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Al’s column: Creating a culture of winners

April 15/22, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 23

By Irene Ross

 

Motivated employees are not just good to have; they are good for business. A showroom work environment is even more important, because those employees create the consumer’s first impression of your company.

This is particularly critical for people who operate flooring stores. After all, flooring can be a big investment, and motivated salespeople can make all the difference. “That means you’ll want your showroom employees to be enthusiastic, motivated, knowledgeable and well trained,” said Sean O’Rourke, director of merchandising, Art Van Furniture, with several stores in Chicago and Michigan.

Why is employee morale so important? Research shows just one bad experience can change the mind of someone planning to make a purchase. The firm Gladly recently surveyed 1,000 consumers, of which 92% said they would change their mind about buying after three or four bad encounters. However, 26% said they would also consider stopping after just one unpleasant visit.

“You can have a lot of leads and potential customers, but it doesn’t mean a thing if your employees are unmotivated, uninterested and untrained,” said Lyle Sapp, general manager of the retail division of Carpets N More, Las Vegas. “If they only come into work for the paycheck, they might make a sale or two but they won’t get referrals, and those are the lifeblood of any business.”

Ensuring employees remain motivated is a top priority for dealers such as Jeff Perez, general manager, TF Andrew, with showrooms in New Rochelle and Elmsford, N.Y. That’s why he makes it part of the hiring and ongoing training process. “We’ve found it easier for an employee to align with our company goals if we’re very clear about them from the beginning,” he said. “It also works in their favor because we can spot opportunities in the company for them.”

Employee motivation isn’t just about working hard or completing assignments. It comes from multiple sources, including the ability to make more money, the possibility of promotion, the desire to meet personal/professional goals or just plain satisfaction from the work. Sometimes a group outing, a bonus or even a simple “thank you” will do the trick.

Following are key strategies to keep in mind:

Maintain transparency.“It’s important for employees to know about the company,” Perez said. “Although the sales team sees figures every month, we also show them to the entire staff on a quarterly basis. We want people to know they are working for a financially sound business.”

Focus on education. Chris Quattlebaum, a manager at Bradenton, Fla.-based Manasota Flooring, believes an emphasis on training helps develop and retain employees. It also conveys confidence to the consumer. “Our employees are charged with gaining PK,” he said. “We qualify them on carpeting so they know all the different fibers and styles.”

Quattlebaum isn’t alone. Contract Furnishings Mart, with stores in Portland and Seattle, conducts weekly training sessions and PK classes to improve RSA morale. “Once or twice a year we also send our reps to facilities to learn how a product is made,” said Garrett Anderson, director of marketing. “It’s not just about PK; it solidifies relationships between our sources and employees.”

Make it fun. At Contract Furnishings Mart, managers try to foster a fun workplace to keep employees happy. “We are a family-owned business and we promote that type of environment,” Anderson said. “Balance is important. We don’t want our employees to think about work 24/7 or stay up all night sending emails.

 

Irene Ross is a marketing and public relations specialist/copywriter at IFR Communications. She writes frequently on issues impacting floor covering retailers.