Protecting Yourself (and Your Clients) from Vendor Issues
If you were caught off guard by the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams shutdown, you were definitely NOT alone. Hopefully you aren't one of the MANY customers who now have to resource products that they ordered - and paid for. With an uncertain economy and some shaky times for the furniture business, it's a good idea to have a plan in place just in case you get caught up in another vendor that declares bankruptcy. So protect yourself, and your client, by using these tips.
1. Don't Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
Just like any other business, designers can get complacent and take the easy way out. Like ordering from the same company over and over because you love their style/quality/price. I'm not saying that's a bad thing! But you do want to spread things around a bit so that you don't have ALL of your orders at one single company. That's just smart business. You can never really know exactly what's going on behind closed doors in the furniture business, especially because so many companies are privately owned. So spread your sources as much as you can to keep your business running.
2. Listen to Your Reps
One of the signs that things weren't running super-smoothly at Mitchell Gold actually first came from the reps. Many designers said they couldn't get in touch with their sales rep or their customer service people just before the shutdown. It isn't that those reps knew the company was about to implode, but if they don't have answers on your orders or how the supply chain is working at a certain company, they might avoid taking your calls until they DO have answers. That's just a tiny red flag. Is it taking FOREVER to get answers? Is their website not updating? Do the reps seem a bit desperate? That's the time to start asking some pointed questions. It's always good to have strong relationships with your reps just in case they have any insight they can share!
3. Watch the Signs
Those red flags and warning signs are often there, you just have to pay attention. Stay involved in designer forums on Facebook and look for patterns in comments about certain companies. Read trade publications and pay attention to economic warning signs. Stay plugged in to how things are going in the industry. That can help you avoid a crumbling company, but it can also keep you ahead of any other challenges heading your way in the industry. That old saying is true - forewarned is forearmed.
4. Know Your Solutions
Of course if you DO get caught up in a bankruptcy, you want to make things right as quickly as you can. The first thing you should do is consult a lawyer AND contact your credit card company. If you pay by credit card, you can often decline the payment and get your (and your CLIENT'S) money back. Do you have Errors & Omissions insurance? If so, check that policy so you know what it does and does not cover. And then swing into action for a solution ASAP. You want to show your client that, even though the vendor issue was unavoidable, you are on top of it and have great ideas to solve the issue. That could be finding something fab at retail or from a workroom, depending on your deadlines. But find a quick solution so your clients feel like they're in safe hands with you.
Dealing with all of the craziness in this business can definitely be stressful. To help you with that, download my FREE Guide for How to Handle the Highs and Lows of the Interior Design Business!