Attention OEMs: When you choose a vendor, first tell the losers “No”, then share why so you can get more innovative products next go around!

This year I have learned two things as an automotive supplier when we lost deals:

  1. We rarely get a “No” answer (or any response) when the answer is no.
  2. In the rare situation where we do get an email saying “Sorry, you have not been selected”, I have to go digging around with suppliers to figure out why we weren’t selected.

Look, failure is required to be successful in any startup. I probably fail more times in one day than most large companies fail in a month. The difference is our team is encouraged to push the boundaries and innovate. This leaves the big companies reading about our successes in analyst reports and award briefings, and resorting to ‘synergy planning sessions’ to figure out how a team of 15 roughnecks out of a sliver of an office in Ferndale flanked the big guys with their army of cubes. (We fail in R&D, not doing commissioned work.)

The fact is that our failures lead to award winning products that do jobs our customers don’t even realize they need to have done yet.

So why is it that we can’t get a straight answer on why we aren’t in more cars. When I was pitching angel investors (back in 2008) to invest or loan me money to hire people, they were very fast to say “No, we aren’t investing because of X,Y,Z reasons.” I hate losing more than anything else in the world. But the value of losing those deals was learning what it would take to get funded.

In 2009 and 2010, our retail customers had the professionalism to just say “No, you didn’t make the retail floor.” Ironically the usual answer back then was “Sorry, but we are going to go with a name brand people know.” My personal favorite is and will probably always be in 2009 “Nobody knows who Pandora is and they will probably be out of business shortly.” At least buyers gave me a straight answer and I still have strong relationships with those buyers.

Now fast forward to 2012 (soon to be 2013) and I still hate No’s more than ever! It’s the reason I work on day’s like today (see date of post.) But for some reason in the automotive industry, (generally) there isn’t the accountability to provide a No. I am not 100% sure but I think its part “not built here syndrome” and part “I don’t want to push you away because you may be right.” Either way, if my job is doing jobs for OEM customers, I would think that OEMs would have all the upside to tell me what I can do for them to make their cars better (taking care of a hard jobs they have.)

(or I guess it could also be that I just don’t listen to the No’s, who knows?)

I’m really glad we are getting more Yes’s than No’s, ya know?

(e.g. I have one prospect OEM customer a few weeks ago that said “Jake, I’m not going to take Livio Connect as we already have our own XYZ that we use. However I have a problem with doing ABC on a 123 with my car. If you can fix that, you’ll get the business.” Guess What! Our engineers have a demo for ABC on 123 ready to go for our meeting at CES… everyone wins!) …That’s how we roll in the D