2020 wasn’t the year anyone was expecting but where do we go from here? The MD of bathroom franchise Ripples, Paul Crow, reveals why, despite the colossal implications of Covid-19, he feels more positive than ever about the year ahead.
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” was Mike Tyson’s now infamous response to a reporter when asked about Evan Holyfield’s fight plan and I think it pretty much sums up most of 2020 well.
It’s not about what has happened in 2020 that now matters and regardless of whether we agree or disagree with how well it’s been managed by our Government, or even by our industry, the reality is we must look forward and plan ahead for a successful future. After all, we have a country with an increasing population and one that is ultimately growing in wealth.
If this year has taught me anything, it is that taking a close look at our business has made me more positive about the future than ever. We are never complacent, and we have a good track record of generating enquiries for our showrooms. In turn, our showrooms have an equally good record of turning those enquiries into sales.
We believe we can control our own future providing we keep delivering great value to the customer. As good as the products we sell are, unless we take the stress of buying a bathroom away from our customer and excite them with what they can enjoy in their home, it will always be difficult. We will therefore continue developing the core areas of the business that have served us well and, for good or bad, I’ll share these with you now…
Team Management & Culture
Text-book words and flip-chart fodder to some, but critical to us. There is a ‘Ripples way’ and a Ripples type of person and we believe in being a certain type of employer, retailer and customer. Good staff retention and relationships are important to us and we know that when we inspire people, help them prosper, reward their efforts and treat them like adults, they also reward us with loyalty and their best work. This works because we have franchisees that believe in this, we all practice what we preach and we are well supported along the way by our suppliers who share this philosophy, too.
We must know where the next order is coming from, how much and when – and we report on it every week across the group. We know exactly where we are with every customer and what is required to get them to their next stage. Sales director Nicola practises the “10 at 10” approach: every day at 10am sit down with a cup of tea and review the sacred customer list and make sure the ‘things to do’ list isn’t getting in the way of the sales.
We still walk every customer to the door, always offer the best coffee and do our best to inspire our customer with showrooms where the light bulbs are checked daily and the whole team are always pleased to see them. It needs the odd reminder in a busy environment, but remembering we are retailers with the role of exciting the visitor remains our priority and our belief.
Systems and Efficiencies
Programs such as EQ, Inno+ and Sage are all now integrated, and we try to operate a paperless environment and one where information is entered only once. These systems, and the disciplines put in place locally by our franchisees, have seen significant improvements in all aspects of the business and will only ever improve the more time and effort we put into developing them.
Finances – the daily dashboard
Because of the development of our systems, we can now produce daily P&Ls (if we really want to) and, quite understandably, financial performance remains our number-one measure of success. While franchising itself brings a mixed landscape of performance, the monthly reviews and dialogue remain consistent and help us track key ratios in order to understand and refine performance.
If they haven’t heard of us, then everything else above is academic. Our 40-point local marketing plan, matched by our ongoing daily brand-building marketing is essential to keep the pipeline topped up and we are firm believers that you only get out what you put into this.
This is not rocket science. We all know what good service and happy customers look like and if we all work hard to make that happen, we should be able to roll with the punches and finish the year with a knockout.