Your Secret Weapon to Success

CTi prides itself on providing the highest level of support in the industry. The initial startup of any business is always the most challenging and CTi, along with its Dealer of the Year for 2018 have developed a success system that is your secret weapon to developing a profitable business in the decorative concrete industry in a fraction of the time.

The CTi Success Plan is a combination of live, field experience provided via online courses as well as coaching sessions conducted by telephone accompanied with CTi’s 28 years of experience. The result has had outstanding results for our Dealers. If you’d like to find out more, click here.

Making Sample Boards

So you just received all your materials and ready to start coating everything in sight. Before you do something to mother in laws driveway that you may regret for the rest of your life, you might want to consider making a few sample boards first. In dealer training Chuck makes it very clear that it is important to make sample boards for several reasons.

First, you need to get all your equipment dialed in and adjusted properly, as well as getting used to how it all feels in your hands. By adjusting your equipment and playing around a little bit, you’ll become more comfortable and you’ll start to learn how to achieve the perfect results your looking for. 

Second, you don’t want to waste a significant amount of product on a project without having some idea of what you are doing. Worse case scenario, you might end up having to grind it all off because it didn’t turn out the way you wanted or didn’t end up as a good example of your capabilities.

Before all your materials arrive, you should review all of your instructional DVD’s located in your welcome aboard package. Be sure to view the segment labeled “Doing the job right” There is also a video called “Assembling your equipment” located in the “Product application section” of the dealer website located at http://www.cti-concrete.com that should be viewed prior to getting started. Once you have organized all your materials, and reviewed the videos, then it’s time to get started making some basic sample boards.

We are often asked, “what’s the best material to use for sample boards?” You can use 1/4″or 3/8″ plywood, Luan, Masonite , Hardy-back board or Dura-rock. Any of these materials will work fine. Luan is light, durable, and inexpensive. On your first sample boards you may want to just use entire 4’ by 8’ ft. sheets of plywood. With this size you will be able to work on your skimming, spraying, and taping techniques. If you don’t like the way they turn out the first time, you can skim right back over them again and start over.

After you have practiced on the 4’ by 8’ sheets a few times and have gotten a little more comfortable with the product then you might want to consider making some smaller sample boards usually 2’x 2’. This size is light, easy to carry around, and can easily fit in a small car used for sales calls. Architects and designers also prefer the more convenient smaller sample boards.

Making sample boards requires the same procedures as doing a real job except for the prep of the surface. On a real job we would either acid-etch and power wash or mechanically abrade the surface in order to properly prep the concrete. Because sample boards are usually made of wood we recommend just skim coating them twice.

We suggest making at least 6 to 10 sample boards at one time. It doesn’t make sense to mix products and get your tools and equipment dirty for only 1 sample board. We usually start by mixing a ½ bucket of 105 grout at skim consistency. For half a bucket we mix ½ a bag of 105 grout and 2 ½ to 3 qts. of 110 or 112 modifier. We mix the grout with our ½” drill and square mixing paddle. Once the grout has been mixed, we then pour it out equally in to 5 or 6 smaller buckets. We then add approximately ¼ cup of 190 colorant to each of the smaller buckets making each bucket a different color so you can skim different boards in different colors. Next we skim coat each of our sample boards. After the first skim coat has cured, we lightly flat scrape or rub brick the surface, brush or blow it off and skim again. Allow the skimmed sample boards to cure out completely. Cure time will depend on temperature, humidity, air movement, and direct sunlight. Cure time could be as little as 1 hour at 85 degrees outside in direct sun light or over night if inside with cooler conditions.

Once the skim coat has fully cured, again flat scrape or rub brick as needed to remove any sling from the troweling and then brush and blow off. Any excess dust. At this point you can tape out the desired patterns using filament tape. You can do bricks, stones, tiles, etc.

After you have applied the filament tape for the patterns you will have to decide what type of texture you are going to apply over the tape, either a spray texture or a hand troweled stone texture. For either the spray or stone troweled texture, we will need to mix up another ½ bucket of 105 grout. This time however, we will make the mix a little bit thicker. We’ll mix ½ a bag of 105 grout with 2 ½ qts. of either 110 or 112 modifier. Be sure to mix thoroughly so that there are no lumps that might clog your hopper gun. Use a margin trowel to scrape the inside of the bucket when you mix to insure consistency. Once the grout is mixed, pour it equally into 5 or 6 separate buckets and then add ¼ cup of 190 colorant to each bucket making them all different colors. Now you have the ability to spray multiple combinations of colors on multiple boards. We suggest shooting the boards with lighter main spray colors first. Remember, when you spray your highlights to start with the lightest color and then work your way to the darkest. You will have to either clean your gun or switch guns to go back to your original main spray color. Refer to the “Doing the job right video” if this is unclear. Once you have sprayed and highlighted your boards, allow them to cure out thoroughly. Once cured, you can flat scrape, broom, and blow them off. At this point they should be ready to seal. For most Hallmark samples 2 coats of 150 or 155 sealer can be applied. You can use other CTI sealers such as Rapid Armor, Aquathane 6000, or Pro-seal 200 as well.

Has this ever happened to you?  You’ve gone through a picture-perfect appointment and after everything’s said and done… having gone just as well as it possibly could, you give the home owner the bottom line price for the job.  They then look at each other and, in unison, reply, “We love it!  We want it! …but we just don’t have that much money available right now.”   What, exactly, just happened?

I had originally qualified a couple just like them at a Home Show.  I spent time with them on the phone and again in person.  I showed them everything I could think of in the forty-five minutes I spent with them in their home, and they wound up telling me they didn’t have that kind of money available!!?  Where’d I go wrong? Did I not read these people correctly? I had done everything I was supposed to do and I did read them right.  They loved it and wanted it.  But… I forgot to ask some of the right questions… and one of them is, “How do you intend on paying for the job?”

Too many times we take for granted the fact that just because we do what we’re supposed to do, the other folks are going to do their part as well.  It’s a trust thing with me I guess, but that (obviously) doesn’t always pan out.  Now let me share something with you that will help you in a situation like this, not because I did it (I never got around to it) but looking back I wish I had!  I actually had people ask me if I took Visa or MasterCard and I had to tell them no. This has happened to me countless times and I know that if available to me at the time, I would have closed many more jobs.

OK, you see where I’m heading with this: Just because the home owners couldn’t shell out $4,500.00 from their checking accounts doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have been willing to make an easy payment every month for the job. Using Visa/MasterCard is a good investment for your business. Nowadays, the capability of obtaining a Visa/MasterCard account is as simple as going to sites such as Square Up (click here) or QuickBooks offers a card reader that interfaces with their accounting software (click here).  We’re heading toward a cashless society and plastic rules. Customers expect to pay for goods and services with a credit card and banks will fight for your merchant business.  Usually, a nominal fee for a small credit card machine and, typically, around 3% service charge will get you going. You can even get credit card machines that attach to your cell phone for instant access. If you think 3% is a lot to pay for maybe a 20% increase in business, you’re making the same mistake I made.

Advanced Training

CTi firmly believes in having the best trained Dealers in the industry.  Over the last few weeks, our Dealers have been training in Little Rock, Arkansas, Baton Rouge, Louisiana as well as at our headquarters in Largo, Florida.  These Dealers are learning how to create new looks and satisfy a larger number of new customers by becoming great at what they do.

Hiring a Salesperson

There are times during the life of a CTi Dealership where expansion leads to hiring a person to present the product in the customer’s home.  The right person with the right way of approaching customers can many times lead to higher closing rates on the inquiries your Dealership receives and sometimes will actually lead to a higher per square footage rate.

Coordinating your advertising and marketing efforts to insure a salesperson has what he needs in order to be successful is crucial.  The typical sales funnel for a CTi sale is the Dealership will normally need 5-6 inquiries (phone calls or “contact us” forms from the website) to secure 3-4 in home presentations.  The 3-4 in home presentations will lead to one sale normally.

Compensation for these folks is normally a commission on sales made.  The rate I see most often is 10% of the gross sale price so if the job is sold for $5,000 to the homeowner, the salesperson will receive a $500 commission.  This will help you determine how many inquiries your Dealership will need to generate in order for the salesperson to meet his financial goals.  If the salesperson is wanting to make $1,000 per week, in the scenario above, you would need to provide 10-12 inquiries per week in order to have 6-8 presentations to make the two sales needed.

Advantages of Specialization

You wake up at three in the morning, and you hear water rushing in the basement from a broken pipe.  When your thoughts turn to fixing the problem, do you think about calling a plumber or a general handyman who can perform a number of different projects around the house?  If you’re like most people, you call the person who specializes in fixing the problem you have; the same is true when people make many different decisions.

When small business owners advertise, they think about casting as wide a net as possible; many times you’ll see a tag line such as “Specializing in residential, commercial and industrial work” (not much of a specialization is it).  What they don’t realize is for an advertising message to resonate with a customer, it needs to address the problem the customer is wanting to solve.  Some of the best advertising results I’ve seen come from Dealers who create messages that firmly nail one issue they want to address with their customers.  Something as simple as touting your firm as “The driveway specialists” can have your message break through the clutter and increase the number of customers who contact you and, more importantly, the number who buy from you.

Think about ways you can specialize in your category and advertise this specialty in the right ways to see your advertising become more effective.

Full time or Part Time employees

One of the common questions I receive from new Dealers is “How do I start my business and keep employees busy while I’m ramping up?”  This is an age old question and, as usual, our Dealers have figured out some great ways to get their businesses up and running during those first months of operation.  A couple of ideas for hiring those first employees so you don’t have to worry about keeping them on payroll constantly while you build momentum are:

  • EMS or Firefighters: The normal work schedule for these folks is to work a longer day or days and then have a couple of days off.  During these couple of days when they’re off, having a job that can help make them some extra money while not interfering with their full-time job is just what they’re looking for.  Visiting the fire station or the headquarters to the local ambulance service and telling them you have part-time work available is a great win-win for both you and them.
  • Construction related staffing agencies: There are a number of these type companies around, common names are “Manpower”, “Labor Ready”, “Quality Personnel”, “Kimco” as well as other regional companies.  The main advantage for this route is two-fold.  First, the staffing agency keeps the employee on their payroll.  The only check you write is for the number of hours you happen to use the person for the job site.  Taxes and other items are all calculated by the agency and you simply receive a total bill.  Second, this is a great “on the job” interview, getting someone on the job will give you a great feel for how well they understand the product and installation.  When you have someone who shines in this area, once you are ready to hire a full-time person you can pay a finders fee to the agency and take the person off their payroll.  This is a much better way to hire your first employee than advertising and then having to go through the interview process and see how they perform.

Networking is one of the keys to running a successful business.  Meeting up with the right people, introducing your products and getting your market excited about CTi is all a part of getting in front of the right individuals.  A great resource to help you in the endeavor is BNI International Business Networking.  BNI has chapters around the world and specializes in arranging networking meetings between business owners in select areas.  To find out more about BNI, click here or to find out if there is a chapter in your area, click here.

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Came across this photo, circa 1992 showing the original CTi headquarters. The next couple of photos are today’s headquarters and training center for Concrete Technology.

What a ride it’s been, we owe our success to all of our Dealers, Distributors and employees who make it happen everyday.

Thank You for everything you guys do, the best is yet to come!

A customer needs to trust you prior to buying your product. We mention in our marketing seminar that the purchasing decision rests on two main questions being answered:

1) Why do I want to buy this particular product?
2) Why do I want to buy this product from your company?

Trust goes a long way in answering both these questions, so how do you go about establishing trust with your customer? First, it comes from longevity, both perceived and real. A customer can find a level of trust when you tell him you’ve been installing the product for a number of years. If this is not the case, you can change the customer’s perception is a couple of different ways. Consistent advertising can change a customer’s perception on how long a business has been around. Customer who consistently see you advertisement over a period of months will see you as an established company. The confidence you exude when you’re speaking with the customer is another way of building their confidence. While newer Dealers may find this difficult (an I’ve even seen some seasoned Dealers who have an issue with this), have a demeanor that puts the customer at ease because they sense you want to solve their problems will lead to more confidence on the customer’s end. How the customer is treated throughout the sales cycle is also another way of building confidence. A professionally done advertising message, a phone that is answered “Good afternoon, Concrete Technology, how may I help you?” vs. “Hello?” are just a couple of ways to build the customer’s confidence. Being on time and delivering on deadlines are other ways to build confidence. If you say you’re going to be at the customer’s house on Thursday at 5:30, do everything you can to be on time; if you’re running late, call the customer to let them know. If you tell the customer that; weather permitting, your crew will be on the job site a week from Thursday and should be finished by Friday afternoon, meet those deadlines. If you don’t think you can meet the timeline, don’t promise the customer.

A customer’s trust will not only lead to more sales, it also leads to more referrals as the customer confidently tells their friends and relatives to give your company a try.