To continue the series about independent and franchised business owners that are examples of the “operating by the numbers” approach, this month I bring a story about a bright, hard-working young man who charismatically attracts winners and inspires success. As a member of the largest window coverings franchise in America, Budget Blinds, he has followed its success formula to exceptional achievement, building a business of nearly $3 million in annual sales. That represents nearly $3 in sales for every man, woman and child in Memphis, TN—quite a feat for a town that is no boom town like San Diego, CA, or Miami, FL.
Scott Spielberger heads a great team, starting with his wife, Audra. He is proud of his team and they take pride in his leadership. I know you will enjoy his story and feel his enthusiasm. As you read on, ask yourself why he is so successful. Then, when you have your own ideas, compare them to the list adjacent to this story.
Now, let’s hear from Spielberger in his own words, thanks to Cathy Guterman, research and writing assistant who interviewed him.
How did you start your business?
From 1990 to 2001, I managed a food manufacturing plant in Memphis called Corky’s Barbeque. I really enjoyed the job, loved the people I worked with and figured I’d spend my entire career there. I was 34 years old and pretty content.
However, I had a good friend who was a recruiter for a business brokerage company who kept telling me about all the franchise opportunities out there. Since I really wasn’t window shopping (no pun intended!) and didn’t feel I had the kind of money it would take to buy a franchise, I told him I wasn’t interested. But he was persistent and arranged to fly me to Anaheim, CA, for the weekend to meet with a few executives from Budget Blinds. I heard it was a great company with dynamic leadership—so I figured, what the heck, I could use a little vacation in the sunshine!
I did some homework beforehand—and called a number of franchise owners to get their opinions—which was all very positive. It was an easy sell! I took my life’s savings—and then some—and bought an existing Budget Blinds franchise from a woman who had already been in business in one territory in the greater Memphis area. My wife later told me she trusted what I was doing and was supportive, but she thought I was crazy for leaving a stable job and going into a profession that I knew absolutely nothing about.
What were your first years like?
The first years were a real learning experience and I took every advantage of the excellent training programs that [the franchise] offered. I stuck closely with their marketing strategies of ABC: Always Be Canvassing. I spent four to five hours each day walking through neighborhoods, knocking on doors, leaving my business brochure and following-up. Budget Blinds’ philosophy is that every hour of time canvassing should yield at least one lead.
I worked very, very hard—and continue to do so—and got very good results right from the start. In the first three months of business, I made more money than the previous owner had made in three years.
A little trick of mine was to canvass neighborhoods on vacation days—when families are relaxed at home. Instead of kickin’ back and taking the day off, I took advantage of those days to get out and get more business—and it really worked for me.
My wife, Audra, who was a tennis instructor at the time, began helping me with all the paperwork. We’re polar opposites! I’m the social, outgoing type and she’s the quieter, more organized member of the family, so her input really helped me to get more focused and spend my time doing what I loved the best: talking to customers and selling. I couldn’t have done this without her or my in-laws, who helped me in so many ways from the very first day.
Today, in fact, my father-in-law, C. J. Keller, a retired computer programmer, handles all my technical computer challenges as well as does mechanic work on our 10 company vehicles. We’re a true small company in every sense of the word—and I intend to keep it this way.
What were your fears and feelings
as you made the changes in your
My biggest fear has been adapting to managing myself and a bunch of employees. I was very lucky that business took off right from the start, and I knew that I had to work very hard to keep everything in balance. The fact that I was in my 30s (I’m 41 now) was helpful. I’ve had the drive, energy and physical stamina to keep myself focused and directed. And, again, I repeat, I couldn’t have done this without the help of my wife—who keeps me organized each day!
What has the experience of transition been like for you?
About three years ago, when we were still just a two-salesman operation, I bought-out a neighboring territory in Memphis. After working a 70 to 90 hour week, I decided that I’d better hire another sales rep or all hell would break loose. I now had a baby daughter who needed to see her Dad! I was running on four spark plugs in a six-cylinder engine and I knew I couldn’t keep it up!
Richard Hillis, a fantastic sales rep, could not have come into my life at a better time! He is still with me today and I couldn’t do the kind of business I do today without him and my entire team.
Where has the change brought you from then to now?
A few years ago, I hired another incredible sales rep named Randy Coleman who has been a great addition to our team. Today, we have three installers, four salesmen (including me), two women who work in the office (including my wife) and one woman that is our marketing/canvassing rep. We have 10 Budget Blind-wrapped vehicles on the road and built another office/warehouse space on my property.
How do you see your future ahead?
I see a beach in my future! Seriously, I’m trying to slow down a bit (I usually work a 12-hour day) and take a few more vacation days—although my cell phone is always on—even when I’m away. When I’m on the road, I usually get between 60 to 100 calls a day and at least 35 text messages.
At this point, however, I’m interested in getting more training in selling soft treatments and hope to expand that part of our business.
What would you tell other people about pursuing a career as a shop-at-home sales consultant?
Buyer beware! The location of your territory is so important today, especially in this economy and real estate market. And, be passionate and willing to work very hard to keep those phones ringing. Some weeks go very smoothly for me, while other weeks are really crazy! But, I love this business and wouldn’t choose to do anything else.
What makes Spielberger successful?
Form your own ideas. Compare to this list. You may see other good ones.
• Great system, proven successful
• Did homework, called franchise owners before investing
• Took a risk to invest a lot of money in the franchise
• Has energy and drive to make his investment pay off
• Hard working, manager, perfect age to start a business
• Terrific, supportive spouse and in-laws
• Attracted other ambitious, hard working winners
• Inspires others to success
• Passion to keep phones ringing
This article is based on Steven C. Bursten’s actual experience with sales and financial information working with hundreds of window coverings businesses. Whether you are a sole manager who aspires to higher sales, or you manage 50 window fashion decorators in a multi-million dollar business, this series will help you manage sales better and increase your profitability. Bursten is the retired founder of Decorating Den Interiors and author of a how-to book on new business start up, “Bootstrap Entrepreneur,” and is a leading expert in window coverings marketing, sales systems and sales management through his company, custEmers.com. Questions and comments welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org or call (888) 333-8981.
BY THE NUMBERS
How does a well-managed $2.8-million business operate?
Appointments per Year: 3,000
Closing Ratio: 85%
Average Sale: $1,100
Total Sales Range: $2.8 million
Gross Profit Range: 45%
Net profit for a business of this type will range from a low of six percent to over 12 percent on sales after paying the manager a salary.