Sunday, October 17, 2010

Why there’s a productivity gap.

A client recently had a requirement to purchase up to 4 high-end PCs for a very specific business function. We scoped out the requirement and approached 4 different local suppliers for quotes. To be fair it wasn’t going to be a huge order (under $10,000), but we were dealing with small locally-owned computer stores which, one would assume, would like the business. We got these results.

Supplier 1 initially told us they were interested in quoting but even after 2 reminders did not. Nor did they acknowledge either of the follow-up requests.

Supplier 2 quoted a system that did not meet one of the key requirements. The error was akin to quoting a pickup truck when the requirement was for a 4-door sedan.When this was brought to their attention they re-quoted with a station wagon.

Supplier 3 quoted a system which seemed the best solution. It was purchased but when delivered a key component had not been installed. It was on a minimum 2-month backorder, which the supplier neglected to mention beforehand.  The system was returned and the order cancelled.

Supplier 4 quoted a system that included several items not in the original specification because “we thought you overlooked them.” (We did not.)

In each case the supplier didn’t read the specifications and/or made unwarranted assumptions without contacting the client. As a consequence none of them got the business, nor will any of them ever get another opportunity to quote on  future business.

I expect this is not an isolated situation as I’ve heard similar stories from others trying to deal with small businesses. The lost productivity hours on this buy alone are significant. Multiply that by several thousand transactions per day and one gets a sense why there’s such a productivity gap in this country. And also, I expect, why small businesses come and go like mayflies in spring.

None of this is rocket science. 1. Read the specification. 2. Configure the system. 3. Verify it meets the specification. 4. Deliver the quote. 5. Win the business.

But for some reason even that basic checklist seems beyond the capabilities of so many businesses today. It’s actually quite depressing.

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