Best Practices - February 2013
By Sonya Jennings
In an attempt to find ways to improve and expand, Rob Menefee, owner of Flooring America & FA Design Build, has implemented many new ideas that have helped his business move forward. The company has learned to adapt to the changing sales process, find and hire good people, and generate more revenue by significantly increasing the average sale.
Like most business owners, one of the things that keeps Menefee up at night is finding and hiring good people. “If you don’t pay close attention to that side of the business, it can become a huge problem,” notes Menefee. Companies like Nordstrom impress Menefee because the staff always seems truly eager to help customers, so he looked to Nordstrom’s model of hiring good, consistent personalities. Menefee found a company called Omnia to help him screen potential employees. If a person seems like a good fit after the first interview, he or she is then put through Omnia’s behavioral assessment. People with three basic personality traits make good employees for Flooring America: first, someone who enjoys working with people; second, someone who enjoys meeting new people; and thirdly, someone who is naturally caring and wants to help his or her fellow employees. “It sounds simple, and, of course, many people say they like working with, meeting and helping people, but the truth is, most people don’t. We are looking for a rare personality type,” Menefee notes. The test is designed to discover who actually has all of these personality traits as opposed to someone who just says that they have these personality traits. Several of Menefee’s strongest employees took the test to set a baseline model, so a new prospective employee’s report might say, “She is caring like your current employee, Sally and loves people like your employee, Sam.” Hiring great people cuts down on workplace drama and guarantees that customers will be treated well.
Flooring America has addressed the important issue of streamlining customer information for the benefit of both store employees and clients. When customers call with questions regarding their account, bill or order status, they can get frustrated if it’s necessary to explain a situation more than once. Menefee solved this issue by using a feature of the RFMS software system. In the past, if customers had an issue or question, they might have to explain their particular situation to various people on the phone, depending on who was available to take the call. The company’s software is now set up to track through the sale, installation, service issues and follow-up for each customer. Now, when a customer calls, any store employee can pull up his or her account and be up to speed immediately. This minimizes the frustration level for customers and gives the store’s employees all the information necessary to provide the most efficient service possible.
Menefee takes a page out of the large retailer playbook by focusing on increasing the amount of the average sale. A typical floor only needs to be replaced or updated every seven to ten years, so if a customer buys today, she may not enter the store again for nearly a decade. By starting a sister company called FA Design Build, Menefee created a way to increase the average sale by staying connected with customers and providing additional service. FA Design Build is a full-service residential and commercial remodel business with a Class A general contractor’s license, handling projects from design to installation. The business has separate employees, including a designer, estimator, two project managers, and subcontractors. Each of the company’s stores features kitchen and bath vignettes that show examples of upgrades the company can make to a home or business. If a customer is in the store to replace flooring in her home, most likely she has a project in mind for updating a room in her home. According to Menefee, 85% of the mature residential market is considering changing something in the home. There is already a level of trust if the company has been chosen to handle a flooring project, so adding a remodeling project to the sales saves the customer the troublesome process of seeking out a contractor. Flooring America’s salespeople are given incentives to generate leads for FA Design Build, and they approach the subject organically while discussing flooring needs. Many people feel stuck in their homes due to the poor housing market, so they are more likely to remodel a kitchen or bath knowing that they will be there for a while. The stores have created so many leads for the sister company that FA Design Build has been the most profitable part of the overall operation for the last two years.
When asked about new business trends, Menefee notes how many customers are calling on the phone instead of actually entering the store. With Internet research, customers find products they are interested in without entering a building. Busy lives and Washington, D.C. traffic cause many people to prefer to handle the sales process over the phone. This presents a learning curve for salespeople who are used to dealing mostly face-to-face. The good news is that the calls can be recorded and offer a lot of opportunity for coaching and training by sales managers. The typical phone calling customer is well-informed, and on the commercial side, might be calling from his or her desk at work to arrange a flooring change in a law firm or business office.
As far as product trends go, Menefee is seeing a shift toward the new fibers offered by manufacturers like Mohawk. “In some ways, these new products are resurrecting carpet,” notes Menefee. SmartStrand is an example of a product that is able to combine softness and stain resistance like polyester with durability like nylon. His customers are gravitating toward new carpet products like this—even competing against hard surfaces in living spaces, not just in bedrooms. Menefee sees new products like this helping carpet to recover some of its past market share.
Rob Menefee's parents, Ed and shirley Menefee, began the business in White Plains, Maryland under the name of Carpet Country in 1979. At that time, it was mostly a carpet cash and carry business. Over time, it grew in both size and scope to new locations in Woodbridge, Virginia (1986) and Fairfax, Virginia (2003). The company now offers carpet, hardwood, tile, sheet vinyl, LVT, cork, bamboo and window treatments. Its sister company, FA Design Build, was founded in 2005. Rob Menefee took over operation of the company in 2001. Retail sales account for 80% of the company's business, with commercial/new construction making up the remaining 20%. In 2013, Menefee projects 3.5% of sales going toward advertising.
Copyright 2013 Floor Focus