Mark My Words—March, 2018

By Mark Lipton,

  Filed under: Departments, Mark My Words

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Contributing Writer

Get With the Program

Growing up, when my grandparents didn’t want you to know what they were saying they would speak Yiddish! In a room crowded with people, they had all the privacy they wanted, When my daughter is home from school, she has the same desire for privacy that my grandparents had. As you can imagine though, her Yiddish skills are not as sharp as our European progenitors. Fortunately for her and her friends, they don’t really speak the same English I do anyway. If you’re saying: “hundy pee, that’s lit! If you don’t sip your tea that savage will leave you salty!” there’s a pretty great chance that I’m not going to understand you anyway. So, she can also speak freely: in Yiddish or whatever that is she’s speaking!

As an independent paint retailer, I prefer a little more clarity in the words when “peeps hit up my digits!”

How many car commercials have you heard where the company claims that they make the safest cars? They can’t all be right, can they? Well if no one is saying anything too specific, I guess they can!

There are several companies (or divisions of companies) that claim to be the friend of independent paint retailers. Many claim that they have programs designed specifically for us. I think that’s great! We are a vibrant channel of entrepreneurs responsible for billions of dollars in coatings and sundry sales. Manufacturers should be courting us individually and as a group. But claiming you’re a friend to independents or have programs to help independents is a bit like claiming you’ve got the safest car or largest burger: give me the deets as my daughter would say. “Where’s the beef?” is what us old folks ask.

If you say to me that you have programs designed to help an independent dealer grow with your brand, do have evidence of that you can share? I want to see case studies of dealers who have used your brand and programs to add sales and market share. I want to see evidence of dealers that have successfully added stores because your brand created an environment for them where that could happen. And I want to see the specifics of the program that allowed them to do those things! Did you help them find a location, build it out, fund the start-up in some other way, give subsidies to offset risk for the first years, help identify available personnel, share thin client POS software to save expense?

I am sure that all paint manufacturers have stories of dealers that opened stores with their brand and had success, that doesn’t mean that the manufacturer caused that success in any way. Unless we see evidence of programs that created success, it’s more likely that the entrepreneur dealer created that success than a brand. So lets be specific: if you are causing success for independent paint retailers, HOW? What programs that are available to all your customers show that you will be part of my success?

I spend a lot of time in these pages talking about my daughter and the nutty things she says and does. For a change of pace, I thought I would talk about myself for a second. I spent last week at the ALLPRO show. I am always surprised, flattered and truly grateful when anyone approaches me and says that they read or enjoy my writing. I have spent my entire life surrounded by paint dealers. Three of the finest people I have ever known: my father, grandfather, and great-grandmother were all paint dealers. I have enormous respect and affection for paint dealers and I am honored and humbled that I may have reached or touched any of you in some way.

At the shows, I’m always flattered to see how many of you that seems to be. Some share that they read my column and enjoy it. Others of you have shared that I seem to read your mind as I write. It’s not true that I read minds, but we are all traveling down the same road. It’s true I do a lot of writing and consulting, but I am still a paint dealer first and foremost and rarely a day goes by when I am not wearing my dealer hat.

To those that read my efforts here, whether you agree with my point of view always or never: thank you for reading. I’m grateful that you give my writing your time. Please always feel free to approach me and share what’s on your mind. If you don’t attend ALLPRO or the NHS (this May in Vegas), email or call me and share what you’re going through. I believe that sharing ideas makes us all stronger and I’m glad to play a small part in doing that. Often when I write about a topic, I am blending experiences that I have had with those shared by others. So please, I need you to keep your thoughts coming, and I’ll keep writing them down! And thank you so much for sharing with me that my writing matters to you.

Mark Lipton is the 4th generation owner of Tremont Paint in New York City as well as a consultant to the coatings industry.