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Al’s column: Are you due for a brand makeover?

October 15/22, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 9

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Remember when it was good enough to call yourself a carpet store?

Over the past 10 years, the smart “carpet stores” finally changed their names to include other flooring types. Many went kicking and screaming, afraid they would lose their old customers only to find out their “loyal customers” were cheating on them. At no time did they consider how much business they were losing because their customers were looking elsewhere for hard surface flooring.

The real conundrum is how do you know when it’s time for a brand update or refresh? All businesses face the same issue—can I thrive forever on what I’ve built? The answer, unfortunately, is not anymore. Technology has forever changed how we do business and how everyone gets information. As a case in point, consider how Amazon has changed the way many consumers shop. This may have been unthinkable 15 or 20 years ago.

For many retailers, brand evolution is more than just a name or logo change. For instance, recently Weight Watchers rebranded to WW. It’s likely they are developing a new concept that eliminates the concept of dieting and replaces it with “healthy eating and living a healthy lifestyle.”

Along the same lines, Dunkin’ Donuts has decided to simply become “Dunkin”—dropping the “Donuts” from the name but not from the menu. There seems to be a general uproar on the consumer’s part about how awful it is to drop “Donuts.” With more than 10,000 Dunkin’ Donuts in the U.S., a name change is a big deal, but it has been long in the making. Dunkin’ Donuts has already been experimenting in some locations with new signage.

In another instance, Coca-Cola—a household name for decades—recently acquired Costa, Britain’s biggest coffee company. The retailer comprises 2,400 coffee shops in the U.K. and another 1,400 in more than 30 international markets. My hunch is they’re after the Starbucks brand.

So when is the best time to consider a brand refresh? Here are five signs:

Is your business what you want it to be?Has the culture changed in your area? Are you seeing less and less of your old customers? Furthermore, do you need to change but maybe you’re not sure if you want to? Are you not sure how to change?

Are you embarrassed to give out your business card?Is your card out of date, do the graphics look old? What do you want your card to say about your business?

Have you noticed your competitors are getting bigger and everyone looks alike?Have you forgotten who your core customer is and how to reach them? The wider you cast your net, the more confusion you may create. Your business needs to be unique. When you lose your uniqueness, you lose your competitive edge and profit margin.

Are you looking to compete on a higher level?The media continues to report the middle class (the “bread and butter” customers for some retailers) has all but vanished. The only way to make real money is to trade up to the higher end. Trading up may mean a change in how your store and employees look, how you market your services and what products you offer.

Are you struggling to raise prices and connect with new customers?When you are selling at a certain price point, it’s difficult to raise your price. Is it possible your salespeople are also stuck in the low sales mode and have the same struggle?

Remember: Your salespeople take their cues from you. If you believe in selling lower-priced merchandise, they will follow your lead.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino will deliver a presentation titled “Seven techniques to talk crazy customers (or anyone else) off the ledge” at TISE 2019, which kicks off Jan. 22 in Las Vegas.

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Marketing mastery: Step off the hamster wheel of doom

September 17/24, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 7

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

Many dealers are running on a hamster wheel trying to build their businesses. One month you have plenty of customers coming in and enough money to cover costs; some months you have more work than you can handle. But then a month or two later, your work slows down and you're stressed about where all the flooring jobs have gone. As a result, you run even harder, putting in 50-plus hours per week until you’re overworked. This is what it looks like to run on the hamster wheel.

My goal is for you to step off the hamster wheel and onto solid ground to create consistent cash flow. Here are three mistakes I see dealers do all the time that make it impossible to do this.

Mistake #1: Not using “Before,” “During” and “After” together in a system.

Most dealers are weak in at least two of these steps. For example, many dealers spend tens of thousands of dollars on their “Before” strategies—advertising to get prospects to visit their store. Some dealers do a fairly good job with this, and they generate a decent number of walk-ins, but most don’t buy. In fact, studies show the average dealer only closes about three out of 10 walk-ins. They’re spending a fortune in advertising, but 70% of that money is going to waste. This is because they are weak in the “During” part of the system. They don’t have a strong system for converting a customer visit into a job, so they lose most of them.

To make matters worse, customers who do buy almost never receive ongoing communication from the dealer “After” the sale. These customers get stolen by competitors. The dealer loses that repeat business and their referrals because they have no “After” system in place.

If you’re weak in any of the three areas— “Before,” “During” or “After”—you have holes in your fence, and your customers are being poached by your competition.

Mistake #2: Failure to develop a great online reputation using reviews.

Getting reviews is a “Before” strategy because it’s something you do to attract new customers before they purchase from you. Reviews are critical in today’s business world. More than 90% of consumers read reviews before visiting a business, and 88% trust reviews as much as a referral.

Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that many dealers who have a great offline reputation have a lousy online reputation. For example, Kevin is a dealer from Colorado, and he’s upset because he’s getting up every day trying to build his business and is getting his head handed to him on a stick by the big boxes. He can’t figure out why he’s losing sales. He doesn’t realize it’s because he hardly has any reviews and half of them are bad. When Mrs. Prospect decides she wants flooring, she goes online and within three clicks finds his store, sees his 2.6-star rating and, just like that, he’s off the list.

Mistake #3: The majority of dealers ignore past customers.

Flooring is a relationship business. If you want to maximize your success, you have to build deep, long-lasting relationships with your past customers. Regular communication with your customers is what you do “After” the sale to generate repeat and referral business. The “After” step is critical because box stores are lurking in every city and online, spending millions of dollars in advertising to poach your customers from you.

Correcting these mistakes will help you step off the hamster wheel and generate consistent, growing cash flow.

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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Installments: Tackling the issue of moisture mitigation

September 17/24, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 7

By Marlene Morin

It’s a given that a high content of moisture in a concrete slab will damage a floor. But where does the moisture come from? How can it be tested and measured? More importantly, how do you solve a moisture issue?

Following are a few answers to these critical questions.

Where does moisture come from? Concrete is made of five elements: cement, sand, aggregate, air and water. Water is used to help the chemical reaction between the different elements and support the workability and the placement of the concrete. The latter takes between four to six months to evaporate, while other sources of moisture can then influence the concrete that was poured. Moisture can come from below grade, earth or water table, to name a few.

Testing the moisture content. Each floor covering you intend to put down can handle a certain amount of moisture. This limitation is given by the manufacturer and varies from one floor to the other.

Understanding moisture limitation will help you avoid mold and bacteria, blistering, delamination, swelling and debonding.

How to measure moisture content. There are five ways recognized by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) to measure the moisture content. Two of the ways produce qualitative measurements and tell you if there is a moisture issue. The other three ways are quantitative and tell you the amount of moisture content.

The qualitative methods include the plastic sheet test (ASTM D4263) and concrete surface pH testing (ASTM F710). You can also use the mat bond test to identify if there is a moisture issue, but there is no ASTM standard for this.

The quantitative methods are the MVER test, also known as the calcium chloride test (ASTM F1869), the relative humidity test (ASTM F2170) and the electrical impedance test (ASTM F2659).

I recommend performing a quantitative test. You can easily compare the amount of moisture content to the moisture limitation of your floor and decide if you have to treat the substrate prior to application.

How to solve a moisture issue. Now that you have identified a moisture issue, you have to mitigate the moisture to avoid further problems.

There are different types of moisture mitigation solutions. The reactive penetrants products will react with the chemical inside the slab to reduce the porosity of the concrete and reduce moisture transfer. In order for the products to perform, it is important to know if there are enough possible chemical reactions within the concrete.

You can also use high-performance adhesives. However, you need to make sure the concrete is in great shape and check what “high performance” means. Be sure to read the moisture limitation.

For wood floors, you can use an all-in-one adhesive. The chemistry behind these adhesives allows you to glue down your wood while preventing the moisture in the slab to escape. This solution is a great alternative when you are gluing down engineered wood floors.

And last but not least, you can use epoxy solutions. These products offer a very high level of moisture protection and are usually easy to apply.

Marlene Morin is a marketing manager at Sika Corp. In this capacity, she oversees the marketing activity of the floor covering division of Sika USA. Morin is also a certified ICRI Concrete Slab Moisture Technician.

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Lessons learned: Installation—The more things change…

September 17/24, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 7

By Tom Jennings

In the early 1990s, my firm was among several dealers asked to monitor all installation-related interactions with customers. We not only tracked installations, but all correspondence that we had with customers, which may have led to disappointment with the service experience they received. There were single and multiple store operations included. This group represented dealers with both employee and contract installers. These surveys were gathered over a period of several months. There was no doubt that installation-related concerns were driving us all to distraction. What we found surprising was why.

As a company, we all felt the primary cause of complaint was typically an installation team lacking the proper skills or using incorrect methods. We found this perception to be true—less than 20% of the time. Nearly five of six customer calls were triggered by some form of poor communication, unrealistic expectations, etc. While surprised, we were also pleased. We thought this would be an easier “fix” than the physical installation process. Wrong again.

Fast forward 25 years to today. It’s debatable that much has occurred to improve the actual installation skills we can expect to find among installation as a whole. While some stores have taken strides to improve their staffs at a local level, the skilled craftsmen have inevitably gotten older as their replacements continue to not be fully trained. In our customer’s eyes, it’s not the problem.

Without question, our abilities to communicate with the customer have improved in ways no one imagined a generation ago. Virtually all of our customers and installers have a phone in their pockets. Most have navigation systems to easily find the customer’s jobsite. In light of these advancements, few of our problems have been solved in the last 25 years.

Studies in both flooring and related fields seem to indicate the customer is still putting up with the same incompetence she has in the past. Ask yourself: Is your wireless company significantly easier to deal with? Are the utility companies treating us the same? If anything, what we have grown to accept as service has further deteriorated. Instead of conversing with an indifferent receptionist, we take orders from a synthesized digital voice. What’s more, there is now a new generation in the marketplace that has yet to experience care from a concerned retailer, as most of their shopping experiences have been with mass merchants or online.

While both the problems and solutions are frustratingly similar to the 1990s, one thing has clearly changed: our ability to shine when we satisfy our customer. Make the effort to widen the gap between businesses that proclaim to give outstanding service and those that actually do. Create accurate work orders for your staff. Use pre-installation checklist forms religiously. Seam and layout diagrams aren’t an option. Installers are not mind readers, yet far too often we presume they will intuitively know what the customer wants. Let there be no doubt what the customer should expect when she places her trust in your firm.

It was considered easier and faster to improve communications and attitudes 25 years ago. The same is true today. The goal hasn’t changed; the stakes have. With the proliferation of both big-box and internet sources now available, great customer service will stand out more.

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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Dear David: Knowing when it’s time to let an employee go

September 17/24, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 7

By David Romano

Dear David: 

I have a general manager who has been with me for more than 10 years. He started as a sales associate but for the last five years has been my manager. When I first made him manager he was doing great, but something has been off the last couple of years. I met with him several times to find out what’s going on and he keeps telling me everything is alright. His performance and attitude are getting worse. I’d hate to let him go, but I don’t know what else I can do.

Dear Perplexed Owner,

First step is immediate action. Letting this go on for a couple of years not only affects you but your entire staff and customers. Remember, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing every day and expecting a different result. Your dilemma leaves you with two options: turnaround his performance or terminate his employment. Doing nothing is not an option.

Turnaround
You have invested both time and substantial resources in this individual, so modifying his behavior should be your first choice. A casual conversation won’t cut it. You need to be sure that you set expectations, have defined timelines, check progress and focus on change.

Setting expectations. Go over his job description and cover areas of concern. Establish sales goals, upcoming initiatives and acceptable behavior.

Defined timeline. He needs to understand when you would like to see improvement. Stating you’re not pleased and he needs to “step up or get out” is counterproductive. Tell him he has 30/60/90 days to show progress or employment will be terminated.

Milestones and feedback. It’s important that you don’t wait until the end of the timeline to provide feedback. Meet with him regularly to review progress and provide clear direction and required support.

Keep it positive. Don’t focus on what was done wrong, but what could be done better. You are just as much (if not more so) to blame, so finger-pointing is ineffective.

Termination
Termination of employment is sensitive and carries potential legal liabilities. It’s important that you are prepared for the separation and that the discussion is to the point so he isn’t surprised.

Document everything. When performance is below expectations, or when company policies have been violated, it must be recorded. There may be a chance of a positive turnaround once he realizes you’re not going to accept his performance. The write-ups will also reduce your exposure to potential legal issues.

No surprises. When he is terminated, it should come as no surprise. If you follow the strategy of documentation, he may give notice before you have time to terminate. It’s likely that he will begin a search for a new job once you complete the first write-up.

To the point. Don’t beat around the bush. Your first sentence should look something like this: “As of today, your employment is terminated” or “I am letting you go today.” If he chooses to leave immediately, don’t belabor the point. If he needs further explanation, provide precise reasons.

Preparation. Prior to the termination meeting, be prepared for his exit. Make a list of what you need from him before he leaves the building, because once he leaves he might not be willing to communicate or cooperate.

David Romano, formerly the founder of Romano Consulting Group as well as Benchmarkinc Recruiting, is currently the director of Dallas-based Romano Group. You can contact David at david@romanogroup.com.

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Al’s column: It pays to motivate employees

September 17/24, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 7

By Scott Perron

In the many years of writing columns, I cannot remember a time when I elected to copy and paste the content of any other article. However, this one is worth repeating.

“Shark Tank” entrepreneur Daymond John—who is also known for his success at FUBU—posted an article back in May about how he motivates his employees to perform at the highest level. In his words: “Many business owners have asked me how we have been able to create success in multiple businesses over the years; the answer is simple: people.”

John cited five essential rules when motivating employees:

Find out what drives each individual. Everyone is motivated by something different. It could be money, supporting family or achieving professional goals. The important thing is to find out and act accordingly. Pay employees what they’re worth, involve them in big projects, give consistent recognition and respect their personal time—after all, they have lives and families waiting for them outside of the office. Also, make sure they are clear on what they need to do to accomplish their goals.

Give everyone a voice. Your employees have great ideas on how to improve and optimize various projects, or even the business as a whole. They are the ones in the trenches. But some employees aren’t comfortable speaking up, which is why I always take the proactive approach—I ask their opinions and listen to what they have to say. If the idea is good, we implement it. Taking their input seriously not only gives the team more pride in their work, but it also instills a sense of ownership.

Value intrapreneurs. “Intrapreneurs” act like entrepreneurs within a company. They solve problems, innovate and take risks. They find the best and most effective ways to work and gain better results. Intrapreneurs are similar in attitude and ability to the best entrepreneurs I've seen on “Shark Tank.”

I've been an entrepreneur all my life, which means I understand the desire to accomplish my own set of goals. At my company, intrapreneurs are encouraged. I let them take the ball and run with it—and watch them score again and again.

Create a culture of motivation. Two years ago, I moved my team into a new office. What I wanted from the new digs was an open work space. I wanted to be sure everyone was working together and motivating each other.

What is equally as important, though, is the company culture. You can hire the smartest person in the world, but if he or she doesn’t fit in with the team, it won’t work out. Motivation is contagious. I make sure my employees feel empowered, are excited about their projects and are happily building a skill set that will equip them for the future. And when the team does well, I make sure the success is about them, not about me.

Offer incentives. Employers know benefits are key. That’s why companies are doing more for their employees every day, including things like unlimited time off. However, benefits don’t have to be expensive or elaborate—think gift cards, a free lunch, a paid day off. What do all these practices do for employees and employers alike? They provide motivation for all of us to work even harder.

All of the advanced technology, brilliant business plans and cool office space in the world won’t make a difference if your employees aren’t motivated. Take the time to find out what drives them and act on it. In short, give them strong reasons to stay.

Scott Perron is the president of 24-7 Floors and Floor4Pros based in Sarasota, Fla. He is also an industry trainer and motivational speaker. He can be reached via email at: scott@24-7floors.com or 860.250.1733.

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Marketing mastery: How to capitalize on consumer interactions

September 3/10, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 6

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

Every interaction you, your staff and your business have with a prospect or customer is a marketing opportunity. Like it or not, consumers get an impression of you every time they interact with your company.

What kind of impression are you making with each marketing opportunity? Are you compelling them to buy from you even if you’re more expensive? Or are you showing that you are no different than your competition?

Over the last several columns I’ve written, I outlined the ultimate floor marketing system, which consists of three steps: “Before,” “During” and “After.” Let’s look at how the “marketing is everything” principle applies to each step.

Before

This step encompasses your marketing efforts to attract new customers. When most dealers think of attracting new customers, they think of their website, TV, radio, pay-per-click, social media, etc. That’s true, but it’s incomplete. Here are some other considerations:

  • How is your phone answered? I’ve called a lot of dealers and had the name of the business grunted at me by the person answering. Make sure your phones are answered in a way that makes people feel welcomed and creates differentiation from your competition.
  • What does the outside of your building look like? Is your signage clean and free of cobwebs?
  • Are your business vehicles clean? Or do they look like rust buckets?

During

This next step is what you do during the sales process to create differentiation, position yourself as a trusted authority and close more sales. When a consumer walks into a flooring store, too many dealers think only of the sales process itself. Yes, that’s vitally important, but here are other things to consider:

  • Is your showroom clean? Have you curated your products, or is it so jammed with samples people can hardly navigate?
  • Are testimonials from happy customers visible in your showroom? Do you have display monitors showing before and after photos of installations?
  • Are your restrooms clean? Do they look like an interior designer decorated them or more like a gas station restroom?
  • Do you show hospitality to walk-ins? Do you provide them with a beverage menu with different drink options? Do you put cookies or fresh bread out front?
  • Do you conduct a full diagnostic review while in the customer’s home? Do you inspect your customer’s vacuum, walk-off mats and floor-cleaning products? Do you give her written recommendations on getting the longest life out of her floors?

After

This final step is what you do after the installation is complete to create a stream of repeat and referral business.

  • Do you communicate with your past customers? Do you send out a monthly printed newsletter? Do you send them a weekly e-newsletter?
  • Do you have a referral program? Do you reward and thank customers for their referrals?
  • Do you have customer appreciation events? Do you have an annual Christmas party or a summer barbecue in your parking lot or local park?

If every month you implemented one of these strategies, in under a year you’d have them all in place, and you’d create a massive advantage in your market.

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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Lisbiz strategies: Info-based dialogue sets sales process in motion

September 3/10, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 6

By Lisbeth Calandrino

There are various types of conversations we all use to function in everyday life. When attempting to converse, whether person to person or in a group or organization, it is essential to understand the different types of conversations and how each type functions.

Informational conversation is what most people would define as conversing. It is the type of conversation that “gets beyond the gate keeper,” and this is important when it comes to establishing a level of trust or rapport before making a sale.

Informational conversation concentrates on exchanging facts and/or pieces of common information. These facts can be correct or incorrect but, most importantly, they are free of opinion or feeling from either of the participants. It is a low-risk conversation in that it reveals little or nothing about those involved.

The basic, informal “hello” gives a clear invitation to begin an informational conversation. It acknowledges that someone is responding on the other end of the phone in a polite and direct way. If the person smiles when saying “hello,” the person on the other end will hear the friendliness in the speaker’s voice.

A more formal greeting could do more to orient the caller into the conversation. Saying the company name first gives the caller a better idea of whom she is speaking to—for example, “Discount Carpet, Hillcrest branch, this is Juan, the manager speaking.” The caller is able to confirm she is calling the correct place and speaking to the person who can effectively deal with her problem.

If the caller requests to speak with someone else within the organization, the person answering the phone should reply courteously, “I can get them on the line in just a minute if you are willing to hold.” He then should wait for a response. If the caller agrees to hold, the employee should set the phone down with the speaker directed away from any noise and quietly get the person the caller is waiting for. If the business has phone extensions, he can easily transfer the call to the correct person and thank the caller for waiting.

Advising your sales associate to stop talking may seem counterintuitive to making a sale, but many salespeople often talk excessively and fail to listen to the customer. We often feel that we need to control the conversation, or we will lose the sale. However, the problem with constantly talking is you are unable to truly understand the underlying needs of the customer.

When qualifying a prospect, you are evaluating whether or not she is in a position to decide to buy your product. If you are talking to someone in an organization, it is important to speak only to the person who has the authority to finalize a purchase. If the person is not authorized to make a deal with you, then find out when the person who can close the deal is available and call back. 

Once you have the person with authority on the line, inquire if he or she has the means to close the deal. This may involve finding out information about available funds on credit cards, lines of credit and monthly budget. Informational conversation is a great way to get the ball rolling.

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: Why ‘infomercial RSAs’ consistently excel

September 3/10, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 6

By Tom Jennings

I was recently coaching a group of retail salespeople who were new to the flooring industry. While having a coffee break, the conversation shifted to infomercial salespeople. The general tone was one of amusement at the manner in which they conveyed their particular message for the product they were currently promoting.

When I inquired whether they thought this method of selling was effective, the general tone was, “It may work for them—but I couldn’t do it.” My response was if they were serious, then possibly they had chosen the wrong career path. Explaining my remarks, I reminded them of the selling basics these late-night salespeople have mastered. Let’s examine a few:

Be a believer. If you want to be believed, you must first be a believer yourself. Always remember that we buy based on emotion. Is there ever a shadow of doubt that these product pitch people believe they are selling the very best solution to the problem at hand? They are enthusiastic to a fault. Contrast this to the indifference that is so prevalent among most clerks you encounter today. When we are positive with our message, sales always increase.

Your job is to sell. Is educating the customer an important factor in a sales presentation? Absolutely. However, education is only a vehicle to help the customer make a decision. Too many salespeople see the “education of the customer” as their primary goal. It is not. Your job is to sell. Never forget to create a compelling reason for the customer to buy now. You’ll never hear a professional salesperson say, “Call me when you get a minute.” It is always “call now.” Their voice inflections and facial expressions help create a slightly urgent tone to encourage the prospect to move quickly. I’m living proof that you certainly do not have to be an “in-your-face-hard-closer” type to ask for the order. Develop your own technique. Just don’t forget to ask for the sale.

Do the demo. Infomercial salespeople never make a presentation where they fail to visibly demonstrate the superiority of their product. They don’t just tell you a product works—they show you. What do you do to demo your products and services to get the customer excited? This is crucial to your success. Without the “wow,” they won’t be buying now.

Be the difference. Let’s be realistic—most salespeople sell products and services that are nearly identical, or perceived as such, to those sold by the competition. So how do you differentiate yourself and your firm from similar competition? The answer is simple—it’s you. While products may be similar in the customer’s judgment—you cannot be. While your product may be hard to differentiate, you are not. You must stand apart and be memorable.

Successful salespeople always develop a style that works for them. Don’t try to copy their style because it won’t work. It’s critical that you be yourself to be perceived as genuine. You need to develop your own style that is comfortable for both you and your target customer. What you do want to emulate, however, are some of the techniques proven to get people off of their couches and reaching for their wallets. In today’s retail environment, this is more important to your success than ever. As they say on late night television: “Act now.”

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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Dear David: Tracking ‘true’ business performance

September 3/10, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 6

By David Romano

Dear David: 

I need some help understanding what reports to look at to see what is going on in my store. I am good at staying on top of daily things. I look at my bank balance, try to stay on top of receivables, check out sales reports and pay attention to my profit and loss statement. What else should I be looking at?

Dear Uniformed Owner,

Providing a list of reports and how often you should review them is the easy part. It’s going to be more difficult to convince you that what you are currently doing isn’t very effective.

You’re simply looking at data from the past and reacting to things in the now instead of using that information to create the shortest, most efficient route to get where you want to be. This is more about your philosophy and less about my reporting advice. Nonetheless, here are a few suggestions from your peers who participated in Benchmark Group’s surveys over the years:

Financials. Cash flow should be looked at daily. Accounts receivable (aging and by sales associate), job cost (by sales associate) and open orders (by sales associate) should be checked weekly. Profit and loss (compared to last year and to budget) as well as budget (monthly and YTD comparison) should be looked at by the 15th of the following month. Balance sheets and advertising investment (cost of advertising per new customer) should be looked at monthly.

Sales. Quotes should be checked daily. Average ticket (by associate, store and business segment) and open orders should be looked at weekly. Gross profit and close rates should be checked monthly. Written sales, delivered sales and traffic should all be reviewed daily and monthly by sales associate, store, business segment and vs. goal.

Operations. Customer service (callbacks, average days to resolve issues and money to resolve issues) should be reviewed daily. Claims (by vendor, aging, status, total number, numbers open and closed, and money collected and open) should be looked at weekly. Inventory reconciliation and change orders (per sales associate, crew and money collect and lost) must be looked at monthly.

Merchandising. Sales and gross profit, sales per sales associate, turn rate, aging, open-to-buy, gross margin return on investment and stock performance should all be reviewed monthly.

You’re now probably overwhelmed and realize this list is impossible to track, especially if you assume that only you are the collector and analyst. Remember, you have a team of people to help run your business.

If you allocate each of these reports to the appropriate staff and give them due dates, this is palatable. It is also critical each of the assigned individuals understands they are responsible for not only reporting the data, but also understanding what caused the performance as well as providing suggested improvements. You should also check with your sales reps at RFMS, Pacific Solutions or Rollmaster, as they have all gotten much better at providing this type of reporting.

This leaves you with the most important part of all: You would be required to be an owner and not a firefighter. An owner who believes that preventing fires is more important than putting them out. An owner who believes that proactive is more effective than situational leadership. Being an entrepreneur is already difficult; making uniformed and rash decisions only makes things worse.

David Romano, formerly the founder of Romano Consulting Group as well as Benchmarkinc Recruiting, is currently the director of Dallas-based Romano Group. You can contact David at david@romanogroup.com.