I had the opportunity to talk with John Wells, General Manager for the past seven years of Taylor Flooring in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Taylor Flooring was awarded Mohawk Color Center Dealer of the year at the Mohawk Color Center Convention February 7, 2009. Taylor Flooring consists of four stores and has been in business for 16 years.
John Wells is in charge of hiring, training and ongoing coaching for his salespeople. The first thing you notice about John is his energy and focus. He knows what to do, how to do it and how to get it done. He talks about how important all employees are to the company and his connection to his salespeople. John is filled with passion about the business, the customers and the employees. He talks about coaching as being an important part of his ongoing training program. From my experience, it is rare for businesses to focus on coaching; but with the right coaches, people are able to make immediate and long lasting changes.
I asked John about the recession and what it means to their company. His reply was quite interesting. He said “in the United States, it’s real, in Canada there is more of a misperception about what’s going on. The news media just scares everyone so we become petrified.”
John’s solution: stop listening and stop focusing on the bad news. If 32% of homes are in foreclosure, John looks at it as an opportunity. According to John, these homes will have to get sold and there’s his opportunity to go in and update the flooring in them. As we all know, it’s the half-full / half-empty attitude.Taylor Flooring works at using financing for flooring to help customers sell their homes. The trick is to apply for the credit so it doesn’t get in the way of the customers other loans, and to time the closing of the loan so it coincides with the sale of the house. Taylor aggressively seeks realtor partners by providing sliding scale commissions to realtors that offer good client referrals. The larger the flooring sale, the larger the commission.
The key to staying cool while the rest of the world is talking doom and gloom? According to John:
- Don’t panic. Leave that for your competitors. If you panic, it will send shock waves through your sales staff and make it difficult for them to concentrate on doing their best. (Interesting that John should make this statement. On February 14, one of the writers from the Wall Street Journal made the comment that it is essential that our President tell us the truth — but to not rub our noses in it. Everyone needs to know that there is hope, no matter what’s going on.)
- Focus on what works well and do it over and over again. Your team should be on auto-pilot for survival skills. Cut unnecessary overhead and focus on what brings in business and more profitable customers. This is the time to dump the unprofitable ones and to give more to those that are supporting your business.
- Have 'pit bull' persistence in follow through to close deals. Hold on to what works and don’t let go.
“Retaining a leadership position requires internal positioning," John adds. "You are constantly improving the processes.”
These processes encompass the following:
- Having systems in place that keep the wheels turning. Everyone needs to know what to do and how to do it, consistently. All the pieces must fit together.
- The leaders must have positive attitudes and initiate the changes they want to see if they are to create believers. Once people believe, positive things will happen.
- Proper behavior must be identified and monitored. This includes professional presentations, keeping the store looking great and looking professional. Everyone knows what’s required to promote, differentiate and support the brand.
As John says, “it’s all about promoting great relationships with your customers and your employees and living the core values.”