I am a huge proponent of employee training. Many of you might believe you do a great job in this area.

Since I’ve been involved with helping dozens of wholesalers that operate showrooms and independent decorative plumbing in the kitchen and bath showroom businesses with selling skills training, I’m here to tell you I don’t believe our great industry, as a whole, does a very good job in training showroom employees.

This was brought home in some powerful statistics in the May 2019 issue of this fine publication. In the ASA News section were two graphs and several paragraphs that indicate that there’s a lot of room for improvement in the area of employee training. ASA used its annual Operating Performance Report data, combined with aggregate data compiled by the Association for Talent Development (ATD), to show the PHCP industry falls short in time and dollars spent on training their employees. Now, yes, this includes all wholesaler employees and not just showroom folks, but I’ll bet the statistics would be very similar.

Look at these statistics:  All U.S. companies spend 31.5 hours of training per employee per year. All the reporting PHCP and PVF supply firms spend 13 hours per year per employee.  All U.S. companies spent an average of $1,208 per year, per employee on training while the PHCP and the PVF supply firms spent $220 per year per employee. Right now there appears to be a big upcoming talent drain on the horizon. ASA’s human capital ISAT team raised awareness of this to the ASA Board of Directors at the Winter Leadership Meeting in February. There is, and will be, an accelerated number of retirements in our industry. There is, and will be a huge need to find, select, hire and retain the talent required to keep our businesses relevant and thriving in the coming years.

The main article asks: “How much focus does your organization put on training? Not just with words but in actual effort.” The article goes on to say, “No one wants to have employees take training that isn’t going to have some sort of payoff.” 

The “cost avoidance gene” is strong in our industry. The thought of wasting time and money on an altruistic but futile effort is not appealing. So, we need to look to invest in training that we know is directly connected to “on the job” behaviors that are required of our employees. The article goes on to explain how ASA University can help.

I have worked with ASA in developing a seven-chapter “Showroom Selling Skills” workbook and put on a series of webinars for the ASA members on this subject.  


No substitute for educating

When we started our business in 1980 it was one of the first (DPHA) showrooms in America. There was no pool of folks to find experienced employees. Right from the beginning we knew if we were going to be successful we needed to develop a formal training program for all our employees.

Our training started day one on the job (here’s your desk, your coworkers, the restrooms and kitchen, etc.). We did team training every Friday from 8-9 a.m. About 50% of the sessions were on product knowledge – usually with a manufacturers rep doing the training of the products. Then about 25% of the sessions were dedicated to teaching selling skills. Heck, ours is a selling business — don’t you have an obligation to teach folks how to sell? The other 25% of the training sessions were about the state of the company, computer, policy and procedure training and communication.

Over the years we developed what I believe was one of the best, most talented team of employees in the industry. We recognized our employees were our most important asset — so we worked very hard at giving them all the tools they needed to be successful individually and for the company. I believed then, and still do today, that training begins day one and never ends. And, that you must have a written, documented training program. Combine this with well-written, comprehensive job descriptions and well-done performance evaluations and you are giving your team members every opportunity to be successful.

A friend of mine told me that my company should be in the “education business if I wanted to be successful.” This was great advice, so I’m passing it onto you.

Training is the most efficient and least expensive answer to employee improvement. Unfortunately it remains close to the bottom of too many of your priority lists. Think about this – the money you spend on displays, trucks, office furniture and computers represents money gone forever. Meanwhile, the money you invest in training good employees is money that comes back to you later in the form of increased productivity and job efficiency.

I’ve had several of my consulting clients complain that too often they have trained folks and then lost them to their competitors. Here I think it comes back to the team, work environment, work culture and compensation at your workplace. I read somewhere “if you think training employees and watching them leave is expensive, try not training them and watching them stay.”

Training you’re showroom team comes in many forms and from various sources. I believe the number-one source should be in-house training (as referred to above). Your vendor partners are/should be your main source of training on the products you sell. There are consultants – like yours truly, that offer various forms of training.

My favorite subject has always been sales skills training. But there are dozens of books and professionals that specialize in this area. I mentioned ASA and its ASA University platform. It’s customized for your industry. Most buying groups offer training in various subjects at their annual conferences. Your local community college may have some courses that would be helpful. And, in this digital age – there are webinars on various subjects, and more vendors are hiring their own trainers to send out into the field to train on their products and services. Plus, many of these vendor partners have videos and CDs that can/should be used.

Here are some thoughts on how to assess your showroom’s (company) training needs:

  1. Evaluate your training needs.
  2. Figure out what training material must be included.
  3. Determine the most effective method of instruction. 
  4. Decide how to select the employees that need to be trained.
  5. Determine who the instructor or instructors should be.
  6. Set up the schedule.
  7. Set up a system to record the results and to evaluate the success of the training.
  8. Whether the program is voluntary or mandatory, you’ll need to “sell it to the team.”
  9. Go back to step one. A successful training program is one that is continually reevaluated and changed in response to changing times.

Please – take this seriously. Your ultimate success depends on your people.

HIRE the best

TRAIN the best


COMPENSATE the best...and


Good selling!