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Al’s column: It pays to invest in technology

August 20/27, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 5

By Lisbeth Calandrino

Talking with a progressive retailer in the flooring business is a breath of fresh air. Not long ago, I spoke with Ted Gregerson, owner of Abbey Carpet, Anniston, Ala. I had heard Gregerson runs a successful shop and stays ahead of the game, and I wanted to learn more.

What impressed me was his attitude—forward thinking and always looking for new ways to improve his business and staff. It’s obvious that everyone is important to his business. According to Gregerson, it’s not just one thing that makes him successful; it takes a dedicated team. His executive team consists of Ron Hurley, vice president, and Gracie Jancsek, director of marketing.

I asked Gregerson what it takes to be a leader in the flooring industry. He explained his willingness to embrace technology has been his model for success. Gregerson believes over the next 10 years there will be a culling of flooring stores unless they are willing to keep up with technological advancements. This means spending money on websites and other tools.

The economic slowdown in 2007 had a profound effect on Gregerson. Many stores went out of business, yet some grew stronger. Gregerson realized the difference was a store’s willingness to change. Social media was just starting, so even the strong flooring stores had a huge learning curve.

Like many others, he had to learn the hard way—for example, running his own social media. Eventually, he realized his operation would have to create its own social media model, so he hired an outside firm.

“The learning curve has been what I call ‘wow,’” Gregerson said. “I started with a tape measure and paper and pen, and now we’re using RFMS and Measure Mobile software. There was a point where I went out and bought iPad Pros for everyone in our company. Every day we got better. This level of sophistication builds confidence with our customers, and we rarely get requests for lower prices. You can tell that it makes a huge impression on the customer.”

According to Gregerson, the company’s iPads are now being used for more than just basic measuring. Employees are collecting finished job photos to show potential customers what installed products look like. The company also has price books, warranty information, cleaning care guides, copies of the business license and other important forms all on the device.

“We also use them as a way to get picking tickets to our warehouse guys,” Gregerson added. “It is amazing how many uses we have come up with since we have had them. If we ever did away with iPads or measure mobile, we would have guys quit who were once the people complaining about [these tools] at first.”

Beyond embracing technology, one of the keys to being a leader in the industry is ongoing training, according to Hurley. “Good training motivates people to learn new skills and inspires them to want to get better. We all have to change, and training is one way to point people in the right direction.”

Twice a year, Gregerson shuts all three stores, rents a hotel and has all-day training sessions with catered breakfast and lunch. The company uses suppliers for product training and mostly does its own in-house training. Jancsek teaches the salespeople how to get photos off the website, tag customers and share posts.

This is the first time I’ve heard of a flooring dealer use his or her marketing department to educate his or her team on social media.

It’s not only a great idea, it’s a smart thing to do.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.