Take a fast-growing community in a fast-growing part of the state and add a custom window treatments retailer who is all about customer service, plus a sales staff empowered to treat the customer right, plus a full line of quality products, plus a new 3,000-square-foot showroom, plus a philosophy of whatever it takes to meet the customer’s needs, and you’ve got an unbeatable combination.
That would be Dave Moushey and Blinds Plus, Mason, OH.
Moushey understands a lot about what it takes to make customers
happy and why that’s important. He knows the importance of
a showroom, of treating customers as guests and with respect, and
the value to his customers and to his business of offering top-quality
products. He also understands the importance of a good sales staff;
one that can offer customers many ideas to ensure they get treatments
that are right for them.
What Moushey doesn’t understand is window treatment retailers
trying to meet low prices in hopes of making it up on volume. “We
do a lot of volume, and that’s where I want to change. I would
rather do less volume and do higher-end, more quality things because
you save all the way around—the labor involved, the order processing,
there’s just so many things that are more efficient if you’re
not running all over town.”
Moushey also understands the importance of competition and, oddly
enough, welcomes it—especially when he knows they can’t
offer better service than Blinds Plus. “People appreciate quality
and they’re willing to pay for service, but sometimes they’re
not quite sure about it because [purchasing custom window coverings]
can be so new to them. So it’s good to have those barometers—those
retailers who aren’t quite doing it as well as us—because
then customers can see the difference. If we didn’t have competition,
then how can they compare who we are? I don’t mind competition.”
These are all pluses when it comes to running a successful business.
But they all begin with top-quality products. “We’d rather
sell you nothing than not sell quality,” Moushey says. Blinds
Plus will not match prices from low-price retailers. Its salespeople
would rather show customers a better-quality product and explain
to them the difference and why it’s more expensive. “What
I’ve found in my life in this business is, if you sell quality
we don’t have to look back,” Moushey says. “If we
sell junk, even if it’s cheap, it’s going to come back
and bite us in the butt.”
RAISING THE BAR
A proper showroom is another plus made clear to Moushey over the
years. He began Blinds Plus in a small shopping plaza, working out
of a rented 1,200-square-foot space with a 600-square-foot showroom.
Even so, he says he’s always kept a “pretty nice showroom.”
About three years later, with salespeople bumping into each other
on Saturdays and other busy days, Moushey moved the business into
a 3,600-square-foot facility with a 2,700-square-foot showroom.
He felt as if he were bucking the trend. So many other custom window
treatment dealers at the time were selling in-home, ordering direct
from suppliers and installing the treatments themselves. They believed
they didn’t need showrooms. But the new showroom added a plus
to the company’s bottom line. “Our sales increased 50
percent the first year,” says Moushey. “We found out that
it gave so much to the consumers. Not only did they see the displays,
but it also gave them a sense of security, that they were buying
from someone who’s going to be there. They knew where to find
us. We had staff in there all the time.”
There was one problem, however. It was the amount of rent he was
paying for that space. Although he had a five-year lease, Moushey
began almost immediately looking for space to build. “It took
us a couple years to find the right piece of property, then a couple
years to actually build our facility. But we own a corner here in
our small town of Mason, and we built a $1.5-million building.”
Eighteen month ago, Blinds Plus moved into the new two-story structure
(a real estate company is the upstairs tenant) with a 6,000-square-foot
footprint and a showroom just under 3,000 square feet. The new building
is on a major thoroughfare between two counties and is highly visible.
“Everyone knows where Blinds Plus is,” Moushey says. “I
want them to drive by and see it possibly every day for five years
when they may not need blinds. But the day they need blinds, I want
them to think of us first.”
The first year in the new store sales went up 30 percent without
changing anything else, Moushey says. “We ask every customer
how they heard of us. The answer ‘Storefront’ has gone
up at least fivefold,” he adds.
“It’s really about location, location, location. We’ve
had people that would visit us now—and we were doing some good
volume in our old place—thinking we were new in town, and we
had been here eight years.”
With the new facility Moushey added a few pluses of his own and
has taken the showroom to a new level. “We put in vignette
displays, room settings. We brought everything to a level that was
conducive with the look of the building that we built. And I think
our business has changed a lot in the last year because of that.
It has raised the bar. We’ve looked at everything from how
we greet our customer, to what we wear, to how we handle the phone.
We’re constantly monitoring it and constantly changing it to
get better and better and better. Our customers—what happens
is, they visit our competitors and some of them are under-whelmed
by what they see. They come into our place and I give them the tour
of our facility. I’ve had people come in and not know what
they wanted, and they walk the tour and I go over some things .
. . I had this one couple flat-out say to me; We’re not really
sure what we’re going to get still, but we know we’re
going to get it here.”
Blinds Plus’ business philosophy might be summed up as: Whatever
works for the customer. “We have to do what’s best for
the customer as far as assessing their needs and their lifestyles,”
Moushey explains. “That’s how we’ve really grown.
If they have a bunch of kids running around, we don’t want
to put mini-blinds on a door where they’re going to get torn
off. If they have cats, we don’t want to put sheer fabric treatments
on the windows. We don’t pressure anybody. Our salespeople
will get paid the same whether they sell them mini-blinds or a more
expensive treatment. Our repeat and our referral business is so
high because of our philosophy.”
Go back and read that again. “Our salespeople will get paid
the same whether . . .” The Blinds Plus sales staff is not
on commission. “We want to honestly say to our customers, you
can talk to any of us,” Moushey says. The value in that, he
explains, is that the salespeople can have different ideas of what
would work best in a customer’s situation and present different
ideas. The result is the customer ends up with what will work best
“We have 31 flavors here and we sell a lot of vanilla,”
says Moushey. “Some of us like to get some rocky road in there
and mix it up. [But] everyone has bought into the fact that our
customers are the most important thing to us, and take care of them.”
There are two types of customers: new customers and repeat customers.
Often, they both have to be treated the same. Several years can
go by between a customer’s last purchase, and in this industry
so much can change and so much can be added, and so much the customer
can forget in that time that they have to be introduced to products
all over again.
“We have an approach,” Moushey says. “We don’t
care what they purchase, but it has got to be the right thing for
them. They have to be happy at the end.”
STAFF + QUALITY = SERVICE
To make its customers happy, Blinds Plus has assembled a team of
13 employees. There are four outside salespeople (including Moushey),
three showroom salespeople, one person who does the accounting and
five full-time installers who work only for Blinds Plus.
On average, that’s a big staff. But Moushey says it is necessary
to provide the level of service he wants. “I may not need five
full-time installers. I may only need four,” he explains. “But
to have a schedule where my installers are going to be there within
15 minutes of the scheduled time, and to have them do it right and
be available to come back for any kind of service, we have to have
a level of staff for that level of service.”
That kind of attention is noticed by customers, too. After every
install, customers are asked to complete a survey. Moushey estimates
he gets back about 80 percent of them—between four and eight
every day. “The highest percentage of the glowing compliments
are about the installers,” he says.
“We try to treat people as a guest as they walk into our showroom.
And when we’re in their house, we respect them. If there’s
an issue we try to flip it over to how we would feel in their situation.
“Sometimes I’ve eaten jobs that maybe other dealers would
not have, or would have argued about, but I look at things long-term
always. Our people know that, too. We try to instill into our staff
that the customer is the most important thing. They know that their
job is to take care of the customer.”
The Blinds Plus staff is empowered to make decisions on their own,
always remembering to put themselves in the customers’ shoes.
If they make a wrong decision, Moushey says it will be discussed
and, with hope, it will not happen again. But he says the salespeople
will never be penalized for taking care of the customer.
The other part of the equation is quality products. Moushey explains
that high-level service has a direct relation to selling high-quality
products. “You can give better service if you sell better quality
to start with. If you sell stuff that’s not so good, you’re
going to be out there a lot fixing it,” he says. (Binds Plus
became a Hunter Douglas Gallery dealer last September. Its other
major suppliers include Kathy Ireland Home by Alta and shutters
from Norman International.)
“What I’m so pleased to hear anymore is that people say
to me, ‘I’ve heard about you guys, I hear you do great
work, my friend’s so happy with you, I hear about your service
and quality.’ I don’t hear as much as I used to hear that
we offer the best price.”
COME IN SHINING
Mason, OH, is about 25 miles north of Cincinnati. Moushey says it’s
the fastest growing community in Ohio (30,000 and growing) in the
fastest-growing county in Ohio. Plus and plus.
Moushey describes many of the area’s residents as self-made,
hard-working professionals. Many are company executives. “They’ve
all worked their way up and put a high premium on quality and value.
They don’t want junk in their homes, but they don’t need
to be extravagant either. So we try to accommodate everybody,”
To market to these customers, Blinds Plus uses a variety of programs,
but except for ads in the area telephone directory, Moushey limits
his advertising to within 10 miles of the store. It’s a philosophy
he has stuck with for a number of years.
“If someone who is on the south side of Cincinnati, which is
really Louisville, KY, hears of us it’s usually from a referral.
Those are worth going for. Those people are halfway sold already.”
Otherwise, Moushey keeps his advertising dollars close to home.
It is less expensive and offers higher efficiency.
Direct mail is among Blinds Plus’ most successful marketing
programs, but about five years ago Moushey began something new.
With about half of the business coming in new construction, he started
offering new homeowners a bit of a discount to put a sign out in
their yards telling everyone where they’re getting their new
window treatments. It’s a program similar to what many home
improvement companies use, but there’s a bit of a twist. Lately,
Moushey says there have been requests for the yard signs, even before
the homeowner is aware of the discount offer. The yard signs have
become sort of a badge of honor.
Blinds Plus’ largest demographic is single-income families.
It’s a market Moushey has come to know well, and it has affected
how he runs the business. For example: Open Sundays? Not necessary.
Although Saturdays can get awfully busy, most sales are made during
the week by the stay-at-home caregiver who also usually makes the
This market also is a factor in Moushey’s next move. He is
seriously looking to expand the soft side of the business, which
he says is such a growing part of Blinds Plus that his designer
is “getting inundated” with business. At this point, soft
treatments are doing so well he doesn’t think he’ll have
to advertise other than the displays he has in his showroom. Besides,
he doesn’t want to actively promote soft treatments until he
can deliver the quality service his customers are accustomed to.
To do that, Moushey figures he’ll need to add more staff, more
training and probably more equipment. Yet he knows the market is
there for him. “We’ve done blinds in—literally—somewhere
between 12,000 to 13,000 homes in this area,” Moushey says.
“Most of them bought hard window coverings. Where did they
buy their soft, and do they still need soft treatments? They already
trust us. They already know us. We already have a base to sell to.”
That base likely began when the new homeowner first moved in and
Blinds Plus was there offering service, quality products and a customer-driven
sales staff. “We know that new homeowners, when they build
a home, are on their last straw. Everything has gone wrong, usually,
in that building process. It’s very frustrating,” Moushey
says. “So here comes Blinds Plus. We have a choice, here. We’re
either going to be like everybody else and be another person who
didn’t show up on time, didn’t do the job right, disappointed
them or whatever. Or we can come in shining. We prefer to come in