May 25/June 1, 2015; Volume 29/Number 4
By Nadia Ramlakhan
Dealers often cite the Main Street commercial market as the next step to grow their businesses because it helps with balancing cash flow. But many of them are still hesitant to take advantage of the market and are missing out on quite a few benefits. For some, it’s troublesome to decide which products to take on while others aren’t sure if they can find the time. Surprisingly, breaking into the business is fairly simple, especially because experienced retailers agree that having commercial products available in the store is all it takes. Following are some tips to get started.
Product knowledge is key
Being knowledgeable about commercial products is paramount when getting into the Main Street business. It’s not just about durability—working in a commercial space comes with certain difficulties that aren’t faced when working in a home. For example, the retailer must be aware of electrical wiring running through flooring or outlets on floors, and must be able to pair the customer with a product to fit her needs.
“What benefitted me the most was my product knowledge,” said John Boyajian, co-owner of A.J. Rose Carpets & Flooring with multiple locations in Massachusetts. “We not only help [customers] with design, but knowing what products are the right fit for them based on what they tell us is important. If an attorney has a 2,000-square-foot office, you have to know your products and be able to suggest something like a border in the conference room to set the space apart.”
Look for business
Rather than waiting for customers to come along, Boyajian recommends looking for business nearby. “With Main Street there are so many ways to go. You have shops, apartment complexes; drive around town and make yourself familiar with the buildings.” Network with past customers and let them know you do commercial work in addition to residential. If they are happy with previous jobs, there’s no reason for them to look somewhere else when they are ready to remodel their businesses. It’s also a good idea to leave business cards with storeowners in the community.
Be prepared to work off hours
While homeowners tend to make themselves scarce during the installation process, most small business owners don’t want to close down even for a day or two, so most of the work needs to be completed during weekends and late nights. “It’s a little more difficult with Main Street,” said Jim Mathews, owner of Carpet Corner in Kansas City, Kan. “When you’re doing one room in the house, [customers] will either leave or go into another room, whereas most small businesses can’t afford to lose revenue if they shut down for a day.”
Manage your money
In general, Main Street commercial jobs mean larger invoices; however, the payment doesn’t come until after the job is finished. Retailers recommend starting off with smaller jobs to keep track of cash flow and still be able to pay installers on time. “If you get into large commercial work you need very good financial backing,” Mathews said. “You could have a lot of commercial work and have a lot of money on the books but then find yourself as a bill collector trying to actually get the money in your hands.”
Take advantage of carpet tile
Carpet tile is continuing to gain popularity in commercial segments due to its convenience and ease of installation. Since Main Street jobs often involve moving furniture around, carpet tile makes the job a little easier and can be installed while the business is open. “We just did a police station in Kansas City,” Mathews continued. “Carpet tile is fast and convenient. We moved desks over to one half of the room, installed the carpet tile and then moved all the desks over to the other half. They were able to go about their daily routines with less disruption.”