Authenticity and integrity should need no policing – but sadly they do!
Catching my breath from the wave of trade shows that happen over winter and into spring including; KBIS, ICFF,
ISH, Salon de Mobile and the HD show, my take-away is that there are many manufacturers and brands who continue to push the design envelope to create original and unique products. There are also some who seem to take their ‘inspiration’ from others. I’m talking about ‘knock-offs’.
The expression ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ actually is a damaging expression when played out in our industry. I’m not being naive, I know that at its core, a faucet can be considered just a ‘water-delivery system.’ In our world we know a decorative fixture is so much more. Any manufacturer who has created a faucet that they have fully designed, carefully thought out and patented should be confident that their design is unique to their brand.
So how is it that ‘knock-offs’ hurt us? Why should we care? Even more importantly, why should the consumer care? To put it in terms that everyone can understand;‘knock-offs’ diminish everyone who uses them. Buying a
‘knock-off’ may save the consumer money, but it hurts the economy, reduces profitability and encourages the theft of what we know as intellectual property.
Intellectual property refers to a number of distinct types of ‘creations of the mind’ for which a set of exclusive rights are recognized. This is also known as patent law. I’m not going to give a dissertation on patent law or the rights to which manufacturers who have patents applied to their designs are protected. I will give you an example of how important patents are to a brand: GRAFFhas over 50 patents for faucet and handle designs in its portfolio. And I’m sure many other manufacturers have patents on their original designs. Too many patented designs are not the problem: manufacturers who continue to ignore patents and design products with virtually the exact same look and feel are the problem. The cost to enforce patent infringement is exorbitant and prohibitive to manufacturers. The question of course is how to stop the piracy. And whose responsibility it is to respect the patents that manufacturers have.
The R&D costs to develop and create a design require enormous time and effort; up front costs are quite high and that’s not including engineering, testing and tooling costs. So when a design is knocked-off by a manufacturer who can take that design and bring it to market more quickly and more cheaply (because they’ve bypassed all of the previously mentioned steps) – the consumer has every right to be confused and interested in buying a less
expensive version. How would they know?
This again begs the question of whom and how any of this should be policed. Barry Goldberg, owner of Union Hardware, a high-end kitchen and bath showroom in Bethesda, Maryland, subscribes to the phrase, “differentiate or die.” He makes sure his showroom carries products that are well differentiated; offering his clients top-of-the-line products from many manufacturers across many different design sensibilities and price points.
ISH trade show producer, Messe Frankfurt, in Germany, has taken it upon themselves to rigorously go after knock-offs. They call it “Messe Frankfurt against Copying." This initiative ensures that exhibitors and visitors are fully informed about the registration and assertion of intellectual property rights. Over the years they have physically confiscated hundreds of knock-offs during ISH. This is a level of support that we think manufacturers would like to see here in the United States as well. Every trade show should take a closer look at their policy. Trade shows work hard to bring value to their exhibitors, and if the shows are becoming “malls” for imitation artists who can get these
knock-offs to market faster than the original manufacturer, everyone loses.
Outside of trade show policing, what else might be done? As a Director of the DPHA, I’ve had many discussions with my colleagues, and the consensus is that even at the showroom level, we must have an awareness of, and respect for a brand’s identity. Showroom owners need to educate their employees and customers about what good design is, and about the manufacturing process, so they will understand that a product made with lesser materials under lesser controls that ‘looks’ like a faucet design they like is just bad business. And purchasing such product is a bad investment in their home or project. As with everything, integrity should be considered. Even for something that is a‘water-delivery’ system.
Keeping it real and as always, Happy Selling!
With all this talk now about how fast information is shared, this video sums up how the world is getting smaller. Some may think it is a good thing to know in an instant when news happens, while others miss the small town feel of things and are losing touch with their own communities.
Watch the video and think about it !Let me know your thoughts...
Upon my return from the Second Annual Happy Selling Retreat
I find myself longing for more!
It is never easy ending a vacation but this retreat is more than a vacation, it is a state of mind shared among friends, where everyone is responsible for their own actions. We were free to come and go, participate or not, but at the end of the day we all had an amazing time with people who like me beleive in Happy Selling!
I left with the thought of how do I top this next year? Many things come to mind and I will be investigating the best possible options. I can tell you it will be tropical, all-inclusive and have a swim up pool bar!
Thanks to my Happy Sellers (Barry, Steven, Tim, Martin and Ken) for making this weekend an event I look forward to every year and always will!
Back by popular demand I am please to announce the Second annual Happy Selling Retreat will take place June 9-12 2011 at Dreams Resort and Spa
in Cancun Mexico. The resort was chosen because of it being an All-Inclusive resort with the all important swim up pool bar. Our attendance is still by invitation only but has grown by 50% from the previous year. We have included Martin Siwy and Ken Avery into the festivities this year both traveling all the way from California to join us.
Some may say this is just an excuse for a group of like minded people to get together without their spouses to party and drink. Although that is not totally off base it is also a kind of therapy session. It is where we are free to speak our minds without judgment. It is where we can share frustrations, ideas and feelings about, well, anything! And know that what happens at Happy Selling stays at Happy selling.
No this is not a gossip trip. It is a release from the everyday rat race we all get caught up in. It just so happens we all
like the bonus of having a great beach, Captain Morgan and a swim up pool bar!
You can virtually join us
just click on
the web cam
looking forward to sharing pictures of the event once we get back (with minor
editing of course).
If there is any doubt in anyone’s mind that this world is changing than I am sad to see you live under a rock!
Our entire make up as a society is no longer looking out for each other. It has turned into a self preservationist approach to community. Politicians are leading the way with a “what is in it for me mentality” instead of what do my constituents want or “what is best for the overall community”. The very thought of a reality star running for President should tell us a lot about the direction our world is going.
If there is any doubt in anyone’s mind that this world is changing than I am sad to see you live under a rock!Our entire make up as a society is no longer looking out for each other. It has turned into a self preservationist approach to community. Politicians are leading the way with a “what is in it for me mentality” instead of what do my constituents want or “what is best for the overall community”. The very thought of a reality star running for President should tell us a lot about the direction our world is going.
Now I am not saying all this to depress us but to wake us up and realize that if the ship goes down we all go down. It is not how much or little you have it will be everyone. Sharing in a community use to mean just that… sharing. Now it has turned into gathering. I can gather as much away from the lower to middle class and live in my big house and go on my big vacations! Really… can’t you do that with the millions and billions you already have?
I think many (not all) of the richer 1% would agree that they can afford more luxuries than the average American. They can afford to eat, have proper housing and education. As a matter of fact if they were taxed 10%, 20% or even 30% higher their standard of living would not drastically change. We have a disproportionate amount of wealth building with a small % of the population while an entire slew of people are wondering if they can pay the rent or put food on the table.
I think people who work hard should be able to play hard. But I also think there is nothing wrong with sharing and seeing if you can give back and maybe let someone else play with you! After all we learned that in kindergarten!
ost. Click here and start typing, or drag in elements from the top bar.
Face it…green is nothing more than a feel good marketing tool!
It would be great if everything could be green, but realistically our industry is not built for conservation. From crazy showers and tubs wasting water to resources being taken from the earth to produce cabinets to cabinet knobs to human resources it is impossible to be “green”. That being said you can “manufacture responsibly for the environment. This is something that Europeans understood years ago. Almost every European factory you walk into will be ISO 14001 certified at a minimum. This does not mean they do not use resources it means they re-use them. It means they dispose of the waste in a proper manner and abiding by laws and standards. By the way… that comes as a cost in the form of money (which is part of the justification in consumer pricing of European products). When we as a society demand cheap products we as a society pay for it, in the form of the environment! In order to produce cheaper products you need to cut corners. You need to get rid of your waste by dumping not by disposing or recycling. You need to exploit your labor force and again cut corners, like basic human rights!
By no means am I suggesting everything from China, India or any other manufacturing giant is bad for the environment, but the odds are much better. We can all do a better job for the world if we looked in our back yards or our neighbor’s back yards for what we need instead of sourcing from the suppliers who are out to make as much as they can before they destroy the world.
Headline: The World is on Sale and your Profits are Down!
This is not a real headline but it is a real problem!
I as a manufacturer I have been handling many phone calls from dealers out there complaining about excessive margin erosion from competition. I realize Mr. and Mrs. Gotrocks think the world is on sale with the incentives that are given in other industries. After all, the Government gave anyone that wanted a new car $4500 for their old one. They are also giving money away for new appliances that save energy. Most retail clothing stores have been selling clothes at 50% off (even Tommy Bahama) and you can but a new TV for less than my electric bill. All this said I don't think there has been bailout money allocated to remodel a bath! SO why cave in to the pressure from the end user for discounts beyond the norm? I realize no one wants a sale to walk out the door but at what expense. If margins don't stay up then expenses need to go down. Well most of us have already cut what can be cut so next is what? Your wrist?
This thing is taking longer than anticipated and may take a little longer still but don't give away your farm yet. There is money to be made you might as well be the one making it!
In order to maintain a Happy Selling mentality everyone needs to rejuvenate themselves. Stress brings on a Not-so-Happy Selling attitude and with all the issues going on in the world today such as the economy, natural disasters and of course the housing market, it is easy to lose focus on our day to day business. Some recharge by playing golf, sitting down with a good book or if you are from Spain you simply take the month of August off! No matter how you make time for YOU it is a must, not only for yourself but for your co-workers, friends but most importantly for your family!
Although I travel quite a bit I also work from home the majority of the time I am not on a plane. I find it very difficult to separate home from work and work from home. It is not uncommon for someone “telecommuting” to have many of the same issues. These are things we don’t even know we are doing like not knowing when to turn the phone off, not knowing that you hold onto your Crack berry even when you are supposed to be watching a movie with your wife or telling your kids “in a minute” when they want to show you the lizard doing pushups on the window. My wife points these things out to me sometimes and I discount it that she just does not understand. Recently I realized she understands better than I do. She lives with it, with me and sees not only the good but the bad as well. She finally convinced me that this is not normal even though it was normal for me or fair for my family. So I decided to try to change. It is not impossible but it is necessary. I never wanted my kids to grow up without a dad but that has been what has been going on. I think just because I am in the house I am there but really I was not. I was with all of you, answering calls, checking emails coming up with exciting new programs. I love doing all that stuff but I love my family also. I am not going to quit my career but I am going to embrace my family. I am not going to divorce my wife but I am going to separate work from home.
I just read a book called Tuesdays at Morries and I loved it. Now understand I don’t read. If it is not in KBB, KBDN or our newsletter chances are I never heard of it. But this book opened my eyes to my thoughts above. It makes you realize that you need to live while you are alive and not regret what you didn’t do when you are dying.
I however love to travel (vacations not work travel). This summer my wife and I traveled for our 10 year anniversary to our great state of Alaska (No Palin sightings, but we did see Russia!). It was by far the most amazing place on Earth I have ever been. I cant even explain the sheer mass of this incredible place in which the entire state should be a natural wonder.
I am thrilled to present the first issue of the Sonia America Innovation’s newsletter. There are many great things to talk about and share with our dealers, sales organizations, and extended Sonia family, including the architect and design communities. We felt that this format would be a fun and informal way to communicate our company’s news, additions and even industry events. Each quarter we will be producing an updated version of this newsletter. At times we may be requesting some feedback, contributions, or even a fun industry story you want to share. I will be sure to provide my two cents every now and then!
Why Happy Selling?
So much of what we do in business (and just about everything else in life, for that matter) has to do with our attitude and how we approach each day. I realized a long time ago that my attitude and personality in dealing with people would be instrumental in my success throughout life. My excitement and enthusiasm radiated to my friends, customers and fellow sales associates in a way that motivated them to either purchase or sell. But most important, my motto was and continues to be, enjoy what you do, have fun while doing it and just be happy, so I started using the expression, “Happy Selling!”
If you are “happy selling,” then your customers will be “happy buying!”
Happy Selling sounds corny, but it works! Your attitude is contagious. If you are in a bad mood other people around you will be in a bad mood. If you are excited other people will feel your enthusiasm and will be excited with you. When I am giving a presentation I try to entertain first, and sell second. I try to grab the audience’s attention and attempt to make them laugh within the first few minutes. It breaks the ice; it lets them know you will not bore them and makes them want to hear what you have to say next. Happy selling includes being honest and straight forward. People want to know that you can relate to their personalities (and business philosophy) and if you are happy, it will make it so much easier for them to relate to you and allow you to get your message across. Treat them like a friend and they will trust you like one. Treat them like prey and they will run and hide.
Heading up Sonia America sales and marketing efforts allows me to be exposed to our industry’s best of the best in terms of dealers and sales agents. It is truly a pleasure to be able to work with all of you to partner and build our business together. And that truly is the essence of what I am preaching.
When I thought about the theme for this issue Happy Selling column I thought about the upcoming time off I will be having for the holiday season. Naturally one of my favorite times of year since I get to spend some much needed time with my family (Sonia America will close as usual from December 23rd until January 2nd). Thanksgiving is a great day in my home. The day starts with cinnamon buns straight out of the oven setting the mood for a day filled with Macys Thanksgiving day parade and football and smelling good old Tom in the oven. But this year more than ever I have even more to be thankful for. This has been a tremendous year for me personally, but more so for our company. Sonia is experiencing a record growth year in an economy which is considered down. No doubt this is due to the amazing media coverage we have had, our family of independent representatives and a group of people internally that just can’t help but try to take customer service to a level of nothing short of great!
I am truly thankful for being part of a family of companies that empowers me to lead them in this country. Where our products bring out emotions and are not a commodity. I am thankful for our dealer partners who not only believe in the products Sonia produces but in my ability to lead the sales to support their needs. We have a tough road ahead of us the next few years and would like to thank all of you for your continued support.
Have a safe, healthy and happy holiday season. From our family to yours… Happy Selling!