We recently held a webinar with Scott Ferguson, who has been in the pool and spa industry for 21 years and is now the Vice President at United Aqua Group. A buying group with over 300 pool and spa professionals across the United States and about 265 vendors. They refer to their members as owners, because that’s exactly what they are. Through simply buying product through United Aqua Group, their owners are earning shares of UAG stock plus many more financial benefits for simply being a part of the buying group.
Like many companies throughout the COVID pandemic, UAG have seen lots of supply chain challenges but also truly unprecedented demand for certain products including swimming pools with people spending a lot of time at home and being focused on improving their home environments. To overcome these various challenges, UAG have found that by harnessing the power of their vendor relationships will not only help them grow but also motivate the vendors to give their all to the relationship to ensure they both succeed.
Be upfront about any supply issues
Scott says “One of the things that we try to do for our owners, whenever it’s necessary, practical or requested, is to try and provide alternatives and options to them, so that they can get the products that they need. And of course, in order to do that, we have to be very familiar with our vendors and their offerings, we have to have great relationships with them. We have to know that we’re going to get the truth from them, that they’re giving us the real story about what’s available, and when it’s going to be coming through the supply chain.”
Scott continues, “This is challenging for sure, but I don’t want to overstate this, but for the most part, we’ve been able to work through major issues, because we’ve developed close vendor relationships and we’re able to help our owners source some kind of a possibility. It might not mean immediate fulfillment of an order, but at least we are putting them in a position to not terribly disappoint their customers.”
Build trust and transparency with real-time visibility
Scott says, “One of the reasons that we chose to work with Enable… I mean, the product is fantastic, but for all of us at UAG and our vendors, we have the confidence that all the information that we’re sharing when it comes to our incentive programs, it’s all in one place, it’s in real time, it’s accurate, the calculations are being done automatically, and so now it’s taken something off of our collective plate. So, whereas before we had to spend a lot of time, emails back and forth, looking at spreadsheets. We have managed to extract ourselves from that world, that manual labor, if you will, by working with Enable and getting all of our programs set up”.
Scott continues, “Our vendors love it, they have access to their program, they can see what’s entered. We can see what’s happening in real time, our purchase data is loaded, therefore it’s making the calculations based on the program information automatically and immediately. Ultimately the biggest impact has been on vendor relationships, them being pleased to see that we’re utilizing the technology, them being happy that these calculations are being done automatically, it’s a big load off their minds, it’s a big load of work off our plate.”
Accurately calculate your rebates
Scott says, “Once, we got all of the program information loaded, keep in mind for us, that was well over 100 different programs. We have 265 vendors, but not all of them offer incentives, we’re working on that. So we had a lot of programs to enter. Once we did that, and by the way, with a tremendous amount of help, guidance, assistance, from Enable, we then knew that with a couple of quick tests and checks, we knew that, okay, it’s all just happening. All the calculations are being made. We don’t have to think about it, we don’t have to worry about it. It’s just happening, and we know that it’s accurate. So now, as a matter of routine, all we’re doing is an occasional spot check. If a vendor sends over some information as they’re going to often make their own calculations just for their own records, they have their own systems, that’s fine. So if they sent us some information, all we now do with it, is open it up and give it a quick check, and compare it to what’s in Enable. Okay, good, we’re on the same page, everything’s working as it should.”
Scott continues, “We could even then load that data into Enable, it can stay there, it can be housed there. So that at a glance, we could compare that, to the calculations that Enable is making. So, the idea is not to even necessarily eliminate and push aside all other sources of data, it’s there if you want to look at it, and make sure that everything’s as it’s supposed to be, but you don’t have to rely on that as your primary method of ensuring that incentives are allocated properly. The data is accurate, we can check in real time the performance of any deal that is in place with a vendor. And again, we know that we are seeing that calculation occur in real time, immediately based on data, right from our system, connected automatically to Enable.”
Have confidence in the technology
Scott says, “Enable is something that I’m hoping we start to see widespread in the industry, because rebates and incentives are a very prominent, popular and a longstanding part of our industry. And to me, it’s just a no-brainer to have that tech working for you. I started at UAG in January of 2020, and we were looking for all kinds of ways to do things differently, do things better, and do them more efficiently. So collectively, we were in a meeting and talking about rebates and incentives and so on, and it just became obvious so quickly that we don’t want to do it this way anymore. This way meaning the spreadsheets, the emails back and forth, the confusion, the let’s look at your numbers compared to my numbers, and what’s the difference between the two of those things. So it was like this collective epiphany that we just knew that there has to be a better way, we didn’t know what that was at the time, and we had to find out what it was.”
Scott continues, “Enable has helped us to develop stronger vendor relationships, and we do think of them as partners, we can’t operate without them. Our owners want an incredible array of products, they’re loyal to one vendor or another. They want to be able to access all those products and again, having that confidence in the technology working for us, has strengthened our vendor relationships. Plus, quite honestly, they have given kudos to us by saying “Hey, good for you, you’re the only ones we work with who have bothered to work with this kind of technology to make the rebate management process simpler”. Hopefully now, there are more and more people taking advantage of it. When we first brought on Enable, it seemed to be a revelation to our vendor trading partners, where they even commented, “Hey, this is great, it’s about time” and “This is, wow, we should have been doing this for years.”