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Marketing mastery: How to fix bad reviews

February 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 18

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(Second of three parts)

“I remember this guy,” a dealer from Minnesota told me. I had just pointed out to him that he had a negative review on Google. “He was rude to my staff and made unreasonable demands. When we told him we couldn’t give him what he wanted he left this lousy review.”

Many dealers can relate to this situation. You pride yourself on providing great service, and you’ve built a strong reputation in your community through years of hard work. Then some yahoo gets his knickers in a twist and trashes you online. I’ve done online marketing assessments for a lot of dealers, and unfortunately this situation is not uncommon.

Fake reviews left by competitors or dishonest customers can also be a problem. It is not fair and can make you want to pull your hair out. But this is the world we live in. So rather than complain, let’s look at steps you can take to handle negative reviews, protect your online reputation and gain an advantage over competitors.

Fix the problem in your business. When someone leaves a negative review it’s easy to get angry and defensive, but what if the negative comment is legitimate? If so, this person has done you a favor. Here’s why: According to Lee Resource, for every customer complaint there are 26 other unhappy customers who have remained silent. In this case the reviewer has taken the time to point out a problem that is causing you to lose customers and money. The solution here is to swallow your pride and fix the problem in your business.

Use Disney’s proven customer service recovery strategy. The Walt Disney Co. hosts 135 million people per year and they are masters at customer service recovery. Their employees are trained using the acronym HEARD. This technique can be used in person as well as with online reviews.

  • Hear. Let the customer tell the story without any interruptions.
  • Empathize. Let the customers know you care deeply about their concerns.
  • Apologize. Sometimes all someone wants is a sincere apology. Even if you didn’t do anything wrong, you can still apologize by saying things like, “I’m sorry you’re frustrated. I get it.”
  • Resolve. Resolve the issue right away. For example, ask the customer, “What can I do to make this right?”
  • Diagnose. Without blaming anyone, find out why the mistake occurred. Does your system need fixing? Was it human error? Take steps to make sure the mistake won’t happen again.

In addition, you should respond publicly to negative reviews. Resist the urge to blame the reviewer or make excuses. Instead, be empathetic, apologize and list the steps you have taken to correct the problem.

Lastly, learn to drown out negative reviews. There is no mechanism to remove authentic negative comments left by real customers from Google and the other major review sites. Note: If a review is fake or slanderous there are steps you can take with the review companies to have them removed, but it’s a hassle. I don’t recommend it. Instead, drown out negative reviews with positive ones. This is the single- most powerful strategy for building and maintaining a great online reputation.

If you have any questions, or if you’d like me to evaluate your online reputation, email me at support@flooringsuccesssystems.com.

 

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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Financial: How changes in tax law will affect dealers

February 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 17

By Bart Basi

 

(Second of two parts)

In my previous column, I broached the subject of the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act—also referred to as the Tax Reform Bill—and what the changes mean for small businesses and retailers in the floor covering space. In this installment, I will delve deeper into the benefits of the law relative to how a business is structured.

One of the biggest changes in the law relate to Subchapter S corporations. (Most of my clients in the flooring space are Subchapter S.) If a business is registered as a Subchapter S corporation or a partnership 20% of an income calculation (not 20% of profits) is not subject to tax.

What that means is, if a large company is a Subchapter S corporation, then its taxes essentially decrease from 35% to approximately 29.7%. (Note: This is the maximum rate—it could actually be lower than 29% but it will never be less than 21%.) It’s still higher than a C corporation (21%), but it does help small businesses that are Subchapter S corporations or partnerships that want to stay as they are.

But what happens if you’re not classified as a Subchapter S corporation or partnership? For example, take limited liability corporations, or LLCs, which, are still very popular with people mainly because there is no tax rate applicable in the U.S. for LLCs. Accountants who advise business owners who operate under this structure ask that owners make a choice between paying taxes as an individual proprietor of a Schedule C, a Subchapter S, partnership or C corporation. In other words, the federal government states that if you are an LLC, the accountant is supposed to check a box that essentially says, ‘We are a limited liability company but we’re going to pay taxes as…” At which point the owner of the business files the appropriate tax return. Remember: There’s no such thing as a tax return for an LLC.

But it’s important that small businesses operating as an LLC remember they cannot use anything other than the letters “LLC” when referring to their company. Also, the letters LLC must appear on every single document in order to enjoy the protection it affords. The law states that if you operate as an LLC, then you must notify every single person you deal with—right down to the stationery, business cards, invoices and even truck signage you use. Otherwise, a third party can sue you personally because you haven’t shown that person—as a customer—that you’re an LLC. Note: A lot of people in the flooring business use a “dba” (or doing business as) designation. Warning: LLCs cannot use dbas; they will lose the legal protection of the LLC if they use the dba. Many flooring retailers who operate under this classification are not aware of the rule.

It’s also important to note some of the laws regarding LLCs are changing; specifically, a proprietor of an LLC can longer have an individual listed as an owner. There must be two people on file as owning the company, or else the government will claim it’s a de facto company and therefore defaults the company to a Schedule C on the tax return. This means everything will be taxed, including social security.

LLCs are good as long as people understand three things: 1) make sure the accountant knows which tax return you intend to file, i.e., “check the box”; 2) do not use a dba; and 3) make sure the state in which you are incorporated allows one person to own an LLC and still be a legitimate company.

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Retailer2retailer: When odds are against you, take a chance

February 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 17

By Scott Perron

 

In January my son Zachary, who is now 17, and I took our first father-son trip to an industry trade show for the SE Flooring Market in Atlanta. As a young man, Zack was intermittently around during my corporate days in Kansas City but he had never been to a vendor show of any size.

During our 60-hour jaunt that included drive time to and from Atlanta we had time to talk about life, business and the future. I look forward to taking that same type of trip with my daughter Morgan in the not-too- distant future. Interestingly enough, I thought back to my dad taking me to Atlanta back in the early ’80s when we attended the show at the Atlanta Merchandise Mart.

We walked the floor and worked several prearranged meetings with our vendors from the largest manufacturers to the smallest distributors. As I watched Zack interact with the vendors it occurred to me that he had been listening to much of what I had said over these last several years. Even more enlightening for him was his mom and dad were in a really big industry that provides profitable products and services to the masses and those numbers and possibilities began to become very real.

Sally and I made a rule years ago that we would never push our children into the family business. In addition, we made it clear they both needed to attend and finish college and also work for another company or two for at least a year before they were allowed to come on board. This way they would clearly understand what others expected from them, so they could grow to expect the same or more from themselves.

Prior to leaving the show Zack asked me tons of questions about flooring, business and whether I felt we made the right decision by being in the flooring business. To that I replied, “Absolutely!” We all have things we wish we could change; however, the path unknown may not have been any brighter.

In the wake of a young Florida man winning the $450 million Mega Millions lottery, Zack asked me one final question, “What if you won the lottery, dad? What would you do?” I thought for a moment and told him I would give back to the industry that got me to where I am now by helping to fix the greatest issue we will face in the future.

I would fund and build a state-of-the-art training facility for flooring installation teams to learn this valuable trade. Based on their performance I would open it up to anyone free of charge in hopes of turning thousands of young men and women into professional tradespeople rivaling the best electricians, plumbers and HVAC contractors with further hopes of them training their sons and daughters to do the same. In addition to learning the trade itself, we would teach them the basic premise of business finance and profit and loss while providing systems for them to retain benefits and create a retirement plan for their families.

What if as an industry, we recognized that if we all came together in a small way with a similar purpose then we would have the resources necessary to accomplish this goal in our lifetime. Being the odds of winning the Mega Millions are about one in 259 million, there is always a chance.

 

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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Guest column: Managing a workforce across generations

January 22/29, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 6

By Matt Beaudreau

 

Many businesses today—including the flooring industry—have as many as five generations working together. That’s a phenomenon unprecedented in the history of the U.S. workforce. This presents both an opportunity and a challenge as businesses look for ways to improve communication and work processes across generational lines.

The first thing an owner needs to do is acknowledge there are fundamental differences in the way people learn, work and interact—something we think about in our heads but don’t always verbalize. Every generation has factors, whether it’s social, political, economic, etc., that shape or define who they are. It’s important to remember that generations don’t always fit into a box just because you were born into a certain age bracket. But there are clues and insights into behaviors we can glean from our experience in working with different generations.

Managing a multi-generation workforce begins with a paradigm shift. Owners who come from an older generation often feel their way of doing things is the “right way” and that all others are off base. That’s no longer acceptable. Managers have to understand that people see the world through different lenses. Instead of looking at those perceived differences as being a hinderance, I would suggest that owners shift their thinking to acknowledge all the strengths they have on their team. Once you embrace that mindset, you can begin to have open dialogues within your ranks and among your employees.

Second, business owners need to understand that different people respond differently when it comes to criticism, praise and so forth. Following my presentations to various groups I often get the questions: “What’s the best way for business owners to manage different age groups? Or is a certain amount of friction good for a multi-generational workforce?”

When we use the term friction, we automatically assume it means there’s going to be some problem. Or you can look at these situations as being beneficial, i.e., we’re a collection of individuals working toward the same goal. The key is honoring the individuality of the employee. It’s no longer acceptable to say, “Look, this is how we do it here; you’re essentially all robots, etc.” It’s about managing everyone differently but equally, but at the same time realizing that equal does not mean the same. For example, for some people to have a good work environment they need constant feedback and reassurance, and they need someone to check on them on a daily basis.

On the other side of the spectrum, you have people who basically want to be left alone. This is the group that says, “If you’re checking on me too frequently then I’m doing something wrong.” That’s how the older generation feels. But if you’re part of the younger generation, you feel you’re doing something wrong if the boss is not talking to you frequently.

But there’s also unhealthy conflict. In my business, I tell my people if you can’t get along with others on the staff then you have to go. Harmony in an organization only occurs when people are allowed to be themselves, when they’re working together toward the same goals and are allowed to have open communications about what’s working vs. what’s not working.

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Financial: Tax reform: Information dealers need to know

January 22/29, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 16

By Bart Basi

 

(First of two parts)

The passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a.k.a the Tax Reform Bill, has a lot of flooring dealers scratching their heads. The document itself is more than 600 pages, all single spaces, and some of the words you can’t even decipher. The most important thing for retailers to consider regarding the new changes in the law is the type of business—or entity structure—under which they operate. Is the business an LLC or Subchapter S? A partnership or individual proprietorship? Or is it a “C” corporation? There are different forms of business; as such, the tax law changes depending upon how the retailer set up the business.

First off, the worst thing for a business is to not be incorporated, meaning the owner lists the business on a schedule C on his or her personal income tax return. Under this structure, all of the profits from the business will be subject to the highest personal rate applicable. Right now, that could be as high as 70%, depending on the owner’s other sources of income and how much money he’s making. Second, when he files a business on his personal income tax return as an un-incorporated company, the entire profit is subject to social security tax. So in addition to paying income tax on all of the income, the owner must pay an additional 15.3% on social security.

For those who don’t understand the nuances of this tax reform bill, it might seem, in some respects, that it could be a burden on business. The truth is it can be a benefit, but it depends on how a business is structured. For example, if a dealer is making more than $50,000 a year in profit, the best thing the owner can do is form a “C” corporation. Under this structure, the profits are taxed at a flat rate of 21%, and the social security taxes are all deducted. In this case, the owner has no personal liability.

Through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the government is encouraging companies to become C corporations. As a result of the changes, all C corporations in the U.S. will pay lower taxes than any other form of business.

A new threshold
The ultimate tax benefit for retailers is not only contingent upon the specific classification but also the estimated net income. For example, if the business makes more than $50,000 (assuming, of course, the business did not report a loss for the year), the 21% tax rate is the lowest rate it can pay. That’s lower than the capital gains rate (23.8%).

If you’re a small business, and you’re making less than $50,000 in profit, the C corporation taxes have gone up 6% (it used to be 15%). Now everything is taxed at 21%. So if you’re a small company, and you’re making less than $50,000 a year profit—or if you’re showing a loss—then you want to be registered as a Subchapter S corporation. This means the losses can be deducted on the owner’s personal income tax return.

Another important point to remember: If a business is registered as a Subchapter S corporation or a partnership, and is making money, then 20% of an “income calculation” (not 20% of profits) is not subject to tax. For simplicity’s sake: If a company makes $100 of income allocable to the 20% calculation, then that means the owner will only pay taxes on $80, not $100.

 

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

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Installments: Vetting a certified floor covering inspector

By Paul Pleshek

 

“We are sending an inspector,” are not always the most comforting words an installer or retailer hears. Some are concerned the inspector has a bias for the manufacturer, others don’t have high regard for certain inspectors in their area. Whatever the concern, how can a materially invested party know the inspector will handle the claim in a fair, thorough and neutral way?

A commonly expressed concern about inspectors is whether they are intentionally biased for the party that is paying; however, that is the least likely cause of bias. It is the prejudice that comes from past experiences as an installer, retailer, manufacturer or cleaner that undermines an otherwise well-intentioned inspector. This is called confirmation or my-side bias. It is the tendency to search for, interpret and recall information in a way that confirms one’s hypotheses while giving less consideration to alternative possibilities. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. This type of bias affects every party involved in a claim, even the inspector.

A qualified inspector avoids bias thorough application of the scientific method employed to make observations, develop related questions, formulate a hypothesis, test the hypothesis and conclude or refine the hypothesis until it is consistent with most/all of available data. Proper application of the scientific method requires an in-depth understanding of the entire flooring industry including manufacturing, specification, installation, maintenance and environmental conditions. The qualified inspector has a network of connections in each of the inter-related industries and attends educational events from a wide variety of sources to avoid communal bias which comes from only interacting with people of the same opinion.

Second, when looking for a qualified inspector, it is important to know his experience, certification and continuing education. Inspector certification can come from private companies or industry associations like the IICRC, NWFA or CFI. Ultimately, the certification is simply proof of the minimal training and understanding required for the inspection process and report writing. For that reason, the most important factor in becoming a professional inspector is continuing education. The flooring industry changes constantly and keeping up with new developments is imperative. Most certifications require two credits per year, which translates to about 12-16 hours of classroom time. That amount of training is insufficient to stay abreast of industry advances and changing inspection techniques. In addition, the greater the number of inspector certifications means more education is required. Therefore, the highly qualified inspector attends training frequently throughout each year and varies that training from different associations, manufacturers and professional organizations.

Ultimately, personal interaction with the inspector is the best way to determine his qualifications, knowledge base, problem-solving abilities and possible bias. Get to know the inspectors in your area. Conduct an interview, debate issues and try to determine the inspector’s ability to reason and explain complicated concepts. See if he or she possesses an understanding of all segments of the flooring industry and how each can affect the other. Are they certified for substrates, maintenance, repair/installation or do they just have a few days’ training for several complicated floor coverings?

When investigating the qualifications of an inspector, commissioning parties should look for how long the inspector has been certified, what type of continuing education has been attended each year, how many hours of continuing education, what associations and committees the inspector participates in and whether the inspector is advancing their industry through education with written articles, convention presentations or as a certification instructor. Proper vetting of the inspector’s qualifications will give a materially invested party piece of mind knowing the inspection will offer resolution to a claim, not further complicate matters.

 

 

Paul Pleshek is the president of the National Academy of Floor Coverings Training (NAFCT) and the owner/president of Floor Claim Solutions Inc. Paul has been in the floor coverings industry since 1990 and was first certified by the IICRC as a senior carpet inspector in 1995.

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Al's Column: How to develop a ‘right-sized’ marketing plan

December 18/25, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 14

By Jennifer Smiga

 

(First of two parts)

The slick print campaigns and glowing Instagram stories of big brands can make successful marketing feel out of reach, especially when you are running a one-person marketing department for a company, drafting budgets while posting to Facebook in the same day. It could even be soul crushing.

If you’re in this position, don’t let it get to you. You can grow a successful marketing strategy even if you don’t have annual sales in the six digits. What you need are some principles taken from the big guys and a budget that’s right-sized for your company.

Early this year The CMO Survey revealed companies in retail wholesale are now spending about 10% of their overall budget on marketing. This may seem out of reach for you today, but consider it in terms of future growth. At Marketing Rival, we find increases in marketing spend are directly related to increased revenue. Gone are the days where a company’s only option was to buy a print spread in a high-profile design magazine. Thanks to the power of digital marketing you now have the power to influence buyers at every stage of the purchasing process using your own website as the key tool.

Following are some tips:

Begin with blog content. Your first step toward creating a larger marketing strategy is to embrace a mindset change from manufacturer or retailer to magazine publisher. Your website and blog are your publishing platform to share your story. You should craft each blog post to attract your ideal buyer. If you’ve already started publishing, look at your posts with fresh eyes. Is your audience clear? Are you targeting another business owner or a customer? Are you talking to homeowners or designers?

For your blog to resonate with readers it has to speak to one persona. To help you focus each blog post, identify the pains and problems of one specific persona. For example, what are the questions your salespeople frequently field from this person? Each pain and question is fodder for blogs that will attract your desired customer as she searches on Google.

Model your marketing after a big company’s strategy. One of our clients is Polycor, a North American stone quarrier. You won’t find this company’s ads in print publications. Instead, the Canadian company has invested a significant portion of its budget in digital marketing with special emphasis on content marketing.

Since 2014, Polycor has consistently published blogs and social media just for members of the stone trade. In focusing on this sector they’ve developed a loyal readership and seen a direct impact on sales. In the last three years they’ve expanded their work to include email marketing, video, digital advertising and influencer marketing, and grown their own internal marketing team to leverage events and photography.

Their robust, weekly publishing may not be doable for your one-person marketing team, but you can implement the basics to align your sales goals and marketing through a strategic content and social media plan. Consistency, targeted communication and organization are key to making this happen.

In the second part of this two-part series, I will talk about a few tried-and-true tips for creating digital content. To learn even more about this topic, be sure to attend my presentation, “Small Business, Big Content: Wide-Reach Marketing Strategy Scaled to Your Size,” on Tues., Jan. 30, 12 p.m.– 1 p.m., at TISE in Las Vegas.

 

Jennifer Smiga is co-owner of Marketing Rival, a digital marketing and PR agency that creates profitable social relationships for makers of design products through storytelling, social PR and brand ambassadors. For more information, visit marketingrival.com.

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Lisbiz strategies: Make your store rock over the holidays

November 27-December 11, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 13

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

November and December are often the slowest months for flooring dealers. If you’re a salesperson, they can also be the most depressing. While everyone else is partying and rushing around, you’re waiting for customers to come in and buy flooring.

Here’s a list of things you can do to draw customers and bring cheer to your store.

Have “dress up” days. Put on your “Sunday best” and throw a party. There’s no limit to what you can serve, but how about hot chocolate, apple cider or blood orange Italian soda? Play holiday music and enjoy the day. Have your staff make their favorite holiday cookies and invite your customers. Post an event on Facebook and invite all your friends.

Create your own events. If there isn’t anything going on in your area, start something. Your store can be the center of the fun. Not sure what to do? Ask yourself, “What would I need to come downtown?”

Decorate your store so it becomes the focal point of the block. Look up all of the holidays and decorate for all of them. If it were my store, I would have vendors outside selling green wreaths, Christmas trees, holly balls and holiday scents such as cinnamon and cloves.

Give out an extra gift with every installation or large flooring purchase. In November, we gave out turkeys or gift certificates to the supermarket. Whatever you give out should be wrapped in holiday paper.

You can get free perfume gifts from Macy’s, coffees, mugs from Big Lots. How about having a makeup artist from MAC or Sephora come in and do free makeovers through the holidays? How about free manicures? It’s likely you will get plenty of customers to sign up.

Take photos for your social media promos. Use Twitter and Instagram and blog about your holiday fun. This is the time for an email newsletter filled with cheer and specials for or after the holidays. Fill it with photos from events through the year.

Hire masseuses to give free massages in your store if customers buy something. Market these ideas on your social media platforms. It works in the airports; I’m sure it will work in your store.

Hold a New Year’s Day party. This is a perfect day to serve lunch, bring in a piano and have someone play holiday music.

Buddy up with other retailers. How about doing the 12 days of Christmas and give away gifts every day? Bring in a florist, have festive wrapping paper and holiday cards. Offer to wrap presents.

Go high end with your store decorations. Customers should see a shop that looks elegant and up to date, even if they don’t buy. If you want to sell better merchandise, the holiday season is a good time to show your customers what they can look forward to for the new year.

Start showcasing products for the new year.  How about highlighting some of your best sellers for the holiday season? Bring in drapes, paint samples and quilts. This is the year of fleece, so why not have your store decorated accordingly? You can give them away with a sale or as gifts. Fluffy robes and slippers are inexpensive and fun to give away.

Don’t forget our pet friends. You can give away toys, bowls, catnip, cat and dog coats and treats. Have a contest for the best-dressed pet.

Whatever you do, enjoy the holidays and plan for a profitable new year.

 

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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Marketing mastery: How to manage your online reputation

November 27-December 11, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 13

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

I was doing an online marketing assessment for Susan, a dealer from California, when she said, “Jim, I can’t believe this dealer has a higher star rating than us. He operates out of a storage container, and he once pulled a gun on a customer.”

I said to Susan, “Let’s walk a mile in Cathy Consumer’s shoes so you can see what your prospects are seeing.”

I then Googled flooring and the name of her town. Susan’s store came up No. 1 on the organic search, but Mr. Storage Container came in No. 2, right below her listing. I pointed out that Mr. Storage Container had five positive reviews on Google, but she had none.

“In other words, while you have worked hard for more than two decades to build a phenomenal offline reputation, this joker who operates out of a metal box and once pulled a gun on a customer has a better online reputation,” I explained.

To which Susan replied: “But this guy is absolutely the worst. I’ll bet those reviews were posted by his friends.”

I replied, “Probably so, but the only thing that matters is what Cathy Consumer sees when she’s looking online for a floor dealer. You have to assume she doesn’t know any flooring dealers or anything about flooring. That’s a big part of why she is researching online. She’s going to choose which store to visit based on who has the best online reputation.”

This kind of situation is very common. I was recently meeting via video conference with a dealer from Nevada to assess her online marketing position. She, too, has been in business for more than 20 years. When I Googled flooring and the name of her town, she and a competitor came up near the top of the search. However, she had only one review and her competitor had more than a dozen.

“I can’t believe this,” she said. “This guy has only been in business for a year and he doesn’t do great work. How does he have all these reviews and we only have one?”

I said: “He’s probably doing a better job of asking for, and getting, reviews than you. Based on the strength of your online reputation alone, which dealer is Cathy Consumer more likely to visit?”

I explained to the retailer that very few people will review a dealership on their own. You have to have a system in place to request reviews and make it easier for your customers to leave one. The dealer with this system will win the online reputation game.

Some dealers think, “Well, I’ve been in business for three decades and get a lot of repeat and referred customers, our reputation is great. Why do we need to worry about online reviews?” If this is your thinking you need to consider these statistics:

  • According to Business 2 Community, 92% of consumers now read online reviews.
  • Business 2 Community also found 94% of consumers would use a business with a four-star rating.
  • According to BrightLocal, 88% trust reviews as much as personal recommendations.
  • According to Synchrony Financial, 85% of consumers begin their path-to-purchase online for big-ticket products.

In other words, the rules have changed. Just because you have a great offline reputation doesn’t mean it will be automatically reflected online. With 85% of consumers beginning their flooring path-to-purchase online, it’s critical to have a plan to generate more positive reviews.

 

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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Al's column: The importance of employee retention

November 27-December 11, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 13

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

A friend of mine was recently fired for having a side business that was in competition with his employer’s. He had developed a reviews-based platform for businesses, but he never took any of his employer’s customers. It was developed simply to have an extra source of income. Does this sound familiar?

Early on, he spoke to his boss to explain the type of business he had built and suggested the boss’s company should do the same. His employer wasn’t sure it was a good idea, but the truth is he didn’t understand it. Had he taken his advice, he would have been light years ahead of the competition. As an entrepreneur, my friend couldn’t pass up the opportunity to experiment with the technology. When he was asked to close his business he did, but was still fired afterward (without ever signing a non-compete clause).

About six hours after losing his job, he was called to come in for an interview by a competitor who had been following his progress, heard about his talent and ultimately hired him four days later to rebuild exactly what he was fired for. As soon as word got out, he started getting calls from his major customers asking if they could follow him.

What kind of employee would do this? I think it’s one who is talented, bored with his job and knows how to make money. My friend handled all major accounts and customers, and his fellow employees loved him. Plus, he made the company millions. He had all the traits businesses look for in an employee, but they didn’t know what to do with him.

What do you do when one of your employees is capable of outshining you and your company? Here’s my advice:

  • If you hire someone who is clearly heads above the rest of your employees, talk with him or her about how you can work together. Businesses don’t often talk with their employees about their hopes, dreams and capabilities, but it’s a good conversation to have when people are hired and progress.
  • Look for unusual talents in your employees, such as those who are willing to take risks and are able to build good relationships with your clientele.
  • Delegate. Do you have employees with entrepreneurial skills? Have they owned a business before? Once an entrepreneur always an entrepreneur. Take this skill and put it to good use; give them something to manage or build.
  • Once you’ve ascertained your employee’s hopes and dreams, try to harness some of that energy. As a big fan of the TV show “Undercover Boss,” I’ve learned that employers who help their employees inevitably win by keeping talent and gaining loyalty. Many times they give their employees money for school and then promote them within the business.
  • Don’t underestimate your employees. Just because you own the business doesn’t mean the people you’ve hired are less talented or less intelligent. Not long ago, I ran into a former employee of mine who had become a lawyer.

Bottom line: You never know how you can help someone and what it will bring back to you. Talent is hard to find. Make sure you find a way to harness it when you do find it.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. Register for Surfaces at tisewest.com to hear her presentation, “The Coaching Edge: Building a Successful Team” (WE04) on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2018 at 8 a.m.