It seems that the RFQ process is a game of patience. After sending the RFQs to 9 manufactures, I think I had only 1 response after about four days. So, I picked up the phone and called them. About half of them had old and unused email addresses on their websites. The others; I don’t know, lost in the shuffle. There were probably three who were simply not interested. One company, signed my NDA and then asked what my budget was. I was surprised and considered that extremely unprofessional. After all, the RFQ process is designed to solicit blind and honest quotes based solely on what the manufacturer is willing to offer. If I had provided an amount or range, you can be certain that manufacturer would come in on the high side! I did not respond.
I did re-send an updated RFQ with adjusted and corrected dates. According to the schedule, they have until 2/13/2015 to submit questions around the RFQ to me. If nobody submits questions, I’ll have to re-think this process. I’ll probably pick up the phone and just try to talk to them some more. I have a feeling that this business is different than the corporate environment to which I’m so accustomed (and sometimes loathe). I think most of them do not like the formal RFQ process.
I have my eye on two manufactures that, I feel, would be a good fit. This is, admittedly, subjective and based purely on my impression of their website and a single conversation thus far. Optimally, they will both end up being manufacturers for me. I called one of them today. I had spoken to him last week. I sent him the NDA and RFQ, but he hadn’t signed and returned the NDA. He gave me the impression that he was very interested, so I found it odd that he had not sent it back. I called him today, and he said that he had some questions, but was busy and would call me later in the day. My phone never rang.
Which leads me to my next topic. My word. If I tell someone that I will return their call, I return their call. If I am busy, and things are hectic and I think there’s a good chance that I will forget, I ask the caller to call me back, or I write a note to myself. This was one of the problems that I had with my first manufacturer. Sometimes he would miss a date to which he committed by two or even three weeks. This may seem insignificant to some. But if I can not trust someone with something so simple, should I trust this person with a large manufacturing job? “But there’s no contract in place yet!”, you might be thinking. And you are right. But it’s my position that a person’s character is more important than a contract. Perhaps it wasn’t intentional deception to not meet a date committed by the manufacturer. Well, if it was not intentional, then it must have been incompetence or neglect. There’s no room for this behavior in a business relationship with me.
During this waiting period, I have spent time learning a bit more about social media. I have some posts for facebook to send out on a regular basis, to keep my audience engaged. Some friends have begun liking my facebook page. It only has 40 (yes, that’s forty) likes so far. I have a long way to go. I have not made any serious attempt to grow these numbers yet. I have chosen to wait until I have secured a manufacturer and I feel like I can estimate a production date.
I have also read some reviews about Shipwire and FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon). Shipwire appears to have poor customer service. This seems to be the general consensus by many. FBA seems to run like a well-oiled machine, but people have problems with hidden fees and the fact that an order that you sell, may actually be pulled from another merchant and shipped to your customer if that merchant (selling an identical product) has stock closer to the customer. I have discovered other fulfillment companies, which are smaller, but have good reviews. I’ll need to spend some time reading more about them. I’ll share what I learn about these down the road.
There are some manufacturers who will manufacture a product and then handle the logistics and fulfillment too. I have not found any who offer this in my particular space yet. Fulfillment is a concern for me. How will the product (Kids Double Desk) be packaged? Who will package it? Who will ship it? How much will this cost? Can it be done in a cost effective price point? Will the cost come in at a point at which it would be too expensive to ship to the consumer, but just enough that it can be shipped in bulk to stores? There are lots of fullfillment centers available, but the models have not changed much over the years. There’s B to B (business to business) and there’s B to C (business to consumer). Ideally, I can fill both spaces.
Some companies have small, humble beginnings. I admire those that grow out of a garage where the founder is also the janitor and he/she handles everything. If I have to box up these desks and ship each order one at a time, that’s what I will do. As long as it makes sense, and I see progress every month, I will grind through it. But if I can arrange for a fulfillment center to handle the logistics, providing more automation for me to focus on growing a market, this seems like a smart plan.