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How to Evaluate a Building Materials Distributor

Managing a construction business is hard work. Success requires examining many different factors such as finishing projects on time, sticking to clients’ exacting standards, determining the logistics of labor and materials, and maintaining a reputation for consistent quality. However, every contractor and developer who excels in those areas has one thing in common: a good building materials supplier.

A building materials distributor should be more than just a vendor of supplies. They should be an active part of the process that provides the tools for success and fuels the growth of your business. A bad supplier can sabotage even the best construction projects, and a great supplier can help save a challenging project from the brink of failure. As such, it is crucial to find a reliable and trustworthy partner who can get you what you need, when you need it.

When evaluating different distributors, begin by asking these questions:

Does the Building Materials Distributor Deliver on Time?

This is the most essential trait a supplier needs to have. Work at a job site can be slowed to a halt when materials show up late, or worse, simply never come. When checking references and reviews, keep a sharp eye out for any mention of late and failed deliveries and consider the context.

If the order was running late, did the distributor offer a substitute product that worked just as well and could come at the same time? Did they communicate the problem days or weeks beforehand, or was it discovered the same day? Supply chain interruptions and other problems are unavoidable sometimes, but a good supplier will make sure their client’s project succeeds even when difficulties come up.

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Do They Promise Proper Order Fulfillment?

Of course, every distributor will tell their customers they deliver on time. Whether they live up to that promise is another question, so look at the details of it before buying. Does the supplier openly commit to delivering when they say they will? Do they offer substitutions and replacements when unavoidable problems arise? Is there a way to keep in touch and stay updated on the status of orders?

Having tangible mechanisms in place to ensure your materials arrive when you expect them–and having real consequences like free replacements if they’re late–means that the supplier has the structure and incentive to back up the promise of on-time delivery. GMs and CMs depend on building materials distributors to keep a project running smoothly, so make sure to choose a company that can hold up their end of the deal.

What is Their Reputation?

Within every region, people in the construction industry talk. Without even trying, they create a tight-knit community. And like any community, they develop an intimate knowledge of the good, bad, and ugly players in their locale. Often, to rule out a bad supplier, all you have to do is ask around. Inquiring with just one or two other commercial contractors about the timing, quality, and placement of deliveries can provide a wealth of information on building materials distributors. Most established, trustworthy suppliers can provide a laundry list of independent references and reviews upon request. Following up on that list is a matter of due diligence, so don’t skip it.

Are They Experienced?

For building materials distributors, age is more than just a number. Suppliers with decades of operating experience can say they have made it through the challenging start-up phase of their business and continued to thrive throughout booms and busts in the industry. Experience counts for a lot in construction. However, any con artist can print “Established 1952” on their advertising, so it’s worth confirming. How? Most states have a publicly accessible database listing the dates of incorporation for every relevant legal entity. Put simply, you can go online and verify whether a business was incorporated or founded when they say they were.

How is Their Customer Service?

There are few things more frustrating than unanswered questions. When you call a building materials distributor, their staff should be able to answer your questions clearly and competently. Check their website and see if they list the experience their reps have (often as combined experience or individual profiles under “Our Team”).

Another easy test is to simply call the company’s sales team and ask about a product you’re familiar with. Quiz them a little bit, inquire about potential replacements, and dig into the pros and cons. This will give you a general understanding of how informed they are. Not many suppliers can pass this test consistently, so if you find one that can, they are certainly worth considering.

Do They Have Good Relationships With Manufacturers?

Building materials distributors need to maintain good relationships with the brands they work with because, otherwise, they can’t demand priority deliveries. Reliable suppliers tend to foster close business relationships with product reps, which translates to preferential treatment for you down the line. That should be reflected in their lead times and fill rates, too.

Which Brands do They Offer?

A good building materials distributor should offer the regional, national, and international brands that their customers want. However, they should also be able to leverage good working relationships with those brands and get you preferential deliveries.

At Metro, we have close ties to brands like National Gypsum, Owens Corning, Clark Dietrich, Roxul, Rockfon 3M, Grabber, and many more. Since 1984, we have remained committed to on-time delivery for every order and earned our reputation for reliability in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

With more than 60 years of combined experience, our sales representatives are ready to answer any questions you may have. Contact us today to learn how Metro can help your business.