You hear so much about major cabinet shops starting from nothing and making it big, it's almost become a cliché. But the truth is that every great cabinet shop has a strong foundation. Distributors and suppliers have found that it helps their business and the cabinet shop's business to help them lay that foundation.

"We try to sit down with them and help them become better business owners in the beginning," says Dave Chandler, Cabinet Supplier Inc. "The first thing we tell them that most of them don't know is that you have to ask for deposits. You'd be surprised at how many small business owners don't get that."

Inventory issues

One thing most distributors feel is a must for helping startup cabinet shops is overnight delivery. Distributors agree that most fledgling shops tend to overreact when they've ordered fewer parts than they needed.

"There was one just a few weeks ago," says Will Rogers of Century Hardware. "A cabinet builder called me in a panic because he didn't have enough pulls and knobs." But Rogers and others are well prepared for this type of emergency. "We sent them overnight to him. Needless to say, he was thrilled."

Ultimately, part of the learning process with anything is learning from your mistakes. Ordering the right amount of parts is a common one.

Ignoring opportunities

Another common mistake distributors have noticed is that a lot of small cabinet shops don't go after commercial jobs. In fact, a lot of them believe that narrowing your region of business is what puts most cabinet shops out of business early. "You have to catch up with people that are already expanding their base," says Rogers. "You can't just stay within a 30-mile radius anymore."

Other companies believe that helping beginners can be good for their business as well. "We help them out with lease payments on equipment," says Nick Barge, Meyer Decorative Services. Being there for the customer when they need it helps build loyalty. Helping them get off the ground is not only helpful to small cabinet shops, but it also serves to teach distributors a thing or two.

"These small businesses are our research and development department," says Kathy Constantine, Brown Wood Products Supplier. "We can trace trends from them across the region until you even find them in Wal-Mart sometimes." By going through the process of opening the shop along with the small business owner, the distributor can keep up with these trends and build their customer relations.

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