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From Home Furnishing Business

Retail Resolutions


This is the one-year anniversary article for the Coach’s Corner, and it has been an exciting and eventful year for our nation, its economy and our customers.

Obviously with a Presidential election coming up, 2016 will be an interesting and extremely critical year for our future. As you probably know, it is the goal of this magazine to help our readers navigate treacherous waters by providing critical information and helping develop successful business.

In life and in business, the adage it’s not what happens to you that matters most, it is how you handle it rings true. Those who are best prepared, handle whatever comes at them better than those flying by the seat of their pants. The prepared ones who operate from a plan based on solid statistics, intelligent analysis, and a realistic vision for their company soar.

Most big time sports teams have an offseason to reflect on last year’s happenings. Owners evaluate players, coaches and management based on the season’s results. They study game planning and personnel moves to determine how those processes dealt with the challenges of the last season. Once done, they create a plan and set goals for positive change within the organization to drive performance improvement. Year-in, year-out, the winningest teams are the ones that do the best job performing this process.

In the furniture business, we do not have the luxury of an offseason in which to reflect and plan, but that does not mean the process is any less important. It is every bit as important for us as it is for sports teams, since historically the most successful businesses are the best ones at reflecting, correcting and planning. They are always the most prepared for whatever the economy, consumers and their competitors throw at them.

Therefore, sometime in the first few months of each year, after the hustle, bustle and distractions of the holiday season, owners, managers and staff should look back at the results of last year. Analyze the good and the bad and how it happened. Obviously, you want to replicate things that netted a positive result and replace those that did not. Most of you probably sit down with internal teams to review 2015 advertising and merchandising programs. As a result, you will make decisions to adjust, change direction or stay the course, then set goals for those areas of your business.

Most of you probably also take the time to review your sales performance and set goals for performance improvement in that critical area. But is that enough? A goal is not a plan; it is the result you want the proper execution of your plan to deliver. Many times we want growth and set targets for it without charting a new path to get to them. Albert Einstein is credited with saying: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Therefore, in order to get the desired improvement in results, changes are necessary.

For many people, change can be very difficult. It is harder in business since for most organizations even small adjustments to processes and behaviors are hugely uncomfortable, if not impossible. It behooves us to be careful as we pick and choose changes we need and create the plan to make them happen.

My hope here is to help with that process. Each month for the past year I have presented an opportunity for positive change that will impact the sales side of the business. Each column targeted an area or process that many stores can improve and provided a brief overview of what could be done to make it happen. Looking back at our last 12 issues will give you a dozen ideas that could help you grow your business. Therefore, this dirty dozen is a great starting point for any planning process.

To get started, here is a listing of each month’s offering, along with a summary and recommendations about it to help you decide if it is something that should be addressed in your store. I recommend reviewing those that look interesting and select at least three to include in your improvement plan for 2016. They are presented in the order they were published, but that might not be how you need to approach them. As an example, the April Issue featured “Game Plan for a Winning Season”, which could be a great place to start.

1.    February 2015 – “Missed Opportunities” – How well do you understand and manage the number of opportunities each of your staff members takes? Most sales people will take all the ups you can throw at them, but where is each one’s “point of diminishing returns”? How many potential clients are not getting properly served during your busy times? Fix this and you will find lost sales.

2.    March 2015 – “Team Coach or Waterboy?” – Is your sales manager really leading your sales effort or is he/she mostly a support person for them, handling service issues and pricing questions? Is your manager coaching in the game or merely reviewing the results with the staff? Make sure your sales manager understands their role of driving sales improvement and is performing it consistently.

3.    April 2015 – “Game Plan for a Winning Season” – Does your store have an organized way to manage its sales staff and their goals? Do your managers discuss performance with the team members as part of a monthly planning process? Do they communicate progress towards goals weekly or only at the end of the month? Plan to win and coach your plan.

4.    May 2015 – “Recruit a Dream Team” – Having the right number and quality of players on your team is absolutely critical in both sports and business, do you? How do you know what you need and where do you get them? One of our industry’s biggest challenges.

5.    June 2015 – “Sketch to Build Sales” – There is no better tool for building sales and satisfying customers than the simple sketch. Most big writers sketch and none of the weaker ones waste their time doing it – perhaps there is a connection?

6.    July 2015 — “The Art of Teaching, Training and Coaching” — Three critical elements of leading a team. Do you understand them and are you maximizing your efforts in each one?

7.    August 2015 – “Selling in 3D” — Selling in a fashion or lifestyle driven business is very different from traditional two-dimensional sales. Features and benefits are critical, but does your staff understand that the biggest benefit their products provide to their client is happiness in the home?

8.    September 2015 – “Online Shopper Inquiries” – Do you struggle to get staff members to answer these important requests for information? Create a process and an Internet response team that maximizes these opportunities by getting them into the store and developing clients from inquirers.

9.    October 2015 - “Goal Setting to Drive Performance” – Goals are one of the most critical parts of sales management and coaching, yet many do not value them. Create value in your goal system, set up a communications process to drive achievement of them and you will develop loyal and happy team that maximizes sales.

10. November 2015 – “The Consumer Evolution” – The consumer has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. Obviously the internet has driven a great deal of this, but there are other key factors that have altered how people shop for their homes. Does your staff understand them and use them to please more customers?

11. December 2015 – “Keen Observations” — Observation is the most useful and important tool that a sales manager has to develop a top performing team. If they don’t know what is happening on the floor, how can they fix it? Is your manager using it to its fullest?

12. January 2016 – “Blueprint for Success” – Product knowledge and display are absolutely critical elements in the selling process for your staff. Do they have all the information they need to maximize their sales? When, who and how are new products being introduced to them? This is a great way to increase sales without spending a dime — improve your team’s communication about why something is on the floor and who would buy it.

If you need any further advice or help with your plan or these projects, please feel free to contact me at:

You can find the Home Furnishing Business archive of past issues at:


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