Necessity is the mother of invention, as small and medium-sized business owners know all too well. They are used to finding creative ways to solve problems without having a large cash reserve to draw from. That’s how Roger Benedict overcame his workflow and technology issues to grow his flooring company, Ruggs Benedict, to an $8 million business.
Benedict had worked at the family business as a flooring installer before taking over the running of the company in 1988. At that time, he was using spreadsheets to keep track of the various aspects of the business. Spreadsheets worked fine for one person for one thing at a time – but this was a difficult way to manage a team. He needed to be able to see sales activity, project status and installation schedules in real time.
Benedict had a friend who worked for Apple as a support technician. This friend recommended using the FileMaker Platform to develop a custom app to streamline his business processes. Benedict had no developer or coding experience, but in true bootstrapper style, he taught himself what he needed to know.
He set to work creating a custom app to meet his initial need and, based on that success, kept going. The app now extends across the entire project lifecycle, from initial customer contact all the way through to the finished job. For example, Benedict designed a button on each salesperson’s page that lights up when a job is marked off by the installation department. The salesperson then knows that it is time to make a “happy call” to ensure the customer is satisfied with their new flooring.
Once that call has been made, another button pops up that says “Send review request.” The salesperson clicks that button to request a customer review. As businesses live on positive word of mouth, this easy and proactive feature helps spread the word and generate new business.
Benedict also created email integration features to streamline communication and customer interaction. Each time a new project comes in, a salesperson creates a project card, and a communication log is attached to it. This way, they can easily generate anytype of email they may need.
Whether it’s answering a question or sending a product picture or an estimate for a project, they can do so with the click of a button, and the email ends up in the communication log. The salesperson can check the log to see what emails have been sent and where they’re at in the project. And if that salesperson is out, anyone can look at the log and know exactly where the salesperson left off so that customer interactions flow smoothly.
The app also helps Ruggs Benedict address its unique billing process. It’s the nature of the flooring business that orders tend to change along the way. A customer may decide to add a room or change a color up until the last minute. The custom app holds the bill in a queue until the project is complete. Then the bill can be moved into QuickBooks, which integrates with the custom app. This creates a smooth workflow that increases billing accuracy and, therefore, improves customer experience.
An unexpected side effect and huge benefit of the app is its ability to control product pricing. In many businesses, salespeople can quote low prices because they want to get the deal – and the commission. In their zeal, the sales staff often fail to recognize that these artificially low quotes are cutting into their own profits.
So, with the custom app, sales staff select a product and the app automatically fills in the appropriate price. They can offer some discounts, but they also watch their commission shrinking on the screen. This makes them much less willing to slash product prices, and that significantly improves the bottom line.
Different tactics for different jobs
Benedict determined it made the most sense to have salespeople access the custom app at their workstations on Mac minis with 27-inch screens, where they can sit with customers once samples have been chosen. He found that iPad devices are the perfect fit for warehouse employees. It’s their job to check in all the material that comes in each day and check it as it goes out. This enables them to keep track of what installation supplies need to be restocked, such as adhesives and carpet cushions. They need to monitor the installation schedule as well, and a hand-held app makes all of this easy.
Positioned for Growth
From tracking the customer lifecycle to streamlining email communications to improving profit margins, Benedict has found ways to handle the logistics of running an SMB so employees can focus on their core competencies instead. He started out as a carpet installer and now runs a dozen installation crews each day as Ruggs Benedict positions itself for big growth.
Whereas a normal floor-covering store in a good market grosses about $2 million, Ruggs Benedict made $8 million last year and is on track to gross $10 million this year. Roger Benedict started with a solid understanding of his company and his market and then applied his ingenuity to streamline and grow his company. That’s a solid strategy for business success.
About Ann Monroe
As vice president of worldwide marketing and customer success at FileMaker, Inc., Ann Monroe drives programs and strategies to advance the customer experience. Monroe leads three teams: the customer support and success team, which provides support, learning and community programs; the web team; and the marketing team.
Monroe, who joined FileMaker in 2002, holds a Master of Business Administration from Stanford University Graduate School of Business and a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Loyola Marymount University.