Time to Sharpen Your Business Skills

The books are closing already on the first quarter of 2006. Another Kitchen/Bath Industry Show (K/BIS) is just around the corner. The market, by most accounts, continues to grow more complex, more fashion-driven, more competitive, more challenging.

Now is as good a time as any for kitchen and bath dealers, in the process of moving boldly forward, to take a momentary – and equally bold – step back. To take stock of what your business is all about. To assess where it’s headed. To determine what steps can be taken to improve its chances of meeting your goals.

It’s also as good a time as any for dealers to set in motion a long-term process aimed at streamlining business processes, creating efficiencies, monitoring costs and improving the bottom line.

This process – of continuous improvement – is detailed by writer John Valente in this month’s Kitchen & Bath Design News (see ‘Raising the Bar’ ).

Valente, an executive at one of the nation’s leading kitchen and bath distributors, makes several compelling points. He suggests, for one thing, that kitchen and bath dealers can draw on the business practices of top manufacturers, by engaging in a well-planned, disciplined approach centered around an ongoing process of self-examination, team dialog and refining of business operations.

This process, Valente observes, should be wholly ingrained in the minds of business owners, part of a permanent mindset. It shouldn’t be tied expressly to a special time of the year – like a New Year’s resolution – or employed as a strategy to deal with sudden changes in the business climate. Nor should it be it simply a knee-jerk reaction to a move by a competitor, or undertaken in a whimsical, haphazard fashion.

In contrast, it should be well-planned and thorough. It should permeate the entire company. It should be lasting. And it should be implemented today at kitchen/bath dealerships of all sizes and shapes.

Today.

Not, as in so many cases, something to be gotten around to tomorrow.

Now, argues Valente, is the time to sharpen your business management skills – and examine sales, marketing, accounting, scheduling, job tracking and purchasing. Now is the time to hone your market niche, move into an untapped geographic market, embrace a new customer cohort. Now is the time to truly differentiate your company, either through product, price, design specialty, location or some other unique selling advantage. Now is the time to upgrade customer service and develop ways to generate more showroom traffic, leads and referrals.

Now is the time to get better.

The industry’s best and brightest dealers, of course, have always known and practiced this way of conducting business.

It’s time for those who haven’t done it to get with the program.

Use next month’s K/BIS as a place to kick things off (download the K/BIS Show Guide). Use the show to study new products and services. Use it to discover new suppliers, and to reinforce relationships with existing business partners. Use it to network with colleagues and gather important insights. Use it to remove yourself from the crushing demands of daily business, gain a fresh perspective and return to your business energized and flush with new ideas.

Improvements must be a day-to-day business practice for kitchen and bath dealers.

And the time to start is now.

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