By Howard Collier, Collier Corporation
It happened to me. It was a number of years ago, I was calling on a major industrial manufacturer who consumed large volumes of brass rod. The brass rod mill I represented was getting ready to have a major layoff. They had never had a layoff. It was late Fall, around mid October.
I was making a routine sales call at a major industrial manufacturer. I was told, by the receptionist, to go to the President’s office because he wanted to see me. I was admitted to his office. The CEO/President told me that they were changing over their accounting system and making a switch between First In First Out and First In Last Out and they needed a high volume of inventory.
I asked how much. The answer was 500,000 pounds. However, the challenge was that the entire amount had to be delivered to stock in their plant before 12/31. Of course price mattered. Were we interested? I answered for the mill we represented and said we can do it! I was told to get a current price schedule, submit and get an assurance of delivery on time. I did what was required and received the order.
The mill did not have to lay off any employees. They began shipping full truckloads into the customer. Finally they completed the order well within the “drop dead” date! The CEO of the industrial company thanked me and thanked the mill at the same time.
Along about March, I received a call from the sales manager of the mill. He was in town and wanted to see me. He came to my office and, with a very sad face, handed me a large commission check and then told me I was fired! I was fired because I had made more money in March than the GM of the mill received.
The GM told the Sales Manager that no one salesman has the right to make more money than he makes. The sales manager was shook up and did not like his position of bringing such a bad message to me. Eventually, the GM of the mill was discharged, after getting the mill into a first time ever STRIKE! . He became GM of another mill and they discharged him in about one year.
The President of the industrial company allowed his buyer to gradually change volume to another mill or two. I, later, was able to help the manufacturer customer .
Later the president of the industrial company asked me to come into his office. He closed the door and told me that they had a problem that was one long-term problem. It seems that they had a chronic shortage of brass scrap from the machining operations they performed. (The scrap volume was a significant % and the dollar value was high.) The company could not figure out how the shortage was occurring on such a constant basis. I was asked to come up with possible solutions.
I reviewed the steps that were consumed in the entire process and who handled what. I was informed that a large friendly scrap dealer handled their scrap because he paid immediately after each scrap pick-up. I found out that two of the industrial plant’s employees represented the company to the the scrap dealer. I did a few interviews and found out that the scrap dealer had a large tractor trailer come into a separate weighing service and would have the vehicle weighed and a receipt made that the driver would present to the industrial company’s employee. The truck would be filled with scrap and the driver would, again, be weighed by the service source for weighing and would leave.
One day, I was at the service company that did the weighing, when the scrap truck pulled in to be weighed. I noticed large attachments onto the bottom of the trailer. I figured they were water containers.
I had a meeting with the CEO of the company. I explained that I believed his employees and the scrap dealer were involved in a cheating system. The truck would arrive at the weigh scale device with special tanks attached underneath the trailer and the tanks were holding water. Probably they held a 1,000 pounds of water based on what I saw. I figured the truck/trailer would make two pick ups per day. After being weighed with water on board, the truck would be taken someplace where the water was drained from the tanks on the trailer. Then the truck was filled with scrap and would return to be weighed once again. Thus, the scrap dealer would steal about 1,000 pounds per load. This had gone on for some years. I was excused from further investigation. One of the employees was allowed to retire and one was fired.
I came back from time to time to make calls on the new employees. The president wanted to see me at one of my visits. I met him and he told me that they had reports that the ex-scrap dealer was going to get revenge on who had disclosed what was happening. To prevent them from pointing at me, would I please use the workers parking lot and not the suppliers parking lot? I did.
Shortly after all of this occurred, I was contacted by a large conglomerate manufacturer and (at that time) a significant supplier to the automobile industry. They had a problem. They were doing a significant amount of automobile plating on a new plating system but had no diversity in markets and were at the mercy of the automobile industry. They wanted a sales rep to find them high volume quality plating, die casting business in other markets. After a thorough audit of their capabilities, I decided to represent them.
I zeroed in on the another industry but found resistance due to a number of factors. Then, one day, when I was visiting the target where I knew the president, he called me in and asked me to work closely with the chief engineer on a new thin wall die zinc casting . I did. I found out they had the design but did not have the capability to make the part, and they expected the volume to soar, but there was no guarantee. I worked with the chief engineer, his associates and the new Purchasing Agent. Finally, I presented all of the inquiry to the plater and asked for a quotation.
They quoted. Then nothing. Then one day I was in lobby waiting my call to go into see the PA and I was told to see the president right away! I did and his statement to me was “How long will it take for us to reach the plater and to audit their factory.” It was morning. I asked him, since the plant was in the next state, when did he want to visit?
He said: “TODAY!” I told him to give me about 20-30 minutes and I would get back to him. I called the plater’s plant manager and told him a group form the target company wanted to visit that day. He said bring them in. And how will you get here. I told him I would call him back.
I hung up phone and then made another call to local county airport. Yes they had a large twin engine plane, pilots and all was available to fly that day. I drove out to airport and made all arrangements. I paid for the plane. Then I called President of target company and told him to come out to airport and bring his team. He did. In meantime, I called the plater and told them approximate time of arrival. They were there at airport to meet us.
We had a late lunch and tour of plant and meeting. Current prices were quoted and accepted and a favorable decision was made. Volume started up and increased. shipments were made. Without my being involved, the plater cut the price per unit at the urging of the customer. My commission was cut in half without any discussion.
Finally, the customer set up to make the very high volume in his own plant and the plater was eliminated. I stopped doing any other new market sales search for the plater. Eventually, they closed!