This is a follow up story for Total Home Supply. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published almost 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
I am Mike Luongo, the managing member of Total Home Supply in Fairfield, NJ. We started our company in 2010. The core group that started the company came together on a common theme. We all came from other companies and we wanted to form a company that simply treated customers the way we would want to be treated. We have stuck with this formula and all of our policies reflect the same.
Over the years we have adjusted our product mix. In the beginning, we tried to carry everything for the home, from small appliances to furniture to heating and cooling systems. Over the years we realized we would be better served if we focus on our core product mix which is HVAC (heating and cooling) products. Once we focused on our core products, we experience strong growth.
This year we will have grown to around $500,000.00 a month.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Since we did our first story with Starter Story, we have added 3 full-time people this year. We have added an accounts payable person, a salesperson, and a warehouse person. These changes have helped us continue on our growth path. We now ship many more products out of our own warehouse which improved customer satisfaction. We are able to control more of the issues which come up with shipping. It also allowed us to start shipping many small items with the US Post Office.
You always have to look for ways to help your customer base. Pay attention to the trends. When you see an angle, go for it.
Due to the pandemic, more people are shopping online. Our call and email volume have increased. Adding another salesperson is helping us keep up with the increased volume. We still answer all incoming phone calls with a person, with no automatic answering system. This still gets a lot of compliments from our customers.
We have a second website that is dedicated to replacement parts for one of our manufacturers. This started as a basic site. We did not spend a lot of time, money, or effort. This site has grown over the last year and now is generating significant income. It is close to reaching 3% of our total gross income. This has been achieved with a zero marketing budget. The success of this site has us looking to launch more dedicated replacement parts sites in the future.
We have always felt we need to improve our standing with the manufacturers in the industry as we are seen as a disrupter. We have been working on our presence on LinkedIn. It has helped a bit. We have also tried to join some of the industry associations but so far, we have not been successful.
With that being said, the relationships with our manufacturers and vendors have never been better.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
Our biggest personnel issue has been finding the right salesperson. We tried hiring someone without experience. The idea was to train them so they would be tailored the way we want. Unfortunately, this idea proved to be unsuccessful. We found that after 6 months there was still a lack of understanding of the products. This led us to go on a search for people from the industry. After going through a few trial and error periods, I think we have found the right person.
The pandemic brought on new issues for us to deal with. In the spring, we could not have all of our employees come into the office. It was a great benefit that we started as a work from home company. It was an easy transition to go back to that model. We have limited the office staff to essential personnel only. This means our warehouse and operations. All others are currently working from home.
This model had a hidden benefit. When we were searching for our new salesperson, we were able to open up the field as we could allow work from home. The person who has filled the position is from several states away.
The pandemic has not hurt us. It has helped us. It opened our eyes to the ability to have the best people no matter where they live. It also showed us that if you respond to people's needs you will reap the benefits. I think we have succeeded by not only offering the ability to purchase online but to offer unparalleled support and service when the customer calls. Sometimes it is as simple as answering the phone with a human.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
Now that our team is on solid footing we are looking for more growth areas. We are working with many of our current vendors looking for ways to increase sales. We are also talking with new vendors. Our main goal is to remain focused on our core industry. We feel there are plenty of areas where we can grow and not enter new categories.
We are also working on technology and automation improvements. As we grow, we are trying to find repetitive tasks that can be automated or made easier so that our team can get more done.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
Sometimes you have to think outside the box. I watched a lot of restaurants not make adjustments to deal with the pandemic. I don’t know if they thought it would just pass or somehow they would magically survive. Yet I saw other restaurants start to do some very creative things like improving their take out menu, touchless curbside pickup, add delivery service, and even offer family-style take out. I was impressed.
This idea hit home in our business when we noticed at the beginning of the summer, customers were looking for fast and inexpensive cooling solutions. As more people began working from home, they needed to quickly make offices in their homes and apartments. This led us to make available all of the window air conditioners we could get our hands-on. We normally do not concentrate on this category since it usually belongs to the big box stores. But this year proved to be different. Since so many of the big box stores were not able to adjust to the new demand, we did and took full advantage of the additional sales.
You always have to look for ways to help your customer base. Pay attention to the trends. When you see an angle, go for it. Most large companies cannot react quickly to changing times. As a small business, you can change on a dime.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are not in a rush to add to our staff at this point. If our current staff can keep up with the demand, I would much rather take the additional profits and increase everyone's salary rather than adding someone new. Once the volume reaches the point where we must add, we will.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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