HFA’s 2018 Immersion program proves a hit with members
Ask any furniture retailer what the best benefit of being a member of the Home Furnishings Association is and you’re likely to hear a recurring answer: Education.
No other group offers furniture retailers a chance to learn like the HFA. Our monthly webinars, market seminars and Leadership Institute are can’t-miss events for retailers wanting to grow their business.
That certainly held true at the most recent learning event, the HFA’s Leadership Immersion Experience. Started by the Association in 2015, the program is designed to allow members who are also members of the HFA-sponsored Next Generation Now group, to learn from some of the industry’s best and brightest retailers at those retailers’ actual stores. Nine HFA members took part in this year’s program, which was held last month at Badcock Home Furniture & More in Mulberry, Fla.
The program was led by Rob Burnette, president of Badcock Furniture, and Mitchell Stiles, vice president retail operations. Over three days Burnette, Stiles and key department directors made themselves available to Immersion participants, sharing how one of the nation’s most successful furniture companies’ strategies and insights could help their stores back home.
Josh Millar, store manager at Tepperman’s Furniture, Ontario, Canada brought home a notebook filled with ideas. “I took so many notes,” he said. “My mind has been spinning for the last two days.”
Millar was worried Badcock, a top 100 retailer with 348 stores scattered across the Southeast, would be out of touch with Tepperman’s, a five-store chain in Canada. He was pleasantly surprised how wrong he was. “We might be a small family business, but I’ll be able to take what I learned and see the guiding points of where and how we need to move forward as a company,” he said.
One of the most memorable experiences for Immersion participants was an up-close look at how Badcock breaks down the inevitable silos that manifest in such a large business. A few years back, one of Badcock’s strategic goals was to improve communication.
To break down those silos, the company implemented a mandatory weekly coffee chat meeting with all department heads—30 minutes designed to be social. Just managers chatting over coffee.
And while there’s no official agenda to the meetings, what Badcock officials found was that the decision makers began talking business face to face. Problems were discussed, solutions were found.
It was one of several takeaways Immersion programs were privy to over three days at Badcock.
Robert Ball, director of retail sales and business development at Badcock, gave attendees a glimpse of how he motivates sales people company wide and helps them understand and achieve the goals they set in place.
“First you have to get the sales people to understand they are not in the furniture business,” said Ball. “They are in the people business. Sales is the transfer of emotion not the transfer of product.”
Ball also discussed how he motivates the store owners and sales associates with his daily five-minute videos with sales training and motivation tactics.
Immersion participants also toured Badcock’s Lakeland, Fla. corporate store, where Badcock tries out new product, processes and innovations. Justin Garner, director of dealer retail operations, discussed Badcock’s layout and merchandising philosophies as well as how it engages with the consumer.
Mike Wells of Hudson’s Furniture in Florida took part in the Immersion program. Wells couldn’t wait for the event to end—if only because he was eager to implement some of what he leaned back at his store.
“I learned so much in seeing how the growth and success has happened with Badcock’s,” he said. “Learning from your mistakes and seeing the progression over the years has been enlightening.”
Morgan Richmond, store manager and buyer for The Furniture Warehouse, in Sarasota, Florida, also attended the Immersion Experience. “I wear a lot of hats as a second-generation leader,” he said. “Learning how Badcock has grown, their successes and processes have helped me find ways to find efficiencies in how I can do things better in my business.”
The HFA’s next Immersion Experience will be held at Walker Furniture in Las Vegas, September 16-19, 2019. Previous programs have been held at Hudson’s Furniture, Sanford, Fla., El Dorado Furniture, Miami, American Furniture Warehouse, Englewood, Colo., and RC Willey, Salt Lake City.
Sharron Bradley, the association’s CEO, said the Leadership Immersion Experience’s growing popularity reflects members’ thirst for learning. “One of the cornerstones to our association is our power in numbers,” said Bradley. “HFA members are so giving of their time and knowledge in helping other retailers succeed. You can’t find that anywhere else in this business. That’s why the Immersion Experience is so strong. I can’t wait for next year.”