Leadership Immersion Program


Aiden Hegg, Kelly Gunville, Trevor McAllister, Mandy Jeffries, Janeen Long, Jason Israels, Adam Hudson, Josh Hudson, Jeff Gelb, Brad Scheig, Carlos Capo Jr., Shane Lalji, Jeff Burnes, Alex Jaffee, Logan M.I.T. (Manager in Training at Hudson’s).

June 2017—

Top 100 retailer shares the secrets of its success with 12 young retailers at this year’s HFA Next Generation Leadership Immersion Experience.

HFA member Brad Schweig thought he’d show up at the HFA’s Next Generation Leadership Immersion Experience and write down a few notes on a piece of paper—a few actionable items he could take back to his store and implement in the coming months.

Turns out he needed more than a piece of paper. “I’ve never come up with so many notes from a peer-to-peer event,” Said Schweig of Sunnyland Outdoor Furniture. Brad and his dad David are this year’s HFA Retailers of the Year in the under $10 million category. “I normally try to take as few notes as possible since I only want to write down the most important things I can take action on versus everything I hear. I have so many ideas that I would need to take a month off just to process all of them and started implementing some of them.”

Schweig isn’t complaining. Just the opposite. He and the other 11 participants were thrilled to take part in what is becoming one of the Home Furnishings Association’s most popular events. Young retailers like Schweig get to spend three days at a successful HFA furniture store and hear tips and secrets from a top 100 retailer. This year Schweig and his fellow Immersion retailers visited Hudson’s Furniture in Florida to hear from Josh Hudson, this year’s HFA Retailer of the Year for stores with more than $10 million in annual sales.

Immersion participants learned how Hudson’s runs its daily operations while also learning more about the company’s philosophy.

The participants learned valuable leadership philosophies, key performance indicators, pricing and margins, salesmanship, human relations, compensation, customer service, marketing, warehouse safety and more.

HFA member Alex Jaffee of Household Furniture in El Paso, Texas, was impressed with how open and giving Josh Hudson and his staff were with sharing information.

The Hudson’s Furniture staff spent three days sharing the family’s philosophy for running a successful business. That philosophy is centered around a sales-driven staff with ownership thinking. The sales teams work the entire day-to-day process.

About that: The sales team has a process for everything and hold all staff members accountable.

They track and measure every single process in their business. Because everything is tracked, there’s little room for excuses—hence the accountability.

Immersion participants learned that nine of every 10 positions at Hudson’s are commission based. That way, says Josh Hudson, employees are kept accountable for their own success. Each employee develops their own individual growth/action plans. The store manager’s roll is to develop employees and set them up for success.

“Seeing how Josh uses data to manage his business, and seeing how he organizes and leads his team,” was impressive,” said Jaffee.

HFA member Aiden Hegg of Klingman’s Furniture in Holland, Mich., said he plans on implementing two programs he learned about during the Immersion program. He’s going to make videos of Klingman’s reps explaining their product for sales associates to review from time to time. He also wants to implement a commission-based warehousing program similar to Hudson’s, which has reduced damaged goods. He’s even thinking about hosting private weekday parties once a month—another Hudson’s staple.

But for all the tips Hegg took home with him, none was more valuable than the face-to-face time with other retailers big and small, talking about strategies that worked and didn’t, frustrations and solutions to problems.

“One of the many highlights would be the tremendous networking opportunity it provided. The chance to have lengthy talks with retailers of all sizes on failures and successes was priceless,” he said.

Schweig agreed. “The leadership experience was an invaluable trip,” he said. “It gave wonderful insight on how a large family-owned operation should be run. It is structured in a way that allowed us to tour the distribution center, showroom floors along with seeing the management style that has worked well for Hudson’s organization while also having open and friendly discussions with other operations of all sizes.”

Jaffee said that for all the number-driven accountability that Hudson’s asks from its employees, he was pleased to soak in many less tangible lessons on leadership, organization, and time management. “Sometimes those skills get overlooked when running a business,” Jaffee said. “I’ve learned that I need to find ways to improve those skills for myself and my team. This was a nice reminder.”

The Leadership Immersion Experience was created in 2015. Since then HFA members have visited Top 100 retailers like RC Willey in Salt Lake City, El Dorado Furniture in Miami, and American Furniture Warehouse in Englewood, Colorado. This year’s Leadership Immersion Program sponsor is STORIS, the leader in retail software solutions for the furniture, bedding, appliance and electronics industries.

Kaprice Crawford is the education director and Next Generation Now liaison for the Home Furnishings Association.

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