Dealers Share Best Industry Networking Practices

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Kitchen & Bath Design News recently posed the question to dealers and designers in the kitchen and bath industry: “How does your firm plan to expand its networking capabilities in the coming year?” Following are some of the responses KBDN received:

“I’ve found in the past that it can be beneficial to go to architects and [interior] designers – and even other kitchen designers – to see what they are doing. It certainly beats waiting for the phone to ring. If you’re doing well, you tend not to search people out, but if you’re not doing as well, you try to turn over a few different rocks. The only drawback is that it can be uncomfortable. Any time you have to go searching for business, you have to put yourself out there in such as way that certainly isn’t as exciting as when the phone rings and the client wants to talk about a remodel project. Things tend to happen if you just show up in places where people are doing your type of business [such as the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show]. One of the things I am going to look at is outdoor kitchens, because it is just this year – after being in business for 10 years – that I am wondering what else I can do.”

Chris Grimm, president
Essential Kitchen Design
San Jose, CA

“We’re joining our local chamber of commerce, which is called Greater Louisville, Inc. Personally, I prefer to not advertise. I would rather meet someone face to face and network that way. So, if you participate in all of the activities they schedule, you really get a lot of face time in the community. There are huge networking possibilities there. There are two main reasons why we have decided to do this – one is that we are increasing our showroom space. After discussing it with my door, window and trim people, we are finding that we have people coming in at all different stages of their projects, and it is not necessarily the most efficient use of our synergies. Hopefully, we will be able to pull in a few more companies that will help us in that regard. The other reason is simply to be able to network with people in the community. However, we have not attended trade shows in the past few years because my target clientele is very seldom found walking around a home and garden show. Plus, there is a lot of planning and money that goes into having a booth at a trade show – not to mention the time spent there. It becomes a very substantial investment and my experience tells me that the returns are not always worth it.”

Pete Stone, president
Stone Kitchens
Louisville, KY

Leshaun Williams,
showroom manager
Kitchen and Bath Depot
Rockville, MD

“As far as general networking, we do a lot of work with the local building association. For example, I am on the board of directors of the NE Florida Builders Association. We do a lot of work with the association’s charitable organization, “Builders Care.” The goal of the organization is to go in and rehab homes for senior citizens, people who have been injured or people who need shelter. Typically, they get a group of people in the building industry to volunteer and go in and fix roofs and upgrade homes for people who are contributors to society, but who don’t have the wherewithal to improve their living situation. There is also a charitable demolition derby being held that benefits Builders Care. It is a big fundraiser for the charity and it gets them a lot of media exposure as well. We have our car [ready for that event]. The following week, we will be attending the NE Florida Builders Association regional trade show, and a lot of the board members who will be attending are builders. The board is really making a concerted effort to increase its participation in that event. Our firm is also a member of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. We are currently doing work with 19 of the top 25 builders in this market, but as the market has softened, it has become important to do more networking and to get involved with more developers and other business entities. In the past, we may have concentrated more on single-family homes, but now we have moved into multi-family homes in a big way. The main idea with networking is to stay out in the community and to get involved with business associates. To that end, we also work with sales and marketing council members, most of whom are realtors, and those realtors feed our remodeling business. If they are selling resales, for instance, they can refer people to our remodeling business. The idea is to create a symbiotic relationship.”

Nancy Love, v.p./marketing
Woodsman Kitchens & Floors, Inc.
Jacksonville, FL

“I would like to get more involved in the local NKBA chapter as well as the home improvement contractor associations. We are primarily retail right now, so my hope would be to attend these meetings and meet other people who do what we do and get more business at the same time.”

Anthony R. Carucci, co-owner
Kitchens N’ Things
Staten Island, NY