Updated: Dec 21, 2018
When things aren’t going well for me, like the rest of us I can tend to wander through my day wondering, “What am I doing wrong?” Thankfully we are at the time of year where I don’t have to wonder anymore! My daughter is home from college now (she must have run out of money or clean socks). When she’s home, I never have to wonder what I’m doing wrong…she ALWAYS points out ALL my foibles. Never any solutions, but at least I don’t have to wonder anymore!
It’s not that I’m wrong SO OFTEN, I protest to her in an attempt to prove my worth. Sometimes I’m right…and the circumstances change….and I’ve become wrong! She doesn’t buy that, but it’s true. And it happens in my writing too. What’s right today, may change and not be right tomorrow. More on that in a minute.
I recently went to a Benjamin Moore meeting for about 50 New York metro area dealers. If you’re a Ben Moore dealer I’m guessing you’ve been to one of these. They hold them in a large hotel, serve lunch and share with their customers what their plans are for a coming period of time or program. It could be marketing plans, topics of regional or national interest or anything really that they feel like they need to share with their dealers. I’ve been to many of these over the years and have written previously about my impressions of how these go.
Whether I was writing about a specific meeting or just in general how Ben Moore manages communications with their dealers I have always been fair in my view, but that has not always been viewed as kind. I have shared my view that Ben Moore would do well to tend more towards transparency and candor. In fact not just in my writing but in many face to face meetings that I’ve had with Ben Moore people over the years I have often made the same point.
The reason that I have been less than kind toward Ben Moore on this topic is simple: they deserved it! In my experience Ben Moore had not always been forthright and transparent with information they shared with their dealers. I do understand the need for corporate privacy but on issues that effect us all, I feel transparency is always best and so should the vendors we deal with. When I don’t feel like I’m getting that, I have at times picked up my pen.
That’s why THIS particular dealer meeting caught me so off-guard; due to what struck me as a significant change in attitude on their part. A change that I applaud and wanted to point out to you all.
I always find the best part of these meetings is the time set aside for questions & answers: usually after the conclusion of the presentation. It’s not that I’m not interested in what Ben Moore was saying during their presentation: I am! But generally I have always been more interested in what other dealers have on their minds than I am with what manufacturers have to say.
Sitting at one of the tables in the back of the room listening, but maybe not fully paying attention, a dealer asked about the Century line: how it was selling and what their plans were for it. My ears perked up. We don’t sell Century, but I know it’s story.
The presenter that day was Dan Calkins. Dan is currently the COO of Ben Moore and scheduled to take over the role of CEO on January 1. His answer was the breath of fresh air that the room needed. He was honest with us that Century had underperformed and just as frank in his admission that they needed to make changes if it was going to succeed. Wow…a clear departure in my view of how a topic like this would have been handled in the past.
A few questions later, someone asked about sharing of data: customers, pricing, purchasing history etc., within the context of a question on the topic of regional or national accounts. Again, my ears perked up. I have spoken to dealers by the thousands over the course of my career: from all 50 states. I was pretty sure I knew how dealers felt about trusting Ben Moore with this sort of data.
I was immediately impressed with the answer, which was along the lines of: we are aware that we have some trust issues to overcome with our dealers before we get into programs like that.
It’s not easy to have to admit to a room full of dealers that there’s a “trust issue”. But to his credit, that’s what Dan did. The “trust issue” (in quotes because that’s how Dan referred to it) came up again later while answering another question and Dan’s response was similarly impressive: he admitted that there is a trust issue and shared that they know they need to work on it.
So what was once true may be changing! What was once opaque may be becoming more transparent. I look forward to more of this: transparency and the attitude it brings is always a positive force.
BRAVO DAN! I’ve been waiting for words like that from Ben Moore for years and it was refreshing to hear you share them. Especially considering the new role as CEO that you are about to take on! This leaves me optimistic for a new level of openness which would benefit us all: Ben Moore AND their dealers. If Ben Moore and their dealers are going to continue to prosper as a group, then all sides need to be opened and honest with each other. This is a solid first step and I hope the beginning of a trend.