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Eye on installation: Putting concrete polishing education front and center

July 8/15, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 2

By John McGrath

A long with the growth in popularity of concrete polishing, there is an increasing need for proper training and education on the subject. INSTALL is leading the charge in developing and implementing a comprehensive concrete polishing curriculum by working hand-in-hand with manufacturers, contractors and industry influencers to craft a new curriculum based on real-world challenges.

INSTALL’s ever-evolving curriculum is designed to adapt to trends in the flooring industry—and polished concrete is one of the biggest growth opportunities in the market. This is illustrated by two recent training events held in conjunction with leading voices and authorities on concrete polishing. The events entailed an apprentice course held at the Thomas C. Ober Carpenters Training Center in Hammonton, N.J., and a three-day roundtable at the Carpenters International Training Center (CITC) in Las Vegas.

The Thomas C. Ober Carpenters Training Center is home to a wide variety of education and training, and it serves a unique role in preparing the future tradesmen and women of New Jersey. Earlier this year, INSTALL leadership gathered at the center to observe an apprentice concrete polishing class. The 40-hour course, which is required for students to complete their apprenticeship, covers vocabulary, industry news, machines, tooling, chemicals and processes. It also illustrates the evolution of concrete polishing methods and some of the latest trends in the industry. In addition to the classroom portion, students received intensive, hands-on training.

Jennifer Faller of Concrete Insite, a well-respected independent technical consultant in the concrete industry, was the guest of honor during the February event. She helped lead the course and brought a wealth of real-world experience and a tremendous amount of technical knowledge to the classroom.

“Faller’s passion and energy were contagious, and the apprentices were impressed by her attention to detail,” said David Gross, INSTALL instructor. “Her experience in concrete construction, manufacturing and installation allowed her to really connect with the students and provide unique insights.”

Gross and Faller also worked with the apprentices to complete a five-step wet polish, finishing with a 3000-grit resin. The edges were also completed with a coordinating grit.

“As an instructor, it’s always satisfying to see the class transform from no knowledge of polishing concrete to having specialized, marketable polished concrete installation skills,” Gross said. “By working as a team and showing initiative, they are able to build their skill set together.”

Faller played such an integral part in the success of the apprentice class that INSTALL invited her to join a dozen other concrete industry professionals for the roundtable working session at the CITC in Las Vegas. The group discussed the future of INSTALL’s polished concrete curriculum and provided insight into hands-on training components of the course.

“The curriculum development session was a highly professional, well-run and organized experience,” Faller stated. “It was a great use of time, and people gave respect and attention to the curriculum advisors. This is something that is lacking in our industry.”

While the curriculum is only 75% complete, INSTALL has made great strides in this effort. The group is aiming for a late 2019 release.

 

John McGrath, Jr., is executive director at INSTALL, the International Standards and Training Alliance. The association comprises professionals representing the entire flooring industry: installers, contractors, manufacturers, associations and consultants.

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Installments: He who fails to prepare prepares to fail

July 8/15, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 2

By Amy Johnston

 

Recently at an industry dinner I was embarrassingly reminded that I need to stay current with manufacturer installation instructions.

I am not sure how the topic came about exactly, but I was mentioning that at our shop we charge considerably more money to install one manufacturer’s product over the same type of product made by others. When I was asked the reason why, I explained it was because of an extra installation step/instruction. This extra step was not a part of other manufacturers’ instructions and was called out by this manufacturer to maintain its warranty. Unbeknownst to me, that manufacturer recently removed that installation step from its instructions, as it was no longer required to keep the warranty in force.

Sitting like a deer caught in proverbial headlights, I wondered when did this happen? Why hadn’t my local distributor told us about the change? My colleagues were quick to point out the change had been communicated in an industry publication. Industry publication? Which one? After all, who has the time to read every article in all of them?

That night I discovered I need to make more time. If I can’t, then I am not being a responsible project manager. The biggest responsibility I have as a certified installation manager is to convey all of the details of a job to our installers. The work order delivered to our installers is “the bible” for that job. They all have the minimum of the following information:

•Job name and address
•Jobsite contact
•Job delivery instructions and locations
•Pre-task safety documents
•SDS
•A detailed copy of all of the materials and tools provided and delivered for the job
•Detailed scope of work
•Detailed plans with installation direction and method highlighted
•Housekeeping and disposal instructions

That night at the banquet table I realized I had failed my installers when it comes to the installation details. Do I feel that product changes, adhesive requirement changes, prep requirement changes, installation method/step changes should be communicated to a contractor via local distributor and manufacturer representatives? Yes. Are they? Not often enough. Local reps are quick to push new products, yet changes to the older products are rarely communicated.

These are products we may have been installing for decades. These are products I would rarely look up any information on as we have been installing them for years and know what we are doing, right?

That night I was humbly put in my place. I was embarrassed as I realized I have been doing a disservice to not only myself but my installers. I now realize I must look up and review the installation instructions for all products our shop installs. I also realized I need to read industry publications regularly.

Whether the information comes from a local industry representative, website, publication, conference or at a dinner table is not important. What is important is the information is out there, and responsible project managers should take the necessary steps to be informed and stay at the top of their game. I wasn’t, and I needed a reminder.

Amy Johnston is a project estimator and project manager for Flooring Services, Inc. A certified installation manager (CIM), she sits on the board of directors for the FCICA education and training and membership committees, and she also chairs the CIM steering committee for the FCICA.

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Marketing mastery: Differentiate yourself by being unconventional

July 8/15, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 2

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

Earl Nightingale, the late author, speaker and radio host, wrote: “Watch what everyone else does. Then do the opposite. The majority is always wrong.”

Most of the sales, marketing and differentiation strategies I teach flooring dealers break convention. I do this because unconventional strategies offer the biggest return on investment for dealers who have the courage to implement them. Some of these benefits include: creating differentiation from competitors; commanding high margins; long-term customer loyalty; increased referrals and market share; and a business that stands the test of time.

The only way to achieve extraordinary results is to do the extraordinary. After all, how are you going to create differentiation, command higher margins than your competitors and create long-term customer loyalty if you follow industry norms or simply copy what’s going on around you?

Almost everyone says they want to be different. But when presented with strategies that are truly different than anything inside our industry, some flooring dealers recoil out of fear or discomfort. Case in point: I recently spoke at an industry event on three proven, but unconventional, strategies flooring dealers I work with have used to create differentiation, attract customers and sell at high margins.

To demonstrate the power of embracing these strategies, I presented case studies, including:

•A dealer from Florida who increased his revenue by 50% multiple years in a row.

•Two different dealers from Illinois who brought their businesses back from the brink of bankruptcy and are now thriving.

•A dealer from Texas who stays booked out for six to 12 weeks, with customers happy to wait one or two months because they only want to work with him.

Most of the attendees seemed open-minded and excited about the impact these unconventional approaches could have on their businesses. But there were a couple of store owners who weren’t convinced. During the Q&A one asked, “How does the dealer from Texas get customers to wait that long for their flooring? I don’t see customers waiting for weeks to have flooring installed.”

This attendee had just sat through a 90-minute session where I outlined exactly how the dealer created differentiation from competitors by using unconventional sales and marketing techniques. I reminded him that the Texas dealer cultivated differentiation in his business, and as a result his clients were willing to wait because they saw him as being totally different.

Two of my coaching clients also happened to be in the audience. They told the audience, because of these unconventional strategies, their customers were also willing to wait six weeks.

The same dealer shook his head, stating: “Customers just aren’t going to wait that long.” Even with all this evidence, he refused to believe it was possible. After all, conventional thinking says you have to install the customer’s floors right now or she’ll run off to Home Depot.

Some dealers left the event determined to implement the unconventional strategies they had learned. The first dealer left firmly ensconced in his conventional thinking. Who do you think is more likely to make real improvements in their business over the next 12 months?

 

Jim Armstrong specializes in providing turnkey marketing strategies for flooring retailers. For a free copy of his latest book, “How Floor Dealers Can Beat the Boxes Online,” visit BeatTheBoxesOnline.com.

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Lessons learned: The pitfalls of relying on email proposals

July 8/15, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 2

By Tom Jennings

 

We’ve all had our share of the “I’ll-be-back” type of customer. One thing we know for sure is that time was wasted during the presentation phase in the showroom. Question is, did the salesperson waste the customer’s time by being uninformed or unprepared? Or, did the customer waste the salesperson’s time by being something less than forthcoming with her wishes and budget constraints? Regardless of who was to blame, both the salesperson and their employer lose.

Today’s floor covering sales- person has a modern-day form of the “I’ll-be-back” response; it’s called an email proposal. Are you one of those sellers who graciously agree to email your prospect the proposal? You know the scenario: Your prospect wants to “think about it” and will call you in a few days. As time passes, however, you can’t seem to get him or her on the phone to discuss the proposal. There the opportunity languishes, lingering in your pending file while you try to figure out the best way to re-establish communication.

Don’t get me wrong: It is perfectly fine to email proposals to established customers who already have a relationship with you. Oftentimes they will accept your call and discuss their thoughts willingly. But with cold prospects, it is a shot in the dark whether you will hear from them again. Emails are the electronic “be back” of today. So although you want to be accommodating with a new prospect, I feel this is a time to push back.

Look at presenting proposals as another opportunity for you to get in front of new prospects and continue building their trust in both you and your offerings. If at all possible, you need to be there in person to review the needs discussed, present your solutions to address these needs, point out the financial details, answer any questions or objections that may arise, etc.

Without this personal conversation, you have no way of knowing if they’ll remember your previous discussions or jump to incorrect conclusions. When your prospect requests that you “just email me your proposal,” push back. Say something to the effect of: “Mrs. Smith, I believe it would be in both of our best interests if you will allow me a few minutes to walk you through the proposal. We’ve discussed a number of different products and their applications. I want to be sure we both fully understand each other’s thoughts so any questions you may have can be resolved before any work commences rather than afterwards. Let’s go ahead and find a time that will work on your calendar to get this accomplished.”

Let me clarify what I mean by “presenting the proposal in person.” You don’t actually have to be on site with the prospect if time or distance is an issue. What’s critical is that you review it together, voice-to-voice. If you aren’t going to be on site, email the proposal 10-15 minutes before the meeting. This will allow enough time for the prospect to review your proposal, but not enough to “shop it around.”

Adopting this strategy will allow you to continue to build trust in a prospect’s eyes. She will see you as being interested in her as a person rather than just a client. At the meeting’s conclusion, you can either close the sale or determine the next appropriate steps to be taken.

 

Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a retail sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.

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Al’s column: Covering all the bases with sign-off sheets

July 8/15, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 2

By Lou Morano

 

(Editor's note: This is the third installment in a multi-part series.)

Many retailers have had to deal with customer complaints over the course of doing business. Perhaps you had a client who though her carpet was defective because there are pulls in it. Or she’s looking for monetary compensation because of the mess your installers made when you ripped out her old ceramic tile flooring to make way for the new materials. “No one told me this was going to happen” is the common response from the consumer.

We all could come up with dozens of other complaints from customers on things that are just normal and customary for the products and services we provide as flooring retailers. Over the years, my sales associates have been diligent in trying to manage our customers’ expectations by letting them know what could—and probably will—happen, yet we still receive complaints. The customer will often claim the salesperson never told her, which could be the case because it would be very difficult to cover all the scenarios verbally.

So how do you address this issue? Over the years we have utilized “sign-off sheets,” documents that aim to cover normal and customary expectations of product performance as well as scenarios that are inherent with the product they purchased. For instance, when we’re on a job that entails a hard surface removal we have a specific document that states the items we normally cover with plastic, and we advise customers on what they need to remove from the area to limit exposure to dust. We also inform the homeowner that the area will likely need to be cleaned after the job is done.

Every product category has its own sheet that must be signed. The sheets are self-explanatory and cover almost all bases. We’ve found this process has drastically reduced customer complaints. First, we educate the customer at the time of purchase to manage her expectations. Second, when a customer states, “I was never told…” we refer to the sheet she signed showing she was indeed properly informed.

Of course, as a retailer who is customer-service oriented, we always do what it takes to satisfy the customer. In the past this has cost us money and eaten into the profits for the job. But now that we’ve implemented sign-off sheets, when there is a situation that is clearly no fault of our own—or the manufacturer—we’ll still take care of it, but at the consumer’s expense.

A perfect example is our sign-off sheet for carpet installations, which states that “seam placement will be at Capitol Carpet’s discretion unless specifically indicated on the signed contract.” During a recent job, we installed a patterned carpet on steps and in a hallway. The consumer wanted the carpet to run in a different direction than we laid it, and she insisted that we change it at our expense. We explained that we did it the correct way and showed her the signed sign-off sheet. She argued she wasn’t home when we measured, and that her husband signed the contract and sign-off sheet. We explained that we are not responsible for lack of communication between her and her husband, but we would replace the carpet at her expense. She agreed.

Bottom line: Our salespeople can’t realistically come up with every possible scenario for product performance/expectations, nor can they come up with all possible installation scenarios. With these sign-off sheets customers are educated, they have realistic expectations of the project and/or products and they have proper maintenance guidelines.

 

Lou Morano started selling carpet for a major retailer at the age of 19 in 1981. In 1985 he and his father incorporated Capitol Carpet and opened their first full-service retail store in 1986. Today Morano operates five retail stores, including a commercial division, under the name Capitol Carpet & Tile and Window Fashions.

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Al’s column: How much is your business really worth?

June 24/July 1, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 1

By Roman Basi

 

You’ve invested your life, money, time and effort into your business. Countless hours have been spent operating, maintaining and adjusting the business to stay competitive and profitable.

All this begs the question: How much is my business actually worth? Plenty of owners could arbitrarily claim a value based on their income and assets, but how many have sat down and had an independent business valuation?

Knowing the value of your business is necessary for a number of reasons. Whether buying or selling your business (M&A), succession planning, estate planning or looking into employee stock options, business loans or divorce, a valuation is critical to proper planning, execution and structure of the transaction.

A business valuation is more than just a number arrived at through various methods used to calculate value. In many cases, the value number is of secondary importance to the actual methodology used in the calculation. Consider this scenario: Two shareholders enter into a buy/sell agreement and a shareholder looks to exit the business or passes away unexpectedly. What value of the business is the shareholder or the shareholder’s estate owed? Moreover, how do we calculate a number that is ever changing as business values increase or decrease on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis? The answer is the valuation methodology proposed and agreed upon by the shareholders in the executed buy/sell agreement, which will provide a valuation methodology that will be calculated at the time of the shareholder’s exit, thus avoiding a battle of various methodologies leading to different values more beneficial to one party over the other.

How do we know what methodology determines the true value? (The IRS describes this as “the fair market price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, when the former is not under any compulsion to buy and the latter is not under any compulsion to sell, with both parties having reasonable knowledge of the relevant facts.”)

To properly obtain a valuation, the business will need to employ an unbiased, qualified appraiser with experience and training in both the area of valuations and the industry in question. Moreover, the appraiser must understand and employ the various valuation methods, the discount and premium variables while weighing the result accordingly. Finally the appraiser must be able to communicate and ultimately defend the value calculation. Remember: The calculated value is only as strong as the appraiser’s ability to defend it.

From an M&A standpoint, the value put forth to potential purchasers will undoubtedly be reviewed, scrutinized and potentially challenged to reduce the buyer’s purchase price. The buyer’s due diligence team will comb through the business’s internal financials to substantiate the numbers in the seller’s most recent financial statements. The buyer’s due diligence team will then use their own valuation methodology calculation to arrive at their proscribed value. If the seller’s value cannot be substantiated, a purchase price reduction may be sought and the transaction may be jeopardized.

From a succession planning standpoint, the valuation methodology should be tailored to best meet the needs of the successor—whether the needs be tax minimization, payout terms or level of value. However, the valuation method and transfer of assets or stock must be valid under IRS rules pertaining to related party transfers.

If you have questions regarding valuations, call 618.997.3436 for a free consultation.

 

Roman Basi is an attorney and CPA with the firm Basi, Basi & Associates at The Center for Financial, Legal & Tax Planning. He writes frequently on issues facing business owners.

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Marketing mastery: Customer service is still king in retail

June 10/17, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 26

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

“Flooring World,” the employee answering the phone said in a bored tone when I called for an appointment with the store owner. (Note: Company names in this article have been changed to avoid libel suits.) This fellow had no enthusiasm in his voice, and his tone suggested I had interrupted his day.

Compare that to how the phone was answered by the employee of a long-time coaching client of mine: “Thank you for calling Ridgway Flooring and Interiors, home of the iron-clad triple guarantee,” she said in a bright, cheerful voice. “How may I help you?” Imagine if you were in the market for flooring and you called both of these stores. With which would you choose to do business?

Customer service is a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot. Ask a dealer why a prospect should buy from him or her instead of a competitor and you’ll likely hear, “Because we provide really good customer service.” Ask the competitor the same question and you’ll likely get the same answer. Saying you have great customer service isn’t enough. You have to put actionable, concrete customer service strategies in place and train your team to follow them.

Let’s analyze some statistics from studies done by American Express to see how they apply to your business.

1. Consumers will pay 17% more to buy from companies with great customer service reputations. I’ve worked with flooring dealers whose margins were in the 25%-30% range and helped them quickly leap to 40%-50% margins by implementing strategies to wow their customers. This is one of the fastest, most cost-effective ways to increase your profits.

2. One-third of consumers say one instance of poor customer service would cause them to consider switching companies. Every time you pre- vent a customer loss to a competitor, it’s money in your pocket. Taking the time to root out poor or mediocre customer service habits in your employees will prevent those losses.

3. More than half of consumers say they have made an additional purchase after a company provided a positive experience. It’s common for a customer buy one or two rooms of flooring, only to return later and purchase floors for her entire house, business, rentals, etc. If you really impress your customers, you can increase the frequency of this happening.

4. Nine in 10 consumers factor in customer service when deciding whether to purchase from a company. Your customer’s first point of contact with a member of your team is when she calls or visits. These are your two most important opportunities to make a positive impression so she chooses to buy from you instead of the big box down the street.

5. Happy consumers tell 11 people about their experience with your company; angry consumers tell 15 people. Want more referrals? Start amazing your customers with phenomenal customer service. You’ll not only get more referrals, but you’ll also reduce the number of people complaining about your business to friends and relatives.

Customer service is everything. From the way your phones are answered and how customers are greeted in-store to how you arrive for the in-home measure, every touchpoint with each customer is an opportunity to wow them and dramatically increase your profits.

 

Jim is the founder and president of Flooring Success Systems, a company that provides floor dealers with digital and offline marketing services and coaching to equip dealers to make more money, work fewer hours and get their lives back. For information visit flooringsuccesssystems.com.

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Lisbiz strategies: When wooing customers, focus on the ‘experience’

June 10/17, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 26

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Everyone talks about the customer experience, but few know what it actually is. It goes way beyond reciting a pleasant greeting when a consumer calls or offering assistance when she ultimately enters your store.

Customer service today is essentially about delivering a memorable experience for the consumer throughout the entire purchasing process. Why is this so important? According to a study published by the Temkin Group, companies that earn $1 billion annually can expect to earn, on average, an additional $700 million within three years of investing in improving the customer experience. Not only is this a significant return on your investment, but it goes a long way in improving your relationships with your customers. Which, in turn, brings more repeat business—and so on.

Following are some actions you can take to improve the customer experience in your store:

Be clear on what really matters. If being on time is an important value, make sure everyone understands and adheres to it. By being consistent is one way you can show your customers you care. Continually discuss what matters, monitor to see that every- one is following the rules. Furthermore, check to see if the rule is creating any problems.

Know your customers better. When it comes to improving your customer relationships, one size does not fit all. If you are finding problems with your policies, it’s likely you’re not clear on who your customers are and what they need. One way to find out if you’re on track are customer surveys. If you ask them what they need they’re likely to let you know.

Get your customers to love you more. Remember, the customer doesn’t love products— she loves the people who provide the products. Statistics provided by the Journal of Consumer Research showed more than 50% of an experience is based on an emotion. In other words, if I feel good about working with you, it’s likely you have produced a positive emotion. It may be as simple as sending the customer a hand-written thank-you note after the completion of the sale or something a little more impactful such as sending the customer flowers after the sale.

Stay on top of customer feedback. When I go to business websites, I often see unhappy customer comments that have been on the site for years. Ask customers for testimonials and continually post them on your website.

Use social media to create a great customer experience. Post new products on your Facebook page and ask visitors for their opinions. If this is new to you, or you’re not comfortable with these tools, get someone to help you. It’s likely your competitors are already doing this. Don’t give them an unchallenged advantage.

Make your business a community hub. Everyone is looking for something to do, so why can’t your place be that destination? You can show movies, arrange fun get-togethers or even have someone conduct Zumba/yoga classes in your store. If it were me, I would have the farmers market in my parking lot. Find out what will draw customers to your store and go for it.

Think creatively. There are no rules for what you can do to attract more people to your store. Continue to recreate your own customer experiences. You’ll quickly discover what works, although you may have to do them more than once to achieve the desired effect.

 

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.

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Lessons learned: The trick to hiring the right salesperson

June 10/17, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 26

By Tom Jennings

 

When visiting with flooring dealers across the country, I often hear the comment, “We may need to add a salesperson to our staff.” When I inquire further as to what the main objective would be to this employee search, the answer is virtually always something to the effect of needing “extra floor coverage.” The emphasis seems to be focused on the short-term goal of having someone available to relate the businesses offerings and attributes. Not exactly a customer-centric approach.

I find it curious that virtually no one states they are seeking staff members who will be better received by, and thus more effective with, their clients. To ultimately be considered successful, all involved—customer, employer and employee—must be generally satisfied with one another other after each transaction. Shouldn’t the goal be to employ the right people rather than settle for just having enough of them? I believe the most important questions you are ever going to consider when interviewing a potential salesperson are: Is this the right person for my clients? What values will he or she add to my clients’ decision-making process? How would I feel if they were selling against my firm working for a competitor? If you wouldn’t find them hard to compete with, why would you want them on your team?

Remember, you’re not interviewing for someone to join your golf foursome or bowling team. It doesn’t matter that you like the potential salesperson you are visiting with if your clients aren’t likely to relate well with them. It doesn’t matter how much you want to hire this person unless your clients will want to trust their purchase decision to them. Ultimately, your current and future clients are the ones who will decide whether you did a good job in hiring a salesperson.

It doesn’t matter that the potential salesperson has the right attributes, skills and the willingness if they aren’t the right fit for your clientele. To that end, don’t obsess over a potential candidate’s existing knowledge of our industry. Sometimes ineffective initial training or dated product knowledge can be more of a detriment than experience. It is much easier to teach someone who likes people what they need to know about flooring than it is to teach someone who already knows flooring the art of making a connection with the consumer.

Your competitors are bombarding both your current and potential clients with offers, relentlessly pursuing their business. Are your potential clients likely to choose to buy from one of these competitors, or are they more likely to choose to buy from the prospective salesperson sitting in front of you? Remember this: Customers are often looking for someone to buy from as much as, or even more than, they are searching for something to buy. Based on what you know about your clients, is this the right salesperson to win that contest?

If you believe the primary value created by the prospective salesperson sitting in front of you is that he or she will provide the headcount you need, then odds are you will have to repeat the process again in the near future when your customer base collectively votes that they are unimpressed by them. Floor coverage may be the reason you initiate the search process, but it should never be the main reason you conclude it.

Bottom line: don’t settle. The only reason you should ever hire anyone is you truly feel they will add value for your clients. No other answer will improve the eventual chances for success, or happiness, for everyone involved.

 

Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a retail sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.

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Al’s column: Sometimes disagreement is healthy

June 10/17, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 26

By Lou Morano

 

(Editor’s note: This is the second installment in a multi-part series.)

If you want to be truly successful, make minimal mistakes and make more “right” choices, then this point is of colossal importance: Surround yourself with people who are not afraid to challenge you.

I never understood why owners of companies surround them- selves with “yes” men or with people who think exactly like them. Don’t get me wrong: It is very important to align yourself with people who have the same vision, ethics and goals for your company. But you must do it with people who have strengths in areas you are not strong in and think differently.

Case in point: Steve Cosentino, the vice president of my company, and Rodney DiFranco, my general manager, have been working with me for more than 32 years; we all think differently but have the same goals. When it comes to making decisions, the three of us usually make them together. We look at situations from different viewpoints, but we have the same goal in mind.

For example, Steve is very detail oriented and meticulous. When we implement a new system or process, he thinks of every single step, creating fail-safes along the way. Meanwhile, Rodney knows the installation end of our business and the sales process extremely well. His greatest strength is in the mechanics of things and how to physically get things done and in what order. My strengths lie in leadership. I am also very good at creating, maintaining and nurturing relationships. I know how to get things done and how to keep people on task and motivated.

When we address serious projects, problems, situations, etc., we discuss it together. We don’t always agree on everything, and we all have good points.

When we encounter situations where we are all not in agreement, the majority rules—even when I am not in the majority. Do we make the right decision 100% of the time? Of course not. However, over the years we made the right decision by an overwhelmingly large majority of the time than if we had just gone with my decisions when I was not in the majority. You need to trust and respect the people around you. More importantly, you have to trust the process. In my case, three heads are better than one.

As an example, many years ago, when we became a Mohawk Floorscapes dealer, we went to all five of our showrooms and made some very hard decisions on completely renovating and remerchandising our showrooms. There were five of us making the decisions, and I valued everyone’s opinion as much as mine. And more than once I strongly disagreed with the majority. I remember the Mohawk representative telling me, “Lou, you’re the owner, so if you want it your way it is your decision.” My reply was, “No, I am not so arrogant that I think I know better than all of you put together, and I truly respect all your opinions. If I can’t convince the majority to agree with me, then I know by going with the majority we will make the right decision more times than not.”

After all the stores were completely renovated, we could see that statement was very true. We made almost no mistakes, and for sure my decision to stick with the “majority rules” vote was the right decision. I can count on one hand how many times over 33 years owning my company that I went against the majority. In those few instances I have been right and wrong. However, we have made more right decisions because I trust and value the opinions of those around me, and our company is more successful because of it.

 

Lou Morano started selling carpet for a major retailer at the age of 19 in 1981. In 1985 he and his father incorporated Capitol Carpet, Inc., and opened their first full-service retail store in 1986. Today Morano operates five retail stores, including a commercial division, under the name Capitol Carpet & Tile and Window Fashions