Stories from the Book

I remember very vividly my first trip to Morocco. Casablanca is a great city and just wandering its streets, looking at the vivid opened markets and smelling all those spices is an incredible experience. I had a great guide, who was also organizing visits with possible costumers, and he took me to some really spectacular places. We visited several restaurants and what I noticed immediately was that there were no chairs. We were sitting on beautiful carpets behind very low tables, so I asked my guide: “What about chairs and cabinets?”
He smiled at me saying: “Well, Morocco is not the best place for selling furniture. We sit on the floor and we put our clothes in chests. The furniture is very simple and usually produced by local carpenters.”

I realized that Morocco definitely isn’t a market to sell furniture. It would be much easier to sell solid planks to traders, who cooperate with local carpenters.

On the other hand every Scandinavian house has a very big table and lots of chairs around for the special occasions when all the family gathers for celebrations. And Scandinavian families are usually big. So if you choose to sell chairs and tables, go to Scandinavia and definitely not to north Africa.

I came to the office very early one morning and checked my mails.

Obiously a former agent of mine changed his e-mail. He sent the new address to everyone, but he forgot to hide mail receivers, so I got a bunch of addresses of new possible costumers. Before I even checked them all, I got a phone call from Denmark from somebody from the list. He also checked the list and phoned me immediately.

That was 5 years ago and today we make several 100.000 EUR turnover per year with this costumer.

There are opportunities to find a new costumer everywhere, just keep your eyes wide open.

The biggest norweggian staircase manufacturer Hagen made the first significant differentiation towards the other stair producers in Norway in 1972. How? They simply did the opposite as all the others.

At the time over 80% of all staircases in Norway were produced from pine, more accurately – pine without knots. So people in Hagen said: “Hey, let us do something totally different”, and they introduced pines with knots to the norweggian market.

Everybody was very sceptical about it, because it was simply crazy to use pine with knots. Within a few years almost everybody followed their example.

Soon after people in Hagen said: “Let us do something even more crazy. Let us lacquer our stairs.” Soon after lacquered stairs were introduced to the market and it was a revolution. Until that moment stairs were raw.

Not only they stood out of the crowd, they created history by doing it. Nowadays all stairs are varnished one way or another and knots in pine are as normal as a smoked salmon on a typical Norwegian buffet table.

I visit my costumers in Scandinavia at least 3 times a year and I make sure I am there also in June, when Norway looks like heaven on earth with all rivers, fjords, mountains and snow. It was a beautiful day as I drove through fjords to a very important costumer, who was buying furniture from us.

I had to raise the price, because of the raw material. I knew that my costumer will accept the raise, but for how much.

I made exact plan and wrote down all calculations and explanations. I was determined to get the raise I wanted.

First surprise was that also the general manager came to negotiate with me, which never happened before. So there were three against one, but it didn’t bother me. Anyway I made my presentation and explained everything.

The opposite site tried to argue the raise of raw material, but I was well prepared with documents.

Then I made a mistake.

The general manager said to me: “OK, we agree, but 4% is too much. Let us make it 3,5% and finish this.”

Instead of trading concessions I immediately replied: “OK, no problem.”

I realized my mistake before I finished the sentence, but it was too late. It was not about 0,5% I lost, it was about the way I blew it.

And the worst part was, that the general manager probably had impression, that I did not give him the best offer, because I gave something for nothing in a second.

I don’t work with this company anymore, but I am sure the general manager would remember my mistake by the next negotiating. He would know I have some reserve, because people don’t forget.

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