‘Theory of Evolution’ Advocates Change in
by Steve Vlachos
The thing about running a business is, just when you think
you’ve got it right, you don’t! There’s always something that needs
improving or changing. You have new competition, new products, new
problems. If you get complacent, you lose!
Cam Snyder is not a complacent guy. After 22 successful years
running Kitchen Concepts, he is changing his firm’s focus and even
its name. His new venture is called RoomScapes, and, while on first
inspection it may look quite a bit like Kitchen Concepts, it
represents something totally new and forward thinking, a sort of
“Snyderized Theory of Evolution.”
Cam’s operation is located in Norwell, MA, with the showroom
offices residing in a renovated older home. In the beginning, Cam
sold cabinets. Twenty-two years ago, you could make a decent living
just selling cabinets. Then, kitchen and bath “design” became an
issue, so Kitchen Concepts morphed from a cabinet retailer into a
design firm. Some time later, the installation of the cabinetry
became a requirement, so Cam’s group figured out how to handle
cabinet installation. Today, total project management is the goal.
The name RoomScapes says it all, with the newly christened firm
providing everything for a room renovation. That may include
windows, flooring, labor. . .the works.
Why did he make the change? Cam is positive that this is the
direction his customers need him to go in. In this day and age,
husbands and wives both work. That leaves little time to shop at a
tile store, then an appliance store, then go out to interview
contractors, etc. What folks need these days is a one-stop shopping
experience with someone who will coordinate and mastermind the
entire project, Cam believes. Today’s consumers don’t have time to
be chasing sub-contractors. They don’t want to drive all over town.
Most don’t want to have to make all of the decisions about their
project. Clients spend so much time at work that they want their
home to be a haven for their limited personal time. They want it to
be nice. They want to relax.
And, they’re willing to pay more to have someone take care of
their projects for them. That’s where Cam comes in.
RoomScapes tells a bigger story than Kitchen Concepts has. You
want a bath remodeled? It can handle every detail. Home library,
you say? It specializes in home libraries. Entertainment center?
Bedroom cabinetry? Living room built-ins? No problem for
RoomScapes. Closets? Of course! Cam isn’t coming out of the closet.
. .he’s going in!
The best thing, and perhaps the most surprising thing, about the
change in direction has been the effect on gross margin. The
addition of full project labor and materials has actually helped
Kitchen Concepts traditionally operated with margins in the 40%
range, according to Snyder.
RoomScapes, however, is operating with margins a couple of
points higher. Snyder believes there are two reasons for that.
First, to be safe, the firm adds a significant “fudge” factor to
all of its project pricing. Because of the firm’s attention to
detail, it has not needed the “fudge” on most projects, which
results in a boost to the firm’s bottom line.
Secondly, and more significantly, the addition of full
remodeling services has acted as margin insurance for the products
that the firm sells. Cam says that he feels little, if any,
competitive pricing pressure on his products anymore since the
products are wrapped up in the full-service, full-project
The biggest surge in new business has come from full-scale bath
projects. Snyder predicts that 40% of his business will come from
just such projects. Only a few years ago, Kitchen Concepts would
have sold only a vanity cabinet and, maybe, a top to a bath
customer. A big bath sale might have been $1,000. Today, the
average master bath job at RoomScapes produces $35,000 in revenue
for the firm. That’s an additional $8,400 in gross
While Cam appreciates the income stream, his customers
appreciate the full service. Snyder believes that being part of the
renovation project from design to completion generates more
referral business from clients. While they may forget who sold them
cabinets, they never forget who did the work for them.
RoomScapes has a project manager on staff whose job it is to
estimate and run the various projects that the firm is contracted
for. He is the only person on the payroll involved directly with
the installation process. Everyone working out on sites is a
sub-contractor. The project manager is expected to coordinate all
activities involved with each sub on each project. Snyder points
out that one of the keys to running multiple renovation projects is
to use the same sub-contractors over and over again. Once they
learn how to work the “RoomScapes way,” they become invaluable
members of the team. Cam stresses that it is important to him that
his sub-contractors are making a fair profit so that they will want
to be available whenever RoomScapes’ project manager needs them.
For this same reason, Snyder also makes it a point to pay his
sub-contractors as quickly as possible.
In order to keep cash flow moving nicely through the project,
RoomScapes requires a 40% deposit on product and a 25% deposit on
the remodeling work at the time of order. The firm receives the
remaining 60% of the product payment at time of delivery and an
additional 25% of the labor when the firm actually starts working
on site. The remaining 50% of the remodeling portion is divided
into 25% when the walls are finish ready, 20% when all the final
fixtures are installed and 5% on final walk through. Cam is working
on a system that will simplify and tighten his payment schedule.
RoomScapes has also invested recently in a construction pricing
program that should accelerate both the pricing and the closing
rate on jobs.
The Kitchen Concepts showroom is also undergoing changes. The
plan is to begin limiting the present number of kitchen displays.
More baths will be featured, along with home offices, libraries,
bedroom built-ins, etc. The firm has also changed its showroom
hours to an appointment-only basis. Potential clients are welcome
to visit the showroom at their leisure Monday through Friday, but
for any design or project consultation, an appointment must be
made. Snyder admits that since requiring an appointment to talk
with someone, his showroom traffic has gone down. He insists,
however, that the quality of his leads and the size of his projects
have risen dramatically.
We all have had the occasional client that reminds us that
Darwin was probably right about his evolving from the apes thing.
It’s much easier, however, to grasp Snyder’s more modern Theory of
Evolution, which says that you have to keep changing to remain the
same. In other words, keep changing to remain profitable. From
creation as a cabinet seller to maturity as a design/build firm,
Snyder’s company has continually grown in sophistication. It’s a
classic case of advancing up the evolutionary scale. And I suspect
that Mr. Darwin would heartily approve.