View Full Version : Any advice on Dealing with Knifemakers?

08-20-2001, 11:11 AM
Makers feel free to chime in. I have gotten feedback I am too forceful, overbearing etc. What is a good way to build rapport with makers over the internet, as I don't yet have the capital to go to 10-20 shows a year.

Don Cowles
08-20-2001, 12:20 PM
It's very difficult to jump into a new venture without having gone through the dues-paying process ...and with insufficient capital.

Let me rephrase that: it is difficult to be *successful* in a new venture...

Part of the dues paying is going to shows -doing your homework, as Les says. That usually includes doing a lot more listening than talking for some period of time, probably measured in years. And, only then, deciding what you want to attach your name to in terms of promotion and sales.

Most of us are impatient for the results we want, me included. I have no fewer than 4 or 5 failed businesses under my belt. Those frustrating experiences were, in my case, part of the homework I had to do to gain the understanding that I have today.

08-20-2001, 12:44 PM
Well...I have not much experience with dealers..(except you Paul)..But I know what I like in a customer: I like them to know what they want but are willing to listen to what I have to say on the matter. I like freedom when making knives but not so much that I just make what I want and might disapoint the customer. I like to communicate but don?t need emails every week asking when the knife will be ready when the deliverydate is months ahead. However friendlly emails are allways welcome and I have quit a few customers who I call friends.

08-20-2001, 08:12 PM
I guess I like to hear from my customers. Like Jens I have many who I would now call friends. I've had two customers in 5 years that were overbearing. Paul, overbearing you are not!!!!

I wish I could attend more shows though. I know this has hurt my growth and development as a maker. However, it's a fact of life that I have to deal with and work around.

Like Don said it will take time and $$$. This is a constant no matter what business you're in. Hang in there and you'll make it.

Les Robertson
08-20-2001, 08:16 PM

Today there are more knife dealers than ever. Most who call themselves custom knife dealers are not. They primarily sell factory and are looking to pick up one or two customs to try them out at the local show.

So makers are besieged by those claiming to be dealers. For $18 you can get a thousand business cards from Kinko's and you are on your way.

If you were to attend any major custom knife show you would find there would be at least 30 "dealers" walking the room.

As you can imagaine it is even worse on the Internet. I receive about 3-5 emails a month from "dealers" wanting my wholesale catalog. This is an obvious tip off that these "dealers" know nothing about custom knives.

Paul, you are going at your dealership from a unique angle. And your lack of working capital is going to slow your progress.

Makers today, as they should, expect something for their money. Several makers I know, view the discount they give dealers their "advertising" budget.

However, these same makers are not inclined to give dealers who do not attend shows any kind of discount at all. There thinking is, I have a web site, I need exposure beyond that.

So while your ideas will appeal to the new maker who does not have a web site and/or cannot travel to shows. It will have less apeal to more established makers.

It is difficult, especially over the Internet to introduce your business ideas to makers. Most of the makers out there, have heard from so many dealers they don't know if you are legit or not.

Also, you have to remember, that probably only about 25% of the makers out there are Internet friendly. So if your only contact is by email, it will be a slow road indeed.

As Don pointed out paying your dues, whether a maker or a dealer is important. Even for some dealers with a large amount of working captial, they cannot in some cases get tables at shows, or get discounts from the well known makers either.

I agree with Jens, if you are getting comments that you are to overbearing then you are emailing or calling too much.

If a maker tells me the knives will be ready in October and it is June. I don't contact them in August and say are the knives ready.

Each maker has their own tempo. They also have their own habits that you need to become aware of. Learing how to "read" a maker will help you get the maximum amount of knives out of them.

A lot of makers can need a kick in the butt and you do need to contact them every month. Some may just be social types who love to talk knives as well as make them. Others work to a schedule and you can count on them plus or minus a week to have your knives on time.

Paul, you are going to have to learn "knife maker" talk. This is something you will learn with the to speak with the makers you work with. But only time and experience will teach you what the words they speak really mean.

As Don pointed out patience is for most of us our worst enemy. We want it and we want it yesterday.

The first 8 years I was a custom knife dealer I worked full time in the Army. This gave me time to develop clientel, develop relationships with makers, establish myself within the custom knife community.

During these 8 years I taught myself "knife maker" talk. I learned how to get the most out of the makers I worked with. This was something that the maker and I discovered together.

Once I went full time, the makers that wouldn't work in a professional manner were fired. Fortunately, I had put myself in a position by that time that it was easy for me to find new makers to work with.

As it will be for you 9 years from now.


Rade L Hawkins
08-21-2001, 10:42 AM
Paul my advice to you is "treat the makers like you would like to be treated". Over bearing dealers who are, know it all, and demanding will not survive in the new information age. A mutual respect must be developed between both parties. A maker must be able to make what the customes want but in return a dealer has to move knives. Good makers demand good dealers that can sell enough knives to warrent the discount given. I know some very good makers who don't sell but a very few knives to customers but 90% of there out put goes to dealers. Then there are makers like myself who do not sell any knives to dealers,simpley because I like the personal relationship dealing with the customer.

Les Robertson
08-21-2001, 11:37 AM

I agree with what you say. Goes back to the "everything we needed to learn about dealing with people we learned in Kindergarten.

The makers and dealers who develop a long term relationship. Each has a set of skills the other can utilize to maximize their exposure.

Rade you are correct, makers should expect dealers to do something to earn their discount.

When I get some time, Im going to post my thoughts on custom knife dealers.


08-22-2001, 09:15 AM
Thanks for the advice guys. Will work on it.

Don Cowles
08-23-2001, 08:45 AM
Paul, I'll add this comment as well. You are currently "representing" a number of makers without actually buying their knives. Most established makers will expect to receive payment for their products, so you, to be a successful dealer, will at some time have to decide to make that investment. If you can't do that, then this is probably not the business for you to be in.

08-23-2001, 11:16 AM

At this time I do have a different business plan than other dealers, one that works for me, and my makers at least i would hope that my makers are happy with it. When I have become more stablished am much more cash solvent I do plan to change that business plan. At this time it is all I have. And yes I do thing about the business and my business plan on a daily basis. I am here and I don't plan on going away, eve though there are many who wish I would.

Yes I am overbearing at times and I may be hard to swallow for some of the more genteel knifemakers and collectors, but I am who I am, just as everyone else is, and how I was raised, in a Nazarene pastors' home influenced me alot. Also being Dutch does not help the mix.

I really enjoy positive feedback and strokes but being told i need to change my business practices or rethink being in the business over and over again does not set well with me.

I do what I can and it's all I can do at this time. If it loses me business, or big name makers (who I don't have) so be it. I am here, I am trying my best, take me as you will.

Thanks for listening, er . . reading

08-23-2001, 07:57 PM
Perhaps there is a plausible reason you are being told something "over and over". Just because it's not what you want to hear does not mean it is not "positive feedback". Once again, if you don't want to know the answers, don't ask the question!!


08-23-2001, 10:00 PM
Paul, are you asking for the same commission as the discount asked for by purveyors who purchase knives from their makers?

I am curious because I sell a few pieces of art over the Internet. The stuff is very high end. I do not buy it, I take a commission. If I purchased the stuff out right, on the basis of reselling, I would want the discount to be larger than the commission.


08-24-2001, 12:47 AM
Actually no i do not ask the same amount as a reseeler does. I ask a very small amount for my services. Send me an email if you have anymore questions about how i work.


08-24-2001, 09:52 AM
Paul, at this point I am a hobbiest and may be a hobbiest for ever. I was trying to get a feel for what you are doing. You obviously enjoy your work, your excitement in it is easy to see. You seem relentless in your drive to sign up makers. You have a nice web site with a good variety of good makers. I have seen where more than one maker has recommended you to other makers. You never miss an opportunity to place a for sale post and you don't seem to sleep. About the only thing I see you doing which I find a tad overdone is your habit of complimenting every knife and web page that comes along.

All in all, if I were trying to sell knives I would sure use your services.

I think that I would want you to get to know me and my knifemaking philosophy, I would want you to believe in me as a maker.


08-24-2001, 12:27 PM
Thanks for the input, i enjoy positive feedback, makes me feel like I am not wasting my time. I work very hard on my website and yes I don't sleep too much ;-)

As for the complimenting knives and websites, I hear you, but if I do compliment either it is because I truly like the work I see.

Have a good one!