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The Amazing Power Of Feedback

Furniture World Magazine


Test this process during the course of one store promotion and feel how this model can transform your organization.

"What? Don’t you know there is a recession going on?” some furniture CEOs might respond. As a matter of fact, I do. What an opportunity! A chance to increase market-share when your timid competitors are holding back and waiting.

The fact is, there is plenty of furniture being bought out there and many smashingly successful promotions being executed. An article in the February/March issue of FURNITURE WORLD proclaimed, “Boring Will Not Work”. If that is true, then successful retailers need to know the steps to take to formulate an exciting and successful furniture promotion. These include the creation of an actual demonstration of the power of conceiving a Vision of success, selling associates on the Mission, and sustaining commitment to it.

This is an article for the young entrepreneurs (regardless of age), who have not lost the “eye of the tiger”. It takes a lot of hard work (the kind your granddaddy used to do) to generate a month’s business in a normally dull weekend. Most of us work long hours at a desk these days, but few of us work hard. The future belongs to those who work hard, not long… to those who push themselves to make the tough emotional decisions and to dare new things. Hard work includes learning new things and using your time to grow… pushing the envelope, and taking risks. Hard workers take the time to handle the details and “do it right” the first time … and maybe, still go home at five.


LEARN: “If you think you are green you grow, if you think you are ripe, you begin to get rotten.” FURNITURE WORLD’s website www.furninfo.com is an excellent resource for articles on business planning, marketing and advertising. It is important to learn before you begin to plan. Check out articles that address the need to understand why some media are intrusive and why intrusive media are more expensive and yet less effective. When you learn these things you will know more than all but a handful of “experts.”

PLAN: Plan your promotion by picking a slow weekend. Make sure no other events such as Fiestas or Parades are going on; you want to be the only show in town (review the June/July 1999 article “Event Planning” posted to the marketing management index of furninfo.com). Plan to dominate newspaper, direct mail and radio media that weekend. Those are all you will need. TV is usually too expensive to dominate, is too fragmented and people tend to watch programs, not specific channels. Radio, on the other hand, is mobile and you can get a repetitive message across because people generally listen to stations, not programs. For more complete information on media selection see FURNITURE WORLD’s, Feb/March 1999 article, “Choosing The Right Media Synergy” posted to the marketing management index on furninfo.com. The information there is worth its weight in gold.

PREPARE: When your Master Calendar is complete, it’s time to begin the preparation phase. FURNITURE WORLD’s August/September 1999 article “Time Framing” will give you precise details on how to prepare a Master Calendar, assign responsibilities and follow up on them.

EXECUTE: When the doors open, it’s too late to plan… it’s too late to prepare… go for it! Project nothing but an optimistic, upbeat attitude. A mind focused on success and victory will inspire those who look to you for guidance and inspiration.

EVALUATE AND REDIRECT: After the dust settles, evaluate every element of the event. Make the necessary adjustments. Remember, there is no such thing as failure, there is only feedback. Have a general meeting, ask “What can we do better next time?” and weigh the comments. LEARNING, PLANNING, PREPARING, EXECUTION and EVALUATION are the five basic steps to a successful event, each completed within its own proper time frame. Review the article in FURNITURE WORLD’s August/September issue “Follow-up After Your Big Event” in the marketing management index on furninfo.com.

These things are important, but now let’s use the limited space left to talk about communicating your Vision of the promotion to your staff. The energy and communicated vision of the CEO can actually double the bottom line results of a promotion. You too can “fire up” your promotional efforts by implementing the following practical suggestions for communicating intangible factors that inspire people to work hard to help you succeed.


First, you must believe in your Vision. People do not respond to a tentative, “uncertain trumpet.” So, be clear about what you want; “see” it in your mind’s eye. Write it down and read it every morning. Get revved up before you go in each morning. The staff must read your self-reliance and passion in everything you do and say. You must exude confidence and love.

Did you just read “love?” The “L” word? Indeed. Make eye contact and smile at everyone. Note the color of the eyes of every person on your staff. Practice body language that communicates a sublime respect for others and for yourself. But you’ve heard all of this before. You must work harder, and take it to yet another level to make sure that people understand and buy into your vision. Many CEOs complain: “I tell them and tell them, but I don’t seem to get through.” The idea of telling people something repetitively is about four hundred years old. It is based upon a system that never worked well, and is less effective today than it ever was. If you keep using this system, and never understand what is wrong with it, you are doomed to mediocrity as a modern leader.We are at a turning point of history. Four hundred years ago a method of managing organizations was developed that is still in use by nearly all institutions. It is called the organizational pyramid. It is structured according to rank, with the leader alone at the top. The leader gives orders to the highest-ranking officers of the organization, and his or her orders are filtered through a chain of command to the ranks of the workers at the bottom of the pyramid.

Experts agree that this structure no longer works effectively. This kind of management — command and control hierarchical management — has its good points but it cannot seem to cope with the demands of the increasing sophistication of participants and associates. So, someone got the bright idea that the leader should find a way to communicate more directly with his or her associates. The executive memo was created. But that hasn’t worked much better. Why? Because it is one-way communication. There is no feedback loop.


All organic systems are based upon feedback loops. Without feedback there is no life. By testing the power of this principle we discovered that there is tremendous energy locked up inside the hearts and minds of “ordinary” people. Obviously, there is a great deal more to feedback loops than can be described here, however, enough can be related for you to test their power.

You will learn by reading the articles (previously mentioned) that you must begin the process of communication with a general meeting. You will, of course, talk about the coming sales event, telling associates about improvements you have planned to make the sale better. You will give your staff an idea of what you expect to happen. There will be comments by the more talkative staff members, and that will be the extent of the feedback. Then everyone will go back to their work areas and business as usual will set in. Then you will cause the unexpected to happen.

Want To Sell Some Mattress For Your Dealers?

(LEFT) Tempur-Pedic enjoyed such success with a smaller ad in USA TODAY that they went to a full page. There is no fudging here, either the ad gets response or it does not... it can be tested with micrometer-like exactness. The ad features intelligent, persuasive copy, and is loaded with features that are exclusively Tempur-Pedic. How is it possible that Temper-Pedic can sell mattresses by mail and furniture stores have trouble attracting customers in to see their products? Furniture stores generally run weak and unproductive mattress ads because they get such limp advertising materials from their factories. The result is a vacuum of credibility, customers just don’t get enough information to make an informed decision and they are confused. Specialty stores selling mattresses spring up all over the place to fill the void. If a major mattress manufacturer would get serious about selling on a retail level and supply retail print programs that are crafted to sell effectively, things could change dramatically. That manufacturer would be ahead of the curve and hard to catch.

Every one of your team leaders will get a brief message from you. Your Sales Manager, Office Manager, Warehouse Manager, and so on will get this message, and it will be unexpected. This is important. This message will repeat the general points of the meeting and review your ideas and Vision of how to improve the upcoming event. You will tell your team leaders to meet with the team and go over these points again. Nothing very spectacular here, but there is another unexpected twist. You will then ask your team leaders to get feedback from the team about things the team can do to make this sales event better. On the back of your communication you will provide space for the teams to respond with their ideas. Then, you ask one more extremely important question. You will ask each team what they need from you to achieve the improvements they say they will make. Set a due date to turn in the sheets. Once the sheets are in, you will send out a brief thank you… this is also important, don’t neglect it. The communications loop has now been established, and you are loaded with feedback.


What you give to the teams is a promise that you will work harder (not longer, harder) to make the event successful. What you will have acquired is worth its weight in gold. If you carefully review feedback the teams provide, you will learn a great deal you could not have learned in any other way. You will see if your Vision has taken hold, and if you are getting buy-in. You will learn some of the land mines and errors that must be dealt with. Some of this feedback may not be pretty, but it will all be valuable. Remember that there is no failure, only feedback. When you get worthwhile feedback, you can make adjustments to fine tune your enterprise.

At this point in the process, there still remains some hard work to do. You must respond to each team with a brief statement acknowledging their response. You can discuss what you intend to do as a result of their communication. The important thing is to be responsive. Don’t let teams get the idea you are not interested in what they communicated. You have been daring. You have bypassed the palace guard, the anachronistic management command and control pyramid and you have stirred up the troops. You have given more meaning to the work of your associates. This is what feedback does, it brings an organization to life.

The result of your actions will loom large on the bottom line. And, you will have achieved some idea of what it is like when a Vision is communicated to associates and shared, by asking for, and valuing their opinions. Just imagine what this could accomplish on a grander scale in your organization. There is nothing magic about the theme… “Hitch your wagon to a star, and then get out and push.” This is very hard work. Once you master the concept, however, everything else becomes easier, and the future will belong to you. Now get busy and begin preparing a smashingly successful promotion.

Even A Store Closing Can Have An Upbeat Atmosphere

As if war in Iraq and recession were not enough! Halfway through a store-conversion event in Sierra Vista, AZ, the landlord pulled the plug on Thomas Home Furnishings. A good plan must be able to turn on a dime. This owner had a store-closing on his hands after telling the public he was converting, not closing the store. He made lemonade out of this lemon through a combination of editorial-type ads featuring the General Manager, Alan Sparks as spokesperson. Alan “talked” directly to customers and simply told the truth. The idea was to keep the good will and credibility of this store so its other locations could continue to flourish. The final result was seven weeks of the largest volume in the 47-year history of the store.

Larry Mullins, president of UltraSales, Inc., has 30+ years experience in the front lines of retail furniture marketing. Larry's mainstream executive experience, his creative work for "promoter-specialists," and study of advertising principles has enabled him to continually develop successful High-Impact strategies for home furnishings retailers. Inquires can be sent to Larry care of FURNITURE WORLD at lmullins@furninfo.com.