My dad once told me that there was a time when Japanese automobiles were considered on par with rolling toys or death traps. Obviously that’s changed.
In the 1960’s David Ogilvy exploded Volkswagon sales and improved their reputation with his brilliant “Lemon” advertising campaign.
My beloved MacBook is manufactured in a factory in which conditions are so slavish and worker suicide is so prevalent that nets have been suspended along the roof line to catch jumpers.
Considering my current attire: my watch is made in Japan. My boots are made in Australia. My jeans are made in Vietnam. My eyeglasses are made in Thailand. My socks are from Costco…whatever that means. Only my shirt and my briefcase are made in the United States.
And over the last two days my social media feeds pertaining to the HVAC industry have been plum full of articles and opinions regarding Carrier’s decision to move business to Mexico. Gloating, see-I-told-you-so quips, are being shared non-stop on Facebook and Twitter. But the question is “why does it matter?” My hope is that my friends will avoid the following slippery slopes:
- “We’re good because they’re bad.” Jeff Bezos is famously quoted as saying “We’re not a competition focused company, we’re a customer focused company.” Simply because Carrier makes a decision that, in certain circles, makes them look evil does not automatically mean that other product services are good. In other words, I hope my friends will not ignore their “Why Us” value building mandate.
- “Let’s waste a huge amount of time!” How many hours will be spent shading Carrier for this decision? How many meetings will now start with “So you heard about Carrier!?” How many B2B sales people will turn this news in to a prospecting sales strategy? How many B2C sales people will do the same? My guess: far too many.
- “Quality is going to suffer!” There are two problems here. First, nobody knows that it will. EVERY SINGLE HVAC MANUFACTURING COMPANY that I know utilizes international labor and resources. Every one. The Big 7 are all international companies. They source, price, produce, ship, test, and assemble resources outside of the United States. 100% American Made HVAC unitary products are far and few between. Second, there is a racist implication in the Carrier situation. “It’s made in Mexico” implies that Mexicans can’t make things as well as we can in the United States. The implication might be a turn-off when as of 2012 17% of our population is either Mexican or identifies as such. For all we know there may be hundreds of Six Sigma Black Belts ensuring that manufacturing standards are met and errors are reduced to a fraction of a fraction. I don’t know.
- Isn’t it about price? Many of my friends sell a “private label” product because the product performs at a competitive level and at a competitive price regardless of the product’s origin or company heritage. Their argument: This is exactly what homeowners want–solid product at a fair price– and it’s exactly how most salespeople sell. In the HVAC industry the price-to-value equation is the foundation of our industry (unless you have a HERO program in your back pocket in which case you’re in the catbird seat.)
- Who really cares? Control the things you can control and let go of the things that you can’t. Why is YOUR company exemplary? What does YOUR company do that leverages scarcity? What unique processes or procedures define YOUR excellence? It’s the sales version of The Lord’s Prayer.
Peter Drucker sagaciously wrote: “Business exists to create and keep customers.” The Big 7 companies that manufacture HVAC products all work toward this. They have to satisfy shareholder expectations, provide a social good, provide a quality of life for their team. The PE index reigns supreme. In the public eye Carrier may suffer for this decision. That’s out of my league. How companies navigate that morray remains a mystery–I’m not that smart.
Carrier moves to Mexico and competitors attack like sharks. My hope is that this feeding frenzy will not unnecessarily dilute the sales focus on what people do well, what they do uniquely, what they chose to discuss in substance, and their own humility that the global economy effects each of us on a daily basis.
For many salespeople the Carrier news is a boon because it is one more way not to have to answer two challenging questions: “Why are you special?” and “What do you do that I cannot find anywhere else in the market?” My hope is that my friends will use this opportunity to take a candid assessment of the questions and define their “onlyness” and their exceptionalism as it is rather than as it exists in contrast to the competition.