Dealers Share Tips for Motivating Staff

Question: Kitchen & Bath Design News recently posed the question to dealers and designers in the kitchen and bath industry: “What are the keys to motivating staff?” Following are some of their responses:

“Employees want to feel part of the business process and they want the buy-in, that personal connection to the company. In our company we work together to build trust as a team and acknowledge project solutions and accomplishments.

Incentives play a large role in motivating and encouraging our staff to achieve higher goals. For instance, we look to the National Kitchen & Bath Association for educational programs as incentives. We pay to attend chapter meetings, and NKBA educational programs, in person or online. When educated, our staff has faith in the process that surrounds them and they become motivated by their own comfort and knowledge that the projects they work on will be done correctly.

Other incentives include scheduling staff lunches and participation in one of the local evening cooking school classes they can attend with their spouse, and where they can network with future customers.”

Alan Zielinski, CKD

Better Kitchens

Niles, IL

 “The key is to create an environment in which the employee is stimulated to get in the game, has the tools to play the game, and has a desire to win. To this end we have invested in the best showroom environment in our area whereby we show all lines and door styles that we represent. For our employee they have the whole library at their disposal to educate and sell their customers the correct fit for their budgets. This is motivational to our sales designers in that they have a complete ‘tool chest’ and they can bundle jobs using many different cabinetry lines and pricing to achieve and meet the customer's budget and expectations.

We also educate our sales designers on the value proposition of each line that we carry and train them to effectively sell the product to its designated end use. Our designers are also educated and trained on our competition in our marketplace – therefore our team believes they can win and they are motivated to win.

We will organize events for our team away from the office to get together on a personal basis. Recently we all went bowling and had a great time. It shows our team that we appreciate them for themselves and for their contribution to our business. Saying thank you seems like a simple thing, but it means so much and is appreciated by all.

Ultimately, we try and take the unknown out of the equation for our employees so they can focus on what is known and apply our knowledge towards a winning solution. And we encourage as much as possible instead of criticizing. Rewarding good behaviors is in itself motivational!”

Clifford Leath, owner

1st Choice Cabinetry

Chapel Hill, NC


“We are trying to track all leads and get the guys more leads on what’s working and what’s not working well. This will not only possibly help with leads for advertisements, but will just keep them well informed overall. We want to keep them up to date and current as to how the business is running up to this moment. Honestly when business is going better people have a tendency to not consider where it is coming from or why it is coming in, so we have realigned our focus to concentrate on those things and share it with our designers and installers, who are subcontractors. In that regard, everything is a commission basis so that is incentive right off the bat. The better the shop does as a whole the better each of us does financially.

Also in the past month or so we have had the opportunity to offer our subcontractors a fully cooked steak dinner if they hit a particular sales goal. The idea is to offer them something light and fun.

We also make a point of listening to any ideas they have that may make the business stronger. We want to try to be a team so that we can keep the jobs going smoothly.”

Miles and Cathy Johnson, owners

Kitchens by Design

Kettering, OH

“I think a lot of it is playing to the pride and competitive nature that a lot of our sales designers possess. I notice that when we run contests for the designers they tend to be more upbeat and happier. They also become more competitive yet supportive of one another. So I think that contests and recognition go a long way.

We try to do our contests quarterly, although sometimes we will skip a quarter. Our contests tend to be point based, not sales dollar based, so they receive points based on various accomplishments. This allows our junior designers to play on a level playing field with our senior designers because they have other ways that they can earn points.

We tend to offer very nice prizes for the employees who win the contest, such as cruises, iPads, and an evening on the town in Georgetown, including a limo and tickets to a show at the Kennedy Center. That seems to really motivate them. We didn’t do these things as much before the recession but now we average three or four contests a year. IN the end, it really gets our staff moving a little faster and gets them talking about certain things and communicating more with each other.”

Jim McCoy, president

The Kitchen Guild

Fairfax, VA

“Many new designers don't have the confidence to ‘put a stake in the ground’ on design acumen, because they don't have the years experience. To stand along the staff that are learning in the field and out of the field is the biggest support an employer can offer. It furthers the bottom line for all.

At our firm we all laugh a lot in the showroom and have a good time. Laughter lightens the energy on any space, makes the customers happy and wanting to be included, and makes the staff more productive.

You are what you think, you bring to your life what you expect, and I only expect great jobs, great clients, fun customers, interesting projects, and it all has manifested for us because of the way we think. I believe in a field of opportunity and expectation that far outweighs former depressing economic forecasts, and that shows through all my employees. Higher staff morale translates into higher production.”  

Bev Adams, president, CMKBD

Interior Intuitions

Denver, CO