Monday, December 31, 2007

Volume 42 - 'Tis the Season...or, is it?

It is certainly the Holiday Season, with Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, and with certainly New Year celebrations scheduled all around the world. The grandkids are on Christmas vacation, and the gift shopping has certainly hit its peak. Decorations abound, travel is on the increase, the clerks are 'grumpy', over extension of money is as common as ever, the marketing of the holidays has reached a new level, but something is still different and it has nothing to do with the bustle of the Holidays or anticipation of 2008. There has been an astonishing negative progression toward the loss of Etiquette in the business world within our great country, as compared to other parts of the world.

Etiquette is made up of significantly more important things than knowing which fork to use at lunch with a client. In today's global world, the perception of others could make or break a relationship. As in every other business decision, the devil is in the details. If one cannot return a phone call or respond to an email communication, as a simple example, it is an easy transition to feel that one can't be trusted or have the necessary self-control to be good at what one does. Is everyone just too busy to respond? I doubt it.

Unfortunately, the lack of business etiquette, or even etiquette in general, has gotten lost with a generation of people. From the days (long ago) of teaching your children to say "Yes Sir, No Maam, etc" to the present day of simply no teaching within the home to encouragement of slang terms or tolerance of 'mere grunts' to school systems that simply go through the motions of discipline and the teaching of respect. From vendors to Manufacturer's Representatives to (unfortunately) customers and prospective customers, it just seems that no one is committed to a mutually beneficial relationship, but only committed to their own singular purpose.

Basic phone and email business etiquette has more to do with 'respect' than with right or wrong. It isn't difficult, even for selfish people who think their value is more than it's really worth. Always return calls! Even if you don't have an answer to a caller's question. Call and explain what the current situation is pertaining to the initial call, or direct the caller to the appropriate place to get it. If one is going to be out, have your office phone state that fact with a return date, or have someone pick up your calls. Make sure your voice mail system is working properly and doesn't tell the caller that the mailbox is full, transferring them to nowhere or ringing indefinitely.

With regards to emails, make the subject line specific! (a lesson learned from our Operations & Marketing Partner) Just think of the many messages you're received with generic subjects or no subjects. Don't forward messages with three pages of mail information; delete the extraneous information. Do respond in a timely manner.

Reflect on your business etiquette for this coming year; become 'old-fashion' with regards to how you return calls and respond to emails.

Have a great 2008!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Volume 41 - Veteran's Day Tribute

To my Verteran Friends, who have given us so much.

"It is the VETERAN, not the preacher, who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the VETERAN, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the VETERAN, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the VETERAN, not the campus organizer, who has given us freedom to assemble.

It is the VETERAN, not the lawyer, who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the VETERAN, not the politician, Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the VETERAN , who salutes the Flag, It is the veteran ,who serves under the Flag, MAY THEY REST IN PEACE. "

We can be very proud of our young men and women in the service no matter where they serve, and all those that went before. I SALUTE YOU ALL!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Volume 40 - Business Double-Speak!

TV Station 21 WFMJ News Now

Broadcast at 11:00 p.m. news 10-31-07, quotation is taken from their website

"Amweld Workers Get Bad News by Phone

Amweld in Niles is closing its doors officially today, a full two months earlier than expected.

Earlier this month Amweld officials announced plans to close plants on Niles and Garrettsville, sending those 250 jobs to Mexico.

The company also said at that time that it would negotiate the official shutdown date with its union whose contract expires in December.

Then, employees were called Wednesday, and were told to pick up their checks today, because the plant would be closed.

April Brooks, the wife of an Amweld worker says, "It's a shame. They got handed a letter on the 8th of October, and they were told that they would work a couple more months. And it's not even been 2 1/2 weeks and they locked the doors."

Employees say they're still uncertain about their pension and severance issues."

Another example of Business 'running-a-muck' and feeding the public with 'Double-Speak'. Another story about alleged foreign competition and 'market-place necessity' due to labor rates.

Another story about losing jobs to off-shore manufacturers but yet simply another excuse that hides ownership/management/'over capitalization flaws' brought on by greed and stupidity.

It's simply amazing what the topic of 'Globalization' can hide, for behind the curtain is the truth, and like the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz, just human error and greed.

Fact: When companies get over-capitalized, paying for something not worth the value expended, the cost factor never gets balanced

Fact: Labor is still a percent of overall cost; as in the case of McDonald's it's 15%, as in the case of Amweld, seven years ago, 12%. And, even if it were 20% there remains another 80% to be managed correctly

Fact: All other material costs, such as steel, have been spot market buys for decades which actually evens the 'playing field' to all participants

When arguing 'Globalization', make sure what the argument is exactly about, 'peel back the onion' to expose the truth rather than simply attempting to 'double-speak' the real issue away.

As so correctly stated by Forrest Gump, "Stupid is as stupid does"

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Volume 39 - "If passion drives you, let reason hold the reigns."

Previously, Volume 35 - Passion and the i.2 Brand, I've discussed the 'passion' necessary for the survival and growth of a company, and woven in those layers, the delicate but vital part the entrepreneurial owner-partners play in that overall pattern. As one 'peels the onion back' further, looking more into the depth of that discussion, one finds that the 'decision making processes' based on 'reason' is as a difficult proposition, and arguably more important, as driving the company with flaming passion.

It has always been interesting to observe the door and hardware industry from the viewpoint of an observer and consider how different manufacturers, within the same industry, serving the same market segments, paying the same wages, and recruiting from the same labor pool, with virtually the same product can have such extraordinarily different levels of service, respect (or lack of) for their base customers, and the arena which they operate.

So why is it that people at some manufacturers/suppliers make the choice of customer excellence while people elsewhere choose to be average or simply mediocre? I believe that it has as much to do with 'the decision making process' as much as 'individual passion.' The decision making process, regardless of the importance of the individual decisions, is a direct factor of overall culture that starts with ownership and management and is reinforced daily on 'good' days as well as 'bad.'

Owners, anyone with any % of the company, must be willing to invest in the physical product and the systems necessary to facilitate service efficiency, and in the case of a 'start-up' this action doesn't have to take place at the same time (reasonable decision making) based on a multitude of various factors, such as cash flow; nevertheless, both 'decision making' and 'passion' remain the driving force in the implementation of a successful enterprise. It is hard to deliver excellence in service and product when one is selling a customer a sub-standard product, and/or unable to satisfy long-term type customers without the proper technology systems. It is however impossible to deliver anything near excellence without a decision process that applauds not accepting the status quo, and challenging the stupidity of 'this is the way it has always been done.'

It is just as important, or possibly more so, to be able to make decisions that affect people through this same sort of process. For example, it is very easy for me to give an 'OK' to a question regarding any area of our business without regard for the total picture and implications in a 'passing' type conversation. It is very easy for me, as the managing partner, to answer a question without regard to what decisions are going to be made because of my response (again, without regard to the total picture - again avoiding 'the decision process'). I believe this not to be unusual. I'm very action orientated; have little or no regard for time-consuming projects or analysis. 'The ball must be driven down the field at any cost mentality,' and yet then wonder why the project wasn't up to established standards or wonder why the end result had so much collateral damage attached to it.

The fact of the matter is that as much as I personally detest organizational structure, individual growth and end results are in jeopardy by not following correct 'decision making procedures', challenging the status quo, and the 'quick' response answer to simply get onto another subject. One will inadvertently extinguish the 'passion' when not holding to 'reason' and due process. Reason mixed with total openness and collaboration ignites 'passion.' One can still maintain a great deal of flexibility, freedom, and speed with the right mixture of 'decision making process' and reason. Executed correctly this mixture will dilute the old ways of business ( 'this is the way it always has been done'), simply an excuse for not performance. A 'fresh set of eyes,' pushing the envelop and asking 'why' must be cultivated and part of that cultivation involves not suppressing 'reason' and a correct process for decisions other that 'shooting from the hip.' Difficult to admit from one of the original OK corral gun fighters.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Volume 38 - Consolidation within our Industry

Chrysler was ‘bailed-out’ for billions, ‘laid off and cut back’, sold to Daimler for 36 billion, and proceeded to loose a similar amount of money, and was recently separated back out for 7 billion by a private investment group. Hewitt-Packard and Compaq decided that it was in the best interest of ‘stockholders’ to merge and ‘be acquired’, as well as Alamo & National, and now, in my favor sport, NASCAR, with the merging of Fenway-Roush, Ginn and DEI, and just last week, Gillette and Evernham, one should be getting the picture that M&A, along with Consolidation, is the way of the world, for 'good or evil', 'better or worse'.

One has to wonder as to the state of our industry and its outlook for the future. What follows is a look at consolidation and its impact on the industry, customers, manufacturers and distributors based on my two decades of experience in the door and hardware industry, and now founder of a private labeled architectural hardware company.

There are essentially three types of integration that have been taking place over the years: 1) financial-driven integration, with financial companies buying door and hardware companies to wit no successful outcomes have occurred over the long run, just more good money following bad money to keep the 'house of cards' erect; 2) door companies that are buying distributors and other door companies to wit another ‘blood trail’ of financial losses; and 3) hardware companies that are buying more lines of hardware, as well as door companies, to wit smaller more defined lines of distribution, and more control of pricing for the ‘giants’, with less opportunity for the Independent Entrepreneurs attempting to survive industry consolidation.

Financial-driven integration started several years ago when a couple of financial consolidators entered the marketplace and recognized the high degree of fragmentation, particularly at the distribution level. Not unlike a lot of players within many other industries, these businesses initiated a rollup campaign to raise capital market funds.

The whole strategy was premised upon building critical mass as quickly as possible and using it to improve purchase discounts and leverage their buying power with suppliers; today taking place with the ‘Giant from London', Stock, using both the residential and commercial distribution channel as their vehicle. Profitability was enhanced by consolidation functions such as sales, general and administrative costs (SG&A), manufacturing overheads, purchasing and engineering. Several of these financial companies, which started seven years ago when the capital markets were much more receptive, have proven to be flawed exercises. Not only did the capital markets turn a cold shoulder to these types of endeavors, regardless of what industry they’re in, but additional problems arose while integrating the former independently run companies with the door and hardware industry into one cohesive operating unit.

The flaw in this structure is now and will always be, if one of the businesses in the portfolio is doing well in creating equity value and another business is not doing well and detracting from equity value, the overall value of the company is neutralized. The result is a conglomeration of companies which, in return, have tended to create significant cultural strife; the value of horizontal integration versus vertical integration.

As I’ve state in previous articles, and is now realized by some door companies, simply rafting together a mix of door companies to be a dominant player with cost savings isn’t enough. It takes more than that in today’s “value added” competitive marketplace. This would be true of consolidating any type of distributor for the sake of simple consolidation.

It seems that the so-called successful consolidators, particularly at the manufacturing level have done little to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit of the acquired company; and, certainly have failed in their attempt at creating a variety of products and services while matching up corporate cultures. With regards to the distributor side of the coin, they have only limited and, in most cases, disrupted the independent distributor network. This is now becoming a market of not only captive distribution but limiting distribution with skeptical pricing practices with regards to large projects. This is becoming more apparent everyday with large hardware companies buying specialty brand hardware lines, and then limiting the distribution of specific products within the distribution channels as to not only product but price.

Unfortunately, the end-user (including the Owner-Developer-School Board-Architect-Specifier-Designer-Builder), as well as the most important link in the supply chain, the ‘expert’ that actually adds value, distributor (Locksmith and Contract Door Hardware house) have diminishing values to the large manufacturers and consolidators. It has ALWAYS been the ability of the distributor, contract hardware house or locksmith, to take a product, add value to it, keep the customer in focus and build the relationship.

This should not be a surprise. The key to the successful future of our industry is, and will continue to be, independent, entrepreneurial distributors who can take product, of their choosing at competitive pricing, add value to it, maintain a customer focus and build relationships. Too bold a prediction at a time when the M&A pace has quickened? Not at all, because, contrary to the others who view the distributor as the last step in a necessarily “evil” process, our business always has been one of strong distributor-customer trust relationships; and, a successful future holds the same whether you are a locksmith or a NASCAR team.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Volume 37 - Watch how you vote!

It seems to me highly ridiculous that we are involved in national elections, over a year before actual voting takes place. Everyday on the 'nightly news' we are bombarded with 'who has raised the most millions' in this run for the "House". We're repeatedly filled with alleged facts and figures of how all of 'our problems' can be solved (again) from national health care (including paid health care for illegal immigrants) to taxing the rich, to the end of the war, to a 'chicken in every oven', from the ridiculously to the sublime.

The last time I looked we were the strongest, richest most influential nation in the world (although now 16th world ranking in education with declining high school graduation rate, with a dwindling post graduate rate in math and science) with less than 5% unemployment, more availability of food, entertainment, clean water then any nation in the universe, a record Stock market, productivity (still) 'second to none', the most freedom in the world, as well as the most opportunity available to those who desire to work and 'risk'; still, due to media hatred, our President is recognized as 'stupid' with a rating lower than any other president in history, and the rest of the world viewing us as 'spoiled brats' that have nothing better to do than too complain. Chicken Little is alive and well with these political aspirants, and yet on major issues, as in the aforementioned Education comment, protection of our Borders, a workable foreign policy, cooperation with emerging nations, and the firmness needed in dealing with the real threat of terrorism, we hear nothing of substance from them. And, maybe above all, we have already forgotten 911, and in no way are prepared to fight terrorism on our soil as we will have too!

We have forgotten the 63 lives taken in 1983 at the US Embassy compound in Beirut. We have forgotten the 241 US servicemen killed at the US Marine Corps headquarters in Beirut only six months later. We have forgotten the attacks at the US Embassy in Kuwait the same year and the attack the following year at the US Embassy in Beirut and the 1985 restaurant bombing in Madrid, and the 1985 bombings at the US Air Force Base at Rhein-Main where 22 died. We have forgotten the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking where an American in a wheelchair was singled out and executed. Somehow we have forgotten the TWA Flight 840 bombing that killed four and the Pan Am Flight 103 that killed 259. In case you have forgotten, in 1993 two CIA agents were shot and killed as they entered CIA headquarters in Langley. World Trade Center 1993 six killed and over a thousand injured. 1995 US military complex in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia car bomb killed seven service personnel. 1996 truck bomb US military compound in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia that destroys the Khobar Towers, a US Air Force barracks, killing 19 and injuring over 500. US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania are attacked leaving 224 people dead. October 2000 the USS Cole is bombed leaving 17 US Navy Sailors dead.........and, I haven't even got to 911!

Therefore, a little story as I remember our past history, where we as a nation used to act decisively, as some emerging nations now, read both stories, sit back and think, then act.


PART ONE: THE OLD VERSION (USA 50's, 60's and some of the 70's)

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his
house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and
plays the summer away.

Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed.

The grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.

MORAL OF THE STORY : Be responsible for yourself!

PART TWO: UPDATED VERSION (USA past three decades)

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his
house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and
plays the summer away.

Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and
demands to know why the ant should be warm and well fed while others
are cold and starving.

CBS, NBC, PBS, CNN, and ABC show up to provide pictures of the
shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable
home with a table filled with food. America is stunned by the sharp

How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor
grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

Kermit the Frog appears on Oprah with the grasshopper, and everybody
cries when they sing, "It's Not Easy Being Green."

Jesse Jackson and Reverend Al Sharpton stage demonstrations in front of the ant's house where the news stations film the group singing, "We shall overcome." Jesse then has the group kneel down to pray to God for the grasshopper's sake. And Rev Al works on getting the Ant fired from his work.

Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, and Senator Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader exclaim in an interview with Larry King that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper, and both call for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his fair share.

Finally, the EEOC drafts the Economic Equity and Anti-Grasshopper Act
retroactive to the beginning of the summer. The ant is fined for
failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and, having
nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by
the government.

Hillary gets her old law firm to represent the grasshopper in a
defamation suit against the ant, and the case is tried before a panel
of federal judges that Bill Clinton appointed from a list of
single-parent welfare recipients.

The ant loses the case.

The story ends as we see the grasshopper finishing up the last bits of
the ant's food while the government house he is in, which just happens
to be the ant's old house, crumbles around him because he doesn't
maintain it. The ant has disappeared in the snow. The grasshopper is
found dead in a drug related incident and the house, now abandoned, is
taken over by a gang of spiders who terrorize the once peaceful

MORAL OF THE STORY : Be careful how you vote!!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Volume 36 - Price Fixing and Collusion

It seems to me that there is a great deal of collusion within the writing of specifications, the 'special pricing' of manufacturers, and the selectivity of 'who can and who cannot' bid projects with those special pricing numbers. And, if that is not 'collusion and price fixing' then someone ought to explain the concept to me.

The owners and developers of projects, practically all size commercial construction work, have a difficult time understanding, why the pricing of certain divisions, within the construction industry, have such high cost numbers (by the time the owner pays for them) and so very few people bidding their project. Well, let me explain a 'dirty little secret' that exists in Division 8 between the architects, specifiers, and certain manufacturers, that 'limitations' are built into the process. For example, a small 150 room hotel in South Bend, Indiana, only three bids were accepted, division 8 steel and wood doors and door hardware, all from three distributors carrying the very same door hardware product line. Another in Orlando, Florida when a manufacturer selectively gives out 'special pricing' only upon request and only to the 'chosen few', delaying any other requests or lowering discounts points for other interested distributors. Free enterprise exhibited at it's best. One has to give Assa Abloy and IR credit, they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars limiting the playing field.

It reminds me of a letter I received from Mr. David R. Nolan, Nolan Door & Hardware Company, Inc., on September 17, 2002 (If it weren't framed and hanging in our lobby, I would have scanned it into this blog) that states, and I quote after the greeting:

"What a week we just had! The story starts more than a year ago and is somewhat involved but, I'll share with you the short version. A year ago we were buying and selling Falcon locks, LCN closers and so forth. Ingersoll-Rand (actually Andrew White) approached us with several 'buying programs' involving Schlage, none of which were acceptable to us. Our objections were based on the pricing structure and the exclusivity; we were to give them all of our lock, closer and panic business. We found this repugnant to say the least and, as you probably know by now, told them to take their I-R package and....!

We were concerned then, and more now, by their insistence on monitoring all that we bid and sold. We are appalled at their unabashed disdain for distributors and their new posturing to sell institutions directly. Since we cannot condone that marketing strategy, we cannot support them anymore by purchasing their products.

It seemed that Assa-Abloy was the way to go, specifically Yale. While there was no stated requirement to buy the whole line, there is an ambitious annual purchasing goal. We accepted their buying program and went on our way selling their locks, your panics, your hinges and your closers. From time to time, mostly because of specifications, we would use their full line.

Late last week, we received a fax informing us that our buying program had been changed and, not in our favor. The stated reason, when I asked the representative what was going on,, was that our volume did not warrant the previous discount structure even though we have been opened up with them for less than one year. As the conversation continued, the real reason for the change in our program had more to do with the suppliers that we have chosen for our panics, closers and hinges. It was not stated that our program would be reinstated and/or improved if we were to change to all Yale but, that was the feeling that we were left with.

We refuse to be forced into buying from anyone. We believe in free enterprise and will continue to practice that. We also still firmly believe in the concept of loyalty to suppliers who have brought us this far even though in today's business world, this seems to be somewhat archaic.

The point of all of this is simply that we no longer have access to a lock line at competitive prices. Our cost on a Grade II cylindrical lock has increased by 80% in the past twelve months.

Do not, for a moment, think that this is about Nolan Door & Hardware Company; it's about all of us! We will have to rely more heavily than before on you to keep us a viable source of commercial and architectural hardware in our marketplace. I don't want to sound to 'Knute Rockne' but, it is indeed up to us to face this challenge in our industry.

It is my belief that we can and will but no one's going to do it alone. I am putting my complete confidence in you and our ability to continue to work together.

Hopefully yours,

David R. Nolan"

I often read that letter in attempting to understand our industry, and the importance that the distributor plays within the commercial construction arena, especially within Division 8 products. Independence2, LLC, with it's i.2 trademarked private labeled architectural hardware, is where door hardware meets value, where the distributor will always be respected, and where we have as much interest in their 'bottom line' as in ours, for they are the true key to this industry's long-term success and to the end user's satisfaction.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Volume 35 - Passion and the i.2 Brand

As Charlie Staples says "I add an extra cup of love, that makes my barbecue sauce something special." At the corner of Rayen and Belmont Avenue in Youngstown, Ohio houses a little barbecue joint, owned and operated by one Charlie Staples. His "secret sauce" is his "cup of love", just like "good too the last drop" is Maxwell House's, as well as hundreds of other sayings and slogans to make the customer's experience special.

It isn't any different in the world of Business to Business, when the end user is one step removed. As a private labeled architectural hardware supplier using various revenue streams, in which our product is then resold to the end-user, it still matters that our company enhances 'passion and the brand.' In fact, it could be argued that without these ingredients one would not succeed. Even if a product is technically sound and 'works' (that is expected, so no 'applause' for that achievement), it's the 'passion', drive, energy, attitude and resourcefulness of the people associated with the 'brand' that counts.

Hanging on my office wall is a autographed picture of the guys that made up the resourceful advertising agency DMB&B. The article that was signed was a story (about them) entitled "It Ain't The Meat, It's The Emotion." Done in the early 80's, the guys who worked on the Burger King account strived to do it 'like you wouldn't do it.' But they turned out to be the best dudes for fast times! It truly is about the Emotion, Passion and Drive that separates companies. For those that manage companies that have this unique style, it might also be the ingredient that drives the managing partner 'over the hill', but let the people run; let them solve there own interactive problems, let them know they have the support to experiment, to achieve, as long as individual respect is maintained, and the team is always intact. Connecting these people to the brand in a positive way is the essence of an effective brand, which, 'when it works', is as tangible an asset as brick and mortar. Mix this concoction with a product that works, a marketing program that is innovative, always watching and understanding the cost structure, and the outline of a 'money machine' is in place.

Having stated all of the above, don't be so naive to think that its implementation is the equivalent of a 'walk in the park'; more like the climbing of Mt Everest in the winter! Look at all the really successful companies that exist. Not the ones that grow through M & A, then bubble and explode through 'top number' stupidity, but the ones that really understand and grasp the ability of an individual, and the courage to let them 'run'. Legendary brand builders have focused on building a culture and an internal brand that will sustain profitable growth for decades.

I like to think that we are in the process of creating this environment within i.2, even at this early stage of development, not only with our group of 'owner partners' but with the standards in place for others to join our organization; certainly not 'business as usual'. A 'greenfield' or start-up from a 'clean sheet of paper' concept certainly has its moments, but the ability to construct the functional benefits of a product that consistently works with the emotional benefits produced only by an extraordinary group of people marks the path of a formidable brand.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Volume 34 - Virginia Tech

With the terrible tragedy that took place last week at Virginia Tech, one of our talented members, a former Virginian, Ms Bonnie Buchanan, Operations & Marketing Member-Partner, sets to pen her thoughts of that massacre. Thank you Bonnie for the permission to print your poem, and thank you for your passion and concern.

With Courage and Perseverance,
With Pride and Determination,
I can only watch and admire the strengths in young hearts,
As, I sit in silence a weeping witness and I morn the loss,
I do not morn the loss of anger, hate and violence,
I morn the loss of innocent lives just beginning,
I morn the loss of potential inventors, senators, mothers,
I morn the loss of the lines of lives saddened and shattered,
The lives which will never be…

I morn the loss of fellow Virginians,
A State in which I no longer live, but, which will forever be a part of me.

Do You remember, your college days,
Do You remember, exploring your own ways,
Do You remember all that you learned and tried,
Can You imagine if You had not lived, but died?

What in Your life, would You have missed out on?
Does Your list include triumphs and joys,
Does Your list include loves deep and true,
Does Your list include others, who forever influenced what makes You, You?

Take a moment, stop and breath,
Take a moment and enjoy the simple sight of a Tree,
Take a moment and listen to the laughs of Your children and friends,
Spend a heart beat or two for those who have passed,
Spend a brief moment in time and reflect on the losses of a Virginia Tech Class.

By: Bonnie L. Buchanan
April 17, 2007

Friday, March 30, 2007

Volume 33 - i.2 Series Launch from Independence2, LLC

After two years of research and dedication, the private labeled architectural hardware company, Independence2, LLC, launches the product line of i.2 series for the commercial construction market. This launch represents further credibility for this start up company that has developed specially designed and innovative products with specifically targeted revenue streams within this fragmented market entailing the commercial construction arena.

Independence2, LLC with it's i.2 (trademarked) series of products has all the ingredients not only to be a successful enterprise, but to make a 'mark of difference' within this 'top-dog - bottom feeder' industry. That's because this company is being created on a strong financial foundation within a professional infrastructure and atmosphere, an outstanding marketing plan with a foundation of 'respect for the customer' in an industry not noted for customer responsiveness nor innovation, but only one of 'giant pigs among cheap imitation'.

The hope is, and in fact the outlook is bright, that we can fill revenue slots that make the stocking distributor the focal point within those several revenue streams. Unlike our competition, we respect the customer (stocking distributor) and have individual track records that prove that point. We don't sell to 'Big Box' houses like our competition, whether using their name or under some concocted name with a hidden agenda. We don't sell to manufacturers under one name and then attempt to sell through distribution. Our revenue streams are highly defined and bring our stocking distributors through to the 'end user'. We understand and comprehend the term 'globalization'. We don't hide under some phony pretense, we bring only honesty and integrity to the marketplace.

In a market and industry where products and business are all too undifferentiated, even boring, successful branding and associations can have a significant impact on not only our profit margins but also our stocking customer's profit margins. When was the last time one of your suppliers provided you with an opportunity? With us, just check our website,, to view our latest project in which we brought distribution through to accommodate a high visibility project. Our branded products not only promises reliability and consistency for its intended purpose and application, but are backed by our word; not some slogan or meaningless number.

We believe that the customers, our stocking distributors, want a supplier with with a 'soul' and a 'character'; they want personality and not an unfamiliar voice. We have taken years to launch for we know that this is a very time consuming and expensive effort. It cost money to communicate the values our brand conveys; it is an evolutionary process. We have discovered that this undertaking is not a static undertaking but rather a dynamic activity that requires constant attention to detail. We know that successful product branding is more then just the sum of its logo and name; it is the intrinsic values that not only the brand but the company conveys and believes in that counts. It is the values and benefits that the distributor remembers, not only the functional purpose, but the 'ease of doing business'. Our series of products, i.2, is an emotional brand that evokes strong emotional feelings just like all its members. Contrary to conventional wisdom, 'emotion' and 'passion' does count.

As with all businesses and products, when all the facades are stripped away, the ultimate question is where do the customers, within this supply chain, get the best deal? We at Independence2, LLC with our 1.2 series of products believe that it is imperative to have an equitable system that promises, and guarantees, the best pricing across the entire spectrum of product line thereby balancing single product companies, the 'bottom-feeders', and the controlling forces of the 'giant pigs'. It is this pricing spectrum mixed with our brand specific knowledge and our proprietary knowledge that is the differential factor. Our ability to define 'relationship' that is mutually enhanced with our stocking distribution not only within the confines of the States, but (hopefully) internationally. Our value isn't in the price of a hinge, but in that total spectrum of not only product, but providing service with style and substance.

Our goal is now to develop this recognition and image and thus the clear discernible identity to balance with our strategic direction. Our true value position will be defined in the years to come as a company that redefined industry standards and norms. And although will we always be service oriented, as my personal history clearly shows, as well as product driven with constant Research and Development, we will move toward a 'ease of doing business' unheard of within this industry.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Volume 32 - It's Finally Race Day

As I watch the Daytona 500, although it’s 17 degrees with another 4” of snow from last night and from the outside of my windows the view is Antarctica, I realize that Spring is somewhere ‘around the corner’. Five crew chiefs suspended for cheating, 'comments' from a distinguished car owner, the entry of Toyota into the Nextel Cup Series, the saga of DEI, and the likes of Juan Pablo Montoya. Great upcoming season is upon us!

From the business angle, one of the most prestigous car owners, Jack Roush, just sold 50% of Roush racing to Boston Red Sox owner, John Henry, head of Fenway Investment Group to form Roush Fenway Racing to "raise more money to race." This move will also certainly line the pockets of Jack personally, and will draw tremendous funds into the developmental side of racing. Don’t be surprised if this turns out to be the first IPO for the racing industry. Isn’t Capitalism great! I certainly think so, and it is one more reason why it was such a surprise to hear Jack Roush complain again about the entry of Toyota into the Nextel Cup Series.

Roush, the loudest critic of NASCAR’s decision to allow the Japanese automaker to enter the Nextel Cup series this season, has stated such idiotic statements as 'Americans shouldn’t buy foreign cars because it hurts the economy.' Another example why an engineer should stay within his world of expertise, pocket his money, create great racing endeavors, but certainly keep stupid remarks to himself. Jack, for the record, your Ford Fusions as well as the Dodge Chargers are made in Mexico; the Chevy Monte Carlo’s are made in Canada; and therefore, the only American made car in the Daytona 500 is the Toyota Camry, made in Kentucky!

The entry of Toyota has certainly created more pressure to break the rules; five crew chiefs suspended, hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, and certainly some embarrassment for Toyota as a manufacturer. After millions of dollars into this venture, Toyota had better reconsider who is in charge of development and factory assistance both in operations as well as marketing. Only 4 of 8 cars into the big race with controversy surrounding them doesn't bode well with those results. Sponsorship of the two ‘Red Bull Teams’ should also be screaming bloody murder with neither car being able to qualify. Without some strong leadership infusion into this project, Toyota will face a very long disappointing year.

The drama continues with DEI, Stepmother with ‘Star’ son; but doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Junior will win this messy battle for control. Dale Jr. will do it himself with his own team or, more likely, it will be someone like RCR who will help Junior, with his own team development, as well as pay this talent a super figure that will lead to a Cup championship.

The new talent base of NASCAR is one of it’s greatest assets so, with the addition of individual like Juan Pablo Montoya and other open-wheeled athletes, this is going to be a great season; can’t wait to have a few ‘brews’ with friends of mine at the track!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Volume 31 - Stowe Mountain Lodge Project

As our website,, states Independence2, LLC is very proud to announce our involvement, with two of our Distributor Partners, Mr. James Sandy, President of Total Resources, Niles, Ohio, and Mr. Lee Guterba, Owner of S.R.E., located in Columbiana, Ohio, who will be supplying most of the Division VIII products, on the Stowe Mountain Lodge project in cooperation with Hunt Construction Group, the General Contractor.

Destination Hotels & Resorts will manage this luxury lodge located at the base of Stowe Mountain Resort's Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak. This lodge will feature stone, timber and forged iron work, and each guestroom will take advantage of the surrounding mountain vistas with large windows and oversized balconies. The lodge also includes shared ownership residences and will feature an 18-hole mountain golf course. Other amenities will include an upscale retail plaza, an outdoor ice skating rink and signature restaurants as well as a separate SPA facility expected to be a premier boutique feature of this property.

The Stowe Mountain Lodge project is another prime example, along with the IUPUI Student Center, of Independence2, LLC's Premier Distributor Partnerships Program, which pulls together various 'project work' to benefit Distributors and Independence2, LLC's other Partners and Industry Relationship Contacts, who would like to participate in bidtype project work in conjunction with the General Contractor, architect and design firm.

It seems to me that this is a perfect example of respecting and enhancing the supply chain. If you (as a reader of this issue) are a distributor within the commercial construction market, when is the last time a manufacturer/supplier presented you with an opportunity to enhance your business? If you are involve with architectural hardware, as a distributor - contract door hardware house or locksmith, and carry products like Falcon Lock, Schlage, Dor-O-Matic, Norton, LCN Closers, and Von Duprin, Global Door and others, how do you tolerate these manufacturers selling to the 'Big Box Houses'?

In my Blog, Volume 15 - 'Big Boxes getting bigger', I discuss the future impact on the Contract Door Hardware Distributors and locksmiths within this supply chain and the negative effect of manufacturers/suppliers attempting to eliminate these two vital areas of the Division VIII supply chain. It is very evident on where the 'Big Boxes' are going with their Business Strategy. Although it is always the manufacturer/supplier's decision on the sales strategy a company makes, as it should be; the difficulty with Division VIII is that although it (usually) only makes up 2-4% of the project, it (unfortunately) makes up 25% of the 'grief factor' of a project, mostly due to the fact that even large General Contractors don't understand the intricacies of the Door and Hardware Industry with Distributors at the mercy of manufacturing schedules, delays, incomplete orders, submittal time-lines, ordering processes, etc. etc. etc. Nevertheless without these vital people involved in this supply chain, even more so these days with 'drawings' that are never completed, inadequacies of a door and hardware schedule and outdated specifications, projects regardless of size would never be completed.

Yet, we have top-line oriented manufacturers/suppliers whose business strategy is being executed at the expense of this customer group. Why, as an entrepreneurial business group, would one continually feed those that are positioning themselves to destroy your very business?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Volume 30 - China - Third Edition

Of all the cities visited on my adventure to China, I would have to say that Shanghai was my favorite. The international metropolitan flavor, the architectural skyline, the business mix of people representing all parts of the world, and the mystical nature of the Shanghanese people only highlights this city of 17 million people. Having arrived on a Saturday afternoon, gave me the opportunity to settle into my first weekend in this three thousand year old culture.

Sunday in Shanghai proved to be simply a wonderful, relaxing day with a special twist. Through our partner attorney, Daniel Thomas, we have employed the very competent law firm Calfee Halter & Griswold of Cleveland, for the specifics of trademark law and international law. Because of this relationship, our international lawyer, Bob Ross, Calfee, had made some special contacts for me before my trip. One of these contacts was Mr. Chunyang Shao, partner in the Jun He law firm, located on the top floor of the Kerry Center in Shanghai. Mr. Chunyang picked my interpreter and I up at noon and took us to a spectacular two hour lunch before entertaining us at his 32nd floor office building. The view was spectacular from all four sides of the building giving me a view of this city not seen by many visitors. My sincere thanks to Shao and to Bob Ross for this special time.

From the factories visited during the next few days, the nightlife, the local restaurants, the 'Bund' (the riverside area of the Huangpu River booming with offices, restaurants, and nightlife of Shanghai), the surrounding districts and cities, the Jiading district and the beautiful city of Suzhou, were very special. For example, the Tang Hotel for lunch, with one of our factories, not only is beyond exquisite but within walking distance of the Formula One race track, and the international race that is a regular on the F1 schedule.

The journey continued onto Taiwan and the city of Taipei with an early morning flight that takes you through Hong Kong, since traveling in and out of Taiwan involves customs and immigration, one of simple political inconvenience. This means flying to Hong Kong, de-planeing, checking through immigration/customs, then a new plane to Taiwan, a very long day; unfortunately, I had appointments starting at 4:00 p.m. and didn't stop till late into the night. If there was a good side of this long day, it involved the wonderful experience on Cathay Pacific, the airlines that took me from Hong Kong to Taiwan in which the 'sea bass' was magnificent.

The following day, being the first outside of the Hotel since my arrival and the late night meetings, the first impression hits you immediately that this island is very lush and mountainous. I visited a factory on the North Shore and was taken back with the beauty of this lush, tropical, mountainous area that is joined at its base with waters of the South China Sea, the Taiwan Straits and the East China Sea, a portrait screaming to be painted. Lunch was at a mountain spa from which, in the distance, one could see the city of Taipei, and the tallest building in the world, 'the 101'. On my next trip to Taiwan there will be much more time spent in this very attractive part of China.

Back to Hong Kong for an international Hardware Show, and a meeting with another law firm, and possibly the most powerful lady I've ever met, Y.M.Elaine Lo, partner Johnson Stokes & Master. Somewhat of a light work schedule, but at this time I was feeling burnt, so Hong Kong celebrating Halloween for four nights was quite the site. They actually shut down some streets in the restaurant district for hundreds of thousands of partying people from all over the world. Outside escalators in the SOHO and Lan Kwai Fong areas, with 35 degrees of slop entering one neighborhood onto another is simply worth the trip, not to mention Fat Angelo's, Havanna House, Bulldogs Bar and Grill, and Stanton's, just to mention a few of many hundreds. The central district, the hub of banking, commerce, and shopping is simply awe inspiring.

With the return of Hong Kong and Macau, the last of the European colonies, back to China, there is a real sense that the Chinese destiny is being returned to its rightful place at the center of the world and hopefully will take this challenge to forge with other leadership countries in making this world a better place for all the world's people regardless of politics.