Tips & Insights

Building Reliable Business Relationships

How to gain maximum value from your at-Market meetings

It’s no secret that business thrives on good relationships. Ask just about any business leader, and he or she will tell you that there is just no substitute for the networks they have built through years of face to face contact, eye to eye communication, and shoulder to shoulder initiatives. In the home furnishings business, High Point Market has a longstanding reputation as the best place to create and cultivate a successful network. Once you know where to get started, there is still the more complicated question of how to move forward. We asked seven industry pros to tell us how they turn at-Market meetings into business relationships they can rely on anytime, anywhere.

Find the right fit

Carefully constructed business relationships are the goal of Mac Hoak, retailer and owner of Mecox Gardens. His vendor relationships range from local craftsmen to the largest manufacturers at Market. No matter the size, though, they originate from the same strategic and often lengthy exercise.

“It’s an extensive process.”
- Mac Hoak, owner, Mecox Gardens

“High Point is number one on our list for new manufacturers and meeting someone is the first step,” says Hoak. “With a new vendor we like to meet in person.”

Hoak describes the process as a mutual courtship, where each party gets to know the other and how they do business. “Just because we can afford to pay the bill, doesn’t mean we’re a good fit for a manufacturer. They have to make sure we’re in the right place for them. It’s an extensive process. We look at their product, and try to meet for a second time. We might even invite them to visit our stores.”

Lighting and accessories manufacturer Bruce Bradburn, CEO of Bradburn Gallery Home, is a big proponent of Market introductions. “High Point Market is the place to begin personal relationships that will pay off mightily in the months ahead,” says Bradburn, noting that it’s crucial to arrange appointments for Market well in advance of your arrival. “Factories love knowing they have an appointment and will be sure to have principals, sales managers and sales reps present to meet a potential new account.”

As you make your Market plans, please remember that some exhibitors choose to open their showrooms on Friday, and some choose to start packing up on Wednesday. So, we strongly recommend scheduling appointments for any showrooms you intend to visit on Friday, or Wednesday.

Communicate your expectations

By their very nature, relationships are reciprocal and each party has their own expectations. Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, showing a willingness to give a little more is a great way to get extra consideration.

“You’d be amazed at what manufacturers will do for you when you ask.”
- Kristin Drohan, CEO, Kristin Drohan Collection

“We expect our customers to conduct business in a professional manner and we will do the same,” says manufacturer Carol Gregg, owner of Red Egg Resources, who stresses that clear communication is key. “I can’t emphasize enough the importance of written communication when it comes to orders and order confirmation,” says Gregg. “This puts everyone on the same page.”

Retailer Erica Gibson Pierce, vice president of Pizitz Home, requests fidelity of her partners. “The most important factor is will they sell exclusively to me in my location,” says Pierce. “Loyalty is the most important feature of any good relationship.”

And manufacturers like Kristin Drohan, CEO of the Kristin Drohan Collection, are willing to provide it. “I'm totally open to giving that exclusivity if the volume warrants it. When our clients ask, we listen,” says Drohan. “You'd be amazed at what manufacturers will do for you when you ask.”

Never underestimate the value of trust

In challenging situations, great relationships can save the day. They can make it easy to manage the minor issues that arise in the normal course of business, and possible to overcome even a potentially catastrophic event.

“Because I had developed such strong ties with my manufacturers, they willingly worked with me.”
- Claudia LeClair, president, Fiesta Furnishings

Interior designer Amanda Eck of Amanda Carol Interiors cemented one relationship just in time. “Recently, I visited a furniture manufacturer and spent hours touring the facility and meeting the staff,” says Eck. “One month later I had an issue with their furniture. I immediately called them and my matter was handled right away. That face to face time made the difference in how quickly my matter was handled.”

Back in 2008, many business relationships were put to an extreme test. Retailer Claudia LeClair, president of Fiesta Furnishings in Scottsdale, Arizona, remembers that time in her store. “When the economy took a downturn, we had more merchandise on order than we could financially handle. Merchandise had been turning at a very rapid rate and suddenly things came to a screeching halt,” says LeClair. “Because I had developed such strong ties with my manufacturers, they willingly worked with me. I have no doubt they made a critical difference to my business during that difficult time.”

Retailers and designers have always relied upon High Point Market to introduce the latest products and showcase emerging home fashion trends. However, as many regular Market attendees can attest, business relationships built in High Point deliver value season after season, no matter the economic climate. With almost everyone in our industry all in one place, Market provides unparalleled networking opportunities. As retailer Bruce Bradburn puts it, “High Point is the perfect environment to create your business relationships.”