On a recent 710 WOR “Mind Your Business” broadcast, Yitzchok Saftlas (YS) spoke with guest, David Kregel (DK), CEO Of YD Wood Floors
YS: Why is it important for a company to be as full service as possible, instead of focusing on a specific area?
DK: When we started YD wood floors, we just did installation and finishing. But, we bumped into so many issues because we needed to take responsibility on every single piece of the project. But when I'm not involved in every area, for example selling the material that we use, then it’s very hard for me to keep control. We would have to go and check where the customer bought the material from and why it wasn’t working. So, from then on, we took the approach that whatever we did, we were going to do it 100%. We're going to bring the right products, so that we can make sure we apply finishes to floors that work. For example, years ago there was a certain wood, Brazilian Cherry. It was very popular. All the designers wanted to use it. And every single job we did was failing. We couldn't figure out how to finish with this product and ensure the customer was going to be happy. So, we went back and redid every house. And of course, it took 10’s of 1000’s of dollars to figure out what was going on. Eventually, we got to the bottom of it, and we figured out which product worked, and which ones didn’t. Since then, we’ve discontinued all the products from the failing line, and we only work with the product that works. So, when I get calls from customers saying, “we want you to use this company or that company,” we don’t work that way. We are a company that guarantees you that the quality is going to be the best, the finish is going to be the strongest, and that it's going to last. You really need to be involved in every aspect to ensure that kind of control.
YS: How important is it to truly listen to every piece of customer feedback?
DK: It's extremely important to listen to what the customer has to say, not only after a sale or project is completed, but even before. For example, when I start discussing a new flooring project with a customer, it's important to become very attentive and listen to what they expect. You need to know exactly what they want, and how they want it. Make sure that they get the experience that they asked for, because later, when everything is finished, if you didn’t meet their expectations, they’re going to repeat every sentence from that first conversation back to you. They’ll say, “we told you what we wanted back then. What is this?” That's why it's very important to just keep your ears open, and make sure that you listen to everything the customer has to say.
YS: Can you share any stories on the importance of providing great customer service?
DK: I had this customer that gave me a job for a very custom house with very expensive floors. And there were two parts to this job. First, we applied the plywood to the concrete, and then, we attached the wood to the plywood. At the time, we had two different glues that we used. One for plywood and one for hardwood. So, we did the installation, everything was done, and I came to check out the floor. But something felt funny. The whole floor was moving and squeaking. I went into the next room, and I saw that the glue that was supposed to be used for the plywood wasn't used. Now, I could have kept quiet, walked away, and hoped for the best. But I want to make sure that when the customer moves in, he doesn’t have any problems. So, I called up the customer and I told him, “I have very bad news for you. We need to rip out the floor.” And he said, “okay, just do what you have to do.” So, we redid the whole project. The customer was left extremely impressed with us, and it led to unbelievable growth for us, just because we did the right thing.
YS: What are the most important factors for developing lasting relationships with clients?
DK: To develop a long-term relationship with clients, you must be honest and open. It's not going to work any other way. You're going to be pushed to the corner if you say or do something that's not right. You can’t just treat it like a sale. When you work in flooring, the job doesn’t end once you’ve made the sale. That’s only where the work begins. Once the customer gives you the go ahead, you have to make sure to deliver 100%. And if there's a problem that comes up, you must take care of it right away, and you must be open with the client about the issue. You cannot hide it. If you try to hide it, you're going to be toast. You're not going to get the next opportunity. You’re not going to get another chance. It's easy to fail in this business, especially when the competition is so high. That’s why you cannot just sell a floor. You have to sell, but you also have to remain honest and open with the customer, and deliver.
YS: Why is it so important for a CEO to put in the time to research and stay on top of the latest trends?
DK: It’s very important to know what's going to come next. You need to know which type of product is going to be the next trend. That means going to trade shows, doing the research, and watching what's happening in the industry, so you don’t fall behind and continue to sell products that people don’t want anymore. Stay focused. That's how you win, by staying informed on trends and what works. The flooring industry, for example, is a very complex market. If you go into any local supplier, they’re going to sell you anything that's on the shelf. There are so many different products that you could choose from, but there's only a few that are going to make the customers happy, while most of them are just going to end up causing problems. The whole idea is, that when you do a floor, you want to bring something that's going to last a very long time. You want to bring something that's good for each particular environment and belongs in that type of setting. Whether there’s high humidity or low humidity, you have to make sure that you're going to bring something that's going to last, or the customer is not going to be happy. If they have to call you with a problem, then the whole job wasn't worth it. You never want to get to that point.
YS: What is the most important trait for a CEO to have when managing a team?
DK: It's very important to be positive and confident. Work is hard. It's not easy to go and knock out a job. That’s why it’s very important to come in with a positive approach and say “everything is going to be good, and we will figure everything out.” Things move so quickly. And when things are moving quickly, it’s easy for everything to break down and not go according to plan. You can make a schedule and say, “this is going to be finished in 3 days,” but by the time that day comes around, so many problems could have come up. “This broke. That fell down. He didn't show up. They didn't show up. They weren’t ready.” There are so many little details that you will have to deal with, and you must be positive in order to get through it.
YS: How can a CEO balance growing a company, while still remaining involved in every project?
DK: It’s very important to remain involved to some degree. When we go and confirm a sale with any client, customer, developer, contractor, or designer, they expect David Krengel to understand and to be a part of every little aspect of their project. So, when they call me, I need to be able to inform them right away about what's going on. That’s why it's very important to be in the know on each project, every step of the way. This is another place where focusing on developing strong systems comes into play. We used to have so many jobs, but I wasn’t in the know. I was constantly asking, “who’s going to be ready next? When are we going to need to go to him?” Now that we have a system in place, I am able to check all of this in advance and see what needs my attention. So, I’m only focused on the projects that are important at the moment. But I always keep space for the relationship aspect of every project, to make sure that I have time for each client, so they feel that they are being serviced, taken care of, and getting David Krengel 100%.
YS: What’s your advice for balancing work and family?
DK: I feel that you have to view work and family as connected. It's two different zones that you have to focus on, but they’re connected. You have to work hard at work, and you have to work hard at home. And if you do both, then you're going to grow tremendously. Never, ever give up on either of these two. If you’re leaving one aspect to focus solely on the other, then it's going to break. When you're with your family, you need to bring them your entire focus and attention. Because you’re only there for that period of time. And when you go to work, you bring your whole focus there. You don't mix them up. You need to be focused to the fullest wherever you are.
YS: After running your business for over a decade, what would you say is the number one key to your success?
DK: A very big contributor to our success was setting up systems that helped us grow and execute. We're primarily wood flooring specialists, but that comes with a lot of other work aside from installation and custom finishes. We have to come in and coordinate during the construction process. We have to be able to coordinate between so many different trades. And of course, the floor still needs to be something that lasts and is very strong. So, in order to get all of that done, you need to have systems in place to help you execute. We used to work jobs that would take us months. And between all the coordination with managers, owners, and developers, we wouldn’t have time for anything else. But we wanted to do more. We didn’t want to be stuck on one project at a time. So, we implemented systems to focus less on the job itself, and more on the set-up and preparation. This helped us be more proactive in taking care of all the little things that need to get done before a job. Because when you do wood floors, there’s a lot of set-up involved. You basically have to set up a whole shop each time. But when you have these good systems in place that tell you what needs to get done and line everything up, by the time you get the call to come do a new project, everything is ready.