This was a slow month for me as I waited for responses from 11 manufacturers. I was extremely disappointed with the lack of responses to the RFQ from manufacturers.
If you recall, I took this formal approach with a carefully-drafted RFQ because I wasn’t happy with the first manufacturer that had produced a few prototypes. I chose the first manufacturer simply because he was close and because he had the equipment that I needed (CNC router). I haven’t completely written him off, but I was unhappy with this lackadaisical responses. Of course, in retrospect, I can not expect someone else to be as passionate as me about my business. But, when he said, “I’ll have it for you next Tuesday” and he calls me on Friday……or worse, when 2 weeks go by without any phone call…. I guess when you are the smallest client on his list, that’s what you get. I’m not sure if that is the norm in this industry.
When I give someone a date, I meet it. And on the very rare occasion when I miss a date, I pick up the phone and I let the person know, well ahead of the deadline. But you can be certain that I do everything in my power to meet the objective on time before I have to make that phone call.
So, I decided to shop around a bit. And, no matter who I settle on, I may continue to shop around, even after I have secured a manufacturer, in order to have a plan “B” when Murphy visits. I drafted a formal RFQ and hired an attorney to draft a NDA (non-disclosure agreement which also contains a non-compete clause.) I scoured the internet and filtered through lots of manufacturers. There were plenty of machine shops, metal workers and lots of shops which were obviously not good fits. I came up with a short list of 11 manufacturers which all appeared to operate CNC wood routers and specialize in working with sheet material plywood.
I sent out an introductory letter to them all with a quick overview of who I am; what I’m doing and what I need. I think I got a couple of responses. So a few days later I picked up the phone and called them all. My suspicions were confirmed when I found out that some of them were no longer using the old AOL email addresses listed on their websites. A few more decided to sign the NDA and review the RFQ. By noon yesterday, 2/27/2015, I had zero quotes. Not a single manufacture provided a bid. So I picked up the phone and called as many of them as I could reach. In two cases, when I called their offices and asked if Mr. X was in the office, the secretary said, “Yes”. When I asked if I could speak to them they said, “Certainly, may I ask who is calling.” When I answered, there was a short moment on hold and then she returned and said, “I’m sorry, Mr. X is not in the office.” This happened TWICE!
I left voicemails for a several people. My voicemails went something like this, “Hi, this is Darin Ward from Kids Double Desk. I was just calling to follow up on the RFQ that I sent over at the beginning of the month. I would like to know if this opportunity is something that you are interested in. If not, would you mind calling me back anyway? I would like to understand your reason or know if you had any concerns about the RFQ. I appreciate your time and hope you have a good afternoon. My number is xxx-xxx-xxxx.” Nobody returned my calls. These were not voicemails at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. I made these calls during my lunch around noonish in my time zone.
As a professional, I return phone calls. The only calls I do not return are cold-call sales calls. But I’m leaving voicemails for people who signed NDAs and expressed some level of interest. I don’t understand this lack of professionalism. Personally, I don’t burn bridges. I’m not sure why these people are willing to take that risk. If you are not going to respond to an email, okay, maybe it was caught in spam or buried in a flood of emails, but to not let me know that they do not intend to bid, and then to not take my phone call and ignore my email, that’s unprofessional and not someone I want to do business with. Time to move on.
The last person I called on my list was someone that I had spoke to over the phone a few weeks ago. His name is Eric and he owns a CNC routing shop. He and I spoke for about 20 minutes about 3 weeks ago. He said that my story was similar to another client of his and he was working with another client on a product and has helped him to develop his product. So yesterday, we spoke again for about 20 minutes in more detail about the Double Desk. He said that he was interested and will review the RFQ more closely. He only does strictly manufacturing, so I will need to look at other options for distribution, warehousing and fulfillment solutions. I have looked into services with FBA and Shipwire. Reviews with them are mixed. I have read better reviews for smaller fulfillment centers. This is something I need to begin researching in earnest.
This past week, my photographer came back with some outstanding pictures. I’m very happy with them. She listened to me!!!! In the scheme of things, it’s not a difficult thing to do, but it seem so rare these days. Someone actually listened to me and it was clear in her work! I’m so pleased. I know to you readers, it might seem small, but this seems like a huge victory to me.
My ecommerce website is still “under maintenance” because I am not ready to sell these desks just yet. And now it needs some attention again. There’s a major update for my WordPress theme that’s been released. I would like to apply it because I think it will fix a bug that I am dealing with right now. I’m trying to decide on colors of the logo and the website. I have done some reading about the psychology of colors, sales and the demographics of my audience (mostly young moms and teachers). I am unable to change the background colors in the slider. I think this update will fix this problem. I also need to crop some of these new photos and update the site and the ecommerce product page.
My designer has also returned samples of several updated logos. He has been very patient with me. I think I have settled on one. The next step is to choose colors and add the trademark insignia. I have never been good with color coordination, so I’m leaning on some friends who have that kind of experience. Once this is done, I need to update social media and websites with the logo.
I opened an Odesk account a couple of weeks ago also. There are a few changes that I want to make to the desk, the biggest will overcome this problem that I have had making a perfect inside 90 degree corner. This was a huge win for me to figure out. But I also want to change the thickness of the material. My prototypes are all ¾ inch. This is overkill. It is heavier than ⅝ inch, so it is going to cost more in shipping; more in packaging material; take up more shelf space; and the material itself is more expensive than ⅝ inch. The ¾ inch material held me (at 185 lbs) when I stood on a seat. I am confident that I can go to ⅝ inch and still have a product that will hold any child that may sit, stand or jump on it. So, I went to Odesk to look for an inexpensive, overseas resource who could make these changes to the AutoCad drawing. I found a guy in the Philippines who works for $5.56 per hour. We talked on Skype last week. Then he got a contract job outside his country and had to quit before he could work on the desk. That’s okay. I’ll find another guy relatively quickly, I’m sure.
What I might do, is get an overseas guy to perfect and audit the AutoCAD drawing, then go back to my original manufacture and press him for some solid pricing based on a known quantity and absolutely no assembly. (Our original discussions had him tacking on moulding, but I have since decided to market this as a DIY kit.) He was always a bit wishy-washy with pricing, but I would like to get a solid answer from him, in writing. In retrospect, perhaps I have been overly flexible with him and maybe he felt that he needed solid answers from me along with a clear SOW, in writing. My hope is that going to ⅝ inch baltic birch; have no assembly; have a written SOW; and an order of known quantity, his pricing will come down to something I can work with.
Clearly, I still have lots of work ahead of me over the next year, but it is all doable and my priorities at this point, are obvious.