We need to talk…

The Ripples MD considers the value of social media, how to use it and how not to use it, and the benefits of adding the personal touch when it comes to doing business. And as for post-Brexit price rises, well…

I’m pretty promiscuous on social media as I can be a little vain at times. I use Instagram to provide glimpses of my world and to create the impression that I am living the dream, permanently exploring the British countryside on my road bike.

Facebook helps let my family and neighbourhood know that I am alive and well, and taking an active interest with ‘likes’ on their latest trip to the supermarket or amusement at the latest viral video of a dog running into a door.

And my LinkedIn profile can give the impression that I am a gregarious networker of huge importance to the global world of bathrooms, as I freely post, connect and share with exporters from every continent.

I’ve been quite amazed at how powerful sites like LinkedIn can be. It can give you a real feel for who is out there trying to make a difference in their world.

The number of times I am contacted by a manufacturer from abroad to introduce their products or services is nobody’s business, but I really don’t mind. In fact, I like it. I like their ambition, their bravery if you like to even pick up the phone and in a half-learnt version of my own language politely place a foot in the door to seek a meeting. They don’t just want to send me a brochure, they want to fly over and meet me and bring the mother or father that started the business with them.

Rules of social media

I’ve met lots of people and I’ve always left the meeting more knowledgeable of the trading opportunities available and appreciative of the business we have built up in Ripples.

But I have a few rules I stick to pretty religiously, and one is they must never overlap.

If you want to connect with me on LinkedIn, feel free. I’m not inviting you round my house for dinner, so don’t be nervous. If you are being “too cool for school” or lazy by not writing your name using the proper capital letters, I am generally not amused and will ignore you. If you are posing as the Fonz, leaning on your sports car or wearing hardly any clothes, again forget it. And if you want to be my Facebook friend, well please don’t. That’s reserved for friends and family.

What I do find strange is why this doesn’t happen more often. My wife and business partner Nicola was recently invited to present an award on behalf of Ripples and had the pleasure of acquainting herself with new people within the industry, in particular those that were on her table.

One friendly chap, no doubt enjoying a champagne experience at his company’s expense, took great delight introducing the products and services of his organisation and proceeded to express polite frustration that Ripples was missing a trick by not selling their products. And you know what, we might be. But he will never know, because he’s never asked me to sell them.

Post-Brexit, we all need a kick up the backside – starting with myself, my colleagues and any other resource that can help the company improve. The Italians have taught us a great deal about presentation and design and I want to ensure that Ripples improves in this area, too. We owe the customer more respect than to confuse them or, worse, not respect them, and we’ll be undertaking a complete review of all our marketing material.

The Germans have taught us how working to standards and discipline matter. You have a responsibility to work professionally and consistently to a high standard.

Our friends in Denmark have taught us that you can combine personality and integrity with discipline and standards to the point where you feel guilty for reporting a problem. And our employees, contractors and suppliers from eastern Europe have shown us how lazy a lot of us are.

I love trading with Europe, because I like the Continent and the people who live in it. But it annoys me that we generally can’t get the same package from companies who are trading in this country, and it upsets me because we have some great opportunities to do so. There really aren’t that many Continental products sold in Ripples that there isn’t a potential British equivalent of. But will that product look as good, work as well and/or arrive on time and make us money when we have sold it?

It’s not a wish-list, but the minimum requirement for any reseller.

British brands

Many come close to fulfilling these criteria, then let themselves down with the easy stuff like brochure design and the way they train, or don’t train, their sales team to sell it.

There are many good British manufacturers. Perrin and Rowe are on to a good thing and I like their product as much as I like their people, aided by a hard-working bunch at Faucets. I’d say the same about Aqata, Vanity Hall and Adamsez and… well, there the list runs dry.

Sure, there are some great British suppliers of European product we deal with – Thermonet stands out as one and not just because they include Haribo with every order. They stand out because they work hard for it, too.

Before the keyboard warriors among you take umbrage and tell Tim what an arrogant ass I am, don’t worry. I’ve told you already I’m pretty vain. But before you do get upset, take a look in your address book and see if our, or other potential, customers’ contact details are in it. Check when you last visited to introduce yourself or you picked up the telephone.

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