Complete Your Home Construction

CYH Construction

September has been a really busy month so far. Not only are we starting to plan what our showroom will look like in 2015, but our store is also undergoing construction for our new Complete Your Home department. So far, everything has been going well, which is always good news. Even with a significant portion of our showroom tented off during construction, our business has been strong. It was strange to see so many room settings completely empty when things were being pulled apart last week. Customers and staff members alike are quickly adapting to the temporary showroom layout.

As always, I love how well our team pulls together to accomplish tasks. It was definitely a group effort to get the various layers removed and stored in preparation for construction. The first phase of planned changes also went smoothly, with furniture changes landing in new rooms exactly as intended thanks to our Visual Associate and Distribution Center crew. By the end of the month, the plastic will be down and we will have our new department up and running!

A Different Summer

I spent this summer away from Room & Board due to a foot surgery in late Spring. Roughly thirteen glorious weeks at home with my foot propped up on an ottoman. Thirteen weeks…sitting…at home. Needless to say, I’m very rested.

I have watched every episode ever produced of “Barefoot Contessa” and “Chopped.” Lot’s of movies (many on the all engrossing Lifetime Network, don’t judge) and a fair number of books were read. It was a great summer for my sunflowers but no so much for tomatoes and zucchini. Too much rain I think.

When I received the “ok” from my surgeon to come back to work, I was thrilled. I could not wait to get back to my store and see the people I work with. Being gone has made me realize how much a part of my life working at Room & Board has become. I didn’t realize how much I missed the day-to-day interactions and just general kibitzing with my partners.

So far my return has been gradual and for now I’m on daily phone duty, but beginning to re-establish a daily routine (that is outside of my house, the sofa, and the Food network) is a blessing that I’m really grateful for. Over the next few weeks I’ll be able to join my fellow associates out on the sales floor where the real action is. Selling sofas, planning floor plans, tossing toss pillows… so much better than “Death of a Cheerleader” on Lifetime (don’t judge).

 

Back To Basics

We are a very open and friendly store and try to establish early in our transaction with our customers that they can work with anyone in the store. In the Midwest we often encounter a more reserved type of personality, so we have developed an approach that doesn’t seem too aggressive. We don’t want to scare anyone away right off the bat. When customers realize we don’t work on commission, they relax and feel more comfortable. Sometimes we joke with customers to put them at ease or compliment their shoes, etc., to create an atmosphere that is welcoming and friendly. It is not unlike inviting them into your home.

We begin the interaction by trying to identify what they are looking for, what kind of setting they are trying to create and essentially how they live. This begins the process of talking about all the details of sofas and chairs and whatever else they are looking for and can begin to eliminate things from their list. Sometimes people are surprisingly decisive and sometimes they have no idea what they like. We have all become amateur psychologists and know how to listen for clues to what will be perfect.  

Once the customer zeroes in on what they love, we begin the process of making sure what they have chosen will fit. We have probably already visited that subject, but now we can actually do some floor planning, which will help in the decision-making process. Along the way, I usually get a pretty good idea of their personal story, which helps deepen the connection for me.

This process can take a couple of hours or several months depending on how decisive they are. I often feel empty when their order is complete as a real connection has been established. Often we will receive photographs of their beautiful new rooms and have tremendous satisfaction in perusing the images.

Each of us is unique in our approach with customers and our age ranges from 25-66. There is bound to be someone our customers can relate to with such a diverse team.

 

Ch-Ch-Change

fourth floor redo

Change. I can’t say I’m fond of it. I’d much rather go steady with routine than have a tempestuous affair with change. The nature of change is, well, change. Things come and go. What was, isn’t anymore. Most say that change is good and I begrudgingly agree. Thankfully, change is only noticed in relation to what you had before. And rarely do we progress into a new situation without reminders of where we’ve come. All new, all the time would be a very overwhelming place.

And so it is at my work at the moment. As I type this I can hear a sometimes deafening sound of construction happening on our fourth floor – one floor up from where I am. Who knew the pneumatic nail gun was a harbinger of change?

Over the past several months we have enlarged our staff member area – no more tripping over each other to get coffee in the morning, reconfigured our third floor and expanded our Kids department – affectionately know as RBK. Our final phase will be to transform our fourth floor into a showcase for our accessories. The floor will be fittingly named, “Complete Your Home.”

Now, everyone loves our fourth floor. It has glass walls and an outside deck that wrap around two sides of the roof with sweeping views of our ever-changing neighborhood. People have even tried to bribe us to spend the night up there; it’s that enchanting. There was nothing “wrong” with the fourth floor. Yet, since the beginning of the year we’ve been working towards this moment. We’re making something good, better.

Complete Your Home is set to open at the end of this month. From what we’ve seen so far, she looks like she’s going to be a beauty. Lots of our decorative items: lighting, mirrors, frames, bedding, throws, vases, trays, tabletops, are all going to be gathered in one place. We’re going to do the designing for you and show some of the old Room & Board classics in brand new ways. We’re also going to be introducing many new accessories for the fall as well. It’s going to be a good thing. A very good thing.

So, change is good. Say it with me, “Change is good.” A bit of the old to make us feel comfortable in the new. A new environment to help us see with fresh eyes the beauty that’s always been around us. I guess I can live with that.

Leading the Way!

At Room & Board, our Leadership Associates aren’t just managers. Their role is about so much more: providing guidance and support, and giving constructive feedback and recognition. There’s no micro-managing here — instead we work alongside leadership as partners. We’re all working toward the same objective, after all.

When a tricky situation arises, a Design Associate might bring to the table an established rapport with her client — she can assess a customer’s posturing, and get a deeper sense of the problem they might be experiencing. Meanwhile, leadership often has a broader vantage point from which to consider the issue, and years of meaningful experience from which to draw. When we combine forces, we can tackle the toughest challenges with grace and efficiency.

Design Associates are empowered to make decisions about how to solve a problem — we don’t have to consult with a manager to make a call. But when I’m unsure about the best route to take, leadership never lets me down. They’re always available to help guide me toward a solution that is in line with Room & Board principles and fair to the customer. It’s great to know they’ve got my back!.

A Design Associate and a Customer!

Cora

I was thinking the other day about how working at Room & Board has transformed not only my professional life, but my home as well. In the (almost) two years that I’ve been with the company, I have become a loyal customer as well as a staff member. The change has been so gradual that, with a new item here and there, I didn’t realize how much furniture I have from our current and past assortments until this past week. When I looked around my apartment, it suddenly made sense why one of my Leadership Associates jokes that I’m one of her best customers.

Items that I’ve managed to acquire include: a bed, dining table and chairs, bookcase, storage cabinet, desks and task chairs, accent tables, rugs, lamps, benches, and accent chairs. The fact that all of these pieces have blended into my home seamlessly as I’ve found items I wanted to purchase (whether brand new, discontinued items on clearance, or floor samples) has made my apartment more beautiful and more functional. An added bonus is that, as I live with Room & Board furnishings in my home, I have more confidence and personal anecdotes to share when I’m working with customers.

As I wrote this, I realized that I didn’t have a photo with me of my apartment. Instead, I’m including a picture of a Cora dining chair in our showroom, which I would really love to own. While I already have our Afton chairs with my dining table, I value the style and comfort of this chair enough that I really want to find a spot for this chair in my home! Every Design Associate has a different story and is at a different place in their lives. I’m so pleased that joining Room & Board coincided with a moment where my fiancé and I happened to be investing in our home.

Stupid Questions

It usually begins with, “Can I ask a stupid question?”

Now, I was an elementary music teacher at one time. I know how this works. I say, “Of course! There are no stupid questions!” Granted, there have been times when my inner voice butts in and urges me to say, ” Um, no.”

Luckily I usually have pretty good control over that little inner voice.

But what I’ve learned from being in retail for over 12+ years is that the “stupid” question is often borne from a genuine need to solve a problem. The woman who asks if we have an 8″ wide nightstand…with a drawer… and a shelf, isn’t thinking what that tiny little nightstand might look like. She’s trying to make the most of a very small space beside her bed. She has a need.

Sometimes this happens when our aspirations for what we want/need and the reality of what we can actually have are different. I know what this is like. There’s a 101″ velvet indigo sofa on the floor that calls my name – like it whispers it every time I walk by – but there’s no way that I could fit that grand sofa in my city apartment. Believe me, I’ve asked myself hundreds of times if it will fit. Ha! And what a stupid question! I couldn’t even get it in the elevator!

But when we start to look at the reality of the situation, we may see the possibility of how to solve the problem. I might be able to work with the nightstand lady to do a narrow ledge on the wall – and maybe add a wall sconce to free up surface space. For me, that same sofa in a smaller configuration with a floor mirror next to it may just give me the illusion of that really long, luxurious sofa I’m pining for. They say that necessity is the mother of invention. It’s true. It’s just a matter of standing firmly in reality and working on the possibilities of what can be. We can help with that.