just about any other media source in recent years. I am anxious to see what they have up their sleeves with this live presentation. Good luck guys, I won't miss it!
And, don't forget, after the show sponsored bash to make your way over to Toby Keith's for some more networking and tomfoolery (Eric, did I spell that right?).
Just a quick note here regarding the Nucor Tour with the MWFA, NCFA and NFDA. The tour was terrific and the people at Nucor were wonderful hosts. It is a very impressive manufacturing plant and Nucor product is all over the bridges, stadiums, vehicles, etc. that each of us use every day. The Auburn Cord Duesenburg Museum was also very cool Even more so than I was expecting. The cars in the museum were spectacular.
Needless to say, when you get over 75 people from the fastener industry to "road trip" to a common site, you can guess there will be some networking. The evening dinner at the museum and the cocktails afterwards were fun and the networking was as good as any that goes on at any of the trade shows. Great group of attendees.
Now, this week, I will be attending the North Coast Fastener Association Distributor Social in Cleveland, Ohio. I understand at this point there about 200 people signed up to attend. And, Lisa Graham of the NCFA assures me that there will be quite a few last minute sign ups. The event takes place on Thursday, May 2, so there is still time to sign up and join us at this event. Hope to see you there.
Then, it will be off to the All American Fastener Show in Kansas City. I will try to check in after each of these events. Thanks to Bob Fawcett (who acted as the coordinator with NCFA, MWFA and NFDA) and everyone at Nucor for a great tour.
They are coming fast and furious. I just wrote how the Elgin Fastener Group had acquired Telefast in my last post. Went on vacation for a week (spring break!) and come back to read that Elgin has also acquired Vegas Fasteners. After I got over my initial "WOW" experience, I could not help but ask, where is all their money coming from. And, it did not take too much effort to find that Elgin is owned by Audax. You can google the company and read more but here is little bit of what is on their web site:
Audax Group is a premier investor in middle market companies. Established in 1999, Audax manages over $5.0 billion of capital through its private equity, mezzanine debt, and senior secured debt funds. Audax focuses on building companies with leading market positions and superior management teams.
Our mission is to partner with management to build long term value in our companies. Our track record demonstrates we are results oriented business and financial partners. We have a long and successful history of investing across a wide range of industries and transactions, including leveraged buyouts and recapitalizations, corporate divestitures spin-offs and roll-outs.
Audax Group employs over 70 investment professionals in Boston and New York.
Then, I scrolled down to find out more about WHO is the Audax group and I found the following info:
Audax Group was established in 1999 by its Co-Chief Executive Officers, Geoffrey S. Rehnert and Marc B. Wolpow. Previously, Mr. Rehnert and Mr. Wolpow were Managing Directors at Bain Capital where they helped initiate the firm’s buyout and debt businesses. They founded Audax Group with the vision of building the leading investment platform to compete in the highly fragmented small cap and lower-middle market.
So, now the Elgin Fastener Group owns nine fastener related companies: Ohio Rod Products, Leland Powell Fasteners, Chandler Products, Silo Fasteners, Landreth Fastener, Quality Bolt & Screw, Northern Wire, Telefast Industries, and Vegas Fastener Manufacturing; plus Best Metal Finishing. That is some powerful manufacturing capabilities all tied up in one holding company or fastener group.
There are still so many "mom & pop" fastener companies out there it is somewhat shocking when an outside investment group comes in and starts to swallow up several of them. It does, and will, change the industry landscape. Unlike some acquisitions, these all appear to be domestic manufacturing companies that are part of Elgin's group. Imagine if Elgin were sold to another concern, not domestically based. There is a whole lot of domestic fastener manufacturing firepower that could be gobbled up in one helping should Audax ever divest itself of that division. Those are a lot of family run or individually owned and operated fastener operations that just disappear or are melted into a larger concern. But, removing all the fastener sentimentality, that is a powerful group of fastener manufacturers and one cannot argue that those are some solid acquisitions to gather up into one big manufacturing conglomerate.
If I were ambitious, I could try to do the same thing. First, I'd make a bid to acquire Fully Threaded Radio. Then maybe I'd make an offer for Fastener Technology and LINK and American Fastener Journal. Before you know it, I'd swallow up the Vegas Fastener Show and re-name it, "The Traveling Salesman's Vegas Fastener Extravaganza and Beer Tasting Exhibit", featuring Old Rusty Bolt , of course. I'd like to sit here and do some strategic planning but it is 65 degrees out and you should see the to-do list I have looking me in the face. So, my plans for fastener media domination will just have to wait another day. Just because I'm not involved in any mergers and acquisitions does not mean that I think that we are done with these. My guess is I will be writing about these all the way up to the Vegas show. But, enough for now. Time to go enjoy my first taste of Midwest spring.
A mission statement is a statement of the purpose of a company, organization or person, its reason for existing. The mission statement should guide the actions of the organization, spell out its overall goal, provide a path, and guide decision-making. It provides "the framework or context within which the company's strategies are formulated."
Boom! There you go. I think it is a real disservice that the Mission Statement has been relegated to a statement on the wall of a company or on some piece of literature. And, my guess is that most Mission Statements are old and have not been changed since the time that some business strategist came in, ran a few planning sessions and walked away with a healthy paycheck. I think I can summarize the Mission Statement most companies I work for have in mind for me:
"Go sell more fasteners and make sure you sell at a good margin".
There are a lot of different types and sizes of fastener companies in our industry. Some companies really could gain some benefits by determining exactly what is their "reason for existing". But, let's face it. We all deal with a lot of companies where the Mission Statement should read:
"Buy the fasteners as inexpensively as possible. If your current supplier raises a prices, shop the hell out of that item. If you can't get the price we need, see if you can shop that bad boy overseas through anybody you find in LINK, on google or at the Vegas show."
Sure, I'm exaggerating, but not by much with some companies. So, what should a fastener company Mission Statement look like? Something like:
"Sell as many fasteners as possible at an acceptable margin that allows us to offer excellent products and customer service and still make a fair profit." Hmm. That actually sounds pretty good.
To tell you the truth, I don't think Mission Statements are worth much anyways. In an ever changing marketplace, the true mission of a company could change and change frequently. During 2007 & 2008 it might have been a company's mission to survive and let go of as few employees as possible. No one was worrying too much about "providing a dynamic and challenging environment for our employees" during that time period.
Our industry is changing. The players in the fastener supply chain are bringing new tools into the market place from vending machines to on-line purchasing to expanded product lines to new, uniquely engineered products. Some folks are expanding and some are getting lean. As I have recently written, there seems to be a lot of mergers and acquisitions in recent months. Some companies are tired of the fight and some realize they just need more resources to compete in the new marketplace.
I personally am not a fan of the Mission Statement. I do not think many companies pay attention to them once they are written and plastered on some wall or piece of company literature. That being said, I am a huge believer that you must continuously review and update your company's mission. What are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to hang on to what you have? Are you looking to grow this year? By how much? More importantly, if you plan to grow 3% or 5% or 12%...seriously, where the hell is it going to come from? Seriously? You cannot just pick a number out of thin air. Well, you can but if there is no real thought or plan behind it then what can you expect? Are you watching your competition? Who is coming after your business and what are you doing to go after theirs? What do you want to be when you grow up?
Next time you are in a business and see the Mission Statement on a plaque on a wall, ask yourself, "is this company actually working on and following this mission?" If they are not then they got swindled by a consultant once upon a time. If they are then perhaps I am wrong and some companies do take those Mission Statements seriously. And, good for them!
Was just watching an excerpt from "60 Minutes" and it touched upon some of the subjects covered by Charlie is the following post:
The Moving Target of Success
Long before my introduction to the Quality Assurance discipline, the idea that “there was always room for improvement” was a given. QA just gave it a mathematical spine and some form of conceptual reality. Perfection was something to strive for, more as an ideal than actual goal, because perfection represents an end to the beginning, the last star before perpetual darkness; the last gas station before the highway reaches into the infinite desert. Besides, it lacks the appropriate measure of humbleness that we normally display in the presence of God. Perfection hints at Nazi-like evil, or at least Nietzsche-esque arrogance, of a race of Supermen creating the perfect society, complete with perfect homes, perfect lives and perfect cheeseburgers. We practice Talmudic patience and Christian forgiveness in our lives – we live to learn and we forgive mistakes, our own as well as those of others. Our perfection of imperfection provides us with the ultimate paradox; in limiting our reach in order to taste some measure of success within normal societal constraints, what are we doing to the larger context?
Much of our time, we are riding with our proverbial foot on the brake. The concepts of team and cross-applicability in the business setting are meant to keep the slowest member within reach of the group. This is a carryover from military science, where a strong philosophy of interdependence means that squad members are responsible for the lives of their comrades. The difference between a combat setting and the business arena is both subtle and stark – livelihoods rather than lives may stand in the balance, but the training that generals invest in their foot soldiers is a quantum leap from that provided by most businesses for new employees. Training a lowly clerk away from the action is deemed a waste of resources for most business owners, especially in the current circumstance, where each new hire arises only after the need exceeds red-alert status. In the aftermath of such decisions, is anyone measuring the true cost of exposing their customers to an accelerated error machine that is a poorly-trained employee? If they do, they understand the degree of damage inflicted on the reputations of their businesses. And still, they cannot fully quantify the toll of destruction. Why? It is because most customers are reluctant to reveal the awful truth. They simply cease calling.
Meanwhile, most businesses do react belatedly to those customers who are kind (or livid) enough to register a complaint. They rarely fire the employee responsible (in part because the employee is rarely truly responsible); rather, they take some time to assess the employee’s skillset and determine if training or reassignment might yield better results. After all, none of us is perfect. Still, the cost for this process is the same, no matter at which point in the timeline it occurs. It makes sense to some of us that the ideal time to perform these actions is at the outset, before any customers experience adverse effects. Those business owners in a position to hire in the first place have already achieved some measure of success. Most of these people are inveterate gamblers at heart and don’t see any upside to buying insurance before the dealer reveals the hole card sitting next to the ace.
Going back to the military analogy, generals gamble with the lives of the soldiers in their charge only at the last resort. The greatest of them, having met situations that called for such sacrifice and come out on top, remain reluctant to repeat such actions. Most business owners do not exercise such thoughtful care with their troops, perhaps because they see only their own shadows in peril’s spotlight. The fact is that most small businesses have adopted such strict compartmentalization at a time when larger organizations have acknowledged the folly of overlaid business management structures that there is little direct communication of value between the front office and operational staff. What remains of middle management is so caught up in surviving the next downturn that they are mostly reluctant to deliver any bad news in either direction. Imagine the worst lieutenant in the Army; not communicating conditions on the ground to his commanders and not communicating command’s decisions to his sergeant. This is a poison filtering through the entire body of an organization that leaves it both blind and paralyzed. Middle managers who fail in this regard are unqualified because they have not received the advanced management training called for in such sensitive positions. Again, the value of training is impossible to measure until a postmortem is performed. Businesses die needlessly because they don’t know how to perform tasks as simple as taking their own temperature and reporting the results.
The cost of college-level management courses is minimal in comparison to the overall investment of a typical ten-year employee; it appears ludicrous to neglect such an important element in an ongoing business venture. The only alternative is to eliminate middle managers entirely and expand the reach of upper management. That might seem counter-intuitive, but I have seen situations where executive-level personnel worked within narrowed scopes of authority and responsibility, each managing his or her area both independently and in complete communication with other executives who are likewise assigned their own areas of concern. Even then, all executives should be required to attend courses for their continuing education.
In the end, success is not a static condition, nor is it reflection of one’s charity or virtue, nor is it a continuing deal from the blackjack shoe. Success is an attitude born from preparation for the next yet unseen challenge, a moving target that could easily disappear permanently from the view in the space of a single blink. The best defense of your vulnerable frontier is the trained lookout, the more of them the better. In the coming upswing, don’t just hire bodies – create a force aimed at systematically serving your company’s greater mission. Never stop training.
It has taken me about a week to de-tox from the Vegas show and get caught up on stuff that did not get done while I was at the show. And, there were a lot of things to follow up on from the show, so I've been a little bit lax about getting to my Review #2. Thank you for your patience.
In my last post I talked a lot about the "social" aspects of the show. Who was there? Where'd they hang out? What did the booths look like? All that is important stuff and some good fun. But it leaves out some other significant aspects of the show which I'd like to touch on here.
First of all, I already said I thought it was a great show. I think it was as just as active a show as 2011. And, 2011 was a good show with people finally coming back to trade shows after seeming to avoid them during the 2008/2009/2010 recession era. Every year, the beginning of the show has a wave to it like a group of fans doing the "wave" at sports event. Start at aisle #1 and watch as the early attenders make their way from aisle 1 to aisle 17. The wave. So, if you are somewhere in the middle, you see the first wave around 9:45 as people filter in from right to left. There are exceptions. There are always people on a specific mission, whether that is to visit a specific booth for a meeting or to pick up the new Stelfast monkey. But, in general, the show moves from right to left. And the show loses a significant number of people somewhere around lunch time as suppliers take a break or take customers out for a bite to eat. Then, after people trickle back, there seems to be a period from about 2:00 - 4:00 where some attendees leave the show to get ready for the evening or to drop stuff off at their room before they return for hospitality suite entertainment. Thursday night seems to be the late one. People try to behave on Wednesday night so they are ready to face the long show day on Thursday. But Thursday night is another story. Heck, anyone can struggle through the half day of show on Friday, so they let loose on Thursday night. I have heard people say they think the show could be a one day show. I totally disagree. There are several people who work the show hard on Friday when they can get more individual time with people that were too hurried to stop and converse on Thursday. But, more importantly, if there was no Friday some people might go home after the show Thursday. And that would be a bad thing. Thursday night makes the show! The time to relax and hang out with industry peers is invaluable.
Before the show in 2011, the big news about Heads & Threads was announced and that was widely discussed at the show. Right before the show this year, there was an announcement that Lindstrom had purchased Bossard Metrics. However, there did not seem to be much of a buzz around that story at the show. From a personal standpoint, I found the story interesting. During the early years of my fastener career, Bossard was "the cadillac" of metric suppliers. They had the "Blue Bible" (the Bossard catalog, filled with the cult like "BN" numbers) and they had Bruno Marbacher running around the country doing "Metric is Simple" seminars for those U.S. distributors who didn't know a DIN from an ISO or a JIS part. And forget about the metric tolerance system. But, if you did enough business with Bossard, they just might answer your phone call and even let you talk to Bruno and he would set you straight and you would pay a healthy price for the part plus a mark-up for the knowledge. Eventually, the market place realized that a metric part had about the same amount of steel content as an inch part (just some funny threads) and some of the magical price premium eroded. And, eventually, distributors became more familiar with metric fasteners, and they started shopping harder.
I represented Bossard back when they were a dominant player in the metric market. As Lindstrom started to make inroads into my customers, I told the current President of Bossard (and they changed every couple years), "You need to squish them right now. Lindstrom is gaining momentum with several of my customers. They are getting very aggressive". I was told by the President at that time that he was not too worried about them and that he did not think they were that big of a factor. Years later, after Lindstrom became a bigger player in the metric market, I told this story to Virgil Lindstrom (not sure if he would remember) and Mike French.
And Lindstrom grew to be a strong competitor, eventually eclipsing Bossard Metrics at their own game. First they acquired Bossard's Monster Metric operation (pre-Mega Metric company for you newer fastener people). And now, the Lindstrom purchase of Bossard Metrics is just the final chapter of a long story that has been taking place during most of my fastener career. The really sad part of the story took place several years ago when Henry Bossard passed away at an early age. I'm sure there are a lot of industry veterans who have their own memories of Bossard and their rise and fall in the metric fastener market.
So, I guess I was surprised that this deal was not spoken of too much at the show. But, this is a new generation and Lindstrom now has its own set of competitors aiming to knock it off its perch. Neil Young wrote the following lyric in one of his songs, "the king is gone but he's not forgotten...this is the story of Johnny Rotten". OK, so I admit I get a kick out of including Neil Young in a fastener blog post because I've long been a fan. But my point is that Bossard Metrics might be gone but it will not be forgotten. This is the story of Fastenal and Brighton Best and other companies who are shaking up the industry today like Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols were doing to the music industry when Neil wrote that lyric. While the overall response at the show might have been a collective yawn, the purchase was historically significant, though maybe overshadowed by what is up and coming in the fastener industry. And that is really what the show is about. What is up and coming? What is new in the fastener industry? And if you are one of the individuals who say, "I'm not going to the show this year, there's really nothing new there", then I think you are taking your eye off the ball. You're not staying on top of your game. Every year there is something new. Not every new thing will affect your business right away, but you need to be familiar with as many suppliers as possible and you need to know if they are growing and expanding or contracting and moving away from being a valuable supplier to your company. And I think a lot of stuff like that gets talked about at the fastener show from the show floor to the Bourbon Room.
And as we in the fastener industry know, "Rust Never Sleeps".
Earlier than in previous years, the Vegas fastener show is upon us. Looks like it should be a good one. Are you doing anything different to prepare for the show this year? Some years I go out there looking for a supplier that carries a specific product I want to add to my product offering. Other years I have had a lot of meetings set up by suppliers. This year, the economy has been pretty good through the first part of the year and I have less meetings to go to. Seems like the worse the economy, the more meetings get set up.
This year, I'd say I have more strategic plans for the show. While there is still a lot of 2012 left, I cannot help but to think ahead to 2013. I want to talk to some people about what we do differently in the upcoming year. I have already started to do this with some companies and it seems to always come back to the same topic - communication. Communication! What's going on in the field? What are competitors doing differently? Am I seeing quotes that are coming in? Who is following up?
I really like sales reports. I like Hi-Lo reports. Sometimes I get asked by companies I work with, "what do you need from us to sell more"? My answer is usually the same. I need to know what we sold last month, what we have sold year to date, what we sold last year YTD and what we sold last year in total. Where are we behind...where are we losing business? Who is ahead of last year...why are we growing with them? Who fell off the side of the earth (i.e., we see NO business from them any longer)? Sales activity sometimes does not really tell the whole story. A customer might seem busy but at the end of the year you realize they bought $200 less per month and they are down $2,400 for the year. But, "they seemed to still be busy"! Gotta look at the sales report. And whenever I get a sales report in an Excel spreadsheet I cannot help but to custom sort from low to high. I want to see who is down in sales. What am I losing or missing?
The Vegas show does not answer any of the questions above but it does give you an opportunity to hear what is going on in the marketplace. How are other people seeing business? It also gives you the chance to have constructive conversations in just a few days with more people than you could possibly talk to in weeks of phone conversations. Everything is there for you, you just need to work the show. Track down those people that you want to work more closely with next year and talk to them. Or set a date to talk with them after the show.
There will be time for fun in Vegas. And I certainly have used this site to write about Old Rusty Bolt beer, and I am sure I will make time for a couple of them. But, I am heading off to Vegas to work. My good friend, Don Shan of Solution Industries once commented to me, "Vegas is like your Super Bowl, isn't it?" I'd have to answer that it is for me and probably for a lot of other fastener people. Play ball!
Just in case you missed the latest edition of Fully Threaded Radio, #51, there was a major announcement regarding the Vegas Fastener Show, aka NIFSW. Yeah, yeah, yeah...there are lots of booths sold and gobs and gobs of attendees and all that stuff. But the Fully Threaded Radio announcement made by Larry Kelly of Buckeye Fastener might be the most important one yet. After extensive negotiations, Buckeye Fasteners has been granted exclusive rights to serve Old Rusty Bolt beer at the Vegas Fastener Show in October. They will be located in booth # 1043.
Try as I might, the distribution channels available to one solitary Traveling Salesman were insufficient to deliver the cold, frosty brew to hard working fastener professionals across the country (and world, for that matter). Larry, himself being an experienced connoisseur of craft beers, approached me and asked if he could serve Old Rusty Bolt at their Vegas booth and I thought it was an outstanding idea. So, my fastener industry friends, I would like to invite you to stop by the Buckeye booth and have a cold one. And, just for fun, log on in to Fully Threaded Radio episode #10 and listen to the Old Rusty Bolt jingle created by one of the many lovers of Old Rusty Bolt beer.
From California to Maine, from sunny Florida to the Alaskan north. All ye from across the nation who venture to the National Industrial Fastener Show West, you can count on a cold cool beverage waiting for you as you trudge through the ever expanding fastener trade show. Friends from China and India and Italy and Brazil...Korea and Taiwan, Germany and France...all ye who sweat and toil to fill the fastener needs of our growing economies...know that you have a friend that cares and wants to make sure you have a refreshing malted beverage after your long journey to America. Daniel Rivalin, my friend from France, I hope you can make it to the show this year because there will be a cold one waiting for you.
In a previous post I suggested that it could be fun to choose a time and place to gather out at the Vegas Show, once all of the Supplier Sponsored activities died down. The only time I think will work is at about 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. on Thursday night, after the first day of the show. I realize a lot of people get whisked off to fancy dinners that evening, but for me I am usually pretty well spent and am ready to chill out and relax after the show. If I go to dinner I am usually ready to sleep after that. So, instead of dinner, or if you do not have dinner plans for Thursday evening, consider joining up with our group and networking with people who Tweet, join fastener associations, read fastener industry blogs and listen to Podcasts about the fastener industry. Seriously folks, it is not nearly as pathetic as it sounds. Anyways, the final piece to the puzzle it deciding on a good place to meet up. I would like to field suggestions from my readers but I fear that no one generally responds to most of my posts and I will then have to actually do research and find a place near the show to hang out. Anyways, bottoms up and I appreciate any meeting places you can suggest.
T.S. (Mr. Beverage)
As I prepare for the upcoming Las Vegas Fastener Show, it occurred to me it has been almost exactly one year since I started up my rep agency. Really, the better description would be re-starting my rep agency. I started up my own agency in 1995 after working for another agency for 14 years. I built my business up, got engaged (a long story), sold my agency and left my home area of Ohio. Fast forward a few years and I made it back to Ohio, got rid of a husband and found myself employed as a direct sales Account Manager for Ifastgroupe. I was still in sales but this time I sold for one company, had benefits, an expense account and the feeling of security that comes with a regular paycheck. The people at Ifastgroupe were good to me and I enjoyed my time there, but deep in my soul, I am a manufacturer’s representative. I knew I was a rep and I wanted desperately to get back to being an independent rep.
I am not looking for sympathy here, but I will tell you candidly and honestly, when I restarted my agency in August, 2011, I had no income. Seriously, I had none. Zero. I did have the commitment from a few good companies that said they would allow me to represent their companies and pay me a commission on whatever I sold. That was what I needed, just a few good lines to get me started again. A year later, I am making a little money, I’m providing for my son and I’m paying my bills. As of now, there’s not a lot left over so if you see me in Vegas in some of the same clothes I wore last year, please be kind.
I could go on and on making this blog about me and my struggles and accomplishments but that’s not what this is about. I’ve got plenty of good industry friends that have supported me and encouraged me and they’ve heard the stories, good and bad. What I would like to touch on here is the differences I see between my sales life as a direct salesperson and my sales life as a rep.
Being a rep is inspiring to me. That might sound corny but it is true. Luckily, I am a self-motivated individual. I like the idea of being responsible for drumming up sales for the principals I represent and then asking them to pay me for my efforts. Don’t get me wrong, when I was a direct salesperson I did a fair amount of that. But it was different.
When you are a direct salesperson the selling process is completely different. You have only one set product line to market. You sell it. You report on it. You do budgets and forecasts. You go to a lot of meetings, many, many more than I ever go to as a rep. You work on new projects as they come up for that specific commodity. You try to come up with programs that will help maintain or increase your sales. Most of time the details of these programs and projects were dictated through management but it was my job to sell them as part of the sales team. This team represented 100% of my income, which was not motivated or rewarded by a commission plus sales structure. I could sell $100 worth of product or a million dollars and my pay schedule would remain the same. But, once again, there is security in getting a regular paycheck, especially when you are a single Mom.
I spent a lot of time working with my customers as a direct salesperson but it seemed like I spent a lot more time talking about those individuals in meetings in board rooms and in sales meetings. These meetings were meant to determine the value of specific accounts, which I didn’t always agree with. As a rep, I talk to people just as often but it feels like I’m talking about opportunities and how to land business, not scrutinizing their past or future sales. The product spectrum is much greater since I represent a wide range of companies that cover a variety of different products, both hard-to-find and standard parts. I find it very gratifying when I am able to introduce one of my principals as a potential new vendor or solve a problem with their product that has previously been a problem area for my customers. I talk to the people I need to in order to get something accomplished then I move on to the next thing. While I do keep in contact with my principals regularly, it just feels like I am discussing new opportunites more and not just budgets, call reports, etc. Being a rep is a unique sales position that I find very fulfilling. It is not for everyone and living on a straight commission based income can be frightening at times, but I have confidence in my ability and I look forward to many more years in the industry as an independent sales rep. Thanks to all of you who have helped me and encouraged me along the way! Hope to see you in Vegas.
Fasteners and Industrial Products
Please forgive me for this not being a "proper" blog post. But I'm starting to get meetings and dinners set up for Vegas and I'm curious who will be coming out there. More important, WHEN are you coming out there?
I will arrive on Tuesday, October 9 by noon. I know that might seem early but I've already got a meeting scheduled for 1:00 that day just because I am arriving early enough to make it.
I'd like to find a time to get together with other people who read this blog and with any of the #fastlink Friday Tweeters. Anybody that is attempting to make sense of social media in the fastener world is welcome.
Please respond if you have interest in coordinating some kind of get together in Vegas. Since so few people respond on this site, I would like to invite you to send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send to any other e-mail address you might have for me.
If we have enough people, maybe we could reserve a space or at least choose a site where we could gather.