This news made me happy - Butler and Tanner are going to get a new lease of life from entrepreneur Felix Dennis (whose rather excellent book I read last year - even though I had to hide it on the bus since its title is How To Get Rich which is not the sort of thing you really want to be spotted with, no matter how genuine my desire to do exactly that). It made me reflect on the importance of suppliers to the publishing industry, and on our own suppliers in particular. In the olden days, at Kingfisher, my profession was managing suppliers, since I was a buyer. I know, and understand, all the theory. I have run really quite brutal tenders, and culled 60% of an inflated supplier base. Remember that this is not a period of my life I am particularly proud of, whilst I tell you that one discontinued supplier would phone me late at night with his wife and child crying in the background, yelling at me, telling me I'd ruined his business and his life by discontinuing his products from B&Q. I probably had. I was just following orders. Sigh. So much to make up for.
So it's important to me at Snowbooks that we have good relationships with our suppliers, that we work with companies we like, and that we treat them in a nice and friendly manner. Some, like Zen Internet, Cerub PR, the fabulous and wise ladies at Allison and Busby who manage our sales, our accountants Vantis, our bank Coutts, my wonderful, frequently-life-saving bookkeeper Kundan, the office supplies company Euroffice and the IT supplies company Dabs take my breath away with their astonishingly good service, charm and all round efficiency. Others who I am forced to deal with, such as BT, are of course appalling, and I'll move away from them the first chance I get. Still more don't even seem to realise that they're suppliers, and we're the customer, like some sales agencies, literary agents and, indeed, authors.
And there are others who I talk to day in, day out - without whom, and their support and competence, Snowbooks would be lost. Take, for instance, the marvellous JH Haynes and Co., Ltd, of Sparkford, Yeovil, Somerset. They print all our books, to what I feel is the highest standard for the cost, in Somerset. Yes, they even print our four colour books, at prices that are certainly comparable with the Far East and definitely in a more convenient location.
It is a real pleasure to have a working relationship with a company who clearly care about their work, and who have a lightness of touch when it comes to balancing cheerfulness with competence. They keep their promises. If something goes wrong, they're straight on the phone. They worry, obsess and panic on my behalf over problems that I wouldn't really worry too much about, like whether a piece of embossing is going to stand up proud enough - but they do, because they are Good Eggs. Charles, my contact, often emails me at 7.30 on a Saturday morning - I think he works more hours than I do.
I would recommend them above all others - and I've used many of the others at some point. Although I'm trying to atone for my sins as a multiple retailer buyer, I still obsess about cost, and Haynes knock their competition into a cocked hat on that score, to the extent that I actually feel rather aggrieved at some of my previous print suppliers for charging me so much more for a lower quality job.
More companies should be like Haynes - diligent, obsessive, friendly, hard working and proud. I don't think anyone there actually reads my ramblings, but if you do, thanks, chaps, for all you do for us. And thanks to all the suppliers who really do work so hard on our behalf.