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Technology: Retail Lead Management system gets upgrade

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

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Retail Lead Management, a cloud-based CRM software designed specifically for flooring retailers, has released a host of new features to increase its effectiveness and help dealers track retail flooring leads. These features were launched only a couple of months after the program was made available to all flooring retailers.

Jason Goldberg, CEO of America’s Floor Source, had the idea to develop Retail Lead Management in 2015 after learning about his salespeople’s struggles with keeping track of prospects, quotes and appointments as well as his managers’ difficulties with holding their sales teams accountable for managing and closing leads. After searching the market and not finding a retail lead management system solution that suited his needs, Goldberg decided to develop his own. Once the program was completed, Goldberg’s sales team started using it and immediately saw an increase in closing rates and a spike in retail sales. Goldberg opened up the program to the flooring industry in early 2017 and has since sold hundreds of licenses to flooring retailers in the U.S. and Canada.

“In the past few months, we’ve released quite a few new features to increase the effectiveness of our system,” Goldberg explained. “We recently launched a calendar integration, which enables users to add tasks they’ve scheduled in Retail Lead Management to their device’s default calendar tool [such as Gmail or Outlook]. We’ve also added a Zillow link, so users can click on a lead’s address and find out information about the property value and surrounding neighborhood.”

In addition, Retail Lead Management regularly updates the system and adds new functionality to address customer needs. According to Goldberg, the program typically has a new release at least once a month containing new features.

All of its new features help the existing program provide retailers with a cost-effective solution for managing leads. Through the use of Retail Lead Management all of the information a salesperson and manager need is available on a centralized dashboard, which can be accessed from a desktop, phone or tablet. Furthermore, the program is customizable and user-friendly. More importantly, it’s providing results for end users. “Customers are experiencing close rates as high as 70% and up to a 40% increase in sales,” Goldberg stated.

Retail Lead Management also has a host of future releases it plans to launch in 2018. According to Goldberg, the company plans to add business-to-business management, email integration and more integrations with ERP and accounting software including some of the industry’s top flooring software companies. “We currently have partnerships with several large flooring manufacturers, and website companies and are in discussions with other potential partners,” Goldberg said.

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Knowing when it’s time to close, sell or transfer the business

Not having a solid plan in place could be disastrous

January 16/23, 2017: Volume 31, Number 16
By Leah Gross

Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 11.14.03 AMExperienced consultants will tell you no business plan is complete without a well-thought-out exit strategy. This is particularly true when it comes to small- and medium-sized businesses such as floor covering retail stores. Sadly, succession planning is not an area where many businesses place their focus.

“Not everyone considers a business’ life is potentially infinite,” said Roman Basi, an attorney and CPA with the firm of Basi, Basi & Associates at The Center for Financial, Legal & Tax Planning. “As humans we know our lifespan is limited. Though it is not a pleasant thought, at any instant someone could become disabled, pass away or have other circumstances beyond their control that pull them away from their business. Whatever the situation, the loss of a key person or owner, suddenly or even over time, could drastically alter the course or condition of the business.”

Studies have shown more than two-thirds of business owners do not have a succession plan. The number increases for business owners over 50. “Many people choose to avoid or overlook an exit strategy because they think their children will take over their business and handle things after their death,” Basi explained. “People seem to think this is built into the system, but it’s simply not true.”

If you are a parent you are likely to have witnessed your children arguing over a treasured toy, control of the TV remote or riding in the front seat of your car. Maybe you’ve even seen kids destroy something in the process of fighting over it. Kids will be kids, right? Totally normal. Now imagine your children, employees or co-workers fighting over an asset you have spent years creating and may be worth millions of dollars.

This could be the future of the business you built from scratch if you do not have a succession plan in place. Without an exit strategy, the fate of your business has an excellent chance of being determined by a judge. It is the sort of dispute that can quickly turn a million-dollar asset into total dissolution.

“Since we cannot predict the future, it is important for the business owner to adopt a ‘what if’ mentality when thinking of exit plans,” Basi said. “Ask ‘What if’ or ‘What should I do if’ and then name or state a scenario. Examples: What should I do if my business rapidly expands in the next five years? What if the economy enters a depression? While the form or wording of the thought is not important, this kind of thinking will allow you, the business owner, to consider a wide range of contingencies and plan accordingly.”

Henry’s Floor Covering, Green Castle, Pa., developed an exit strategy 10 years ago. “We’re family owned and our long-term goal when we drafted our succession plan was to be completely debt-free and ready to retire at age 65,” said Greg Miller, the 61-year-old president of the company. “When the time comes to pass along the business we’ll be ready for it.”

For some retailers, having a good succession plan is akin to an insurance policy. “I may be in the minority in my belief that owning and operating a floor covering store is a good thing for my kids,” said David Elyachar, founder/owner, Big Bob’s Flooring, Yuma, Ariz. “Most people want something different but I can think of nothing better. I recruited my kids to work in the store beginning at age 5. They were working in the warehouse and on payroll by age 12. At 18 they worked the sales floor. When the time comes, we are well poised with a solid exit strategy.”

Jim Walters, president of Macco’s Flooring, Green Bay, Wis., is another retailer who thinks succession planning is just good business. “As one of four equal partner-owners in our business, we started planning and outlining our exit strategy years ago,” he explained. “Ensuring the individual employees in our enterprise were taken care of continues to be our top priority. Our intention is to leave our company better than when we showed up.”

Steve Lewis, president, Lewis Floor and Home, Northbrook, Ill., agrees that timely succession planning is essential. “Whether you plan to keep your company within the family or sell, without a plan it is impossible to know and maximize the value of your company. Plans can take years to complete, and proper preparation is critical.”

Anatomy of a good plan

Every exit plan should take into account different factors such as the industry, competition, the owner’s resources and goals and any other relevant intangibles, experts say. For instance, a good solid succession plan provides an ongoing boost to employee morale and engagement. “With a sound plan there are fewer unknowns for those who depend on the business’s continuity,” Basi explained. “When there is no succession plan in place, it can be a huge negative. When employees are forced to think, ‘When the boss dies, no Christmas that year,’ it is not positive. But when an employee knows there is continuity, the employee does not face the better-jump-ship-before-it-sinks dilemma.”

Another element to consider that is missing from most companies’ forward-looking strategies is a specific plan for continuity after an unexpected business interruption. “It’s rare to find a company with a plan in the event of a disaster,” Basi pointed out. “If a storm, earthquake or fire hits, they could be out of business. Maybe there will be nobody with check-signing authority or control over other critical protocols. All business owners should have a business continuation plan in addition to their exit strategy.”

Paul Johnson, president of Carpet One Floor and Home, Tulsa, Okla., is in agreement. “You can either choose to plan your life or let someone else tell you how things turned out. When do you plan for the next sunny day? How about when the sun is shining?”

Johnson began succession planning for his business about four years ago. “That’s when my son approached me about the future of the company. That day I mentally began thinking about the ‘what ifs.’ I had to get my head around the reality of this type of transition. I immediately started talking to CPAs, attorneys, bankers and others about how to go about the process.”

Even those owners who do have a succession plan in place, it’s important to revisit and re-evaluate those plans as necessary. “I would recommend re-reviewing your plan annually and whenever your key employees get promoted or transferred,” Basi said.

Bottom line: Being proactive with your business pays off. It is especially true when dealing with an exit strategy. Facing the issues now, experts say, will reduce the incidence of lost opportunity and the likelihood of encountering problems that may be difficult or impossible to solve when a departure or other crisis is happening.

Where does one look for ideas on getting started? Basi suggests business brokers as an excellent resource for identifying an expert to help with succession planning.

“If you want to sell, they can take care of you,” he said. “If you want a referral, they know attorneys and CPAs that they trust and have past experience with,” he explained.

For more information, visit taxplanningcom to read articles, blogs and advisories on the issue.”

 

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Visual marketing provides an edge for today's retailers

Volume 28/Number 3; July 21/28, 2014

By Amanda Haskin

Screen Shot 2014-07-29 at 3.21.46 PMWeb images are the cultural icons of today’s society. We have reached a technologically visual era of human history, where a successful Instagram page is gold, selfies constantly remind the world of what you look like, and a perfectly positioned, well-lit photo sells more effectively than the actual product.

In fact, photos are becoming a language unto themselves. For today’s seekers of instant gratification with minimal attention spans, text is no longer going to cut it; you’re going to have to paint them a picture. In fact, if you’re reading this article and not looking at photos of grumpy-faced felines on Facebook, or craft ideas on Pinterest that you’ll never actually accomplish, congratulations; you’re better than the rest of us.

“Pictures are a million times better than any copy we can write; I don’t care how good of a writer you are,” said Jeff Macco, CEO of Macco’s Floor Covering Center in Green Bay, Wis. “We even bought iPhones for all of our stores and said, ‘Shoot pictures, shoot as many pictures as you can.’”

According to Optimind Technology, articles with images get 94% more views than those that are only text. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was well aware of this when he bought Instagram for $1 billion without even first consulting with his board. Sure enough, Instagram has hit 200 million users this year. Pinterest is estimated at around 40 million, and even the smaller, more industry-specific site Houzz comes in at 15 million.

Because a larger percentage of consumers are now shopping, or at least doing their research, online, a product’s presence on the Internet is imperative. And, of course, it has to look better than it has ever looked before. According to that same study, 67% of online consumers say image quality is very important when choosing a product.

Macco understands the importance of images so much that his company is redesigning its website to look like a Pinterest page. When asked what inspired this concept, he responded, “I pay a lot of attention to my wife. My wife is a very typical customer. Our demographic is mostly women aged 25 to 54, and I hear them talk about ‘Pinterest this’ and ‘Pinterest that.’ So we start paying attention and said, ‘Well, if that’s important to them, that has to be important to us.’”

The images that promote a product have to do two major things. First, they have to stop the consumer from clicking onto the next page, and second, they have to create a sense of envy that makes the consumer want to live in that image.

“It is a very visual world we live in; poor images can actually do you more harm by making your products look bad,” said Wisconsin-based photographer Dale Hall. “High-quality images will show your flooring as the highlight of any room.”

The best way to assure your photos will attract customers is to hire a specific architectural photographer like Hall. An architectural photographer will know how to capture product in the best light with the best composition, and create the most overall appealing image.

“Consumers are now inundated with beautiful room scenes,” said Sam O’Krent, owner of O’Krent’s Abbey Floor Center in San Antonio. “The days of do-it-yourself photos are gone; they won’t get customers through our door.”

Just remember that hiring a good photographer should not be an empty expense. “The job of a commercial photographer is to make you money,” Hall said. “The more money you make from my photography the better the chance you will hire me for more shots.”

Quality, well-executed visual marketing is a sure-fire way to generate revenue and ends up being a good investment for your business. For example, McKay Flooring, a family-run business in the United Kingdom, has oak flooring made from reclaimed Scotch whisky barrels. Photos showing the original vintage branding from the whisky barrels embossed on flooring boards were posted on the store’s blog. Long story short, it went viral.

“It was picked up by most of the top interior design blogs in the USA and Europe,” owner Richard McKay said. “From that blog post, we have just supplied Google with our whisky flooring for a project in their offices in Irvine, Calif.”

It is also important to think outside of the box. McKay Flooring made a splash in social media by starting its own Instagram contest. The group reached out to its followers and encouraged them to post creative and innovative photos of their favorite wood floors, using the hashtags #mywoodfloor and #mckayflooring. The prize was a 100 euro Amazon voucher and the nine runner-ups had their photos displayed in the McKay Flooring showroom.

“This was inspired by our marketing guy, Seamus Murphy, who spends a lot of time on Instagram and leveraged his own community and our followers to get involved,” McKay explained. “There are millions of pictures of flooring across the Internet, but we thought we would try to use some Instagram filters to make our own products look cooler. Getting others to photograph their own floors with the various filters and angles was great fun and really caught the imagination of our community and beyond.”

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National Floorcovering Alliance: Member involvement at the core

Sept. 16/23 2013; Volume 27/number 11

By Steven Feldman

Screen Shot 2013-09-25 at 11.15.45 AMBoston—When Phil Koufidakis, co-owner of the seven-store Baker Bros. in Arizona, began his two-year stint as president of the National Floorcovering Alliance (NFA), his immediate goal was to get more (translation: all 42) members involved in the direction of the group. After all, the NFA prides itself on being a group run by the group. And with that, the association’s fall meeting held here Sept. 15–18 was the first since its committees were streamlined and restructured. Continue reading National Floorcovering Alliance: Member involvement at the core