It’s How Tough?

We get comments regularly from customers who are happy and amazed with how durable the CTi System is. Periodically a customer will send us a photo and drop a line that is simply too good not to share. Below is a walkway that was done in Cincinnati, Ohio nineteen years ago. The Dealer came out pressure washed and applied a new coat of sealer and the job looks brand new!

Working the Work Force

The latest job reports came out and the unemployment rate has fallen to 3.8%; great news for job seekers as the market is becoming tighter and it appears that most anyone who wants a job has one. This is not so great news when it comes to business owners looking for people to fill multiple positions (read fast food, construction businesses, etc.)

A CTi Dealership has the main advantages of being a high margin and low overhead business; however, one of the other advantages it offers is the business only requires 1-2 employees to operate the business. CTi Dealers are primarily owner/operators in their business, this means they are either meeting with prospective customers or on the job site. As the business grows, they can either find or groom one person to install the product (along with one helper), or they can hire someone to meet with prospective customers and concentrate on the installations.

Either growth path only requires the hiring of 1-2 people to create a business that can generate a healthy business and an abundant bottom line.

What Does It Take?

In the 26 years I’ve been speaking with prospective Dealers, one of the more popular questions I get is, “what does it take to be successful as a Dealer?” My answer always revolves around the same three main areas although I tell the person it’s a lot like golf in that you can learn to play the game in a few hours but you’ll spend a lifetime mastering it.

  1. Commitment and Persistence – when starting any business, the more committed you are to its success, the more it will reflect in everything you do. I’ve seen Dealers who go the extra mile for customers, who come to work everyday with an unstoppable attitude but really the main thing is waking up each morning with a set of goals you want to accomplish. These daily goals lead to monthly goals which, in turn, lead to yearly goals. Successful Dealers work this attitude into their lifestyle and create a type of person in which anything is possible.
  2. Selling – any business owner knows one of the best talents to have is the ability to sell your ideas. This isn’t just the ability to convince a prospective customer that the CTi System is the answer to the issues they’re experiencing with their concrete when they see it; it’s also the when you can sell your crew on they’re capabilities of getting the job done in a fashion that will exceed the customer’s expectations or those times when they have to sell themselves on their ability to overcome adversity.
  3. Organization – This seems to be obvious, but I see it so rarely done in the contracting world. A Dealer’s ability to keep his business organized, to show up for appointments on time, to complete the project on time, to keep his business humming through each and every “touch point” it has with the customer is crucial to its success. Does the advertising look professional? Is the website easy to navigate and up to date? Is the phone answered in a way in which the customer is not put off when they call? These are but a few of the areas where a business can help itself stand out from the competition.

New Customers One Drip at a Time

You’ve met with the prospective homeowner, you’ve presented a great solution to the issues they’re facing with their concrete and you’ve offered them a competitive price; however, you still hear “we need to think about it.”

What do you do in a situation like this? Most business owners in the home improvement field may make a phone call or two in order to follow up and see if the customer might be interested in doing the project at a later date. What these people don’t know is that the average homeowner needs more time when they’re considering a new project and that 20% will make the decision to move forward in three to four weeks if they have a communication in front of them that keeps the decision on their mind.

Estimate Rocket (click here for more details) offers you the ability to keep that communication with your customer automatically after you meet with them for the first time. Drip marketing is a way of keeping your offering on the customer’s mind until they’re ready to move forward. This type of marketing has proven to increase closing rates 20% on average and is easy to implement.

Drip marketing, via Estimate Rocket, is as simple as establishing a series of email messages (normally six messages) that will be sent out to the customer over a period of time (normally four weeks). Once you’ve created these messages, the drip marketing campaign is initiated automatically by entering the customer’s information into the system. When you enter the information, you simply click and let Estimate Rocket to begin the campaign and the emails are automatically sent at the time intervals you preset. So increase the number of projects you’re selling from your current leads with this simple marketing tip.

Where to Advertise?

Starting a new Dealership or running one that has been around for decades both have the same question, where can I advertise my Dealership most effectively? 28 years of being in the marketplace with hundreds of Dealers providing feedback, CTi has developed a comprehensive list of areas to consider along with what to expect from your advertising investment. Advertising a Dealership falls into one of the main areas listed below:

  • Home and Garden Shows
  • Online home improvement related lead portals
  • Advertising your website with Pay Per Click Advertising
  • Social Media advertising through a page setup specifically for your company.
  • Direct mail advertising through marriage mail firms as well as individual flyers sent to the right prospective customers.
  • Magazine advertising through local home improvement related magazines.
  • “Grass Roots” type advertising such as handing out flyers in neighborhoods where you’ve done work, putting a lawn sign next to the job you’ve just completed and other ways to let the neighbors know who did the work in their community.

The purpose of your advertising should be to generate enough inquiries to lead to the amount of work you need to meet your company’s goals. Simply establishing an attitude of advertising “as much as you can”, or “as much as you can afford” leads to results that may of may not meet your overall needs from your company. CTi provides its Dealers with a set of metrics that have been proven over three decades of doing business and can quickly establish what your Dealership needs in regards to an advertising investment in order to meet its goals.

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 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.