When asked about the single greatest benefit that he received from critiquing a fellow colleague's
kitchen and bath design business, Gary Case (Rockville, MD) wrote: "It may be that the best way to
learn is to teach. It's also the best way to recognize the in-congruence between the advice you give, and
your own lack of compliance with that advice. Living up to what you advise others to do is then hard to
And therein lays the intrinsic value of onsite critiquing of each other’s businesses: learning from teaching and implementing change through peer pressure and accountability. Change always begins
with a shift in the owner's mindset. And that shift happens most readily with an intervention that drills
down to the raw truth, delivered from people you have come to trust and respect. Call it Entrepreneurial
Case belongs to MyBOD (short for My Board of Directors) which evolved organically from an online business roundtable launched by the SEN Design Group as a venue to combat the challenges of a
sluggish recovery after the worst recession in eighty years.
After bonding together with bi-weekly teleconferences for a number of months, Dan Luck (Madison, WI)
suggested this group of a half dozen members start visiting each other's operations every six months.
That way, the group could see firsthand how each colleague's showroom was set up, how the business was organized and run, what processes and systems were deployed to manage the myriad details, what caliber of individual filled each staff position, and how the financial statements reflected staff and management performance. Most of all, they could recommend laser-focused advice on how to improve
that company's performance and, going forward, hold the owner accountable for changes he commits
In this kind of a venue there is no way for a dealer/owner to hide behind a veneer of success when his
business may actually be quite fragile or under-performing. After all, big egos are pervasive among
owners and designers in the kitchen/bath industry, and bluster is frequently the dominant language
spoken during industry events. Indeed, arrogance led to many a dealer to go out of business during the
Great Recession. And arrogance will continue to block many a dealer from realizing their full revenue
growth and net profit potential going forward.
What’s lacking by many dealer/owners in this industry is hyper-vigilance, disciplined thought, and
superb execution with respect to managing their operations and making smart, surgical changes. When
90% of kitchen/bath dealers reportedly lack a board of directors or regular business coach for feedback
and direction, onsite business critiquing groups can be an effective vehicle to achieve these objectives.
This band of merry business advisors first descended on McDaniels Kitchens & Baths in Lansing, MI
owned by Don Jessup. Besides Case and Luck, Sandy Winslow traveled from LaGrange, GA and
Raffael Brugnoni CKD from St Clair Shores, MI. John Lang LPBC, a licensed SEN business coach from
Newtown, PA with nearly 30 years of kitchen/bath industry experience, served as the group's facilitator.
It took courage on Jessup's part to be the first to have his business sliced, diced, and shaken up in the
onsite critique group blender, especially without knowing exactly what he signed up for or what the
results might be. But his business passed muster pretty well as Luck wrote in an evaluation: "Your
history and reputation, your staff, your vision, and your core values provide a strong foundation from
which to build on; I am excited (and a bit envious) for what the future holds for you."
Jessup's own evaluation of the critiquing experience went like this: "I had the opportunity to show my
business to five great businessmen and engage them to recommend ways to improve my business. I
also received great (maybe stern) encouragement to raise my pricing to get more in line with other
Indeed, part of the 2½ day session was a meeting that the group held separately with Jessup’s ten
Sales Designers wherein they convinced the sales team that McDaniels Kitchens & Baths should be
operating at a higher gross profit margin - something that Jessup would no doubt have real difficulty
accomplishing by himself. Then the group of five business owners showed the salespeople how to
strategically accomplish that objective. Experienced, third party perspectives can be very powerful
agents for change.
Jessup knew full well that his colleagues were going to make sure he implemented the recommended
price increase. Such an action - or non-action - can't be hidden when these advisors will be reviewing
his financial statements at their next onsite meeting. And, in Jessup’s case, he didn’t have to wait that
long. At a SEN conference a couple of months later, he proudly reported a 1.5% gross profit increase
on his August Income Statement. “Yep,” said one of the two Sales Designers standing by the beaming
Jessup, “it wasn’t as hard to get the higher price as we originally thought.”
To be sure, Jessup (and his business) was the focus of attention at this initial meeting. But he was not
the only beneficiary. All the participants gained a greater understanding of how a different business
model from their own can be successful, what parts of that model could be applied to their own
operations, and what advice offered about Jessup's business could also positively impact their own.
Summarizing his onsite business critiquing experience, Dan Luck commented: "Spending extended
time with a group of kitchen and bath dealers that engaged in conversation much deeper than surface
chatter is very valuable. The nuggets gleaned and the experiences shared were priceless!"
Central to a SEN membership is this value proposition: You will earn more (and learn more) with
us than without us. As proof, we invite you to attend our next 3-Day Semi-Annual Conference.
As our guest, we will cover the Conference Fee. You handle the travel and lodging expenses. Like so
many previous guests who experience MyBOD-like dealer roundtables there, you just may find this
SEN conference to be your most rewarding, industry-specific educational experience.
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