Strategic Exchange - July 2008

By Patrick Molyneaux

What business are you in? Before you read on, take a few moments and ponder this simple question. At Molyneaux Tile-Carpet-Wood we try not to view ourselves as being in the flooring business. Rather, we view ourselves as a “training company” that happens to sell flooring. 

How much after tax profit did you earn last year? Divide last year’s after tax profit by the number of full time employees and installation subcontractors you employed during the year to compute your profit per full time equivalent. According to the World Floor Covering Association, the average net profit of a flooring dealer is around 2% of revenues. Hence, the profit per full time equivalent is typically quite low in our industry. Imagine how much more profit you could make if you increased the output for each full time equivalent? Imagine if each salesperson sold just 10% more or increased gross profit margins by 2%?

The reason we attempt to view ourselves as a training company is because it forces us to look in the mirror and ask ourselves if we are getting better at our game over time. We have learned that even the smallest improvement in employee execution has a significant impact on the bottom line. 

The “mother yeast” of all of our training programs and of the Molyneaux culture is customer satisfaction. Our battle cry is 100% customer satisfaction. Intellectually we realize we will never satisfy every single customer. However, we never stop fighting for it. This goal is a journey, not a destination, and has allowed us to develop a customer centric culture. 

In order to develop this culture, we have found the need for four training tracks; installation training, tactical sales training, technical sales training, and leadership training.

Installation training: In our neverending journey toward 100% customer satisfaction, the most challenging task is installation training. We have recently realized that training installers is a daunting task without significant outside help. Accordingly we have contracted with Certified Floorcovering Installers (CFI), a non-profit organization dedicated to installation excellence. We now outsource our installation training to this fine organization and attempt to hold our installers accountable to the CFI standards of excellence. Over the past 12 months we have made a large investment in CFI training and we are starting to see a return on investment. 

Tactical sales training: When traveling outside Pittsburgh I occasionally stop at independent flooring stores and become a secret shopper. On a 1 to 10 scale, I would rate most flooring salespeople I encounter at a four or five. Most retail salespeople don’t ask enough questions about the prospect’s mental picture of their project. They don’t ask probing questions to discover needs, wants and desires. Many salespeople at independent dealers are no more skilled than the sales staff at a box store. At Molyneaux we contract with outside sales training professionals. We also regularly send secret shoppers into our seven stores to ensure our salespeople are in the habit of engaging the mental pictures of their prospects and are providing optimal solutions.

Technical sales training: Product knowledge and estimating training for salespeople have become much more difficult due to the proliferation of product lines. When we hire new salespeople we now require them to visit two installation job sites per week for the first few months. We also send new salespeople on in-home sales calls with a seasoned salesperson so they can shadow and observe the estimating and sales process. Additionally, we now produce and use web videoblogs aggressively for both our training and for consumer information. For example, when a vendor gives a product knowledge meeting, we capture it on video and post it on our website,, so the salespeople can refer to it at a later date. CFI has also sent teams to Pittsburgh to conduct technical training for our salespeople. 

Leadership training: Many flooring businesses die not from a lack of customers, but rather from a lack of leadership. The more a company grows, the more it needs a systematic leadership development program for owners and managers. Leadership training and development is another area where we have brought in outside consultants to help us. The leadership model our consultant uses is based on a Ken Blanchard Series book called The Serving Leader. This book outlines five powerful actions that challenge us to transform our business. Our outside consultant helps us implement these five actions. 

Despite the brutally sluggish economic environment, we have been blessed with double digit revenue growth and an increase in marketshare over the past 12 months. We attribute this to our customer centric culture and our “learning/training” culture. We believe that if we remain fanatical about customer satisfaction, and continue to challenge our installers and salespeople to become the best versions of themselves through ongoing training, we will continue to gain marketshare.

Copyright 2008 Floor Focus

Related Topics:Lumber Liquidators, Molyneaux