The Right Path
You might think that having customers sell for you wouldn’t work for a man who likes to control the process so much that he manufactures his own product. But it does, in part because Richmond says he hires for attitude; he will train people in sales. The full-time sales team is made up of eight energetic men. “Energy is critical to morale,” Richmond says. “I have to keep that energy going. It’s like spinning plates, and if one is flagging, I’ve got to give it a little love.”
He grabs a piece of paper and draws a squiggly path. “I try to get salespeople to follow a road map,” he says. “We lead people—not push them—through attitude and energy. We know that if a salesperson follows the process, he will find consistency and success.” And if he strays? Richmond brings him back to the path and the process. “But it’s not like [selling at] McDonald’s,” he says. “That’s the fun part [of working here].”
The installers, designers, draftsman, and back-end people feel the love, too. Richmond enjoys treating his crew to dinners, boat rides, and sporting events, and everyone is able to garner some form of additional income for working harder, faster, smarter.
Richmond’s Bluetooth ear piece runs a daily marathon. Salespeople call in each night to recap their day. They often call during a sale to use his expertise as leverage. “But I know that if my sales guy calls one hour into it, he hasn’t gone through the process,” Richmond says. He holds weekly sales meetings. When reps are hired, they have to watch—and memorize—the Rick Grosso sales training video made just for the company.
The pitch that Grosso walks them through compares Matrix with and differentiates it from its competition: drywall and the Owens Corning Basement Finishing System. Salespeople show prospects a piece of drywall that has been sitting in water—not a pleasant sight or odor. They talk about the pros and cons of the Owens Corning product. It has visible seams. It’s water resistant, not water proof.
Like the employees themselves, customers are lead—not pushed—to the realization that Matrix is the obvious choice. Matrix looks like drywall. “And don’t you want your basement to look like the rest of your home, Mr. and Mrs. Prospect?” Matrix is water and mold proof. It is hard as stone. You can smack it with a mallet and nothing happens to it. “Does a baseball ever hit your basement wall, Mr. and Mrs. Prospect?”
“If we don’t have the path to take them down, they’ll never come to the conclusion that they should buy from us,” Richmond says.
Over the Wall
The path might be well laid out, with goals and objectives along the way, but it is a path not a cul-de-sac. Richmond not only manufactures panels for Matrix projects but also for sale to dealers in other locales. As award judge Bruce Case says, “Bringing the manufacturing part in-house makes sense. This was not a harebrained scheme.”
Richmond toys with the idea of franchising, but his first step is opening a second office in Detroit, a market he knows well. (That office opened in August, and is projecting $2 million in sales its first year.) He would also like to open offices in other markets across the country. He looks at new-home building and sees vast opportunities. He talks about possibly using the product for subfloors. He’s going to take over the warehouse next door “so we can get every miscellaneous piece—doors, hardware—and have that controlled in-house,” he says. “Who knows where manufacturing can go? Maybe we can create a shed. A click-and-lock system. There are other capabilities beyond standard basement panels.”
Richmond’s success is more than just a case of right place-right time. He discovered an untapped market: “In the basement-finishing world, there aren’t many major players,” he says. Yes, homeowners are nesting more, renovating existing internal space without spending the money on additions, but it takes more than that to go from a $5,000 investment to nearly $10 million in sales in less than four years. Success and profitability mean constant vigilance and accountability.
“As long as the battery on my phone is charged, I’m working,” Richmond says. “I’m tuned in all the time.” So while the dogs take turns chasing each other around the desks, and the pool table is open and ready for competition, the two-legged office occupants are usually too busy to play. But they seem to be having fun making money. Start early. End late. Work hard in between. Game on.
Stacey Freed is a senior editor at REMODELING.