Posted by Diane Capuano
In Paint & Decorating Retailer magazine’s latest edition of “Retailer to Retailer,” the importance of industry education is in the spotlight.
Gary Fahndrich, owner of West Side Decorating Center in Saginaw, Mich., confirmed just how important product knowledge is to the store’s success.
“Because we have the reputation for being the place to go for answers, it’s really important that we have ongoing education,” said Fahndrich, noting that he takes advantage of industry programs as much as possible. “It’s hard to participate in 100 percent of what’s offered, but we do a high percentage. We take advantage of maybe 80 percent of the programs that come across our desk.”
Among the education programs that West Side Decorating Center tapped into in the last year was the online PDRA Coatings Specialist Course. Two members of the staff, Dave Harris and Mike Stoddard, took the program and found it beneficial.
“They enjoyed it. Mike said it was well put together and very informative. Dave thought it was a good format,” Fahndrich said.
Neither Harris nor Stoddard are rookies; each has been with West Side Decorating Center for 10 years. Still, Fahndrich noted that they always welcome the chance to continue their education.
“Over the years, they’ve been to many different training programs, and I always ask them the same thing afterward: ‘How do you compare this one to others?’ ” Fahndrich said. “After the PDRA program, Mike noted that there was additional information about equipment that he had not been aware of, with sprayers in particular. He found it to be quite helpful. For Dave, there were some new products he learned about and some refresher notes that he made.”
When sending veteran staff members to ongoing education programs, Fahndrich believes it’s important for them not only to pick up some new information but also to reinforce what they know.
“It’s great to learn new things,” he said, “but we get so busy everyday in our business waiting on customers that some refresher points are always important. They just help to underscore what we’ve already learned.”
Dugan’s Paint & Flooring Centers, whose flagship store is located in Sedalia, Mo., also has seen the value of PDRA’s online education courses. Owner Chuck Kempton personally took PDRA’s Coatings Course immediately after it became available to check out the information and the time commitment required. Since then, “All my paint staff and a few of our designers have completed it,” he said, noting that a total of 18 employees at four Dugan’s Paint locations have taken the course. “It now is standard training procedure when new paint staff is hired.”
Kempton gave kudos to the PDRA course for being a good refresher for more experienced salespeople while making newer employees sales-floor ready. “In our small retail environment, it’s tough when hiring because you need to make all employees productive as quickly as you can. In the past, we trained in-house, which worked well but took much longer to make them productive on the sales floor. With this program, you can literally have them selling product comfortably the first week,” Kempton affirmed.
“As for my staff, they were extremely pleased after going through the course and felt like it improved all their skills. I had a few new folks this year, who we acquired from a major competitor, and they said this was the most comprehensive course they had been exposed to,” he added.
Like Fahndrich, Kempton noted that ongoing education is invaluable to an independent retailer’s business. “It’s a never-ending path. Without it we won’t survive,” he said.
Consequently, Kempton constantly offers educational programming to his staff. “All our people are exposed to training on a monthly basis. It can be as little as a lunch session where we talk about some new products or some problems we have experienced or a week-long training seminar off-site at our partnered carpet supplier. We take our knowledge seriously so we can truly say we are the ‘professionals.’ ”
Kempton sees products and product training as a packaged deal and holds manufacturers accountable for providing both. For the industry to continue to grow, manufacturers need to do more than develop new products, he said; they also need to provide the proper education to sell and service those products.
Consequently, before bringing a new product into the store, Kempton considers the manufacturers’ training program that accompanies it. As he said, “One doesn’t work without the other.”
Read the entire “Retailer to Retailer” column in PDRA’s November issue here.