What is the most import part of your showroom business? I would venture to say your answers may vary. Some will say the customer is the most important part of your business. Others might say it is the products you display and sell. I would disagree with both answers and argue they are very important, but not the most important.
What I have learned over a long career is the most important part of your showroom business is you! That’s right, you the person working in the showroom. Be it a showroom associate or a showroom manager, you are the heart of your business. Even though we are the heart of the showroom business, we also are often the most underappreciated part of our business.
Some reading this may find it slightly self-serving, and I would be remiss if in a way I did not agree. I am not discounting all the other aspects of our industry. This is not only from personal experience, but also from networking and talking to my peers within our industry, and reading countless surveys and articles. All of which leads me to the conclusion that showroom people are as a whole underpaid and underappreciated. This industry sometimes is very slow to change and how showroom people are compensated and shown appreciation for the job they do is in dire need of change.
If you work or have worked in the showroom business for an extended period, you have seen it dramatically change. Our jobs are harder than they have ever been. Customers are harder than they have ever been. Besides having to be the experts and the most knowledgeable people on the products we sell, we have to do so much more. We have to offer exceptional customer service. No matter how our day, and life, are going, we have to remain positive even when the customer is screaming at us for something completely out of our control.
Our jobs have evolved making us part social worker, part marriage counselor, part baby sitter, part therapist, part negotiator, and I am just getting started. I often joke that the part of my job I love the most is engaging with the the customers, and the part of my job I hate most is, you guessed it, the customers.
We get beat up on price on a daily basis, shopped and showroomed; our prices get compared to the Internet. Every customer is an expert via the Internet, or what they saw on HGTV. The person spending $1,000 with us feels they should not have to pay restocking and return freight just because they changed their minds. They are good customers and constantly tell us.
We deal with more and more competition from vendors selling direct to every K&B and granite shops having a line from China.
Many of us are marketers promoting our showrooms via social media. We are retail merchandisers that come up with and implement our displays. We are part plumber, contractor and painter installing our displays.
This is not me complaining, though some will read it that way. This is me trying to give those who don’t do the job a small idea of the job we do. Because for all I go on and on about I would not want to do anything different. OK, being an astronaut or Captain America would be cool, but other than that.
I guarantee if you took a cross section of different showroom people from coast to coast and put them in a room together, their stories and grievances would be very similar.
In researching information for this article, I stumbled across a fascinating video interview. It was from Inc. Magazine’s website. In the video Marcus Lemonis, host of CNBC’s “The Profit” and CEO of Camping World explains why people are the cornerstone of a successful businesses.
Lemonis says, “People always ask him why ‘people’ goes first in the people, process, product set up that he has. He often tells his customers, and they don’t get upset about it, but he tells them that the customer really is not the most important thing to him; they are number two and that the people who work for him are really the most important. They are number one.”
Lemonis explains, “My theory is that if the people are happy and properly paid, they are respected and they are listened too, that there really isn’t any better advertiser than the people that work there. That will also translate to a better customer experience.
“If you think about a business you go into, if the people that work there are unhappy, it really doesn’t matter how great the product is, it doesn’t matter how fluid the process is, the customer is going to sense it. That will ultimately result in poor sales or a poor experience.”
You can't build a great company alone. Taking the time to recognize the hard work of your team is crucial, according to Lemonis. It's a common, but detrimental error when entrepreneurs "don't put enough credence into the people that are around them," he said. In fact, “sometimes your team will have better ideas than a business leader,” he added.
That is a radical concept – treat your employees as well as you do your best customers, and your business will reap rewards beyond your wildest imagination. Huh!
Entrepreneur Richard Branson, who is celebrated for running incredibly successful companies built around happy workforces, writes: “Your employees are your company’s real competitive advantage. They’re the ones making the magic happen–so long as their needs are being met.”
It’s tough to argue with Branson’s logic. Satisfied employees are simply more productive and more efficient. They tend to work harder, contribute more, and call in sick less. They feel empowered, appreciated and are more loyal. They stick around so companies don’t have to spend as much time and money recruiting and training new workers. Happy employees also tend to rave about their workplace, which can often attract new talent. When job seekers are clamoring to work for a company, that company gets to choose the cream of crop to join their team.
The proof is in the profits. If you look at articles from Inc., Forbes, Money, and Fast Company, you will find article after article stating the happiest companies are the most profitable. Simply put, dignity creates value. Treating people well and authentically respecting them does lead to far better business performance.
This is not solely about compensation; this is also about appreciation. I often wonder if owners have an actual idea of the jobs we do as showroom specialist. I do not exaggerate when I say showroom people work harder now than they ever have. That most of us are doing more for less; a trend across our industry and maybe just a sign of the times.
The bottom line is this: I think there is major room for improvement for the way showroom people are acknowledged for the incredible jobs they do. That said I love what I do and I love this industry, flaws and all.