Despite uncertainty, decide to control your business

How will the wars in Ukraine and Israel impact our country? How will the political climate affect our economy? How will worker strikes, whether it be the UAW, Teachers, SAG-AFTRA, or Hospital Workers, affect the economy?

I have been hearing from many sources, including the news, podcasts, the Internet, and some economists, that our economy is about to go into a recession. This prediction may be true, but think about the business we are in. Think about what you provide for your customers and how your behavior will affect how they respond to this news.

Whether you planned it or not, you benefit from the products and service business we are in. 

Here’s how:

Observation #1
Our industry, what we design, sell, and produce, is purchased by the upper end of the economic market. The part of the market we won’t get is the DIY customers, who purchase from Big Box stores like Home Depot, Lowes, and Menards, or specialty retailers like The Container Store.
Our clients want and prefer a more custom solution, and it is up to us to decide how we want to service their needs and wants with decisions like design software, showroom space, material types, cabinet systems versus panels and shelves, etc.

The “middle-income class” in America has steadily decreased since 1971, from 61% to 50% of the population. The lower income class has increased from 25% to 29%, and the upper income class has risen from 14% to 21%.

Additionally, our population increased by 126 million people in that same period, giving us more potential customers. Forty years ago, very few people thought about organizing their closets, and now almost everyone is aware of what we do. One more statistic: We are all buying much more clothing, accessories, and gadgets now than 40 years ago.

Observation #2
People want what we sell! Otherwise, they wouldn’t call, send emails, submit a request via our websites, or walk into our showrooms. They will buy from you, a competitor, or a DIY Big Box store. The challenge is to make sure they buy from you. The good news is they want what we sell.

Observation #3
We help provide calm and order, which is especially appealing to customers when our country is in uncertain times, like national and global division and/or a recession. At least at home, they can feel confident that their spaces are organized, which leads to feeling more in control. The term “nesting” comes to mind. It has been shown that, in uncertainty, we tend to focus more on our home.

With the Millennial and younger generations more focused on “experiences,” what we provide can cross over from a product to an experience if you present your service in that way.

Observation #4
Not only is what we do more recognized today, but we now have many more areas of the home that we can help with. Make a list. Here’s some help to get you started:

Closets, of course (direct focus: master closets, children’s closets, baby closets or linen closets), pantries, mudroom lockers, basement storage, garage organization, wall beds, home offices, entertainment units, laundry rooms, home gyms, craft areas, and pet organization.

Referring back to my article in the last issue, “Only 5 ways to increase sales,” this takes method #2 “increase your product offering,” and #3, “increase your market share,” and turns them into actions.

Observation #5
If someone buys a new car, they may talk about it with their family, but no one goes on about that purchase. However, when our products and services are installed in a home, people talk about it!

Our industry gets much more “street buzz” than many other industries, which only helps with referrals, market awareness, creditability, and desire.

Now what?

Think about these observations and how you feel about the information. Then, decide how and when to incorporate it into your business. We are now in the last two months of the year, so find time to plan. Look at your business in sections, beginning with your marketing. How can you update your message to reflect the current environment? How can you present yourself to your clients as the solution to their problem, whether they know they have one or not?

Your marketing should help to create leads, and then you must look at how you react to those leads. How do you present yourself during your design appointment, and how do you present your design and pricing? What tips can you give clients to make them feel better or more organized?

Last, let’s face it: installation in someone’s home can be disruptive. We want to arrive at the home in the morning, which may interfere with the family’s school or work schedule. They may not have had time to make sure the area is ready for our arrival. How can you help make that easier?

In closing, it is up to you to decide how you want to react to the outside world, but it’s important to be aware of it. Despite the increase in population, the world has grown smaller due to social media. We impact our neighbors, and they impact us. You must know what is affecting your business and decide how you want to react and/or participate.

Business can often feel like the ocean tides — high tides and low tides. Think of pandemic online sales. 2020 online sales grew 44% over 2019. While it is true that online sales had been growing steadily even before the pandemic, it was still the catalyst that drove a substantial hike, much like a high tide that comes in and raises all the ships. 

Eventually, the tide goes out, and the boats are lowered. The same is true for a business; if the economy is good, generally, all businesses increase their sales. We can’t do anything about the tides, but you can decide how to cope with the changes. Decide to control your business and not let the business control you. There are ways to maintain sales no matter the weather, and you won’t have to wait for the next tide to come in. The beauty of our business is that we provide customers an opportunity for creativity, stability, and organization in a constantly changing world.

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Profile picture for user timcoleman
About the author
Tim Coleman

Tim Coleman is division manager of SCE Unlimited Chicago, a div. of IBP. Coleman founded his closet organization company in 1988 and ran it successfully for nearly 30 years. In October 2020, he took the helm at SCE Unlimited, which offers wire and wood organization systems, hardware and accessories.