I spend a lot of time these days thinking about our industry and where it is headed. I must confess, I have some very serious concerns about what I see going on, which makes me wonder about the future of our industry and the legacy we will leave for the next generation.
This industry has certainly been good to me, my family, my employees, and the many friends whom I have come to know and respect over the years, some of whom must surely share my concerns. A number of issues need to be considered, but the single biggest thing that bothers me is the “commoditization” that I see going on around us. To be blunt, some of what I see happening is just plain stupidity, born perhaps out of ignorance, fear, desperation or something I simply can’t get my hands around. I am referring to something my dad use to call “whoring up the market.” You know what I mean. We talk about selling value, while our actions exhibit something entirely different. It’s almost as if we are trying to outdo one another in our quest to be the cheapest guy on the block.
I cannot tell you how many people I have talked to over the last few years who long for “the good old days” while bemoaning the current climate. They yearn for the days when this industry was fun and selling value really meant something. They despise the fact that we have become a Wal-Mart society, where only price matters. Consider the requests for quotations (RFQs) that I have referenced in earlier letters (see “Up for Discussion,” ASI May 2014, p. 11). These things are an absolute disaster for our industry and, in particular, businesses whose purpose is to create and promote value. The only winner in these requests is the company willing to offer the cheapest price and meet unreasonable demands. Why would anyone in their right minds even participate in these things? The customers who go through these exercises are short-term thinkers who only care about driving costs down so that they can preserve their jobs and make their businesses attractive to the next buyer. Do we really think they care about what kind of legacy we leave?
Our industry is getting ready to face another issue: the growing number of baby boomers leaving the workforce and their subsequent replacements. Will we have enough qualified people to fill the positions, and will they have the work ethic necessary to carry the torch? Will we leave our industry in good shape, or will we leave an industry that has been decimated by short-term thinking and an attitude of selling only on price? Will our industry be one that people seek, or one that people avoid because it’s all about selling commodities where the only thing that matters is price?
I don’t know about you, but I care about my legacy and the legacy of my company. I would like to think that those who sell on price alone would also consider what they leave behind. To those customers whose only goal is to force their prices to the bottom, I say you’d better think long and hard about what you are doing to contribute to the long-term health of this industry. What looks good today may turn out to be disaster in the future. If you are successful at driving businesses out of this industry because it has become a commodity business, you will suffer irreparable damage to your own businesses as a result.
And so I ask you: What kind of legacy will you leave?
Editor’s note: This topic is Up for Discussion, and we invite your feedback. Do you agree with the author? Please send your thoughts to Editor Teresa McPherson, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any views or opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not represent those of ASI, its staff, Editorial Advisory Board or BNP Media.