Okay, the economy this year is pretty good. If you’re like many kitchen/bath design firm owners, you may be looking to hire another sales designer.
This time you want to do it right – not just grab a glib industry veteran who claims he will give you a quick $1,000,000 in additional sales. The last time you made that decision, you spent over seven months of your own time cleaning up all the projects he had messed up royally. He almost permanently ruined your carefully cultivated reputation for quality workmanship, superior customer service and outstanding value.
And the last experienced CKD you hired was a good designer and a good person, but couldn’t move people to sign on the dotted line – at least not enough to make any serious money for the company. So you made a tough, but wise decision and freed up that workstation. She’s working from her home now designing projects for a fee.
This time around you would really like a consistent performer who will help your company grow to the next level. Maybe even somebody who could head up a branch showroom in a growing market 30 minutes away. Or possibly be a candidate to buy your business in 10-15 years if you are indeed ready to retire.
So where, or how, do you find such an individual?
WHY PEOPLE SUCCEED
In his book Give and Take, Wharton business professor Adam Grant shares some extraordinary truths about how and why people succeed. He writes: “For many years, psychologists believed in any domain, success depended upon talent first and motivation second. Today, we have compelling evidence that interest precedes the development of talent. It turns out that motivation is the reason that people develop talent in the first place.”
Grant recounts how young pianists became so much better than their peers because they practiced many more hours. As true “givers,” their teachers were caring, supportive and patient. They made piano lessons enjoyable, which then served as a catalyst for the long of hours of practice to develop the pianists’ talent.
You may recall that Tiger Woods became an exceptional golfing talent in his early twenties not just because he started playing at a very young age. His superior talent was developed largely because his father was there for him all the time while
Tiger practiced year after year for two decades, encouraging, coaching and pushing him to be better.
Research has shown that a teacher’s belief will create a self-fulfilling prophecy. When a teacher believes a student is a “bloomer,” the teacher sets high expectations for the pupil’s success. As a result, the student feels motivated to work harder. And the teacher tends to engage in more supportive behaviors that boost the student’s confidence, speeding and refining his or her development. When a pupil makes some mistakes, a good teacher would see these as teachable moments rather than believe there was any lack of ability.
LOOK FOR GRIT
Looking back over the years in this industry, it strikes me that so many kitchen/bath owners fit the classic “taker” description in Grant’s book. In general, they expect new hires to be productive immediately without providing the necessary direction, organizational support, training and encouragement. Sadly, owners are apparently just too busy to provide the kind of leadership and mentoring that could make a real difference in results, both for the individual and the company.
But recently we have experienced many tough years in business during and immediately following the 2007-2009 Great Recession. Perhaps some owners may be willing now to do a makeover on themselves and become givers to achieve their desired corporate financial goals. By default, givers start by viewing virtually everyone as bloomers. Then they zero in on a person’s grit.
Psychologist Amy Duckworth defines grit as having the “passion and perseverance toward achieving long-term goals.” Yes, intelligence and aptitude are important. But a person’s interest, focus and drive have proven to achieve higher performance. More than anything else, these qualities determine whether someone will realize their full potential – or not.
That’s why givers who are business owners will seek gritty people, giving them the greatest return on their investment. Givers set high expectations, push and stretch people, so the new team members end up doing more than they thought possible. Forcing people to work harder than they ever did before ultimately benefits them in the long run. You just have to make the learning process interesting and enjoyable.
HIRE & DEVELOP TALENT
Years ago I had aspirations of developing a handful of satellite showrooms in Connecticut. In retrospect, I had several things going for me to accomplish this goal: (1) my main role had evolved from being a sales designer to a general sales manager; (2) I had the time to work on developing the business; and (3) I was most definitely a “giver.” By this time, I also had enough experiences hiring industry people with baggage who’d proven to be unproductive. I knew I had to do something different.
So, I decided to develop and conduct a five-week adult education evening class. I drafted the ideal specifications for a company sales designer, placed an ad and then screened telephone inquiries. Those that best fit the ideal profile were invited to have interviews. Those that subsequently demonstrated good character, revealed a strong work ethic and had an interest in creative work were then invited to attend the course. Within a week, I had 8-14 people registered for this course who paid a modest fee for the materials.
One key to this recruitment program’s success was that the attendees all knew they were competing for a single open position. The 10-session curriculum covered the basics of design, the fundamentals of selling and the differences in cabinet quality grades. Between the questions asked during class, the quality of their homework assignments, the diligence of showing up on time for 2.5-hour-long sessions and their overall engagement with me as the instructor, I gained a keen insight into their level of interest in the kitchen/bath design profession, their capability to be successful and their motivation to give it all they had to win the job. In Grant’s vernacular, I was measuring their grit.
To be sure, some of the folks flamed out along the way. But that was to be expected. The program was a success at both ends. For the registrants, they were able to investigate a possible new profession without jeopardizing their current job. For my company, we could make an offer to the most outstanding performer – the one with the most grit – and have them commence a three-month on-the-job training program before being released as a consultant, developing their own design practice under our roof.
Ultimately, I was able to hire and develop 14 successful sales designers this way. My “diamonds in the rough” included a former commercial office designer, business machine sales person, art teacher, food consultant, flower store owner, furniture salesperson, remodeling contractor, wallpaper/paint store owner and clothing executive, just to name a few. My job as trainer and manager was to polish them so they all would shine brightly.
They learned, adopted and leveraged our unique, interactive consumer budgeting system to get retained on projects quickly, something they considered pivotal to their development. After 2-1/2 years of experience, they averaged $860,000 in annual sales (based upon the value of today’s dollars) at 51.5% gross profit margins. Indeed, their success enabled my firm to develop and operate three additional showrooms where the satellites earned 14-17% pretax net profit after two to three years in business.
This approach to build a professional team from the bottom up will not give dealer/owners the quick boost in sales they may want. But if you are looking to build an enduringly sustainable business model, with consistent revenue and bottom line growth, it’s something you should try.
Let me know if you would like a copy of the curriculum. Perhaps you will become as proud of your recruits, and their contributions to your company and the industry, as I have been of mine. One was even voted into the Industry Hall of Fame.
Ken Peterson, CKD, LPBC, is president of the Chapel Hill, NC-based SEN Design Group. For more information about this topic, please contact Peterson at 1-800-991-1711 or [email protected]. Peterson also welcomes comments, questions or concerns. Peterson will be conducting a KBDN/SEN sales seminar entitled “Double Your Sales Volume Using A Proven Selling System” scheduled for Chicago and Phoenix areas later this year. Use this link to learn more and/or register: http://www.sendesigngroup.com/seminars/.