Design Business an Adventure in Marketing

Design Business an Adventure in Marketing

By Denise D. Vermeulen

The story of Greg Jones, the self-described "marketeer" and president/owner of Kitchen Art, begins in 1989 as he opens a small business, working out of his bedroom for the first five years. "I started my business on a credit card," explains Jones. Laid off from his job as national sales manager for an international furniture company, Jones sums up his position at the time. "I was broke," he says frankly.

Jones, however, was determined, and he had a darn good idea. With the help of his wife, Gail, he began to break into the kitchen design field, adding a twist that would prove to be a marketing coup.

Recognizing the tremendous growth in Florida's upscale housing market, Jones envisioned partnerships with builders that would make money for everyone. He tells potential partners that he is "a marketeer, interested in maximizing your bottom line, too." The developments are typically large, often building more than 1,000 homes that sell for between $300,000 and $600,000. 

At first, Jones only sold cabinets, providing packages that developers could offer to their customers as upgrades. The idea eventually expanded and now includes the entire kitchen design. "Most people upgrade," observes Jones, adding that there is an 85-90% success rate on getting clients to reach deeper into their pockets.

With the builder's plan in mind, Kitchen Art develops its own design book to be used in a housing development. The home buyer meets with the builder, reviews the design possibilities and their costs, and makes a decision. "We don't move walls," explains Jones. The designs are set and the numerous packages offered are "good, better, best," and sometimes beyond. 

Maximizing time
Jones and his staff never meet with the home buyer because it takes too much time. He adds, "Individual contact weighs us down," preventing them from achieving their target volume. Kitchen Art instead focuses on the builders and shaping buying relationships with manufacturers.

The design team at Kitchen Art does the creative work up front. Jones explains that the company's marketplace is neither high-tech nor contemporary. Florida buyer tastes are inspired by Old-World-style periods. Jones notes that the creation of expert designs meets the first of his three goals, goals that are the foundation of his business philosophy. Providing a quality product and the best possible service round out Jones' philosophy, which he says he's lived by since opening the business.

The showroom displays are not open to the general public, but are instead used as sales tools when meeting with builders. Jones does not advertise, list in the Yellow Pages, offer seminars or send out news releases. In fact, old-fashioned networking, word-of-mouth and sales calls are the only tools he has relied on to build his thriving business. 

And, these tactics have served him well, with the company doing about 60 kitchens a week. He also has three offices in Florida, and has a sprawling network of contacts from Coral Springs to Orlando to Naples. 
Jones' bottom line has steadily increased, doubling in the last three years. Last year, Kitchen Art made about $24 million out of the Coral Springs office alone. When adding in the other two locations, where Jones now has two partners, Kitchen Art grossed over $30 million.

Partnering up
The partnerships which Jones has built his business on go beyond the developers. He's committed to his staff of 35, claiming to have had little turnover. He is determined to provide his sales staff with ample opportunity. Jones notes that his salesmen generally earn over $100,000 annually, and he never back charges them.

He has also found it advantageous to team up with large manufacturers and distributors. 

One example is his partnership with Amerock. Jones emphasizes his belief that Amerock is a great supplier of hardware, with a quick response, and a wide variety of products and guarantees. The lifetime guarantee on Amerock's products has particularly helpful in the humid, salty Florida climate that is tough on metal finishes. Jones' extensive business makes his partnerships with such manufacturers mutually beneficial.

One current challenge facing Kitchen Art is the fact that large builders are also trying to partner with manufacturers. Jones says this could squeeze him out and he is, of course, fighting it every step of the way. He's continuing to pursue relationships with manufacturers that will maximize profits and his company's ability to deliver.

True to his "marketeering" approach to business, Jones says, "We don't quibble over a little money." He adds, "We finish a job, no matter what!" That's an attitude the original Musketeers would support. "All for one and one for all!"

Eagle Fabrication 

LOCATION: Coral Springs, Florida, with additional offices 
in Orlando and Naples
PRINCIPALS: Greg Jones, President & Owner; Gail Jones, Service Manager
SHOWROOMS: Two: one is 900-sq.-ft. and the other is 700-sq.-ft. 
HOURS OF OPERATION: Open by appointment only.
MAJOR PRODUCT LINES: Amerock, Ward's, Kitchen Craft, Kraftmaid, Dynasty, Omega, Grabill, Bentwood, Merit
SPECIALTIES: Marketing kitchen design upgrade packages to upscale builders and their clients.
BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY: "To never stray from the three original ideas that were used to start the business: expert design, quality cabinets and the best service."