Retailers share valuable advice on navigating business

Home Featured Post Retailers share valuable advice on navigating business

The top retailers didn’t get there by accident. It took years of hard work, adapting and evolving. Along the way, they learned valuable lessons that would shape them and their businesses going forward. FCNews rounded up seven highly respected retailers to share their best advice.

Adam Joss
The Vertical Connection Carpet One
Columbia, Md.

Advice: Allow your thinking to evolve. Never stop learning.

Continue to think about the way you do things and learn other ways of doing them. Seek guidance from other people and see how they do things. In my 12 years in the flooring industry, I’ve changed the way we do things and the way I think. As an example, early on I thought it would be best to have a sales process that involved essentially just being friendly and helpful. But I’ve come to learn that’s not really a winning sales process. You need to have a defined sales process that walks somebody through.

Another example: I used to think Empire and other shop-at-home companies were all a bunch of sleazy salespeople. My thinking evolved, and I learned some people don’t want to go to a showroom. Some people want you to keep it simple. So we started a shop-at-home business, and that’s driving our growth.


Ashlie Butler
Bob’s Carpet and Flooring
Tampa, Fla.

Advice: Be more important to fewer suppliers.

Our business is a partnership with suppliers, and the greater the commitment we give the more we receive in return. When you need that supplier to go above and beyond, they’ll be there for you if you’re there for them. And it’s easier to be there for each other when there are not thousands of people involved. As an example, we had an installation-related issue that was 100% our fault, and the supplier still replaced the carpet and said, “OK, we’ll just claim it out.” We had another issue where a company replaced a job at cost even though it wasn’t their product that failed. All because we were important to each other.


Sam O’Krent
O’Krent Floors
San Antonio

Advice: Hear everyone out.

We all get biased and jump to conclusions way too fast. When someone tells us something we immediately take that as gospel. But there is always another side to it, there is always more depth, another opinion, another circumstance that we may not know about. What are the underlying things? Along with that is not jumping to any conclusions. They happen all the time. My people come to me and say this happened or he did this. We have to see what the other side says. You need to walk a mile in their shoes. You need to see it from their perspective. They could be 100% wrong; they could be 100% right. But for them, they are 100% right.

Jimmy Poulos
Flooring 101
Ventura Country, Calif.

Advice: Address complaints immediately.

If you have a customer complaint, take care of it now, not tomorrow–the same day she calls you. Don’t sweep it under the rug; it will come back to haunt you. The customer will start to complain about your company. Then she will tell her next-door neighbor, she will call a contractor, her friend, anyone. It becomes a big issue. But if you take care of it immediately, there is no issue anymore.

You can’t buy your business; 50%-60% of your business must be repeat customers. You make every customer an ambassador. And when they have a party and someone says they have good flooring and asks who they recommend, they say, “Go to Flooring 101, they have nice people there.” That’s what I want to hear.

Mike Foulk
Foulk’s Flooring America
Meadville, Pa.

Advice: Communicate.

Sometimes, especially when you’re dealing with a husband and wife, the communication is not always clear, so you must have correct documentation. We’ve had people over the years think they’ve gotten a different product than they ordered because they can’t remember what they picked; they had looked at so many products in so many stores. That’s why you have to have everything documented and signed, including the amount they’re getting. It alleviates headaches and troubles.

Olga Robertson
FCA Network

Advice: Love what you do.

There are so many challenges in this business, and if you don’t love what you do, it can create such a negative loop that you become inactive, unproductive and you lose focus. What I learned is you really have to enjoy what you do, you have to have the passion for it, you have to really enjoy spending time with people. I get a lot of gratification from helping young entrepreneurs live the American Dream.


Typhannie Harker
Carpeting by Mike
Somerset, Wis.

Advice: Don’t judge first looks.

I was probably around 10 years old, and my dad and I were going to measure a house. This customer gets up to meet him—curly hair, disheveled, glasses, hasn’t shaved, wearing overalls. When my dad came back I asked, “What are you doing talking to that guy? He looks like he could be homeless.” He said to me: “Here’s the thing you don’t know about this guy. He is a multi-millionaire and owns several apartment complexes around the area. He just doesn’t dress like it.” So the lesson I learned was never judge a book by its cover. The people who always surprise me by spending the most are the ones that don’t look like they have two nickels to rub together. In business, anyone I meet I treat them exactly the same.

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Feb. 6/13, 2023

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