By Sullivan Alexander, Contributor, the Price of Business Show. * Sponsored
Sullivan recently interviewed Travis Gulbis, DFW Market Manager for Factory Builder Stores.
About the interviewee:
Travis Gulbis is a graduate of Texas A&M University, living in Frisco, Tex., with his wife and two children. Currently, he serves as the Division President for Factory Builder Stores, managing the Dallas and Fort Worth markets. Travis has been in the construction industry for nearly 15 years, starting in new home sales in the early 2000s. He joined Factory Builder Stores in 2009, and has been managing the business since early 2011.
Tell me about your company (services offered, number of employees, location, type of customers you work with, etc.).
Family owned and operated since 1988, Factory Builder Stores is the largest appliance contract distributor in Texas. With showrooms in Austin, College Station, Corpus Christi, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio, the company supplies more than 40 different brands of appliances and six lines of custom cabinets as well as Jacuzzi and Jetta bathtubs. Each showroom is staffed with the most knowledgeable and professional sales associates dedicated to helping builders, remodelers, and end-user customers make the right appliance selections.
Factory Builder Stores has been built on “Repeat Business.” And, judging by our more than 4,200 builder and remodeling customers, we know what it takes to ensure each customer is very satisfied. If we succeed, then we earn the right to bid on their next job.
Tell us why your product or service is making a big difference for customers.
I think our products are torture for the customer; I know they are for the builder. Consider the fact that a house cannot exist, per building code, without appliances. In Dallas and Fort Worth, there are more than 30 companies like Factory Builder Stores, plus the hundreds of retailers on the ground and online. There are 47,000+ SKUs of appliances. Just defining what it is you want to buy is hard enough. Validating the price can be difficult with infinite resources that are available.
Our answer is to set ourselves apart by being the company that can be trusted. Trusted to be the experienced guide; the people who simplify the process rather than complicate it further. That is what makes the difference to our customers, bringing them back again and again.
Tell us about the challenge you faced and what the result was.
Like many businesses, our greatest challenge was surviving the economic hardships the last three years. Factory Builder Stores is very proud to say we didn’t have any layoffs during that time. What’s more, we remained profitable. Our company stood by the employees who, over 20 years, grew Factory Builder Stores into the largest contract distributor in Texas. Today, we’re not doing anything different just continuing that growth.
Which ironically, is the new challenge. A few weeks ago, a builder said, “Just because business is good does not mean you’re doing good business.” Mismanaged growth can do damage to your business in many ways. Most notably, builders are so busy they need you to be available when they need you. Not only to be reliable to meet the expectations you’ve previously set, but to be the expert. If you’re not, there’s a line of other companies waiting to service them.
How did your business increase productivity and become more efficient?
I’d say we became more efficient through Cloud computing. I regularly ask my team if they want to be appliance salespeople or sales professionals. In 2010, we invested in Salesforce. Overnight, we went from 50+ individuals across the state writing quotes on laptops or paper, to a consolidated, fully-aware database reflecting every builder, remodeler, end-using customer, and each quoted product. Google AdWord campaigns were integrated seamlessly into the system, harnessing the power of the Internet in a way we had never seen before. It was by far the most significant advance for Factory Builder Stores this decade.
Interestingly it had a secondary effect. Salesforce actively engaged work peers in an environment of open communication. Problems are openly discussed, experiences shared, teams worked to gain business for individuals, and successes are globally celebrated.
What do you see as “hot button” issues in your industry, and what are the implications?
Probably the biggest hot button is oversaturation. There are simply too many appliance sales companies. Competition is good to a point. When everyone pays the same for the product, but undercuts each other, product is devalued.
There’s also been a shift in the last five years from just delivery to include installation. Appliances are relatively fixed in cost, so deliveries became the biggest negotiable item. What once was the more you deliver, the more money you make, suddenly changes when you’re asked to assemble as well. Assembly requires a valuable resource’s time. There’s hard cost associated with the unit itself; the labor to assemble is far more dynamic. It created a low margin, time consuming dead end.
Having said that, it could be the biggest advantage for those able to make it work. A small company like Factory Builder Stores maintains market share, and continues to grow, through installation management.
What makes your company different from the competition?
I believe what separates Factory Builder Stores from the competition is the stability we are able to provide. This stability creates loyalty. I realize stability is a hard concept to believe in, harder to define, and impossible to measure. However, if a customer senses a company has stability, they believe in you. Stability is the specific reason you gain customer loyalty. Loyalty isn’t gained by price, and the proverbial “service” adage is so commonplace it’s no longer a selling point. Family owned and operated, Factory Builder Stores has been consistent for nearly 25 years. We are fiercely loyal to our employees, and continuously reward and celebrate their successes. Our company isn’t afraid to make mistakes. We know enough to know we don’t know it all, and we ask the right questions. At Factory Builder Stores, we fight to do good business. That keeps us one step ahead of the competition.
Sullivan Alexander is a contributor on the Price of Business Talk 1110 AM KTEK (on Bloomberg’s home in Houston), whom you can learn more about at www.contureadvisors.com.
Sponsored by the Price of Business, on Bloomberg’s home in Houston, TX