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Since we merged our business with another local company more than 10 years ago, we have experienced numerous changes that have been very beneficial for us as a company. Many of these changes relate to our decisions to forge profitable partnerships that allow us to expand our product offerings, services and scope of business.
While we’ve always worked with other trades, we have discovered that building a relationship is much more important than the one-time sale.
For instance, after many years of selling appliances purchased through the normal chain of distributors, it became apparent that there was an opportunity for a kitchen and bath firm to do better in the purchase of appliance products. While there are appliance retailers, we felt that developing a partnership that allowed us to sell these would make us more competitive, and help our customers enjoy one-stop shopping. So, we converted our warehouse space at our main showroom to a full-service appliance showroom.
We hired appliance salespeople, including someone with 12 years of experience to head up our appliance division. We took about 3,000 square feet and converted the entire area to all appliances. We decided to carry the brands that are in our buying group, as well as the more popular high-end appliances.
We then hired three more appliance people to work in this department to serve the walk-in business. We also hired an outside person for the wholesale division to call on the builders and contractors.
While we never felt that we were in the appliance business per se, this relationship has netted us many kitchen projects that might never have been possible if not for our appliance showroom. This also has had a major impact on our normal kitchen sales, since the kitchen salespeople now have an opportunity to either sell the appliances themselves or turn it over to the appliance division. We have in our kitchen and bath showroom complete displays that feature appliances, but the additional appliance area makes it easy for customers to do one-stop shopping.
Many of the customers have told us how helpful it is to have these major brands lined up next to each other so they can compare both the features and the prices.
The next area that we decided to become involved with is decorative plumbing and hardware. Again, we sought out someone who we believed knew more about this area than we did. While we already had plumbing fixtures in all of our displays, as part of our new partnership, we devoted some 1,200 square feet to specific decorative plumbing and hardware products. This has helped our other sales as we now get designers, contractors and builders as clients.
While these customers are in the showroom, they then see our other displays of kitchens, baths and appliances, and this creates additional selling opportunities. Many of these relationships have developed into long commitments that are doing very well for us.
Taking Another Look
While we’ve never sought out remodeling jobs involving room additions, bump-outs or bump-ups, over the years, we’ve had former customers come back looking for help with this type of job.
For a long time, we’d refer these jobs to contractors and builders we’d worked with in the past, and just get involved in the kitchen or bath. In these cases, we rarely made much money on the remodeling part of the project and generally ended up selling the material only. Even worse, if there was a problem, we were always involved – whether it was our responsibility or not.
A few years ago, a guy who we knew through the industry told us that he’d left the company he’d worked with for 25 years, and was going to start his own construction company. We met several times to discuss how we could work together, and finally created a new division of our company called Callier, Thompson, Shea Construction and Design. The thought was that adding our name gave the new company credibility that might otherwise take him some time to develop. Yet, while the new company stands alone, in the eyes of the public and our staff, we work like one company.
We save money by sharing a front desk receptionist, bookkeeper, warehouse and delivery trucks. Even better, now when we work on large-scale remodeling projects, we’re all involved from the start. We can work jointly to benefit our customers, and this prevents costly problems, since everyone is on the same page from the beginning.
The real value of this partnership was evident last year when we were working on a major addition of a kitchen. As we discussed the plans with the customer, a question came up concerning how high the staggered-height wall cabinets should be in relation to the windows that were going to be in each corner.
With the contractor there, we discussed the options and wrote the specific dimensions on the final plans. In the past, we would have made that decision without information from the contractor concerning some outside electrical or ventilation that we would not have planned on. And that could have caused problems and delays.
Instead, working together from the start with all of the information at hand, the project turned out to be on time and the customer was more than happy with the outcome. This has since led to valuable referrals.
We’ve also forged a partnership with a granite supplier. While there are times when customers tell us they can get granite for less money on their own, we believe that price is not always the reason to select a partner to work with. It really is the service that makes or breaks the relationship.
We recently had a chance to talk at an event that our granite supplier partner sponsored for us. In our discussion with them, they said they felt our relationship was more than a business relation-ship, but a true partnership. We agree 100%. The give and take of the relationship makes doing business more profitable and rewarding.
Industry partnerships can help kitchen and bath firms increase their business – and bottom line. Through relationships with buying groups, associations, allied professionals and all of your vendors, you can find the tools to grow and be more competitive in today’s marketplace.
Members of the BKBG address business strategies for kitchen and bath dealers in a regular bi-monthly column, appearing exclusively in KBDN.