Why buy from the little guy?

This question is often asked by representation from larger companies: “why take a risk buying from a small company”? They imply that these small lab suppliers will disappear in the night, provide mediocre service or have less capacity to supply the consumer’s total needs. I have a number of  statements contrary to this philosophy, but I will use a recent example of a client’s relayed experience.

The client had invested in some centrifuges from a manufacturer who is very reputable in the industry and the units were actually bought from a very large distributor. After 3 consistent failures experienced by the client, they demanded the distributor and manufacturer explain themselves and offer a solution that worked. After much lip service, they decided to offer him 20% off the next unit he purchased! This was at a very prestigious University in Canada. Can you guess where the client insisted that they shove the offer? But in all that he lost, he paid top dollar for bottom dollar product and service.

The point of all this is that we, the customer, are not important enough for the bigger companies to allocate the resources to help us. The big corporations are a slave to the ‘shareholder’ and in that, spend more time in activities of trimming staff, hiring more managers, cutting costs (making things cheaper) and scrutinizing metrics to deliver dollars on their timelines – not the client’s . This then looks like “strategic” moves to the shareholders and keeps or encourages investment. This typical process strays further from the client or customer as they are merely considered one transaction and less worthy of tracking.

The little guy operates on a different track. Too small for major investment, the primary source of revenue is the client! With little budget to advertise like the big corporations, the small lab suppliers rely on positive transactions, word of mouth and decent prices to carry on. Often, the little guy also locates and secures novel products overlooked by big business being deemed ‘too little’ for potential revenue. And to address the ‘disappear into the night’ comment, sure, this is possible with small companies. But how many larger ones have filed chapter 11 or been bought out by larger companies who either bury their acquired products or make no claim to responsibility of the existing install base post acquisition. Bottom line: bigger is not better.

By the time I had happened upon the door of the aforementioned client, he was quite upset and still needed a centrifuge. Although I was working with a small manufacturer who makes a limited amount of good quality products, the brand name is unknown and  the client expressed his concern over having a similar experience as above. My response was simple. Though no one can foresee the future, the unit is almost half price, carries the same warranty and the organization and manufacturer are both reliant on a positive experience to help move more product. How much worse could he end up than he already was?

Next time you are in this conundrum, consider how many of your dollars go towards the actual product versus the endless layers to over-promote, warehouse and ship the product. Compound that with having many people make mistakes, sending your stuff awry or simply shipping the wrong item and trying to correct all that by phone! This is where the little guy is worth it!

This post was written by Ranjan Mukherjee

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