Unfortunately, it happens all the time. A guy, probably named
Bob, makes a great meatloaf. His family loves his meatloaf. His
neighbors love his meatloaf. His co-workers tell him, “Bob, this is
so good, you should open your own restaurant.”
As it turns out, often enough, Bob decides they’re right. He
opens his own restaurant. At first, his place is full. Everyone
raves about the meatloaf. Gastronomically pleased, the customers
smile as they leave. But . . . they never come back. Eventually,
the restaurant fails. Bob loses everything and never makes meatloaf
Business failures are not limited to those who specialize in
ground beef. In every industry there are winners and losers. The
question you’ve got to ask is, what separates the winners from the
losers? Within the same industry, why are some firms highly
successful while others can’t make a go of it?
I think there are two major reasons.
The first one is more obvious capitalization. If you don’t have
the money to get the job done, you’re finished. Every business
textbook talks about the need to be properly capitalized. The
lesson is always that it takes money to make money. For the most
part, I agree. I do think it’s possible, however, to grow a
successful business while starting on a shoestring.
Know Your Message
It’s not possible, however, for a business to succeed without
understanding the second primary reason for success or failure.
That reason, stated simply, is knowing what your business message
The term “business message” is never mentioned in textbooks
about business; similarly, it’s not taught in business schools.
There may be courses you can take on capitalization, but there are
none about the business message. You can hire professionals to help
work through money issues, however, there’s no one to talk to about
what your message is, and if you’re communicating it effectively.
But, believe me, this is critical stuff.
Many kitchen and bath dealers approach their business much the
same way as Bob did. Their “meatloaf” is their design work. I can’t
begin to count all the business owners who’ve told me that their
design work “sold itself.” I don’t believe it for a minute. Can
quality design work be important to success? Absolutely. We must
remember, however, that it’s only one ingredient and not the whole
It doesn’t matter what segment of the kitchen and bath industry
you work in. The concept of the business message holds true.
Whether you’re selling to builders, architects or consumers, the
consistency of your message is the foundation of your success.
Let’s just say that you’re in the high-end consumer business.
The obvious Message that you want to send is that your firm offers
quality. Quality design work. Quality products. Quality
So, how do you send that message? When I ask that question of
high-end showroom owners, I usually get answers like, “We emphasize
our design capabilities,” or, “We demonstrate the construction
details of our fine cabinetry.”
No one ever tells me that “Our parking lot does not have any
potholes.” I’ve yet to hear, “Our restrooms are immaculate.” If the
customer sprains an ankle or now needs a front end alignment, what
has your parking lot said about you? If your restrooms are a mess,
what business message have you sent your clients home with? Its
like Bob and his meatloaf, they may never come back.
I guarantee you that all of the real winners in the kitchen and
bath industry have one thing in common: Visiting their showrooms is
a pleasant experience.
It starts with their advertising. Every promotional effort
delivers the same message: “Come and see us, we’re a top-quality
When they come to the showroom, even before they get out of
their cars, the clients are delivered the same message. The parking
lot is neat. The grass is cut. The signage is tasteful. When they
enter the business, what they see is what they came to see.
Tasteful displays. A clean, well-lighted showroom. There are no
door samples piled up here and there. There are no knobs missing
from cabinets. There are no overflowing wastebaskets. There is no
blasting music. The message is being delivered.
When they meet a designer, they find that designer to be
courteous, knowledgeable and appropriately dressed. The designer is
conveying the message. If a client in a successful, high-end
showroom requests a glass of water, it will not arrive in a Dixie
cup. The coffee will not be served in styrofoam. There’s a place
for people to hang their coats. The salesperson is not constantly
interrupted by phone calls. The carpet is not threadbare. If the
client uses the restroom, it’s clean. There’s soap in the soap
dispenser. The toilet paper was not purchased from a discount
When these clients are presented with their plans, it’s done
professionally. The quotations are prepared in a uniform, precise
format. The sales agreements are thorough, detailed, yet easily
These are all things that send a business message. A message
that transcends quality design work. A message that’s too often
After The Sale
The Business Message continues after the sale, as well. Are phone
calls returned promptly? Is after the sale follow-up service as big
of a priority as it was to obtain the sale? Do former customers
continue to refer you? Do the charitable efforts you support lend
themselves to the message you want to send?
These are all critical questions. All questions that separate
those who succeed from those who don’t.
We all make judgments when we walk into a business for the first
time. Most of us can immediately surmise whether the place is going
to make it or not. Unfortunately, it’s only occasionally that we
walk into a store and immediately feel good that we’re there.
I hope that from now on you’ll recognize that those warm and
“fuzzy” feelings are the result of an owner and staff who
understand completely their business message.
There are countless things that need to be considered: the way
your phone is answered; how your stationery and business card
looks. The list goes on and on.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a kitchen and bath
dealer or a meatloaf maker the lesson is the same.
The recipe for success can be found in the message.