Everyone's home has a floor in it. If you are starting your own business, it makes sense to consider starting a flooring one. While a lot of businesses require purchasing inventory to have on hand at start-up, as well as a building to operate from, you can bypass both of those expenses when you choose to start a flooring business.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Flooring business contacts
- Good banking relations
- Customer service skills
- Sales and marketing skills
- Time-management skills
- Knowledge about flooring products and shipping processes
- Small business software program, including order entry, inventory and shipping records
Research the price of each type of flooring you are interested in selling to end users. This can be done by visiting several of the local flooring showrooms in your city with a notepad in hand. Record the following while you're there, but try to be discreet: product name, manufacturer's name, product width, price per square foot or square yard (depending upon the item; carpet is sold by the square yard, hardwood tiles by the square foot). You will need this information for comparison purposes.
Cultivate relationships with the sales representatives of Dalton, Georgia, flooring manufacturers, or discount flooring stores. Since Dalton is the carpet capital of the world--they are known for discounting to travellers who drive into town, and they offer other flooring product types cheaply as well--this step will require making a trip to Dalton, unless you are a great phone sales person or know a friend of a friend. Sales representatives generally do the wooing in the carpet industry, seeking prospective dealers across the country to carry their product line instead of their competitors'. However, you have to do the wooing, as you are seeking to cut out your competition--the middlemen dealers in your town--and to sell flooring direct to end users. So how do you woo a sales rep or discount store's management to sell to you at rock bottom prices? You take the time to visit Dalton and stop in at all of the discount carpet stores lining Highway 75. Ask to speak to the manager at each location and shoot straight about your desire to sell direct. Offer to discuss it over a steak (they love steak in Dalton), and at your expense. If the company manager or owner is too busy, or not available, ask for the next person in charge. They will know who the main sales reps are for each carpet manufacturer in the city and can put you in touch in the blink of an eye; no phone message sitting on a receptionist's desk indefinitely with this approach. In fact, sales reps love to be bought steak dinners more than anyone, so invite them too.
Apply for new credit accounts with all the manufacturers and discount stores that agreed to sell you their product for only a small markup over their cost. This can be handled by the sales rep, the staff at the discount store or the manufacturer's office personnel. While you don't have to use their credit when making your anticipated orders, it will serve to let these individuals and companies know that you mean business. Processing an account set-up isn't done overnight, so once you make your connections you can head back home, but make sure to follow up with each person in a day or two (so ask for a business card).
Apply for a toll-free number. Hire someone to man that line six days a week once you begin advertising. Preferably hire someone who is as invested in the success of your business as you are, since most companies don't get a second chance to make a good first impression. Whomever you hire to answer your telephone is that first impression. He also needs to be very knowledgeable about all the product lines, or take detailed messages, and have a wonderful and professional phone personality. You will need to provide this toll-free number as a convenience to customers who live beyond your city and might order from you, but not if they have to make a long distance phone call. Place this number on all stationery, business cards and your website as well as your advertisements.
Generate business by advertising. Seek advertising vehicles that will give you the most bang for your buck while reaching your target shoppers: average citizens who just need carpet for their home and don't want to pay an arm and a leg for it. Good advertising vehicles don't have to be complicated or expensive, locally, and can be as simple as word-of-mouth at civic and professional events like chamber of commerce gatherings or organisation meetings. A press release write-up done by you and submitted to your local newspapers will also work and doesn't cost a dime. For advertising outside your city and state, you will need to choose between online advertisement options, print media (newspaper or trade magazines) and billboards. Some billboard companies will allow your ad to be put up on the sign for free, just because their sign may have sat dormant without an ad and having one up will help them to generate business too.
Tips and warnings
- Treat your customers right, and don't overcharge them. They can get taken for a ride by unscrupulous competitors. They need a better option with a better price; give it to them. They will be customers for life.
- Get your payment up front before processing any order or allowing it to be shipped. It is too hard to collect on flooring products after they have left the manufacturer and are on the shipping trucks headed for the customer.
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