Don’t Waste Time Waiting: Act Now!

My Mom waited 38 years to remodel a kitchen she’d hated from the day she bought the house. When my dishwasher broke last week, it took me all of 38 minutes to start perusing new dishwasher options.

Patience may be a virtue, but it’s not one that’s generally embraced by today’s consumers.

So I was more than a bit puzzled the other day when I was chatting with a couple of kitchen designers and one announced, “I’m glad things are finally beginning to pick up… I’ve been sitting around for months now doing nothing, just waiting for things to get better…”

We’ve all felt the pain of the recession: the drop off in high-end jobs, the slower showroom traffic, the loss of consumer confidence that has made it tougher than ever to convert leads into sales. Many kitchen and bath professionals have had to modify marketing strategies, staffing, product mixes, showroom hours, even the types of jobs they do and the types of clients they service.

But in what universe does “waiting for things to turn around” work as a sound business strategy?

While economic and housing indicators show signs of improvement, and projections for the future are beginning to skew toward the positive, there’s still plenty of work to do to ensure that your firm survives the now and thrives in the future. And it should come as no surprise that the most successful businesses aren’t just waiting; they’re doing.

So demand for luxury kitchens has dropped off? What about doing some smaller-scale kitchen makeovers, simple countertop or appliance replacements, hardware upgrades, a custom pet station, or even just offering consultation services as a sideline – something to help you build a rapport with clients so that they’ll remember you when the bigger jobs come along?

Not too many calls for that grand master bath? Why not carve a niche for yourself doing whimsical children’s baths (Child's Play) with lots of great safety features that will cause the parents to fall in love with you? Take care of your clients’ children, and you will have those customers for life.

I know one kitchen dealer who has been experimenting with unique cabinet lines; she abandoned the “status quo” more than a year ago and has researched a variety of options to find the right balance of value, finish choices and customizable options. Another is creating his own private label line to give himself an edge in these competitive times.

In this month’s Inside Today’s Showroom column (Selling Outdoor Kitchens Creates New Profit Niche), Sarah Reep profiles an Ohio dealership that has turned outdoor kitchens into a huge profit center.

Likewise, a dealer in New York is winning new business with a New York City-sized kosher kitchen vignette perfect for even the smallest spaces; a kosher kitchen specialist on staff makes it easy for clients desiring such a kitchen to get the help and advice they need (Dynamic Design Center Drives Success for Firm).

So what are you doing while you’re “waiting” for the big jobs to come back? Even if you don’t want to re-invent the wheel, think about some basic changes you can make. Have you updated your Web site recently? If so, does your site have a feature to capture visitors’ names and e-mail addresses to help build your mailing list? Even if they’re not buying right now, today’s consumers aren’t sitting still doing nothing; they are dreaming, researching, planning. Get them to sign up for your e-newsletter so when they‘re ready to buy, they already feel like they know you.

Have you freshened up your showroom displays, taken some classes to update your skills, researched new products? What are you waiting for?

Business is beginning to pick up again, so be sure to maximize whatever “slow time” you have left. It’s what you do while everyone else is waiting that will determine your future success.