By Reginald Tucker
Aurora, Colo.—The theme of Carpet One Floor & Home’s summer convention, “Together We Work Better,” took on several different meanings for the dozens of RSAs, sales managers and store owners in attendance here recently. On one level, the sheer number of dealers in attendance represented invaluable opportunities to network and share best practices.
“The idea behind ‘Together We Work Better’ is to recognize that the members working with other members to define ways of doing things better, and then the members working with staff to bring those better ways to market,” said John Gilbert, president of Carpet One Floor & Home. “And all of those better ways are focused on enabling the sales professional to be more of who the members want that sales pro to be.”
It’s a theme that resonates with members. “I really like this year’s slogan,” said John Jeter of Florida Tile & Wood Carpet One, Fort Walton Beach, Fla. “And since the [winter] convention, I’ve continued to incorporate it into my company.”
At the same time, co-op management utilized the theme to draw a connection between the success of members and the treasure trove of performance data and metrics gleaned from them. “This idea that we work better together is not just a convention theme but a way to work together moving forward,” Gilbert added. “It’s about leveraging the strength of the membership, one of those strengths being the data that comes from our members’ point-of-sales systems. By utilizing this data, we can improve the strength of our co-op, the muscle that gives us swagger.”
While many Carpet One Floor & Home dealers use data to run their own businesses, there may be some reluctance to share detailed information. But according to Gilbert, therein lies the real power. “We’re not a data-comfortable company. Sharing data across businesses is something new that our members can all participate in. It’s our single most valuable asset—the broad experience of business ideas and shared successes.”
It’s a practice that other successful retail industries and corporate entities employ. “Just look at Home Depot and Lowe’s in terms of how they use data; they have one POS system for their entire enterprise,” Gilbert said. “We’re probably 20 years behind them. In another example, just look at what the New England Patriots do with data to find star players and performers. It’s amazing.”
At one point in his career as a turnaround specialist, Gilbert was responsible for managing more than 200 restaurants. He discovered that using benchmarking mechanisms to identify best practices across the entire group was extremely effective in elevating the performance of those operations that were lagging behind. “The whole idea of using data is to be constantly looking at your business to try to continuously improve,” he explained. “Staying static is how things die.”
In much the same way that Gilbert leveraged the scale of multi-store operations in previous businesses he managed, he’s also looking to help Carpet One Floor & Home dealers realize those same benefits via their sheer size and (primarily untapped) strength. “We have more than 600 members across 800 stores, and everyone of those members is an independent, autonomous unit making decisions independently of one another,” he explained. “While that may create some confusion, it also brings great value to one another because that creates a lot of outposts from a data standpoint, along with a lot of performance differences. It’s about taking the best of those performances and sharing them with the rest of the herd. Sharing this data allows us to do things our competitors cannot do.”
Hence the importance of encouraging store owners to invite more of their sales reps and managers to convention. History shows that valuable information and insights shared at convention don’t always make it back to the sales pro at the store. “Our goal was to have the sales pros hear first-hand what we’re up to and then, as a consequence of that, help us communicate to the sales reps who aren’t here at convention and also serve as a mouthpiece for us to help spread the word,” Gilbert noted.
But perhaps the best part about data, he added, is it’s one of the few assets that gets better over time. For example, having the ability to track a variety of performance measurables such as close rates on digital leads. “The more we use it, the more valuable it becomes,” he said.
At the very least, the open sharing of information and experiences amongst the floor covering group can have very practical benefits. “One of the assets of this co-op as it relates to this audience is you have peers—people who are going through or have gone through the same exact things you are going through, and it’s OK to talk about those things in your business,” Gilbert told convention attendees.
It’s an advantage members sincerely appreciate. “Sharing cooperative ideas, success stories and failures together to help build up one another is key,” said Dean Kelly of Dean’s Carpet One, Manchester, N.H. “It is important to remember as members of the cooperative we are all partners together.”
Michelle Lombardi of Modern Flooring Carpet One Floor & Home in New Orleans, agreed. “This is my first convention. As a sales pro, my main goal here is to just learn as much as I can and get plenty of information and take it all in. There are many training opportunities here.”