“I enjoy helping others become more successful.”
When I started the kitchen and bath industry’s first buying group in 1994, I had a nearly decade-long battle to get the SEN Design Group to the point I felt it should be.
During my earlier years as a kitchen and bath firm owner and sales designer in Connecticut, mentorship became an invaluable component in enhancing my development. So, I looked for possible mentors for this new buying group business because I had learned firsthand that working with a mentor can give owners valuable insight into their business and provide lessons that will become catalysts for a more lucrative operation down the road.
Background on mentoring
Along the way, many prominent and successful people in the industry gave me their perspectives on my reasonably profitable business before I discovered the innovations that would change my career.
After the inception of interactive budgeting, my sales skills had been honed by a highly successful business owner whom I learned a lot from. Mr. Julian Shoor was the most challenging client I encountered. Nevertheless, Shoor became a repeat customer and a hearty endorser of my Signature Kitchen and Baths firm. He referred three prospects, all of whom became clients.
Spending money on a kitchen or bath project was never an issue for clients like Mr. Shoor. Because once they knew they could expect a timely design and installation of their project and what their investment would be, they had no issue paying more. The reason is that they experienced that the value of the service given to them was worth the price they were paying. This is a tangibilization of service. So, to these clients, remodeling wasn’t expensive; they were spending the right amount of money on getting the new space they had dreamed about for years.
My first significant lesson from Mr. Shoor as a sales designer was punctuality. He said that because I was always on time for my appointments, he presumed the cabinet delivery and kitchen installation would also be on time.
The second lesson was that doing business transparently wins prospects over. Mr. Shoor liked that I spoke candidly about investment ranges during our very first meeting because it saved him research and vetting time. These two elements created credibility and the impetus to convert a prospect into a bona fide client.
When I started SEN in 1994, the owner of a successful kitchen and bath firm in Long Island was there for me. Don Boico, CKD, was well-known as a good NKBA contributor and valued for his insight into the industry.
It was an honor that Don became one of our first 25 charter members. Indeed, Don was generous with his time and knowledge. His expert guidance helped carry us through our six formative years. These were tough, lean, learning years where the business needed all the support it could get to survive.
One thing that struck me about the man was that Don did not need to help us. He dedicated his time, wisdom, and energy to supporting us because he wanted to. He believed in SEN’s mission. Everyone who knew Don knew that when he made commitments, he stuck by them.
What are you looking for in a mentor?
Owners need to make crucial decisions for their businesses every day. Without an experienced person in the industry to consult, it can be very taxing to rely on oneself for all the company’s strategic maneuverings.
Gaining wisdom from a seasoned perspective can make a massive difference to a firm’s revenue growth and bottom line. Choosing the right mentor comes down to who inspires you. As a rule of thumb, look for someone good with their words, quick on their feet, and liberal with their time and knowledge. Here’s the breakdown.
Industry-specific experience – Your mentor should come from a background of kitchen and bath firm ownership and sales designing expertise so that they can give you the detailed knowledge that you’re looking for when you need it.
Business acumen – Choose somebody who knows the financial side of the business. Do they know how to read financial statements? Do they have notably high gross and net profit margins? Have they branched out to multiple locations?
Openness for sharing knowledge – Your mentor should be comfortable with who they are and where they are as professionals. They ought to be liberal with their experiences, information, and time. You’ll want to work with somebody who is not afraid of you catching up to their level of success because you’re not competing with them.
Availability – Always choose a mentor who tells you they’re available at any time of the day by phone or email. You may not call them in the middle of the night, but you want to know that you can because they’re trusting you to have an important enough reason to do so.
Integrity – If they’re giving you their time, they should do what they say they will do. Whether they’re self-starters or willing and capable of serving your business when asked, find somebody who offers quality input and punctual returns.
Integrating mentorship in your business
You’ll need to decide how you’ll work with a mentor. Are they somebody you connect with daily or weekly, or will you have a few meetings with them and, by mutual understanding, follow up with only sporadic contact?
You’ll get the most out of mentorship when drawing from their wisdom regularly. I worked closely with someone when I was new to the industry. First, my father taught me the business, and then an industry leader mentored me. Without their guidance, I would have been working longer hours and tripling my stress. I wouldn’t wish that kind of trouble on anyone.
There’s too much to learn in the kitchen and bath industry without benefiting from somebody else who has gone through it before you and become a success. Mentorship is a person-to-person innovation you can make for your company’s future. It could be your best decision for streamlining all areas of your business.
—Ken Peterson, CKD
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