You Inherited a Furniture Store . . . Now What?
Part 1 of a 5-part Series
Your parents were legends.
They built a successful furniture business from the ground up - advertising in the local paper, putting flyers on windshields and selling better products at lower prices than the competition. And, every year at the annual holiday party, your dad dressed up like Santa - handing out gifts to employees’ children with a twinkle in his eye and a smile in his heart. Everyone loved them. Rightfully so! They were an All-American All-Star Team.
Sadly, though, time catches the best of us. Perhaps, the parents can’t do as much as they used to. Or, worse, they crossed over and left their legacy in your hands. The trouble is – you’re not quite sure what to do with it now that you have it.
You’re up late, losing sleep, awash in confusion and asking questions like, “How do I run a successful furniture store in today’s digital world?” “Will the tactics my parents used work for me?” “When do I eliminate paper systems and introduce new technology without upsetting the team?” “Will everyone forgive me for changing ‘The way we’ve always done things.’”?
It’s hard to hold the keys to a legacy. Especially when you’re not sure where to go from a business perspective. But, the best first step is to take a very gentle look at “The way we’ve always done things.”
This will be challenging for you and your most loyal employees – especially if they’re part of the family. The people who use them most will rattle because these are the processes your folks put in place. This is the job they know – and the way they know how to do it. So, be kind and sensitive – operating with the understanding that these people are terrified that you’ll take their welfare away.
But, here’s the big question to pose to them: “If mom and dad were young again - and just starting out in the furniture industry today - would they build the same business in the same way?”
They would consider a more modern approach and find ways to work smarter. They would strive to alleviate paperwork burdens and make customer communication easier. Rather than lock up resources in inventory and warehousing, they would create a shoppable website with endless aisles. Rather than lose hours going over product specifications faxes from manufacturers, they would automate the process with a service like Amber Engine. Rather than paper windshields, they would start an email campaign.
This may seem miles from where your furniture business is today – and that’s okay. Just take the first step and have a look at the business practices and processes currently in place.
Are you losing time with manual inputs to your POS systems?
Are you losing money by paying those people overtime?
Are you missing sales because the product sizing or detailing is incorrect?
Are you slow to provide service because your people can’t quickly find answers in endless spreadsheets?
The answers to these questions aren’t disrespectful to your family’s legacy or the way they did business. The answers to these questions are simply a first look at where you are and, perhaps a small spark of an idea about where you may want to go.
In our next article in the series, we’ll look at a key element of the furniture business that is often dismissed and/or overlooked because of the nature of older business models. We’ll also share how you, the furniture industry’s next generation, can make some simple changes to alleviate the resulting lost time, money and sales.