The difference between greatness and just average

Tess Donnelly(Editor’s note: Following is the latest installment in a series promoting Women of the Flooring Business, an industry group that provides members with a networking platform, mentorship, coaching and more. To join, please visit

In my 25 years working in the flooring business, I have seen a lot of stores. I have been in incredibly beautiful locations, average stores as well as “down-and-dirty” ones. Interestingly, I’ve found that the most successful stores are not always the most beautiful. The great stores share certain commonalities.

First and foremost, successful stores pride themselves on genuine teamwork. When things go wrong—and they inevitably do—the successful business focuses on finding solutions and everyone pitches in. In the “not-so-successful” businesses, everyone becomes consumed with assigning blame or finding faults. Not only is this extremely uncomfortable to watch but it also destroys morale.

Another indicator of potential success is the willingness of RSAs and other personnel to learn new things. Through observation and discussions with the owners, I can tell—just by witnessing an eagerness to learn—exactly who will become a valuable asset to that company.

Another characteristic of a successful retail operation is the makeup of the staff. In my experience, I’ve found that in stores where there’s a greater ratio of female to male salespeople— and where there’s a respectful energy between the owner, staff and team members—there’s better chemistry overall. don’t get me wrong; I am not saying only 100% female-driven businesses can thrive. To be successful everyone needs to be driven and goal oriented while caring about employees and customers. I have personally watched female RSAs pitch in to help a colleague find a solution, on the spot, to issues that stop some employees in their tracks. I’ve also found that women make better multitaskers. I’m amazed by how women can juggle their children and their business while they build their careers. It’s one of the reasons, I believe, that they are so driven.

Also, women in general—and especially female owners and managers of floor covering stores—tend to share information, tips and advice more freely. That’s certainly the case with the Women of the Flooring Business. A key aspect of the group is the sharing of best practices and ideas. The group’s members are willing to learn from each other.

One of the most important things I continually learn from this group is to never lose sight of what my customers need. Listening to our group members has given me a new sense of confidence as I call on my customers.

Tess Donnelly is currently territory manager with Stanton Carpet. Her responsibilities include training and educating sales associates on new products and sales tips. Tess Donnelly has had previous stints with Mohawk Industries, Floors USA and Jim Boyd’s Flooring America.

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