The (Unfortunately) Never-Ending Plight of the Truss & Panel Industry

In construction, many different skill sets are required. Builders, roofers, designers, engineers, and etcetera come together to form a cohesive finished product. Whenever people from different factions come together on a project, there are challenges that must be overcome. Communication is key; however, the concept of give and take isn’t without it’s merit. Every group has their niche to fill, each of equal importance to the end result. Unfortunately, the importance of the integrity of one group to another gets hazy when it comes down to the “all-mighty dollar”. Greed and disrespect can sometimes create a hostile atmosphere while doing business in the construction world. Component manufacturers are usually left take the brunt of the hostility in their professional dealings due to the fact that they supply a pre-fabricated product.

To get a feeling for just how far this goes, please take the time to view the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiNDXvNCzY0. Pay attention to the dynamic between the two parties. Take note of how far each side is willing to go and where there allegiances lie. Take note of the integrity of each party.

builders-sales-call

Throughout the scenario presented in the video, the truss & panel industry is represented by “Mr. Non-Profit Lumber” (Mr. NPL). The first thing Mr. NPL heard was “Go Away!” Generally speaking, acquiring a new customer can be much the same way. Resilience is a required quality. Like Mr. NPL, the component manufacturer tries again and again by offering a bid or price quote. At this point the customer may reconsider. Though “Mr. Builder” (Mr. B) did just that, his list of stipulations was appalling. So much so, in fact, that during my first viewing of this video, laughter was rendered as this scenario was perceived to be a cynical and cheeky joke. However, when Mr. NPL said that he wanted to make a commission and his request was declined, the reality of the situation set in.

Mr. B goes on to say that not only will he not pay Mr. NPL a commission but that his intentions are to backcharge Mr. NPL. Truss designers assume a great degree of responsibility. We are tasked with catching architectural mistakes, pre-planning the build, and accounting for cost efficiency all while satisfying the demands of both the homeowner and their customer. Back charges, late payments, and fruitless labor were guaranteed by the customer in the video. Mr. NPL’s response was grateful in nature. Because the truss design industry accepts so much responsibility, we humbly appreciate the terms in a very similar fashion. We drive ourselves to perfection and attempt to cover any potential hiccups that may occur should a build commence. We look out for the architect, the manufacturer, the builder, and the customer. We strive to avoid back charges through precision. But who looks out for us?

truss-backcharges

The aforementioned late payments are a constant battle. There is a bit of a double standard in the area of payment. The customer creates a due date for the truss design. The component manufacturer strives to meet the deadline and resolve all the issues that may be present. However, it seems that once the product has been exchanged, the payment for services rendered isn’t quite as urgent as the due date the customer proposed. Still, the truss industry remains patient and considerate.

During the second session of demands, Mr. B is basically asking Mr. NPL to do the job without actually giving it to him. Mr. NPL is asked to put in the time and money as if though the job was his and still advised that he wouldn’t be paid for his efforts. For component manufacturers, this is called a bid or quote. Time is spent doing the leg work, knowing that there is a possibility that the job will be under-bid and be lost altogether. How many times have you been asked to match a competitor’s layout? Like Mr. NPL, again we agree to the terms.

The word “customer” has been used extensively up to this point. There is purpose in this action. According to Merriam-Webster, a customer is “someone who buys goods or services from a business”. Mr. B asks for customer treatment without being a customer. Mr. NPL concedes to putting himself out more by including all of Mr. B’s employees in a “customer” dining event and providing a vacation for Mr. B via a trip to a trade show, though Mr. B is not a customer. Another request for commission is declined. Greed and disrespect are very evident at this point. Integrity and maturity are absent. Win-Win is nowhere to be seen. Win-Lose is in full effect. As Dr. Covey relates in Habit 4:

habit-4-covey

By this point, the apparent “customer” has revealed their true colors and has exploited every angle of this transaction. Mr. NPL is still agreeing to the requests even though they are multiplying like crazy and remains willing to do the job even though his actions aren’t reciprocated.

The truss industry exhibits the same type of commitment as Mr. NPL!!! Truss companies and design firms go to trade shows, industry events and conventions where they try to strengthen and build relationships, hoping to drum up new business. We wine and dine potential and current customers, hoping to obtain or maintain their loyalties. We remain kind and thankful to the customer throughout the transaction, regardless of our potential for loss. It is difficult to get ahead in a reality like this, but the truss industry continues to thrive. We take care of our responsibility and compensate in any way possible. We provide a valuable service and we stand by our product. We have integrity.

Conclusively, we need to collectively grow a backbone. Just kidding! In reality, people just need to learn to treat each other better. They need to practice Habit 4. Don’t expect something for nothing. There is no need to gain at the expense of others. The component manufacturing industry will soldier on this way without too much complaint, but try to imagine how far we would get if we amicably sought the same goals. The sky would be the limit!!

How have you handled this experience in your profession? Please leave your comments below.