It’s that time again—I’ve used this analogy in these columns before, but it’s worth repeating: Lumberyards need to treat the slow days of March like a Major League Baseball team treats training camp. Now is the time to get everyone in the right position and to fill the positions where you might be lacking. It’s time to clean and press the uniforms and get the field in playing shape.
Even if you think you’ve got the strongest team of veteran pitchers and position players in town, you still need to get them in playing shape. If you’re like me and look forward to a strong season of deck sales, that means you’ll want to get plenty of training time in on things like project estimating. It’s one thing to know that you have people who can sell boards off the rack, but can they sell complete deck projects? In order to do so, they’ll need estimating skills and a re- fresher course on procedures. We all get rusty over the winter months and sometimes we forget. March is a good time to get everything down—from how to greet a customer to how to load the truck after the sale.
It’s a good time to have team building company meetings. Let the team know you’re looking forward to the season ahead and set the right tone so they are aware of expectations. A team plays best when everyone is in the right position and is happy about it. Team building activities can go a long way in strengthening the fabric of your staff. A team meeting is a great time to go over the rules as well. Make sure your team, whether they’re rookies or veterans, are up to date on everything from store appearance to vacation policies and more.
For your newer team members, I suggest putting them in charge of stocking literature and sample racks (with plenty of supervision, of course). I’ve found that this can be the best way to get new employees thinking about products and speaking the language of products because they’re handling the samples and have been reading about them in the literature as they keep these supplies stocked. Soon enough, they’ll be product experts.
If you’re still having troubles finding enough team members (as many lumberyards are these days), I suggest continuing your hiring efforts year-round, even in the off season. You should always be looking for starting pitchers even if you already have a full stable. You never know when you’ll lose one and need someone to step in and fill the role. Any middle-inning reliever you hire should be looked at as a potential starter one day.
Spring is also the time to make sure everything is looking good. You’ll want to make sure your company uniforms— shirts, hats, whatever your company uses—are clean and the nametags are polished.
Getting things cleaned up for the season goes well beyond uniforms, however. You need to make sure your store and yard are in tip-top shape. After winter, a lot of items around your store may be due for a refresh, including window signs that are sun damaged and parking lot striping that has long faded. For someone who has never been to your store before, these things will be their first impression. While your staff inside may wow them, you can help set the tone even earlier than that by making sure the outside of your store is clean, attractive and welcoming.
There are even things you can’t see that might need up- dating. One thing that I make sure to update each season is our automated phone messages. Make sure hours and directions are current. You’ll also want to update your hours and any featured images on your Google business listings. We get so busy during the height of the season that we’ll forget these things, so it’s best to take care of them in the spring.
As you take these seasonal prep suggestions into account, remember another analogy I often use about deck sales: No one buys a Christmas tree in July. What I mean by that is at The Deck Store, we sell decks in Minnesota. It’s important for my team to know that summer time is our Christmas season when it comes to sales. Until those sales come through the door, the best thing you can do is prepare and make sure you’re ready for the season.