A Distributor Asks: I am having a problem with one of my suppliers. I’ve ordered 1,000 totes every year for several years now. It is not a special order. This time, they didn’t have enough left in stock to complete the order. They’re unsure when the stock will come in. They have my order, and I have approved the proof, so everything is ready to go when the stock comes in. Now, they want me to pre-pay for them to order the stock. I don’t feel it’s appropriate for me to be pre-paying for something they are not even sure they’re going to be able to get. Thoughts?

It would be one thing if they were not able to get the stock in because production and shipping is so bad right now, but the fact that they want you to front the money, that would be worrisome.

Brenda Knoll Budd
BKB Custom Gifts
Gulfport, Florida
PPAI 798305, D1

Don’t pre-pay unless you want to use a credit card and they give you a pre-payment discount, plus no charge for the use of the card. This way you can dispute the charge if it doesn’t come in. Get in writing when the order is due in and a guaranteed cancel date.

Russel Steinberg
Livingston, New Jersey
PPAI 570612, D1

Red flag, and you sense it. Trust your gut on this and find another solution. Best wishes, hope it all works out!

Lisa Deane
Richmond, Virginia
PPAI 579477, D2

A Distributor Asks: I am a one-person shop and looking for an at-a-glance solution so I can see where each client is at in the process. I’m juggling about 60-plus clients at a time. I’m worried about the quality of service decreasing. What do you use to keep track of your orders and where they are in the pipeline?

I recommend Zoho CRM. They’re the most affordable and most effective for us. We’ve tried ActiveCampaign, HubSpot, etc., and they didn’t work out. We can customize Zoho for our needs, and if you take Zoho One, there is a whole load of apps you can use for your business. It has a Kanban-style interface as well. Alternatively, you can use ClickUp as a CRM for free. It has a Kanban-style view as well.

Swadesh Padhi
Marketing Ambassador
Louisville, Tennessee
PPAI 793582, S1

I second Zoho One. It has a projects section you can customize. Nothing beats keeping all your client info in one app. It’s what I used when I had the distributor business, and it allowed me to be very efficient. Now in my agency, I continue to use Zoho and also ClickUp to manage our freelance writers. It’s a good system and could work, too, but with Zoho, you have all the emails, projects and other history on each client’s record.

Gloria Lafont
Action Promo
Plantation, Florida
PPAI 656637, D1

In addition to the proprietary order management system we use, I’ve also been using SAGE project management platform to track things like proofs and shipping that automatically send out to the client and the before-order tasks.

Dawn Marie Perkins
Spotlight Print
& Promo Solutions
Merrimack, New Hampshire
PPAI 693324, D1

A Distributor Asks: We had an employee who used to work for us about four years ago but quit and started her own promo business, taking customers with her. Today, I received a confirmation email from a supplier on an order that I didn’t place. After investigating, I found out that she ordered this item and told the company to search for a repeat order under my company name. How would you handle this?

If everything has been settled, then you could make her aware that you got the confirmation. Or you can just ignore it.

Aaron Saltzman
Silver Line Promotions
Southfield, Michigan
PPAI 486015, D2

I would call the supplier and cancel the order. Let them know the order was placed without your knowledge and the person who placed the order does not have permission to use the artwork.

Kathie Houston
Houston Promotions
Enid, Oklahoma
PPAI 520320, D2

First, you tell the vendor it is not your order and you didn’t approve the order, and if you don’t approve of her accessing the previous order, then you let the vendor know. Most cases the vendor won’t let the new company process as a reorder.

Dawn Kuhse
APP Imprints
Woburn, Massachusetts
PPAI 486015, D3