Marketing Mastery: How a burned-out dealer got his life back

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April 24/May 1, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 23

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(Third of three parts)

In part one I told the story of Earl Swalm, a dealer from Canada who increased his revenue by 50% and cut his work hours in half. In part two I covered some of the strategies he used to grow his revenue. In this section I’ll discuss how he was able to cut his work hours.

Overwork in the flooring industry is epidemic. It’s much more common for a dealer to work 60-plus hours per week than 40.

A one-store dealer who is putting in 60 hours per week generally can’t imagine opening a second store, let alone five or 10 more. They’ve put themselves in a position where if they don’t show up for all those hours things start to fall apart. Yet there are plenty of dealers who own five to 10 stores. It’s physically impossible for them to put in 60 hours at each store. So, what are they doing differently?

In a word: systems. A system is a written procedure, process, method or course of action designed to achieve a specific result.

A dealer with 10 stores has to be system-dependent, meaning his stores have written processes and procedures that can be taught, and which employees can be held accountable to follow.

An owner-dependent business is the opposite. If the owner doesn’t show up for any length of time, things quickly fall apart. This type of business usually has few—if any—written systems.

Over a period of about 12 months, Swalm made the transition from being owner-dependent to system-dependent. “It didn’t happen overnight,” he said. “It was a process where I systemized small chunks of my business at a time.”

Here is a partial list of the things for which Swalm created written systems:

  • Greeting customers
  • Opportunity tracking
  • Measure tracking
  • Material tracking
  • Sales presentation
  • Purchase ordering
  • Post-sale, pre-installation communication
  • Post-installation referral and testimonial gathering

Training for success
Swalm has regular training sessions to keep his team up to speed on the systems and to hold them accountable for following them. When something breaks down in the system, he doesn’t jump in and do the task himself; he fixes the system. “This is called working ‘on’ rather than ‘in’ my business,” Swalm said.

The role of software
“I am a big believer in software,” Swalm explained. “I used to try to keep everything in my head or in a job folder, but there is no replacement for ‘working software.’” I agree. However, software doesn’t replace systems. There are plenty of dealers using quality, industry-specific software who are stressed out, working 60-plus hours per week. Software is merely a tool to make your existing systems more efficient. For example, inventory tracking used to be done on paper. Now software can help you do it much more efficiently. But it doesn’t replace the need for an inventory system.

Transforming your business so it’s system-dependent may sound like a lot of work. It is. But what’s more work: implementing systems, or spending your life working over 60 hours per week?

If you have questions or need guidance on systemizing your business, I’d be happy to chat with you. Email me at support@FlooringSuccessSystems.com.

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