Oregon's E.N. Lippert Corporation: Best Practices
By Sonya Jennings
E.N. Lippert Corporation is the parent company of two Oregon floorcovering store brands. Lippert’s Carpet One is a higher end, full service and installation store, and No Frills Flooring is a cash-and-carry outlet geared toward the do-it-yourself customer.
Each brand has a store in both Medford and Grants Pass. Scott Lippert, president, describes the thinking behind having two brands in the same market, “We realize that all customers do not require the same level of service, and it becomes difficult to deliver a consistent customer experience when you are trying to be everything to everybody.” By offering a full-service store and a cash-and-carry outlet in the same markets, E.N. Lippert is able to meet every customer’s need, stay diversified and take more marketshare in both of its markets.
The leadership of the two brands works together as a team with a phone conference every week discussing common issues and exchanging best practices. For instance, navigation of a claim situation with an installation or customer might be discussed within the team. This gives comfort to the particular manager handling the issue because it is a group decision based on the input of peers. The leadership team at E.N. Lippert is a tightly knit group concentrating on continual improvement and future growth. This is the result of a refocusing of business strategy that took place several years ago.
In 2005, there was a major shift in the company’s planning and strategy. At that time, managers were spread incredibly thin, taking on too many of the day-to-day tasks and not spending enough time strategizing for the health and growth of the company. Stress levels were high, and the fear was that the leadership would burn out. Lippert states, “We were spending all of our time ‘in’ the business instead of ‘on’ the business.” That year, the company hired a professional consultant to help reorganize priorities and design a plan that would help the company grow. One of the most notable changes was for company leadership to mentor, coach and delegate authority to store managers and employees so that they could step away from some of the day-to-day tasks and spend time growing and positioning the business overall. Lippert comments, “You know the old saying, ‘If you teach a person to fish’? Well, we were spending too much time fishing and not enough time teaching our employees to fish. Once we started teaching, things changed for the better.”
As far as working on the business, several initiatives were launched. One initiative was to grow the operation and its employees. The mission was set to establish a profitable presence in the populous areas of southern and central Oregon and achieve the number one position in marketshare within five years of entry. As far as growing employees, store managers began to sit down with each employee and ask specifically, “What are your goals? Where do you want to be in five years?” The mission for managers is to get every employee where he or she wants to be whether they want to lead, move into a different position, or stay where they are. Every employee at E.N. Lippert is encouraged to see themselves as the owner of their skills and wisdom, and to recognize that they are investors in what they do. Offering the opportunity for personal and professional growth for every employee creates a lasting relationship between the company and its employees.
Lippert’s leadership group gathered together to define the most important company values and then designed a plan to create a culture based on those values, which include knowledge, service, honesty and humility. At every staff meeting, where the company mission and vision is regularly shared, a different value is discussed at length. Lippert says, “It all goes back to those core company values that we defined when we were deciding what type of company culture we wanted to create.” The company seeks to have a performance culture that proactively hires superior talent that consistently provides excellent service. Lippert’s is always recruiting, and it is not uncommon for managers to approach standout employees at a department store or restaurant and ask them to interview. Flooring experience is not a requirement. According to Lippert, “If a person is already a great team member, we can teach them the flooring part of it, no problem. We are looking for outstanding people to teach.”
With a little help from the economic recovery, the business plan at E.N. Lippert is paying off. Looking at recent numbers from July 2013, sales are up 28% over the same month in 2012. The expansion of the business with the addition of a No Frills Flooring in Grants Pass and greater remodeling activity in the residential market has set the stage for a healthy growth year for the company.
The main advertising channel for both brands is television. An ad agency creates commercials for the stores, or the company uses promotional material from Carpet One, Shaw or Mohawk. Both Lippert’s Carpet One and No Frills Flooring advertise a small amount on radio. Approximately 80% of the company’s advertising is event-driven, highlighting a specific promotion, with the remaining 20% focusing on the company’s branding effort. Advertising costs represent about 3% to 4% of sales. Lippert’s Carpet One sales are 80% new and remodel residential and 20% property management and mainstreet commercial remodel. No Frills Flooring serves the do-it-yourself customer.
THREE GENERATIONS IN FLOORING
Edwin Norman (E.N.) Lippert, Scott Lippert's grandfather, began his career as a store manager for Montgomery Ward. In 1946 he opened Lippert's, a carpet and furniture store in Watsonville, California. In 1955, Edwin Lippert moved to southern Oregon seeking a slower pace of life. He opened Lippert's in Medford, Oregon in 1957. He closed this store in 1962 and reopened in Grants Pass, Oregon. Wes Lippert, Edwin's son became involved in the business in 1972. At that time, the store offered only carpet and vinyl flooring. In 1986, the company added a new Lippert's Carpet in Medford, Oregon, and both locations joined Carpet One in 1989. The decision to join carpet One was made because Wes Lippert was interested in the opportunity to have a collectio nof styles with its own name and exclusive brands, rather than having the same products with the same names as local competition.
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