I have to admit: I’m a rookie at running a machine shop. But I’m no stranger to the manufacturing industry—my father and grandfather ran an original equipment manufacturing company and I worked as an OEM for years.
Eventually, what my brother and I decided we really wanted to do was start our own prototype CNC machine shop. Of course there’s been an incredible learning curve, but understanding our OEMs has been a key advantage to scaling Precision Parts Fast.
The biggest misconception I had when we started our shop back in April 2021 was that all our customers would want what I wanted when I was a buyer.
Yes, our buyers have similarities; we leverage those similarities to build consistency and drive profit margins, and standardization shows professionalism and drives efficiency. But at the end of the day, what delights one buyer might piss off our other one.
Shared Buyer Values
I’m not trying to stereotype here; every shop’s customer base varies in size, industry, age group, geographic location—but ultimately, your buyers share job responsibilities so they naturally share business needs.
Speed > Price
From my perspective, buyers care about speed more than they care about price. Our shop offers the option to pay for expedited shipping: 25% more to get the part one day sooner, 50% for two days, and 100% for three days. What we’ve seen is that our customers who pay for expedites (nearly half of them) choose the 100% markup option 100% of the time. Speed is so important to them that they’re willing to pay double our original price to get their part just three days sooner (and we’re not low-balling, either).
Honesty & Transparency
With our buyers, honesty and transparency are key. There have been a couple of times when a buyer has paid the 100% markup for a 3-day expedite, things happen, and we haven’t been able to deliver in that window. In those cases, we always issue a refund for the expedite fee.
Our buyers are often surprised by that. To us it feels natural to give someone back their money when they didn’t get what they paid for, but it goes a long way. Admitting our mistake and losing out on the price of that one part has significant ROI: those customers learn in that moment that they can trust us, and they always come back.
A lot of shops I talk to are afraid to add expedites as an option in their quote checkout process because they’re afraid they’ll seem greedy and scare off their customers. But if there’s one thing I know coming from the OEM world, it’s that the #1 thing that impacts the long-term success of the product and its rollout is keeping the design schedule on time. When I think about the incurred costs of not doing so? That doubled price is worth every penny.
We have always offered expedites, and we have never received one piece of negative feedback.
Find out how C&M Precision Tech drove $40,000 in expedited revenue in just 3 months.
Where Buyers Differ
I was once guilty of the misconception that every customer wants to be treated the same way. At our shop, we’ve found that there’s quite a difference in the type of relationship our buyers want to have with us.
We have one customer who is around 25 years old. The first time he submitted a part to us, it was challenging to the point where we almost had to no-quote it.
We had tons of questions before we could get started, but we couldn’t get a hold of him. Multiple emails and phone calls later, we returned the quote and got a PO. We manufactured the part and once he received it, he finally re-surfaced: “The part looks great,” he said. “I know you were reaching out with questions, and I apologize but I’m just not good about that stuff. I’m so busy and have no time to talk on the phone.”
On the flip side, we have a buyer who is on the older end of the millennial generation. He frequently asks for feedback on his designs and the way his eyes light up when he gets it is remarkable. He needs that open line of communication, and we’re happy to give it to him.
A few months ago, I might have said that generational differences are the driving force behind differing wants and needs. But I’ve come to find that skill level plays a huge role.
Our engineers who have been in the game for a long time are part of the older generations, yes; but it’s not their age that plays a role in our relationship so much as their wisdom. These buyers don’t submit parts with problems. They have accumulated enough knowledge of manufacturability to think like a machinist.
These more experienced buyers have confidence in what they’re giving you, so communicating with them as frequently as other, less experienced buyers is probably a waste of your time. They want their parts as fast as possible because they work fast (pro tip: don’t be the bottleneck).
How to Delight All of Your Buyers
There are two things that contract manufacturers can do if they really want to make their buyer’s life difficult:
- Not manufacture the parts to spec
- Miss deadlines
Of course, the first action makes the second outcome significantly more likely to happen.
No two buyers are created equal, but at the end of the day, we’re all humans. When we show empathy for others, we form deeper relationships. Doing business is no different. Instead of running your job shop with your wants and needs top of mind, wake up every day and get outside of your comfort zone and inside the minds of your buyers. Getting uncomfortable now is the key to building a comfortable future tomorrow.
Want to learn more about what part buyers care about these days? Download Paperless Parts’ latest Custom Part Buyer Report to find out how to meet and exceed expectations and win more work.
Jason serves as CEO of Precision Parts Fast and Managing Partner of Summit Industry Partners, LLC. Most recently, Jason led business development, marketing, product development and new business initiatives for Vantage Lighting, a leading manufacturer of LED lighting systems. Previously, Jason served in multiple leadership positions for GE Lighting. Jason holds a BA from Middlebury College and lives in Denver, CO with his family.