6. Is your supplier a “one-stop shop”? Does your supplier stock items other than just sealer? The ability to buy all necessary items in one place can save an enormous amount in fuel and downtime going from one supplier to another. Your suppliers should have:
- Items that are needed to mix with the sealer to create an appropriate mix design for your specific job.
- Additives, crack fillers, traffic markings, primers and sundry items such as brushes, squeegees, tape, chalk, etc. You may also be able to leverage your sealer purchase volume to negotiate better deals on sundry items.
- Contacts to get you any piece of equipment that not carried in stock
7. What are your supplier’s hours of operation? Make sure that the supplier has favorable hours of operation and is willing to “bend over backwards” to serve you. Many suppliers require a nominal charge for service on Sundays and holidays and after hours. But this small fee can go a long way towards getting your customer back on its parking lot quickly. Although most suppliers have favorable hours, don’t be surprised if some have “banker’s hours.” A local supplier open from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. on Saturday is clearly structuring its hours to suit its needs, not the needs of its customers. Under such situations customers are clearly out of luck if they need more sealer to finish a job or want to fill up the night before to get an early jump on another job.
8. Does your supplier view your relationship as a partnership? Your supplier should be your partner and support you from A to Z. This means not only taking charge analyzing complaints and rectifying problems but also working with you on bids and proposals, should you need assistance.
Does your supplier partner with you in the event that there is a product issue, or do they “pass the buck”? Some suppliers will blame the contractor any time there is a product failure: “You must have watered it down too much” or “You didn’t clean the pavement well enough.” In my experience most of the time it’s truly not the product that is the problem. That being said, a good supplier will work with you to determine what really caused a failure. The supplier should be willing to visit the jobsite with you and provide a reasonable explanation of what occurred. In the event that the material was at fault they should be willing to stand behind their product (generally in the form of replacing defective material).
Remember that a partnership is a two-way street. If your supplier’s employees are unethical, don’t take the bait; notify the supplier. If that employee is willing to cut you a deal for a cash payment, he is probably not above watering down the product he sells you.
9. Can your supplier help you complete large jobs? There’s nothing better than landing that 500,000-sq.-ft. sealcoating job. Can your supplier provide you with the material to get the job done? Do they have access to spot tankers that can be left on the jobsite so you can avoid costly refilling trips? All manufacturers and most distributors have the equipment to handle this type of request. If you’re buying from another contractor do they have a strong enough relationship with their manufacturer to be able to supply you with the required material and equipment?
And one more thing: The industry’s sealer suppliers exhibit at various industry events. These shows give you the opportunity to speak face to face with multiple suppliers in one location. These producers are some of the best minds in the industry; they know their material, they know how and why it works, and they can answer just about any sealcoating question put to them. So take advantage of these events to learn more about sealers and suppliers.
Girish Dubey is president of STAR Inc., Columbus, OH; www.starseal.com