Columnist


Count on your friends

Friday, December 22, 2017

There are two songs, both sung by former members of The Beatles — Paul McCartney’s went, “With a little luck, we can help it out” and Ringo Starr’s song went, “I get by with a little help from my friends” —  that capture two important ways of approaching your business. And these songs remind me of the many ways that owners and managers in our own industry go about running their businesses. 

In my early years, I ran businesses more on the “luck” side of things — in the ’70s and ’80s, anyone opening a flooring store did well selling carpet, as it was the new hot item in interior design. In those days, it was turn on the lights, open the doors and write the orders. If a consumer wanted to see a flooring product, you actually had to go into a store to see samples. And to get information on any given product, you had to talk with someone. Most of the time it was a salesperson, so they had contact with the customer from the beginning of the purchase cycle. If they were good, they took the customer through the process and they wrote the order. 

Today’s educated consumer engages with the salesperson in the middle or even close to the end of the process and, because of the internet, they sometimes know more about the product than your salespeople do. We need to be at our most optimum level.

I found out long ago it was better to “get by with a little help from my friends,” and surround myself with people in our industry that are my “go-to’s” when I either can’t figure something out or want to try something new. Because I am a part of Carpet One, most of my “go-to’s” are from my group, but there are many others; for instance, the WFCA, Abbey, CarpetsPlus, Flooring America, NFA and more, on a national level. There are also many regional groups and associations like FCA, distributor programs such as JJ Haines’ Loyalty Club or Belknap White’s Flooring Plus group. These people have helped save me from myself over the years. 

This also includes competitors in your market that you make friends with. You have heard the quote “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Well, helping each other be better at what we do as independent flooring dealers lifts us all up against the big box store and internet competition. 

Independent dealers need a support group no matter how large a volume they are. With big box competitors like Lowe’s, Home Depot, Menards, Lumber Liquidators and now, Floor & Décor, it is more important than ever to get help in keeping margins up, making the right hires and using the best software systems that allow us to run our businesses lean and profitable. These days, we are not shooting fish in a barrel; we are out in the deep waters searching for the catch that will feed our business for the next month. 

With the right network and group of dealers you can count on for help and guidance, we all become better and sing as Dionne Warwick did, “That’s what friends are for!”
 
Don Roberts is a 40 year flooring industry professional who has managed teams from seven to more than 700 to success. He can be reached via email at don.roberts@myflorstor.com.


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