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There is a saying that “the customer is always right”. I believe that there are exceptions to this theory. When a customer suggests that any flooring product be installed in a manner which would compromise the integrity of the installation, you are always best served by just saying no. Politely explain why doing so would not be in anyone’s best interest.

Traveling about the country conducting training sessions allows me a unique perspective on what I feel may be the most ineffective and underutilized part of our business – advertising. I am always observing what local merchants, typically operating without the benefits of a professional agency, have to say to potential customers. Sadly, the message conveyed in the media is too often focused on the business itself rather than where it should be – on the customer.

Spring is the time of year when sports pages are full of news pertaining to roster moves. Baseball teams are finishing up spring training, while deciding which twenty-five players to place on their opening day roster. NFL teams are pursuing both free agency and the upcoming college draft. All teams are seeking players who are either capable of greater performance than the existing roster member, or one who is comparable in talent that comes at a lower cost. Even last year’s champions recognize that rosters can always be improved.

One of the common mistakes that managers make is assuming that their staff members know more than they actually do. Never presume since “we covered that during orientation” or “it’s in the employee handbook” that any given message was fully understood and absorbed by your personnel. The tendency is to barrage new staff with information as they are first employed, when they are least likely to fully comprehend it, and then never follow up to see what their retention is.

I read a great quote in Entrepreneur Magazine recently that I’d like to share with you. Jim Koch, the founder of the Boston Beer Company, stated that “you have a viable business only if your product is either better or cheaper than the alternatives.” Wow! That pretty well sums up the flooring business just as it does the beer business.

What we must remember is that in our field, installation and service are products, just the same as a box of tile or a roll of carpet. It is an integral part of what the customer is purchasing from us.

Nobody likes to lose a sale. You’ve often invested a great deal of time, effort and resources with a potential customer. You feel good about both your offering and its chances for acceptance. Then you get the bad news – she’s bought elsewhere.

You feel somewhat defeated and possibly just a little hurt. You’d prefer to just be done with this customer, but only after you’ve told her what you really think! While these are natural inclinations, to behave in this manner would be totally wrong.

When you have brought a newly hired employee on board, it is important to remember that training and induction are not the same thing. A good induction helps individuals understand the company and its culture. It defines the expectations for the person and the role that they will be filling.  Most businesses do an acceptable job in this area.

I recently observed an experienced sales person make a presentation to a couple looking to buy several rooms of carpeting. I’ll call him Joe. He did many things correctly. He rose to greet the customers. He offered his name and asked theirs. He was both dressed and groomed professionally. So far, so good. Then Joe made a too often repeated mistake – he began to “educate” the customer.

At the recently held Surfaces show in Las Vegas, neither Shaw nor Mohawk had a significant presence on the showroom floor. No big news there, as they have not participated for several years. While their collective market share is significant, I came away with the impression of both how large and varied our industry is beyond “the big two”.

As I return again from Surfaces, I have a renewed optimism that our industry is regaining some lost momentum. While attendance figures are not yet announced, traffic in both the showroom and educational events seemed to me to be significant. One observation stands out in my mind.