Lessons from the Dog House

I wake up on the wrong side of seven a.m. to a big paw smacking my hair and a wet, gloppy tennis ball in my bed. Struggling to pull myself back from dreams of a romantic honeymoon in Tahiti, I blink away sleep to focus blearily on the grinning canine face staring back at me. A tail thumps wildly: "You want to get up and play with me!" it seems to be saying.

"Forget it," I mumble, turning over and burying my head under the blanket.

The tennis ball is soon joined by a slightly deflated soccer ball, a large bone and a partially chewed up shoe. "You don't want to play tennis ball? Fine, what about soccer? No soccer? Well, okay, but I KNOW you'll want to play tug-o-war with the shoe. Come on, these are your favorite shoes, the Anne Klein pink ones. You NEVER can resist fighting me for THESE."

Jessie the Energizer Puppy has an endless number of contingency plans for capturing my attention, and four shoes, two balls, a TV remote control and a pair of stockings later, I'm finally up.

I'm not happy about it, but you'd never guess it from her response. Bounding joyfully around the house, she continues to shower me with new offerings of every kind imaginable, until I'm finally forced to smile. Before I know it, I'm tossing a ball around the yard, hard pressed to remember why I would want to be doing anything else on such a beautiful, sunny morning.

The 86-pound-moose-cum-puppy might need work on her clock reading skills, but she certainly knows something about overcoming obstacles.

It occurs to me that, except for her propensity for knocking over expensive Oriental lamps, Jessie would be a welcome addition to any kitchen and bath showroom.

Jessie's life philosophy translates well to the kitchen and bath industry: If you want to get and keep people's attention, offer them good stuff. Lots of good stuff. Offer them choices, too, because one person's muddy tennis ball might be another person's treasure. Don't be discouraged when things look tough: Forge ahead with persistence and enthusiasm, and success will inevitably follow. After all, who can resist a force of nature moving 100 mph, full speed ahead, when the rest of the world seems to be permanently stuck in first gear?

If the latest Kitchen & Bath Design News survey is any indication, kitchen and bath dealers are taking this philosophy to heart, meeting today's challenging business conditions head on with concrete plans for growth. Whether it's enhanced product offerings, a greater focus on service, a larger showroom, more product displays or a willingness to explore new avenues of business, today's kitchen and bath industry pros are actively planning for the future. And, their plans revolve around growth, not standing still waiting to see what happens next.
It's no wonder, then, that while many industries are struggling, the kitchen and bath industry remains strong.

It's not that there aren't plenty of pressing challenges or even that we have all the solutions. A dearth of qualified personnel, an uncertain economy and the continued growth of the home centers continue to plague many kitchen and bath dealers, and there are no easy solutions. But dealers seem to be taking the bull by the horns, looking for things they can do, rather than lamenting about what they can't. And, what they can do is considerable from beefing up advertising, establishing a new specialty area, expanding into other kinds of work or offering more financing options to offering more flexible hours, taking charge of services that can enhance customer satisfaction and joining a buying group.

Facing competitive challenges even scarier than a cranky night person woken before dawn, today's kitchen and bath dealers are responding with unflagging enthusiasm, and more plans than Jessie has tennis balls.

Still, one of the best ways to keep on growing is to keep on learning from our customers, from our employees, from our distributors and manufacturers, and from each other.

To that end, K&BDN's 2002 Industry Leadership Award winners provide excellent examples of industry professionals whose continued hard work, dedication, talent, perserverence and willingness to forge ahead no matter what anyone else is saying or doing have led to notable growth and success. We at K&BDN hope they will be an inspiration to all of those who aspire toward excellence.

Because, as Jessie has taught me, while good things may come to those who wait, better things come to those who jump in with all four paws and go after them.