“Great ideas are born from friendships developed in the SEN community.”
Introduction to SEN Design Group
SEN Design Group is accelerating independent kitchen and bath firms’ revenue and profitability growth potential. Founded in 1994, SEN currently has nearly 200 members. Our leadership team has a combined 160+ years of hands-on sales and company ownership experience, something no other buying group or trade organization in the kitchen and bath industry comes close to matching. SEN stays current by continuously refining its offerings to deliver its members cutting-edge information, education programs, tools, and services.
The business consists of four areas of interest to kitchen and bath dealers. First and foremost, it is a buying group that allows its members to leverage influential relationships with industry vendors, 5-8% savings on many product expenditures.
This is tantamount to earning that can potentially reach tens of thousands of dollars in rebates dropped directly to a company’s bottom line.
Second, it is a strategic community of like-minded business owners who learn from each other. Conferences, roundtables, and SEN University events are prime networking opportunities. SEN members hold one another accountable for operational changes to be made.
Third, at SEN University, industry veterans teach comprehensive courses and everything the kitchen and bath owners and sales designers need to know to sustain great success.
Lastly, SEN is at the forefront of DesignAlign, a cutting-edge technology that will revolutionize the kitchen and bath industry and spearhead tremendous growth for the firms that use it.
Overview of the unique offerings and advantages of SEN Design Group
Education for better business performance metrics is the heart of SEN Design Group’s value to its members. The independent kitchen and bath dealer is beset by juggling departments of their enterprise – from organizing a team to managing their books, designing themselves, maintaining and improving their showroom, and handling every area of a remodeling firm is a daunting task. Many owners do most of this work themselves or with a single partner.
Initially, SEN held boot camps where members would be on location in its offices. That changed with the advent of the online market and bigger boot camps. SEN began holding schools at conference centers and offering online courses, greatly expanding the SEN educational offerings.
Within the SEN strategic community is the power of one. The idea for a kitchen and bath buying group for independent dealers came from observing consortiums of European kitchen dealers who helmed far more profitable operations as members of a strategic buying community. These membership businesses prospered when they came together as one entity to channel their product purchases to select vendors, earning deeper discounts and rebates. In the process, each member engaged with this community learned so much from others.
I am studying this collective-inspired SEN Design Group to establish the first buying group in the U.S. kitchen and bath industry in 1994.
Fellow members truly understand the challenges, difficulties, successes, trends, opportunities, and best business practices their peers face and see every day. SEN members comprise a network of troubleshooting and solution-focused correspondents who can share their triumphs and pitfalls for everyone’s benefit. By bringing members together, SEN Design Group has created a supportive community that honors trust, respects each other, and upholds confidentiality.
Technology advocation for breakthrough business performance. In the wake of the dot com bubble is the realization that technology is integral to accelerating revenue and profitability growth. Indeed, surviving, let alone being at the helm of a thriving business, is impossible without certain applications. According to RICKI research, most independent kitchen and bath dealers earn a mere 29% gross profit margin instead of the 38% SEN members average.
So, while more common technologies, such as email, digital cataloging, and social media marketing, are utilized in the kitchen and bath industry, the lion’s share of independent dealers are not leveraging the latest industry-specific technology to deliver superior customer service.
The role of industry-specific education for kitchen and bath businesses
Sharpening a business owner’s financial acumen is step one. Effective financial management is the foundation of the success of every business. Accurate cash flow analysis, ongoing assessment of operating costs, and defining areas needing improvement and efficiencies are key elements to successful financial planning.
Appropriate pricing, which capitalizes on the true value of one’s products and services, can substantially increase gross profit margins. Effectively identifying high-quality revenue opportunities, strategic partnerships, and reliable, lucrative vendor relationships are at the core of any growing enterprise.
No matter what industry, all businesses should start with an owner’s thorough understanding of sound financial principles and strategies to launch and elevate operations successfully. A strategic plan is an absolute “must-have” to steer a business on a sustainable track for growth and prosperity – a written road map that documents goals and official plans for achieving results.
A comprehensive strategic plan includes:
- Growth strategy
- Financial plans
- Expense management
- Cost of goods plan
- Operations costs
- Pricing formula
- Hiring costs and best practices
- Ongoing education costs
- Inventory expenses
- Plans for operational improvements
Understanding the costs, profits, and labor requirements will be the difference between a successful, profitable business and one that cannot survive. The SEN University business education curriculum and expert instructors compel business owners to take an honest look at the state of their business and understand the proper steps to fix problems and increase profitability.
Adopting cutting-edge technology has many purposes, including the following:
- Streamline operations for greater efficiencies
- Leverage economies of scale
- Scale operations in years rather than decades
- Charge more for products and services and be perceived as a better value by clients, prospects, and the competition
- Increase gross profit margin to previously unsustainable heights
Background on the challenges faced by kitchen and bath businesses
Due to the manifold tasks needed to handle independent kitchen and bath operations, owners tend to work hard at what they know and avoid what they don’t know.
Unfortunately, this avoidance deceptively appears to have no consequences. When sales are booming, cash-rich businesses give the appearance of great success. The background of this is that most owners use the cash method of accounting rather than the accrual method, so the numbers in their books inflate their firms’ performance and monetary value.
Neglect or misunderstanding of the financial books can lead to:
- Underpricing projects by 15-20%
- Not knowing the true gross profit margins of completed projects
- Not developing and maintaining a monthly cash flow forecast
- Making untimely investments using cash
- Shutdown at the onset of a recession because customer deposits have dried up
- Unexpected bankruptcy due to mishandled funds
Essentially, the woes of the independent kitchen and bath owner come from a lack of understanding of the numbers their business is doing.
Studying to understand proper accounting is an easy thing to recommend. However, it is challenging for the busy owner to first recognize that something is wrong and then take the time to learn what metrics will strengthen their business. So, the kitchen and bath industry is winning on the mentality of hard work paying out dividends but losing on not knowing how to manage the payout.
Continuous learning for professional development
The reasons a small business owner should continue to develop their business acumen are clear and substantial.
- Greatly increase the gross profit margin to sustained success
- Leverage economies of scale and plant satellites in years rather than decades
- Utilize the benefits of technology that can vastly improve operations
- Design teams will work harmoniously and more efficiently than ever before, and owners will live the role they were born to play instead of playing general manager
The benefits are clear, though the time and energy to pursue these goals are often perceived as greater than the goal itself. It is challenging for independent business person to find time to take away from their busy schedule to absorb new material, no matter how great the promise of implementing it is.
For these reasons, SEN provides a development track and annual event calendar where owners can choose what, where, and when they learn. It provides industry-specific, comprehensive instruction in a half-week’s time. This approach makes marking and saving dates on their business calendar easier. By investing in learning SEN foundational strategies, owners can turn their operations into engines for wealth.
SEN Design Group’s unique position in the kitchen and bath industry
SEN Design Group is the kitchen and bath industry’s first buying group showcasing a comprehensive educational department. The SEN University offers courses to teach owners and sales designers strategies to maximize productivity and expand operations into genuine engines of wealth.
4-Day Executive Business School
The 4-Day Executive Business School is the flagship course of SEN University. The comprehensive series of classes packed into a four-day event covers the major concepts of revenue building and many supplemental aspects supporting it. The focus is on understanding the financial side of the kitchen/bath industry and how that knowledge integrates with team-building, marketing, and sales.
The 2-Day Good-Better-Best Sales (GBB) School
Attendees learn the strategy behind three modes of price implementation to ensure that a tiered structure is the right one for prospects and their company’s products and services, turning prospects into clients quickly.
- Offensive plays – GBB interactive project budgeting aims to increase revenue by offering prospects a range of price points
- Defensive plays – Undercut the allure of “big box” stores by delivering a good product at a competitively lower price
- Behavioral plays – Make moves that draw on the psychology of consumers in their given market
Financial knowledge and management
In today’s market, the independent kitchen and bath business is beset with several hurdles to surmount to progress from fledgling to functionality, profitability, and wealth.
The foremost aspect of business that SEN Design Group teaches is that to steer a business down a path to sustain great success, it’s integral for owners to know the books and the return on investment formula as it applies to the kitchen/bath industry.
Many kitchen and bath remodeling firm owners avoid reading their financial statements. A common answer given as a reason is that they’re too busy. The jobs keep coming, and the dollars keep pouring in. The problem with incoming dollars, while not truly knowing the books, is not knowing the business’s expenditures: therefore, not knowing if the business is running at a profit or a loss. A business cannot sustain success without an owner with a masterful grasp of the financials.
A balance sheet measures a company’s cumulative financial performance from the first day it’s in business until the date of the report. Summarizing a Balance Sheet can be expressed by the following formula:
Assets – Liabilities = Net Worth
A profit & loss (P&L) statement measures a company’s financial performance for the current year. Profit & Loss Statements show a company’s income minus the expenses against it as expressed by the formulas below:
Income – Cost of Goods Sold = Gross Profit
Gross Profit – Overhead expenses = Net Profit
A business with a gross profit percentage of 36% – 38% is a success heads and shoulders above the competition. Historically, the industry gross profit percentage is 29%. A pro-allocated goal is to seek an 8-10% pre-tax net profit.
Accrual accounting is a system of accounting for all the transactions a business makes when they occur. Accrual accounting for professional kitchen and bath firms recognizes income when it has truly been earned upon the project’s substantial completion. This makes it far more accurate than cash accounting.
Benchmarking reports are multi-page analyses of a company through various key financial metrics. Each report will advise how these metrics can be improved so owners can make important changes.
Marketing for brand awareness and lead generation
Kitchen and bath operations should always be advertising, no matter the economy. Once a marketing budget is set, it should only increase. Brand recognition is crucial to the perceived value of a business. Marketing during a recession demonstrates sound strength and an unshakable presence in difficult times. That consistency is something consumers admire because it demonstrates a sense of assuredness when others demonstrate fear. The ready availability of a firm’s products and services is a confidence-builder that no amount of excellent sales can equal.
SEN University teaches key marketing strategies that help to paint members as the best value in their respective markets.
Team-building techniques that work
Building a team should be focused on two things: hire charismatic people who are good at providing service beyond what is defined by a role and get each one of them in the right role. Too often, talented people get miscast into the wrong position, and operations suffer. SEN Design Group offers DISC/TTI analyses to determine the strengths and weaknesses of anyone an owner is considering hiring. These reports also enhance team members’ communications and improve salespeople’s communications with prospects and clients.
Sales professionalism requires constant attention and investment
Sales are a priority and necessity for growing revenue and net profit. However, cultivating and executing a professional sales team and atmosphere is challenging in many ways: it is often the bane of creative professionals.
Sales professionalism is a core application of the SEN Design Group because it is essential to the face of a business, its service, attitude, and, ultimately, a lifeline to its profitability.
SEN members turn their teams into super sales teams by:
- Developing and following a well-thought-out, disciplined sales process
- Teaching them how to motivate prospects to buy
- Preparing for a downturn in the economy by learning how to mitigate negative effects
- Making smart hires and investing in professional training to deliver amazing monthly results
- Developing a positive work environment and cultivating long-term loyalty
- Leveraging the Good-Best-Best selling system for higher gross profits
- Making business decisions to enhance their economic driver, standing out from a crowded field of competitors
The SEN in-depth, educational sales training program helps teams get real results, improves closing percentages, increases revenue, and raises gross profit margins to a new level – beyond even your company’s current highest performance and during the toughest times.
When every kitchen and bath organization member works in concert with a qualified and unified approach, that organization is on track for greatness.
Technological innovations – DesignAlign™
Competitive business in the 21st century is impossible without adapting to technological innovation. Technology can be a huge difference-maker, leading to breakthrough growth in revenue and profitability. For decades, the kitchen and bath industry has been behind the times regarding technological advancements.
It’s a complicated industry with many moving parts, dominated by small mom-and-pop design businesses whose service takes weeks and thousands of dollars to fulfill. A complicated niche market with fluctuating clientele and owner returns often below sustainable levels is ripe to reap the benefits that the DesignAlign™ platform brings.
Co-developed by the SEN Design Group, this software uses time-tested customer development and selling psychology components to streamline purchasing kitchens and baths, making it easier, faster, and more fun for consumers to make confident decisions. Used during the very first showroom appointment, DesignAlign™ is a major time-saver for both consumer and designer.
DesignAlign™ streamlines the sales process
Built into the platform is the concept of Interactive budgeting, where prospects become comfortable by seeing and understanding the component costs – per product and labor category – that will be part of their project. Designers lead them through the project budgeting, educating consumers while building trust.
Another key aspect of the software is the centerpiece Good-Better-Best sales process, where prospects choose their preferences from three options, creating their budget range – accurate within an 8 percent variance.
Consumers enjoy the discovery process, bond with the designer acting as a facilitator, and believe the final budget range is credible. Many are comfortable enough to retain the designer at the end of this first 2-hour meeting…before any formal measurements are taken and plans are drawn to scale.
Simply put, DesignAlign™ is engineered to speed up the sale and greatly improve the customer experience.
Key avant-garde features of DesignAlign™
- An AI guide called Tilley walks new users through the platform’s modules
- A beautiful, cleanly designed, and easy-to-read user interface
- User-friendly, intuitive navigation
- A light CRM module with inboard and outboard email communications
- The Cabinet Selector™ – available only in the premium package – produces accurate cabinet budget ranges for specific brands within seconds before any formal design and estimating work
- SEN-provisioned kitchen and bath budget templates applicable to virtually all industry business models
- Easy-to-use GBB setup wizard with both on-screen and video instruction enables owners to get everyone up-to-speed quickly on this sleek new way of doing business
- Works seamlessly across desktops, tablets, and mobile devices
The SEN membership advantage
A SEN membership differs from the industry’s other buying groups in that SEN takes a holistic approach to improving the profitability of businesses. The organization is dedicated to teaching businesses how to realize revenue streams from areas of operations previously unconsidered and streamline their operations for higher profit margins, rapid revenue growth, and economies of scale.
SEN continuously develops programs to educate members and their teams in business development, management best practices, leadership, and sales tactics. There are no other kitchen and bath organizations in the United States whose goal it is to strengthen every area of business operations.
SEN Design Group features a comprehensive education and professional development curriculum covering finance, management, marketing, team-building, sales, and project management. These programs are integrated, which amplifies the impact when the knowledge gained is implemented. They are delivered by experts with practical – and highly successful – kitchen/bath operational experience.
SEN has three membership levels: the Associate, Signature U, and Executive U platforms. Common to all three is access to SEN University education with a one-time $495 enrollment fee.
- Associate membership is an education-only level that also grants access to the 3-year profit plan Excel templates, includes a single DesignAlign “Basic” software license, and supplementary add-on benefits such as business coaching for those wanting to accelerate strategic changes. Current dues are $189 per month.
- Signature U membership – This level is perfect for owners who want to combine the value of SEN University and the benefits of membership in a leading industry buying group. All in one membership – enjoy full access to SEN University plus vendor partner preferred pricing, quarterly rebates, year-end bonuses on purchases, discounted business services, access to the SEN member portal for networking and an information library, one free admittance to the annual conference, vendor webinars, and a complimentary yearly FINTEL benchmarking report. Current dues are $249 per month.
- Executive U membership – for owners of higher-volume kitchen and bath design firms,
This enriched option offers all the benefits of the Signature U membership level plus the SEN business development manual, greater savings on business coaching rates, five (5) personnel behavioral hiring assessments per year, exclusive access to conference dealer roundtables, and an 11% increase in rebate rates. The full SEN University curriculum and additional benefits this heightened membership offers are optimal for owners who prioritize their business growth and the development of their entire team. Current dues are $399 per month.
More on SEN University
SEN University guides ambitious independent kitchen and bath dealers through the areas of running the business that is challenging to them and teaches them the strategies that can help them surmount their challenges, turning any difficult area into a successful aspect of the business they do.
Testimonials and case studies
“There’s literally no education of this type – and this specific – in the industry that I am aware of. This 4-Day Executive Business School has been great!”
—Vince Hodshire, Owner
Exclusive Cabinet Agents, Chicago, IL
“If I’ve learned anything in my lifetime, it’s this: ‘Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.’ I am smiling right now, as I know I’ve found a group who’s just done that!”
—Kevin Duffy, Owner
Kitchen Design Collective, Lexington, KY
“This program [4-Day Executive Business School] provides the tools to achieve your professional goals no matter which part of this industry you belong to. I know of no other organization delivering industry-specific content of this nature. I could not endorse this program more and will look forward to personally promoting SEN events in the future.”
—Tom Price, Director of Sales
Custom Wood Products, St Mary’s, KA
“It’s amazing. [4-Day Executive Business School] We learned a lot about financials, we learned a lot about benchmarking. I learned a lot of formulas we can take back and apply to our books and see where we rank compared with the industry averages.”
—Patrick Finn, Owner
Patrick A Finn Custom Homes and Remodeling, Palatine, IL
Exploring SEN University resources
4-Day Executive Business School
The Executive Business School is a foundation as the multi-faceted curriculum delivers industry-specific and integrated best practices, amplifying the potential impact on kitchen/bath and design/build businesses. The courses in this school will cover:
- Proper business budgeting process and price formula structure
- Return on Investment (ROI) formula unbundling
- Critical management metrics and tools to guide your business forward
- Strategic planning model to exit at a premium price
- Reduction in the learning curve to scale operations
Profit Plan School
This in-person program is offered during the fall for those who have completed the 4-Day Executive Business School within the previous two years. Attendees must attend with their most recent balance sheet and income statement.
- Completed 3-Year Profit Plan
- Correct Burden Rate to cover indirect costs of production
- Correct Price Formula to finance owner’s market-rate salary, company overhead, and net profit
2-Day Good-Better-Best Sales School
This comprehensive, in-person school will empower attendees to master a proven sales process built around consumer psychological and decision-making needs that can be implemented and championed by all team members regardless of experience.
- Development of a 30-second commercial
- Best management practices for inquiries, opportunities, communications, and data
- How to use prospect/client profile assessments for quicker resolutions
- What the exceptional customer showroom experience looks like
- How the interactive, shock-proof method of price presentation leads to quick retainers
- How to leverage DesignAlign technology for optimum sales and income results
Online Project Management Course
This new course has been developed exclusively for SEN by 40-year industry veteran and project management specialist Tom Blau. It is a 4-day online, 2-hour investment per day of one’s time over 2 weeks, perfect for those determined to eliminate profit erosion from every project taken on. It is an investment that is well worth the commitment and effort to maximize profit to its fullest amount.
- Estimating methods for profit
- The importance of scope and specifications
- Scheduling best practices
- Trade coordination techniques and communication
- How to achieve a zero job completion punch list
One-day, in-person SEN University
This leading-edge sales training program is delivered to metro areas around the country. A valuable educational opportunity for all those responsible for generating sales, attendees will learn key strategies to save each industry professional up to 600 man-hours per year. And fatten both company and individual bank accounts in the process.
- Why you can double your annual sales in half the time
- How to be perceived as a better value and charge up to 40% more per job
- How to leverage DesignAlign technology for scaling operations quickly
- How to solve common sales issues via roundtables
Online Bath Remodeling Course
In this new course, certified master plumber Tom Blau will acquaint attendees with sufficient plumbing basics so they are comfortable speaking on the subject. That’s important to maximize success in the lucrative bathroom remodeling market.
- The basics of plumbing mechanics, materials, venting, and pipe sizing
- Best practices in shower design
- The favorable economics of bathroom remodeling
- Showroom display/merchandising tools
Online Kitchen Design and Sales—Level 1
Navigate through the preferences and needs of prospects to deliver an estimate that meets the confines of their space and budget. This course delivers basic training in what’s needed to be successful from the moment the prospects inquire on the website or walk into the showroom to being retained.
- Cabinet construction techniques
- Kitchen Planning 101
- Cabinet quality grades
- Design support duties
- Viable career paths
Online Kitchen Design and Sales—Level 2
Primarily for industry veterans seeking to sharpen their skills, this second-level program delivers advanced training in designing and selling kitchens.
- Improved proficiencies in asking questions and active listening techniques
- The fastest path to a retainer commitment
- How and why the Good-Better-Best (GBB) selling system is so effective
- How to conduct post-sale activities to preserve margins and generate new business
Lunch and Learn webinars
Joseph Addison, an 18th-century English essayist, once said: “Knowledge is, indeed, that which, next to virtue, truly and essentially raises one man above another.” These regular monthly 45-minute programs on a Thursday at 1 p.m. ET furnish valuable information to expand and enhance one’s knowledge bank.
- Wisdom in sales and operations
- Expand product knowledge
- Membership benefit explanations
How to enroll in SEN University
By investing in their professional development, kitchen and bath firm owners can “sharpen their saw” continually and master the art of strategic planning, selling more into each job, leveraging technology, and Good-Better-Best selling in SEN University’s online business courses.
SEN University is a cohesive unit of online courses and in-person schools that build upon the theme of turning independent kitchen and bath remodeling operations into engines for wealth. By learning industry-specific business disciplines, best practices, and key strategies, average firms can be transformed into high-performing, highly profitable enterprises worthy of earning premium sale prices when owners are ready to exit.
—SEN Design Group