Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Partnership is More than a Good Product...

What makes a manufacturer a good trade partner? Why do showrooms display and sell certain brands? Why do sales associates encourage or recommend manufacturers products? Why do designers and architects recommend a manufacturers product?

These questions are both simple and complex but are central to why we believe Franke has become a leader in the North American Kitchen industry. My personal belief is that large organizations or ones owned by investors often forget that people do business with people and relationships do matter. We believe a number of things are critical to making a relationship work:

1. Knowing who you are - and never wavering from that no matter what challenges you face
2. Providing solutions not just products
3. Doing what you say you are going to do
4. Knowing that value is Not price

These four points over simplify the Franke business plan but they are the basis for how we view our role in the supply chain. Knowing Who You Are – this is often the most difficult question and challenge for a company. What do we stand for? What are our goals? And how do we accomplish these goals? In the current economic environment it is very tempting to cut prices, stop investing, lay off staff, import products from low cost countries all in an attempt to be able to sell more. Yes we want more, just like you do, but we believe price and lower quality is a slippery slope – the race to be the cheapest and selling on price alone is a very difficult business model to sustain. It is also nearly impossible to be the “cheapest” and still be a good partner to the trade. There are lots of companies that can sell you something cheap but is it a product that you are proud to represent?, Are you comfortable that your customer will be happy? Will these companies help me and my customer if something goes wrong?

This is where Franke believes that Providing Solutions not Just Products is critical and something we pride ourselves in. A few things come to mind when I think about solutions. Our patented Integral ledge and the custom accessories for every sink that make our sinks the center of the kitchen not just a sink. A smooth silky finish on our Stainless Sinks and our exclusive Fireclay finishes that are second to none. We also believe our approach to providing integrated solutions for managing the water in the kitchen is unique. With our world renowned sinks as the foundation we integrate it all by providing faucets, filtration, heating and waste management solutions. All are from a trusted source that give the customer piece of mind in a solution minded approach.
That is where we believe Doing What You Say You Are Going to Do comes in. We believe in offering unique solutions and we invest in putting actions behind these words. Franke has had a long history of Investing in innovative products including the D bowl sink, the Vision sink, Orca and most recently the Peak sink family. We also believe that partnering with only the finest showrooms/dealers and not selling to everyone shows commitment. Our Reseller Agreement program reflects a commitment to selective distribution. One of the programs we are most proud of is our industry leading MAP (minimum advertised price) policy. This is probably the best example of our commitment to the independent designer/showroom/dealer and the value they provide. We believe having a trained staff, design and selection assistance, product displays and a walk in establishment are critical to providing service. We believe the partners who make those commitments to Franke should in turn be supported with an environment where that commitment is rewarded. Franke does not believe in overly distributing our product/brand and we only want to work with trade partners that value and share this customer-centric approach.

This brings me to my final point. Value is Not Price and value is ultimately up to the customer. We strongly believe that there are enough customers that want stylish, innovative, quality products. We also believe that products that make kitchen work easier while maintaining a stylish aesthetic is desired by many. Finally, we believe that customers want service. Some would argue that good service has become so rare that those that are committed to it will be able to make it a competitive advantage.

That’s how Franke defines Value – stylish, quality product that has value added features and functions all provided by a team that puts the customer first. If we continue to work together – designer, showroom and Franke we will have a great story and point of differentiation that any customer would value!

Thanks and we hope you agree.

Charles Lawrence
General Manager
Luxury Products Group Franke Kitchen Systems

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