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Al’s column: There’s no substitute for face to face

July 9/16, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 2

By Scott Perron

 

As I thought about the content of this article, a vivid memory from 1989 flashed into my brain. I was 24 years old and our family had just opened a new store in Connecticut. I was determined to talk my father into purchasing a thermal fax machine for use in our business so we could stay on the “cutting edge.” My dad was a couple of years older than I am now, and he could not wrap his brain around the need for sending electronic documents through this silly, $789 contraption. Nonetheless, he caved and we purchased the fax machine.

Fast forward almost 30 years and look at how we operate today. Can anyone imagine a day where you do not deal with dozens or even hundreds of emails, texts, Google searches, Facebook or other social media platforms? All this while continuing to use the scarce, antiquated art of live telephone or face-to-face conversations. We now have mobile devices for estimating and invoicing jobs on site with electronic signatures, credit card swipers utilizing e-documents that allow us to be more efficient, more organized and, with any luck, more profitable.

While all of these new tools and methods of doing business have become essential in our everyday lives, I am concerned about the lack of personal interaction, not just in business but also as a society. This movement toward impersonality favors automation and reduces the need for human contact. It’s so easy to hide behind text, email and social conversation when discussing business and human interaction. Think about it: We find (and break up with) our mates, friends and even business associates via text, IM and email rather than in person.

When training our people, however, we still insist on telephone as well as electronic follow up on all quotations, sales, etc. It has become increasingly evident, however, that the new consumers—especially those of a younger age—lack the desire to be “live” in their communications. I often observe my own teenage children texting in a room full of kids, stopping only to snicker, share a video or make a quick comment and then it’s right back to the tech-talk.

I have long believed that if everyone is running in one direction, an opportunity often lies in going the opposite way. This got me to thinking about how valuable the art of cold calling, belly-to-belly interaction and in-person solicitation will become for those who can master it as we sink deeper into a device-driven world. Over the past few weeks, my team has been calling, visiting and playfully challenging prospects and customers to speak with us live and in person. It’s still early, but I’m finding that people are refreshed and encouraged to speak rather than tap their thumbs—provided, of course, there is a benefit for them to do so.

In our interactions with customers, we routinely explain how personal the purchase of new flooring really is to their home. It’s about functionality, aesthetics and it’s also an expression of their personality. We have posted a series of videos on our products and services designed to educate and inform clients. In the near future, we plan to create new videos that encourage consumers, especially millennials, to take a calculated look and personal stake in the purchase of flooring while highlighting the added value they will experience.

I am convinced we will someday return to personal interaction with each other. What I am not sure of is how, when and what the result will be.

Only time will tell.

 

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 at scott@24-7floors.com or 860.250.1733.

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Al’s column: The art of closing the books

June 26-July 2, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 1

By Roman Basi

 

The majority of my clients in the floor covering industry are classified as S corporations. The S corporation is an entity typically used by small businesses for its pass-through form of taxation, which is different from C corporations
 (i.e., Walmart, Apple, Microsoft, etc.) However, S and C corporations do share some similarities, primarily in the form of ownership and stock control that dictate the company model.

If you own stock in a corporation, you are an owner—and at some point owners may want to sell their stock in the company to “cash out.” In other situations, owners may be approached by another company looking to acquire it. When one company seeks to acquire another, or the
company’s stock is
being sold, it can
create several questions concerning S
corporations: (1)
What happens if the shares are sold mid-tax year?; (2) What happens if the company holds an election to close the books?; or (3) How do you break up the income on taxes if a shareholder is bought out? Let’s take a closer look at each of these individually.

With 365 days in the calendar year, the likelihood of a shareholder being bought out or the company being sold mid-tax year as opposed to the end of year is high. One might ask how you allocate funds in a mid-year buyout or acquisition? Well, the general rule requires the funds to be split among shareholders pro rata on a per-share, per-day basis. For instance, a 50% owner of an S corporation bought out March 31 (end of first quarter) would be entitled to 12.5% of the yearly funds. The funds always follow whether a profit or a loss exists. This method is standard when the company chooses to forego change in its corporate structure at the time it’s acquired. Instead, the company chooses to close the books and make changes at the end of the tax year.

But there might be a better way. Another method to handle an S corporation shareholder buyout is to hold a special election deemed a “closing of the through form of taxation, which books.” This method allows a company to halt the profits or losses on a specific date to provide the subsequent income tonew shareholders in accordance with their ownership. Take the previous example where the owner of 50% of an S corporation is bought out March 31 and the company holds an election to close the books. All new owners vote a unanimous “yes” to close the books wherein the company’s accounting method ends the first quarter, then continues the second-through-fourth quarters separately for the new owners. The 50% previous owner would take his share of profit or loss for Jan. 1 through March 31, then take nothing during the following three quarters. The departed partner would not retain any subsequent taxation after the closing date. However, depending on the company’s margins at the time of the vote, the closing of the books method could create a benefit or detriment to the previous owner and new owners as far as personal income taxes are concerned. Thus, it’s wise to speak to a tax or accounting specialist to determine which method is better for your particular situation.

Another alternative is the “reasonable method.” Here, federal tax regulations will allow a partnership to allocate the taxes pro rata for departing partners, while also allowing the partnership to collect some profit for the rest of the year on income they may have contributed to. For instance, if a partner departs from its law firm but contributed to a case that will be settled six months later, the firm can opt to pay him or her from that profit and still have the new partnership structure remain the same.

 

Roman Basi, an attorney and CPA, is president of The Center for Financial, Legal & Tax Planning. An expert on closely held enterprises, he writes frequently on financial and legal matters impacting small businesses.

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Al's column: Overcoming objections to new software

June 11/18, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 26

By Jason Goldberg

 

One of the most challenging parts of investing in new lead management software is getting your sales team to adopt it. It is never easy to convince people who are set in their ways to completely change the way they operate on a daily basis. To most salespeople, integrating new software into their sales process is only going to slow them down and give them less time to sell, which could eventually lead to less money in their pockets.

However, I believe this assumption is incorrect. In fact, the right lead management system can put more money in your salespeople’s pockets. Following are some ways you can handle your sales team’s objections to your new lead management software investment.

It will save you time. Most sales teams waste hours each day managing their leads on paper or in an Excel spreadsheet. A good lead management system enables them to store all of the information related to a lead (contact details, tasks, appointments, products of interest, samples, diagrams, quotes, notes, etc.) in one organized place that can be accessed by other salespeople and managers. Sales managers do not have to interrupt their salespeople to ask them what they are working on. Rather, they can log into the system and check their salespeople’s workloads themselves. And while it might take a few days to master new software in the beginning, the time saved in the long run far outweighs the time required to invest up front. In addition, that time saved can be spent talking to customers and closing more sales.

It will improve the level of service you offer your customers. How many times does a salesperson answer a call from a customer and spend minutes digging through papers on his/her desk to find the details of that customer’s project? Those minutes are valuable to both the customer and the salesperson. The sooner an RSA can answer a customer’s questions, the higher level of service he/she can provide, resulting in a happier and more satisfied customer. The less time the salesperson is spending searching for answers, the more time he/she has to invest in nurturing other leads and closing sales. With a lead management system, it only takes a matter of seconds to find the specifics of a customer’s flooring job, so both the salesperson and customer will appreciate the increased speed and efficiency.

It will increase the effectiveness of your marketing. Most lead management software can capture data about the marketing sources that are driving leads to your business. This data is very valuable to the marketing team and can help marketers determine which advertising mediums are the most impactful. For instance, if a lot of leads are coming to your business from Facebook, your marketing team might decide to allocate more funds to Facebook, which should result in more leads for your sales team to pursue. More leads represent more opportunities for your salespeople to—you guessed it—make more money.

In summary, if you are planning to invest in a new lead management system, it is important to demonstrate to your sales team how, if used properly, it can dramatically increase their efficiency, improve the level of customer service they provide and convert more leads into sales. These three things combined will increase your salespeople’s close rates and eventually lead to bigger paychecks. No salesperson would object to a bigger paycheck, right?

Jason Goldberg is CEO of Retail Lead Management, a CRM software system designed specifically for the flooring industry. The company has sold more than 1,000 user licenses to flooring retailers in North America.

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Al's column: Lessons learned from baseball

May 28/June 4, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 25

By Torrey Jaeckle

 

I love watching baseball. Unfortunately, I rarely watch it the “right” way. What do I mean by that? Well, let me start by describing how I usually watch a game.

First, I record the game. Then I sit down, after the kids are in bed—usually around nine or 10 o’clock—and begin watching. To save time, I fast forward between pitches. Once you get the hang of it, you can do this almost flawlessly (until you come across the odd pitcher who has non-standard cadence to his timing). But in general, I do see the entire game—all three hours—in about a 50-minute span.

So if I’m seeing all the action, one might reasonably ask what I’m really missing due to my viewing habit. Nothing—and yet everything. Let me explain: The other night I faced a rare occasion in that, after a late evening trip to the grocery store, I came home to a quiet house—everyone was asleep early. As much as I love my family dearly, I cannot describe the giddiness such a situation arises inside of me. A whole night ahead of me, to do whatever I want, uninterrupted. So I chose to watch the game.

With no time constraints, I took advantage and decided to watch the ballgame in its entirety, including the announcers’ discussion and banter between pitches. It’s incredible how the fabric of the game changes when you actually sit down and pay attention. My usual viewing behavior typically gives me nothing more than a sped-up box score. You see what happens, but you don’t truly experience the game on a deeper level. You find out, for example, why your first baseman is playing third that night. You hear of the opposing pitcher’s past struggles and what your team needs to do to capitalize on it. In short, you actually see the game for what it is—an array of strategy, decisions, athleticism and execution, rather than as a series of pitches to get through. Your enjoyment comes from the experience of watching, rather than from the end result. And you learn a lot in the process.

So what does all this have to do with the flooring business? Well, the day after that game, I was thinking about the past 10 months at work. I’ve been very busy—overwhelmed, actually—due to a variety of factors. And this has caused me to effectively “fast forward” through my days. Just as the fast-view method of watching a baseball game makes you treat it like a series of pitches to get through, I’ve been viewing my work days as a series of tasks to accomplish. I don’t have much time to devote to the period between those tasks, so I effectively eliminate them.

The downside is I’ve lost that “big-picture feel” for what is going on in my business and in my industry. A strict focus on activities and tasks robs one of the critical experiences of learning and growing. Sure, tasks have to get done, but when your sole focus is on the “pitches” of your daily routine, you miss the valuable commentary. And it’s only in the commentary where you get the details that really give you the story that allows you to view your business at a higher level.

I vowed to make some changes that day, and I’m in the process of implementing them. I know I need to stop viewing my day as a checklist of things to cross off and more as an opportunity to build knowledge, develop strategy and grow relationships. And you simply can’t do that when you insist on fast forwarding between the pitches.

Torrey Jaeckle is vice president of Jaeckle Distributors, a Madison, Wis.-based wholesaler specializing in flooring and countertop surfacing products. In his current capacity, Jaeckle oversees pricing and e-commerce initiatives, and he also manages the data portions and business reporting aspects of the company’s ERP system.

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Al's column: Are you in the right class for tax purposes?

May 14/21, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 24

By Roman Basi

In one of my previous articles, I focused primarily on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s (TCJA) impact on pass-through entities: sole proprietorships, limited liability companies (LLCs) taxed as partnerships or S corporations. In this installment, I provide an analysis of the other corporate form, C corporations. 

While an S corporation election can be beneficial for many businesses, don’t discount a C corporation’s 21% flat tax rate or let the fears of double taxation haunt your entity election. With the right advice, you can reduce (if not avoid) double taxation.

For guidance, see the chart below, which provides a comparison between pass-through entities and C corporations. Notice in the “comparison” column there is a $13,650 tax savings under a pass-through entity. If the analysis stopped here, every business owner would elect a pass-through entity. However, it is important to further analyze the comparisons as the complexities extend beyond what is provided in the numbers herein.

There are three important aspects to consider when analyzing whether a C corporation election is best for your business. In most small business C corporations, the shareholders also act as employees. Generally, there are two methods to allocate compensation to these shareholders. First, in the form of a qualified dividend subject to a distribution tax with a maximum tax rate of 20% (23.8% if subject to the net investment income tax). Additionally, the qualified dividend is a non-deductible, after-tax profit distribution to the corporation. Thus, a qualified dividend of $100,000 will be taxed at the 21% corporate rate and 15% distribution rate resulting in the highest tax burden of $32,850.

A second method of compensation is payment for services rendered in the shareholder’s capacity as an employee. In this scenario, compensation is only taxed at the individual level to the shareholder/employee and is deductible to the corporation, thus avoiding the prospect of double taxation.

The issue here is the compensation must be reasonably related to the services rendered. The interplay between compensation and the number of employees should be a focus of your tax analysis when determining whether to elect C corporation or pass-through entity status.

Moreover, if investment or expansion are part of your business model, a C corporation can retain its earnings tax free so long as it can provide proof of expansion or investment. However, retained earnings can become subject to taxation, as the IRS promotes policies of providing compensation or issuing qualified dividends.

This article just scratches the surface in the comparison between C corporations and pass-through entities. A number of other factors must be analyzed to determine the best path for your business.

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Al's column: Urgency helps boost close rates

April 30/May 7, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 23

By Lisbeth Calandrino

The other day I was helping a friend clean out her closet. She would pull out an article of clothing and declare it was on its way to the Goodwill. A couple of times I commented on the clothing’s great quality. It seemed that when I did this, the piece went back into the closet. I noticed if I liked it before she took it out of the closet, it never made it to the Goodwill bag.

I started going through the Goodwill bag and trying things on. Immediately, she decided to keep those things. My interest in the items seemed to give them more value. She suddenly wanted the pieces when she couldn’t have them.

Retail works the same way. My friend sells expensive cars. The dealer doesn’t stock many vehicles and salespeople are always complaining. At first this bothered my friend who felt it worked against him until a customer said, “There’s probably a great demand for these cars.” Most customers believe cars fly out of the door and that if you want it, you better buy it now. This is an example of scarcity appeal, which is often used in marketing to induce purchases.

An experiment that used wristwatch ads as stimuli exposed participants to one of two product descriptions: “Exclusive limited edition, hurry, limited stock” or “New edition with many items in stock.” They then had to indicate how much they would be willing to pay for the product. The average consumer agreed to pay an additional 50% if the watch was advertised as scarce.

Recent research also proposes we are often inadequate when it comes to our ability to make good decisions when we believe we have less time. Many people say they work better under pressure. However, when we have less time than we need, we frequently make bad decisions. Consider the Tenerife air disaster of 1977, in which a veteran pilot commenced takeoff without clearance and crashed into another airplane on the runway, killing 583 people.

In reviewing the tragedy, analysts pointed to a variety of time pressures. A few months earlier, a new duty-time regulation restricted the number of hours pilots could fly each month. Anyone who logged too many hours could be subject to harsh penalties.

So what does all this mean to your business? When you help customers set deadlines for their purchases, you are actually helping them buy. Setting deadlines for your employees is also beneficial. Give them artificial deadlines before the “drop-dead ones” so their proposals can be reviewed. You will find it results in fewer mistakes.

It’s also important to set up your showroom so customers believe the store is busy and feel it’s wise to buy right away. If your salespeople tell customers the merchandise is limited, they will have to prove it. This doesn’t mean you should turn your showroom into a circus, but at one point your customer must feel some internal pressure to make a decision.

RSAs should be asking, “What’s the occasion for the new flooring?” This helps create a deadline for purchase. You could also have someone call the showroom and ask you to put some merchandise on hold or even put a sold ticket on certain items. My realtor friend says when you tell the client there are other offers coming in, the customer starts getting serious.

This is what human behavior is about. Remember, without a goal everything is just a dream. If you want to turn your customer’s dreams into reality, you will have to set a deadline.

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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Al's column: Tax breaks—What you need to know

April 16/23, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 22

By Bart Basi

 

If you’ve managed to secure an extension to file your 2017 taxes, there are some things you need to know. If you thought the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) signed into law Dec. 22, 2017, was the final determination on tax matters for the future, you were wrong. Earlier this year, Congress approved the Bipartisan Budget Act, which contains a number of tax provisions and extensions of more than 30 expired tax breaks. While the majority of tax relief in the legislation applies only to the 2017 tax year, the retroactive changes will have a large impact on the current filing season.

Additionally, a number of new provisions within the Bipartisan Budget Act modified provisions passed under the TCJA. The modifications include new mandated tax forms for seniors filing taxes as well as excise taxes on investment income regarding private colleges and tuition. The IRS has recognized the extensions and modifications will have a direct impact this filing season.

With more than 30 extensions to previously expired tax breaks, it’s important that business owners as well as individual filers work with a knowledgeable professional to minimize tax liabilities. The TCJA is essentially 500-plus pages of dense tax and accounting material; the Bipartisan Budget Act is another 650-plus pages of legalese. Understanding the material can be confusing. However, it’s vital to take advantage of what is offered by the IRS to maximize your dollars by minimizing your tax liabilities.

New game, new rules
December 2017 marked the beginning of a new tax era. The TCJA, as the Trump Administration has so often stated, is the first major tax reform since the 1980s. Many businesses are aware of major corporate tax changes, but the TCJA may also change the way individuals file their taxes, not only this year but through 2025.

One major aspect of the new tax law is an allowance for pass-through entities to claim a 20% “below-the-line” deduction for the owner’s qualified business income. However, the 20% deduction is subject to limitations that are currently being interpreted as to their application. The TCJA has labeled a “specified service trade or business involving the performance of services in the fields of health, law, consulting, athletics, financial services and brokerage services” as services that don’t qualify for the 20% deduction.

Here are some other examples of how the new TCJA may affect you:

Home mortgage interest. This is a frequently used deduction that allows filers to deduct the amount of interest paid on their mortgage. After the TCJA changes, the deduction is now limited to claiming the home mortgage interest only for interest paid or accrued on the acquisition debt during those years.

Alimony/separate maintenance. Previously, anyone who paid alimony or separate maintenance payments were allowed to claim them on their federal taxes and were allowed a deduction.  This deduction has been repealed.

Moving expenses. Everyone moves at some point in their life, typically many times. For the years 2018-2025, the above-the-line tax deduction for this item has been repealed. However, special rules apply for those in the United States Military.

These are just a few of the changes under the new tax code. Contact the Center for Financial, Legal & Tax Planning at 618.997.3436, or via email at melissa@taxplanning.com, for clarification or to schedule a consultation.

Bart Basi is an attorney, a certified public accountant and the president of the Center for Financial, Legal & Tax Planning. He is an in-demand speaker and writer on financial issues impacting various businesses and industries.

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Al’s column: Turning browsers into buyers

April 2/9, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 21

By Lisbeth Calandrino

In this modern age of digital marketing, it’s critical retailers move beyond the traditional means of targeting consumers. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting dealers completely abandon tried-and-true methods of marketing to new and existing customers. Rather, they should seize all available opportunities—along with the host of online marketing tools available—to turn browsers into buyers.

According to Salesforce Marketing Cloud, a provider of digital marketing automation and analytics software and services, 70% of people say they always open emails from their favorite companies. MarketingSherpa, a firm specializing in tracking what works in all aspects of marketing, reported 61% of shoppers say they like to receive promotional emails weekly; meanwhile, 29% said they want to receive them more frequently.

If you are unsure how to employ online marketing tools in your business, the following are a few tips to get the ball rolling.

Develop a plan of attack. Most businesses only focus on their advertising efforts when they have something special to promote. However, an email marketing campaign should be about more than just promotions. It should give your customers useful information they can use throughout the year. It’s also a good idea to build email campaigns around holidays, special occasions and important events.

Know your customer. This might sound rudimentary, but do you really know “who’s who” in your database? Your customers may include property managers, builders, architects and homeowners. Should they all receive the same email message? Certainly not. According to the Lyris Annual Email Optimizer Report, companies using email list segmentation saw 39% higher open rates and 28% lower unsubscribe rates. Put another way, if you met 50 people at a networking group you wouldn’t say the same things to each person, would you?

Devise compelling subject lines. You don’t have to be a wordsmith to excel in this area; just think creatively. For instance, if you want your customer to know something, tell her what it is in the subject line and then give her the full story in the email body. Oftentimes the content has nothing to do with the subject line. A great subject line can spark interest, but if the content isn’t relevant, the customer will stop opening your emails.

All customers are not created equal. When you create your campaign, you need to segment your customers. The customer who has bought from you is different from the one who hasn’t yet made a purchase. Don’t treat them the same. Target each group and send them relevant messages.

Let’s say you meet 40 new people at a networking event and put them in with the rest of the people in your database. Since you don’t know these customers, you don’t want to treat them as if you do. Rather, know that this is a special group that you want to get to know so they will see your information as useful and want to keep hearing from you. Once you gain their trust and they recognize your brand, you can begin to send them offers.

The trick is not to get overwhelmed or overthink things. Think about emails, alerts and messages you receive from some of the places you shop, and try to emulate the ones that inspire you or compel you to act. And if you’re not comfortable in tackling this yourself, by all means assign someone on your staff—maybe a millennial? —who’s more familiar with the technology and various media.

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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Al's column: Turning browsers into buyers

April 2/9, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 21

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

In this modern age of digital marketing, it’s critical retailers move beyond the traditional means of targeting consumers. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting dealers completely abandon tried-and-true methods of marketing to new and existing customers. Rather, they should seize all available opportunities—along with the host of online marketing tools available—to turn browsers into buyers.

According to Salesforce Marketing Cloud, a provider of digital marketing automation and analytics software and services, 70% of people say they always open emails from their favorite companies. MarketingSherpa, a firm specializing in tracking what works in all aspects of marketing, reported 61% of shoppers say they like to receive promotional emails weekly; meanwhile, 29% said they want to receive them more frequently.

If you are unsure how to employ online marketing tools in your business, the following are a few tips to get the ball rolling.

Develop a plan of attack. Most businesses only focus on their advertising efforts when they have something special to promote. However, an email marketing campaign should be about more than just promotions. It should give your customers useful information they can use throughout the year. It’s also a good idea to build email campaigns around holidays, special occasions and important events.

Know your customer. This might sound rudimentary, but do you really know “who’s who” in your database? Your customers may include property managers, builders, architects and homeowners. Should they all receive the same email message? Certainly not. According to the Lyris Annual Email Optimizer Report, companies using email list segmentation saw 39% higher open rates and 28% lower unsubscribe rates. Put another way, if you met 50 people at a networking group you wouldn’t say the same things to each person, would you?

Devise compelling subject lines. You don’t have to be a wordsmith to excel in this area; just think creatively. For instance, if you want your customer to know something, tell her what it is in the subject line and then give her the full story in the email body. Oftentimes the content has nothing to do with the subject line. A great subject line can spark interest, but if the content isn’t relevant, the customer will stop opening your emails.

All customers are not created equal. When you create your campaign, you need to segment your customers. The customer who has bought from you is different from the one who hasn’t yet made a purchase. Don’t treat them the same. Target each group and send them relevant messages.

Let’s say you meet 40 new people at a networking event and put them in with the rest of the people in your database. Since you don’t know these customers, you don’t want to treat them as if you do. Rather, know that this is a special group that you want to get to know so they will see your information as useful and want to keep hearing from you. Once you gain their trust and they recognize your brand, you can begin to send them offers.

The trick is not to get overwhelmed or overthink things. Think about emails, alerts and messages you receive from some of the places you shop, and try to emulate the ones that inspire you or compel you to act. And if you’re not comfortable in tackling this yourself, by all means assign someone on your staff—maybe a millennial? —who’s more familiar with the technology and various media.

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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Al's column: The upside to polished concrete

March 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 20

By John McGrath

From a design perspective, the look of polished concrete floors and open ceilings is a highly desirable, contemporary aesthetic for commercial spaces. As a major trend sweeping across retail, industrial and other markets, architects and designers are finding polished concrete has significant environmental, safety, sustainability and maintenance benefits as well.

From helping to earn U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED credits to providing performance benefits, polished concrete is fast becoming an attractive alternative to carpet, VCT and vinyl flooring. While new flooring options like LVT have seen explosive sales growth, this seemingly simple alternative to traditional floor covering products has slowly but surely cemented its place in the industry due to a specific combination of attributes.

As a result, numerous large retailers such as Wal-Mart, Albertsons and Safeway have moved to polished concrete as the standard flooring material for both their new and existing stores. The same rings true for smaller boutique stores, office buildings, institutional facilities and more. From an aesthetic standpoint, polished concrete offers a modern and sophisticated look. A number of stains, colors and topping materials can be added to the floor, along with inset logos and etching. The result is an installation with a varied, natural look that is highly light reflective, slip resistant and visually impactful.

The thermal properties of concrete also help reduce heating and cooling loads for buildings. This translates to significant energy savings when spread across hundreds of thousands of square feet in warehouse stores and large commercial spaces. It’s a plus for large chains and companies like Amazon that operate massive fulfillment centers.

Since concrete is already used as a subfloor in most new buildings, polishing it cuts back on material usage and waste. This adds to LEED credits as there are no additional flooring manufacturing enlarging our carbon footprint. Similarly, since polished concrete is reflective, it helps architects and designers earn electric credits. And because there is limited maintenance and no replacement materials, polished concrete flooring also lessens water use and construction waste.

Altogether, polished concrete flooring can contribute to nearly 40 different LEED point categories. These include points for materials and reuse, indoor environmental air quality along with energy and atmosphere.

Beyond achieving LEED points, the other reason facility managers, interior architects and designers are gravitating toward polished concrete is maintenance and cost-savings. “Whether you are installing VCT, carpet, hardwood or laminate, it’s going to be expensive to maintain over time and replacement is inevitable,” said INSTALL instructor Dave Gross, Northeast Floorlayers, Local 251. “Polished concrete requires virtually no maintenance and when the surface begins to dull it only requires a quick buffing to restore it.”

When installed correctly, according to Tod Sandy, coordinator of the Detroit Carpentry Apprentice School, polished concrete is easy to maintain, cost-effective and environmentally friendly. “As a result, more end users are requesting it.”

With an increased focus on training and new advances in product and installation technology, polished concrete flooring will continue to grow and evolve in the coming years.

John McGrath is the director of INSTALL, a group dedicated to industry-leading training for professional installers and flooring contractors.