Beginning a relationship with a potential supplier should be about more than product pricing. Issues such as customer service, warranty, quality, and shipping schedules must also be considered.

Before you even get to those issues, however, there are other questions to consider. Questions that get to the heart of what kind of partner a manufacturer will be. Here are six icebreakers to help understand what kind of a company you may be dealing with.

Where is your product made?
Many of our competitors have chosen to move their production out of the country. Often this is a move designed to simply cut costs and make a company worth more in the short term for eventual sale. The vast majority of Draper’s products are manufactured in our Spiceland, Indiana, facilities, as they have been since 1902. This allows us to keep quality high and lead times low, all while continuing to be part of a local community—a community like those in which our customers live.

Who owns you and for how long?
Another recent trend in many of the markets we serve is the buying spree. Almost daily we read news of another manufacturer being sold. Some of these transactions work out for the best and are well-executed. Others are simply an end to a means, as purchases are made to improve attractiveness in a future sale. Such short-term transactions don’t necessarily provide a stable relationship for dealers and customers. Draper was founded in 1902 by Luther O. Pidgeon. Today, his great-great- and great-great-great grandsons are involved in company management.

Have you ever had any layoffs? When?
Economic downturns and cyclical markets can have a negative impact on a business. In such times, layoffs do frequently occur. But are they always necessary? Deciding whether or not to lay off employees goes back to a company’s values or loyalty, pragmatism, and stability. Draper is proud of the fact that since we opened in 1902, we’ve never had an employee layoff.

How green are you?
Kermit the Frog once said, “It’s not easy being green.” But today it’s important to be as sustainable as possible in all aspects of business. This question gets to the heart of a manufacturer. Think of it this way: a wasteful company is likely to pay less heed to the little things to keep their customer relationships sustainable, as well. Draper, long known for our customer care, has been a leader in education and promotion of sustainability throughout all of the markets we serve.

Are you involved in your local community?
This question searches out a manufacturer’s long-term reliability. A manufacturer that is involved in the community understands the importance of investing in relationships. Business relationships may ebb and flow. There may be ups and downs. Markets will change. A manufacturing partner that is stable and reliable through difficult times will be involved in their local community.

Why are you in this particular business?
The ideal answer to this question doesn’t necessarily have to be, “Because we love making this particular item.” In fact, the answer may simply be “we felt like this was the best opportunity to be a profitable company.” This question shows who will be there to support you. Are they knowledgeable? Being able to answer this question shows the company deeply understands what they’re selling, why they are selling it, and its role in the market.

To learn more about Draper, click here for a free downloadable PDF about Draper’s citizenship and values.

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