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Al’s column: Success waits for those who seek change

November 12/19, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 11 

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’d heard Gregerson runs a successful shop, and I wanted to learn more.

What impressed me most was his attitude: forward thinking and always looking for new ways to improve this business and his 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. In his case it’s being with his executive team, which includes Ron Hurley, vice president, and Gracie Jancsek, director of marketing.

Gregerson believes his willingness to embrace technology has been his model for success. Over the next 10 years, he predicts there will be a culling of flooring stores unless they are willing to keep up with technology. This means spending money on websites and other tools.

The fall of the economy 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. Survival meant doing very different things that had no precedence.

Like many others, he had to learn the hard way, for example, by 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.

Gregerson recalls the learning curve being a steep one. “I started with a tape measure and paper and pen and now we’re using RFMS and Measure Mobile software,” he told me recently. “There was a point where I went out and bought iPad Pros for everyone in our company. 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.”

Gregerson’s employees use their iPads for more than just basic measuring. “We have hundreds of job pictures on them for salespeople to be able to show potential customers what a product looks like installed. We have price books on them, along with warranty information, cleaning care guides, copies of business licenses and other forms they may need from time to time. We want everything to be at their fingertips to where they always have it with them. We also use them as a way to get picking tickets to our warehouse guys.”

I am always interested in what stores are doing to train their employees. Hurley, a critical player on Gregerson’s team, believes ongoing training is one of the keys. “Good training motivates people to learn new skills and encourages them to want to get better,” he told me. “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 conducts all-day training sessions with catered breakfast and lunch. He invites suppliers to conduct product training combined with his own in-house training. Jancsek does her part by teaching the salespeople how to get photos off the website, tag customers and share their posts. This is the first time I’ve heard of anyone using their marketing department to educate their team on social media.

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