We are in interesting economic times: Times like these bring out the best and worst in companies as everyone searches for the right path.  What is the right path?  Some take the easy route – they cut corners, adopt deceptive advertising and sales practices;  some give up and assume the fetal position – they cut all their employees, hoard cash and whine constantly; and others just keep plugging – they do not sacrifice quality and standards, they work hard to keep the team intact, and they continue to innovate and move the business in a positive direction.

The California Closets approach: Once a month  some of the California Closets franchises get together on a conference call to exchange better practices and talk about the economic climate.  After these calls I find myself very uplifted as I am reminded again that this company has attracted people who will not take short cuts. They have that commitment to doing things the right way.   These conversations are about how to push our value message.  We talk about innovation – making the product even more useful for the client. We talk about making our own sales practices more effective – adding value to the client’s experience and being more effective with getting the value message to the client. We never discuss how to cut corners, source inferior products, use deceptive advertising practices or ways to screw the client.  I came to the conclusion that “we are the good guys!”  It’s a great feeling that even in the toughest of times that there can still be that commitment to doing things right. I am proud to be associated with a network of people that have that commitment.

Innovation – path to success: I was watching MEET THE PRESS and of course they were discussing the economic conditions of the country.  I get tired of listening to politicians trying to explain our situation – very few of these pols ever have ideas that make sense for the entire populace – it is always about their constituency. I wanted to hear what some prominent business people have to say and  on this day Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google was speaking about the recession. My understanding of what he said was that he felt that the key thing that would help us move to better times was this country’s ability to innovate.  He is right! If you are standing still you are really moving backwards.  The consumer wants innovation, they want new, they want quality – they need to know that the company they are dealing with is leading edge. They do not want the old and the mundane. Even with all this economic turmoil California Closets is still innovating and moving the product forward for the client. We have sourced new material from Italy called Lago – it meets European green standards, developed a new product line called Virtuoso that has an elegant horizontal approach in its design. We now have new doors and drawers with enhanced style and durability. We have sourced creative glass inserts for doors that are leading edge and socially responsible to developing countries. We have sourced a new garage organization system from Tag – this is a very innovative garage system that will change the way the client looks at garages. This is just the highlights of our new innovations- I agree with Eric Schmidt of Google – innovation is the path to economic salvation.

More innovation than changing products: Innovation can also help in controlling costs and being socially responsible. Our new technology in CAD and database management has allowed us to cut our paper consumption by 40% as our plans and paperwork are now transmitted over the internet.  Sharon, our Office Manager has sourced a company that is going to recycle our wood scraps so that we can save money and be greener. Our installation department now buys  different trucks when the time comes as we have gone to low-sulfur diesel vans that get much better mileage and can operate on bio-diesel when it becomes available.   Innovation is a mind set within an organization – you have to people that are constantly looking to get creative and you need to have people that know that the customer is the reason for most innovation.

So…..we ARE the good guys: For some clients it all comes to price –  I can’t help you. We are never the going to be cheap. Why? We refuse to build it cheaply and cut corners. We will not build our product by changing our quality standards – we do not nail our closets together because it is quicker, we still use dowel sets and the rail system. We do not nail or glue our back panels to your walls – our backing is built into the partitions and gives the look and feel of built in furniture. We have not switched to a lower grade board product and recently sent pallets of board back to the manufacturer when it was deemed to be the inferior product. Our designers will not create designs that will not work for you to present a lower price and then when your stuff doesn’t fit, charge you a fortune for added materials and installation time. Our designers will not price something and then offer you a discount if you sign on the spot – this is illegal in some states. We are the “good guys” and we are working very hard to provide the best product and the best pricing!

Thank you for reading my blog. I welcome your comments.

Ken Cleary, President – California Closets New England.

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