How to Attract Important Collaborators to Your Business

by Dawn Fotopulos on July 2, 2013

Ross and Teddy (as in Theodora) Velys have owned REVCO Electrical Supply in Southampton, New York for over thirty years. The business is a multi-million dollar operation in four locations.


But it wasn’t always so. The early years required some resourcefulness and creativity to attract a key supplier the business needed.

Teddy recently shared the challenges she and Ross faced when they first opened their spectacular Southampton Store.

One of the top electrical manufacturers in the U.S., Square D located in Illinois,  was not convinced REVCO was going to thrive, so they wouldn’t sell their line of electrical products to REVCO, a manufacturer’s distributor.

This line of products was very important to the business because it was high-quality and REVCO customers were always asking for them.

Teddy’s goal was to entice someone from Square D to attend REVCO’s new store opening gala in Southampton. She believed once Square D decision makers saw REVCO’s operation, they  would agree to make REVCO one of their top distributors on the East-coast.

What would you do if you were Teddy to attract the attention of a supplier who refused to sell its product line to you?

Here’s what Teddy actually did and I think it’s absolutely brilliant.  I know there’s application for your business here too.

Marketing Strategy

Step #1: Teddy collected the names of all the senior executives at Square D, including the Chairman and President. She didn’t miss one key decision maker. She was on a mission.

Step #2: Then she gave some thought to what was important to THEM to try to capture their attention.

Step #3: She bought a dozen Square D breakers (used in installing electrical boxes) and had them silver plated. Each one was then engraved with each senior executive’s name on it. (To laymen, a silver plated breaker doesn’t seem very sexy, but to the Square D people, it was hotter than a string bikini.)

Step #4: Teddy had each silver plated breaker wrapped in a Tiffany Blue colored box so it looked like jewelry. If someone delivered one of these to you, it would get your attention, no?

Each gift had a hand-written note to each executive in it, inviting them to attend the big opening.  (When was the last time you received a hand-written note and not a crummy email? We all take hand-written notes more seriously. Always remember this.)

Step #5: What do you think happened? Every single person who received this special, customized gift came to the opening of the store. Then what do you think happened? Square D was quick to make REVCO one of its top distributors of its products shortly thereafter.  That was three decades and millions of dollars of revenue ago.

So what do you takeaway from this great success story?

You too can build valuable customer and supplier relationships.

First, don’t take “no” for an answer if you all you need to do is some trust- building. You have to earn it, but Teddy shows us with some flair and perseverance, it’s not so difficult.

Second, bless someone in a way that matters to them. The invitation came in context. The gift was extremely relevant to the Square D people and she knew it.

The Square D people were very impressed Teddy would go through so much trouble. They saw someone in their industry celebrate and elevate their product. That’s pretty hard to ignore.

Third, customize an invitation as often as you can.  In this world of spam email and blast Tweets, personalize your interactions. Sometimes just a hand-written thank  you note sent “just because” to a great client goes a very long distance. They will never forget you took the time to treat them with respect.

This is the  not the first time someone has suggested this, but how often do you actually follow this advice?

Fourth, your suppliers and your customers should co-create with you. They should give you feedback on your products, services, pricing and promotional plans. They’re experts too. Leverage their knowledge of the market, competition and future trends.

Last, you should identify at least three suppliers or sub contractors who would make great collaborators. Buy them breakfast and ask their opinions. You’d be surprised how much good will you’ll gain and what you’ll learn. Return the favor to them when you can.

REVCO would have missed out on millions of dollars worth of sales had Teddy not taken that extra step to invite Square D.

What opportunities are you facing right now? What strategic partner or collaborator are you already doing business with that has the power to change the future of your business?

Take a risk. Reach out. Get creative. Find bright, colorful, fun and whimsical ways to capture an influencer’s imagination. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just attention-getting.

Then tell us what happened to your business. One thing we can guarantee; it won’t be business as usual.






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