Brandt On Leadership -- Customers We Love To Hate

April 13, 2006
Moochers, freeloaders and others for whom we just can't do . . . too little.

Welcome once again to Capstone Screw's annual customer awards program, at which we recognize those customers who did the most to make our lives a collective living hell over the past year. Time prevents me from going into detail about every customer we could have recognized, but then again, you know who you are and what you did (and, more importantly, so do we, which is why you'll be seeing that 8% "special service" surcharge on all your invoices this year). So let's get right to them, the winners of Capstone's own Golden Screw Awards:

Best Use of Our Cash in a Supporting Role: There's nothing we love better than loaning our working capital out at 0% interest, and when it comes to taking advantage of our dependence on your business, there's nobody like DNR Motors! As you know, DNR isn't just our largest customer, it's also our slowest receivable by an astounding 32 days. My favorite story about this lovable 800-pound bully of a client is when our CFO asked if DNR could please, please, please clean up some 120-days-plus invoices. DNR's reply? "Maybe we'll just go to China." DNR, this Golden Screw is for you!

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See Brandt On Leadership: John Brandt's new blog about bad bosses, fictional employees, corporate misbehavior and the importance of never being 5 minutes late to work when you can get away with an entire hour.
Leading Role in a Strategic Partnership: I know I speak for all of us at Capstone when I say that we've learned a lot about "strategic partnering" in the last few years -- enough, in fact, that whenever a customer even mentions the phrase, we instinctively button the flaps over our wallets. Nobody has taught us more, though, than our favorite big-box retail partner, BLOAT-Mart. Through your innovative strategic partnering programs, we've developed dozens of new products that never moved off your shelves and likely will never leave the warehouse we had to rent when you returned them all just three months later. Thanks to your keen interest in our technology, people we've never heard of in places we can't pronounce now make outstanding knockoffs of our core products. Most impressive of all, thanks to your tough-love approach to costs, we now can make screws at half the price we used to -- and at 1/20th the margin. BLOAT-Mart, come get the big Golden Screw you deserve!

Technical Award for Most Effective Mooching: Along with our larger customers, each year we also like to recognize some of the little guys -- customers whose small budgets and even smaller consciences don't prevent them from taking us to the cleaners in a big way. This year's winner is Dick Smeagol, purchasing director for tiny DFI Wholesale. Despite placing just a single (miniscule) order with Capstone in the past 12 months, Dick showed up at every golf event, trade show reception and free conference or breakfast we sponsored last year, and even asked for extras of all our logo giveaways, from leather portfolios to golf towels to pens. Don't bother asking Dick for a sales appointment, though; he's too busy surfing the Web behind his closed office door to see you. Any idea how those Capstone Screw golf balls ended up on eBay, Dick? Just kidding! Come on down and take your Golden Screw, you lovable loser!

With any luck at all, it'll be the last thing we ever give you.

John R. Brandt, formerly editor-in-chief of IndustryWeek, is CEO of the Manufacturing Performance Institute, a research and consulting firm based in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Also see Brandt On Leadership: John R. Brandt's new blog about bad bosses, fictional employees, corporate misbehavior and the importance of never being 5 minutes late to work when you can get away with an entire hour.

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