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Our guests on this episode are true innovators with a get it done mindset. As representatives for Kohler, an iconic name in our industry, they embody the company’s belief that better business and a better world go hand-in-hand. Join us for a conversation with Amy Dyer & Megen Rapp who believe their company culture is what allows them to make things happen.

Show highlights include:

  • How developing your brand and culture as a builder enables you to provide memorable experiences (4:22) 
  • Why getting complaints about a project can be a blessing-in-disguise that make your relationship stronger (9:56) 
  • How autonomy and empowerment make your team “power up” and never want to work for anyone else (15:56) 
  • The “Yes Mentality” secret that makes it almost impossible to fail (23:56) 
  • How to solve complex problems simply by listening (24:32)
  • You need to have a culture of listening at all levels (25:01)
  • You can come up with solutions just by listening (25:28)

To get the most out of this podcast, head over to https://buildernuggets.com and join our active community of like-minded builders and remodelers.

Read Full Transcript

You've come up with solutions just by listening.

Welcome to another episode of Builder Nuggets, the show where builders and remodelers discover how to build thriving businesses while working less. I'm Duane Johns and together with Dave Young, we share the elements of success that have helped hundreds of contractors like you build better lives.

(00:20): Our guests today are true innovators with a, get it done mindset as representatives for Kohler and iconic name and our industry. They embody the company's belief that better business and a better world

(00:30): Go hand in hand. Amy Dyer is a senior sales executive with Kohler company specializing in residential projects. As she supports designers, remodelers, custom builders and showrooms. Amy started her career with Kohler in 2008 in the Chicago market. And in 2014, transferred to Charlotte, North Carolina. She is an active member of several trade organizations, including Neri and KBA IDs, ASI D and N a H B. That's a lot of initials, Dwayne, that is, and then Megan Rapp is senior market analyst with Kohler focused on supporting and reaching trade professionals through campaigns, trade shows, industry events, programs, and communications. She began her career with Kohler in 2016 and has worked with their in their kitchen and bath power systems and communications divisions. Megan holds a bachelor's degree in advertising from Michigan state university and a master's degree from Northwestern university. Welcome Amy and Megan. It's great to have you both here with us today. Thanks for having us Megan, when we when we talk with people that work for Kohler or folks that have visited Kohler in Wisconsin, they all talk about the Kohler experience. What makes that so special?

(01:40): I hear that all the time from our customers and our sales reps the power of visiting the village of Kohler in Kohler, Wisconsin, I think it it's so special because everything within this small village is Kohler owned and branded and Kohler. Company's a fourth-generation family owned business that I think was founded in 1873. So there's so much history in Kohler in the village, and it's not just our manufacturing and the factories that we have there in headquarters for so many of our associates, but we've got golf courses and the American club, which is very famous. And when we bring customers to Kohler and when we're able to show people the history and heritage that our brand has, I think they can really connect with that, especially our trade customers, because so many of them have family and generational businesses. And even those that don't the culture and the pride that we have. I think that is very apparent when you visit comes through so strongly and people want to be a part of it.

(02:47): It's almost a magnetism and it's cool because not only is it a town and renowned company, but you're also really delivering an experience to everybody who, who comes there and, you know, from our chat earlier in the week, that experience isn't just for, you know, to impress visitors, it's the staff who are involved in it. It's the community like you guys are really immersed in creating something pretty exciting. So that Kohler itself becomes a, a culture in and of itself. Is this something that you're bringing out to the industry as well? Is this something that you feel you and Amy are working in the field? You're do you bring that? Do you bring that to others? And what advice do you have for builders who want to create this? Because, I mean, you said like from the 1870s or something like that, it doesn't happen overnight, but what a magical thing to be able to do,

(03:36): I think from the marketing standpoint specifically, the touch points are so important. And when we do have people visit Kohler, Wisconsin, and they're interacting with marketing associates and sales associates, and perhaps our hospitality associates, if they're staying there, think what Kohler does well. And what we're really known for in many ways is making sure that that brand is visible and Felton and, you know, something that people take away with them after they leave. It's not just enough to make an impression at that time of the visit, but what do they remember about their experiences with Kohler? And I think you see that come through all the way to our product design and development and engineering. And certainly an Amy can speak to this, how our sales reps interact with customers as well. But you asked about tips for builders. And I think something that you can learn from the Kohler brand and a lot of the success they've had is those same touch points. And what are the touch points you're having with your customers? And what are you, what's your brand? You know, what's your culture and are all of your associates making sure to embody that same brand, because so much of this has to be consistent to work. It can't be just one interaction. I think Kohler does that well. And it's certainly something that a lot of businesses can benefit from

(04:52): The words you use. There is memorable. That's, that's so powerful because w what we do as builders, you know, nothing should be more memorable than your home, and they experienced that. You're getting there. So, so that's an awesome keyword to think about as you're creating an experience for somebody, but you mentioned hospitality, associates, if you happen to be staying there, but it got me thinking that wouldn't it be cool to take that hospitality associate approach to everybody on your team? Like really, when you think about it, whoever's interacting with you is having that, that experience. It's kind of a cool mindset that you just brought out there. How does this translate? You know, when you're going out and seeing builders in, in the field or at events and interacting with them,

(05:36): I think it comes out in that as a, an associate of color. We truly are proud of our heritage and what our company has built and the innovation, and it comes out because it's, we're not fake. We are just living the reality of being able to work for this great company. And when somebody sees that the embodiment is what Megan mentioned, that word embodiment. I think that's just very true, because we do have a passion for our company, our history and our products. And so when we're excited about a product and telling somebody about it and how it might fit perfectly into, into a builder or remodeler's plan, and what they're trying to emulate themselves is a very real cause it's, it's just, it's not made up. It's not fake. It's, it's very authentic. So that comes through. And I think that's, what's important to everybody who, you know, has a staff of folks working with them, that everybody is on the same page and on what your guiding principles are. And it comes out in, in just pride.

(06:39): Talk about the memorable experience have for anyone that's been to IBS or K biz we'll we'll know that Kohler for a while now has had one of the most impressive large presentations and booths that, that are there. And you, you certainly do walk away with a memorable experience. No doubt. Absolutely. So Amy, you and I first met, I think it was nary here in Charlotte and probably with some other builder groups, but right away, we had some conversations and discovered that there's probably some ways that we could work together on some other industry events and opportunities. And you actually were gracious enough to present for us at a leadership event that Dave and I were a part of with some builders and remodelers back in 2019. And it became very apparent that those types of events are what, where you like to spend your time. Why don't you elaborate a little bit on being involved in that sort of stuff.

(07:30): It was a great experience to, to talk to so many different business owners and yeah, I love being involved in customer events. It's I think I feed off of the excitement and the questions that builders ask me, and you don't want to just be the person they call when something, you know, there's a problem, but helping develop the ideas and the specifications and talk about programs and how we can help. That's really where I thrive. And I, I get better because I'm learning from customers and their questions and those opportunities. So thank you for letting me participate in that great event.

(08:08): Okay. One of the things you mentioned there is that it's nice when they're coming to you with stuff other than problems, and it begs the question, what makes a good builder partner for you guys? What are the traits? It's, it's one thing for the builder to say, Hey, you know, Kohler, you're, you know, you're my rap, you're here to provide this service to me, but it's another thing to turn around and understand that the, the value that our representative, a brand representative brings to the table and to collaborate with you as a resource, how do you get that mindset? And is it something you're able to develop? Like tell us about the builders who do it really

(08:46): Well. I love being challenged by something that is a need that a builder or a customer has, that we don't already have developed. So we to be creative and think outside the box and provide that solution. And that's where Megan and I have have thrived in coming up with solutions for our customers based on the questions that we get from them and, you know, needing to develop those resources for them.

(09:11): Yeah. I think that's something that we talked about a lot too, when we first met was what is the relationship with a builder and in a trade or a vendor. We had a podcast episode not too long ago called it's a relationship, not a transaction. And that's really what it is. You know, it's not, it's not about all, gee, can I get that extra 1% discount? Or it's, it's more about what, what is being provided? You know, what are, what is the true, what are the services what's going to make this relationship better? Is it the true customer service? Is it folks like you being able to solve problems for up against a specific challenge? I know with, you know, with co-learner or any interactions we've ever had when it comes to being able to get through to somebody for whether it's product support or information on a new product, you know, it's top shelf service. So that's the relationship thing that, that makes it so special.

(09:56): I don't want to downplay the fact that when customers reach out to me with technical question or problem, that I think that's a great opportunity to wow. Them because it's fun for me as well, because then I get to be a problem solver and it's always fun to, to help somebody and make their life easier. So I actually welcome if a builder or a contractor or a plumber or anybody calls me with a technical issue that I can, I can solve that problem, because then in the future, I know that they will be more comfortable calling me again, maybe with something else, you know, a question on how can I offer my customers something special or something different, or can you come sit down with me and teach me about this digital showering that I don't really know a lot about. So even when something seems like it's, it's a challenge, it actually gives you an opportunity to, to build that relationship.

(10:47): Well, and talk about having a pro on your team. I mean, who wouldn't love to have the power and the experience of a knowledgeable rep from Kohler on their team to be able to go in and inspire even, you know, your project managers or the designer that you're interacting with, or possibly a plumber or a, another trade on the site to help out with that, like, this is what we're trying to create. Is this the power of collaboration where, you know, you have hundreds of people who go into a project and you've got the opportunity to attract experts like Amy to your team, and then take advantage of it. And it's only going to instill confidence and excitement and energy into your, into your clients. So Megan, tell us a bit about your role where you like to focus

(11:29): Your time. Yeah. I feel like I'm pulled in a lot of different directions, but my main focus being on the train touch points with the Kohler brand. So anyone from plumber, builder, remodeler architect, designer, you know, the whole, the whole spectrum. So that could be anything from digital experiences at Kohler to our trade shows that I talked a little bit about and Kohler owned events, things that, so I've worked with Amy a lot on a lot of the projects that I'm responsible for, for those trade customers, you know, speaking and bringing that branding back into it. We really do make sure the customer is at the forefront of the decisions we make. And we want to be sure that the time we're spending is benefiting them and providing them with tools and resources to make their lives easier. So collaborating with Amy and, and other sales reps as well, but Amy and I have have a unique relationship in the best way possible has been really important for me in my role, because she has the ability to be the frontline.

(12:30): It was interesting. And you said that you really don't work on the same team and your successes were due to totally different perspectives. And I think you came up with a, maybe it's a new industry term, but it was a, was it cross functioning, teamwork,

(12:42): Cross functioning collaboration. So pretty close. That's good. We'll tag that. Yeah, you're right. So Amy and I definitely report up to two different sides of the business marketing and sales, and not to say that we don't have a lot of associates working cross collaboratively with other teams, but, you know, I think what Amy and I've been able to do has been so unique, starting at a trade show for remodelers that we first met at the first time we'd ever met or worked together and hearing remodeler's feedback directly in our, in our tabletop and asking them, you know, what are the problems that you're facing today and what kind of things could Kohler provide for you as a solution to those problems? And Amy and I are both just like pretty type a and w go getters and want to really solve those issues for our customers. I mean, that's the bottom line. So even though some of these things may not fall perfectly in our scope of work, we've been able to get a lot of things done and accomplished, and I believe they've been really impactful for our customers by breaking some of those barriers and working together, even if we might not organically always have those interactions.

(13:51): Yeah. So you guys have a real together, you've developed this sort of get it done mindset, and you've developed courses, you've developed specialized marketing materials. Tell us about some of the cool things that you've done, you know, how they came about.

(14:06): And I worked that remodeler trade show together, and we had multiple tradespeople remodelers come up to our table and say what was missing or what they needed. We felt bad. We didn't have a solution for them right then and there. So during a break, we actually went and sat at the coffee shop at the trade show and we sat down and we said, we've got to develop this because it's such a need and we can do it. It's something that is within our capability to do so we started kind of throwing down some ideas and sketching out, good, better, best room plans, things like that. And so it took a long period of time to ultimately execute it, but it ended up being a great brochure that is probably the top ordered brochure that we offer today. And now we're working on an update to it, to put some new, innovative, you know, new finished lunches that we have in it.

(15:01): So it's something that it, wasn't just a sh a, one-time a flash in the pan. It's a resource that is going to contain content that helps a lot of people going forward. So that was the first project that we worked on together, and we found a lot of success with it. And we also, I think it's based on the, the culture that Kohler gives us to work with. So we're not within a silo that we can't, you know, go outside the box and try something different. We're given that flexibility that if we see something that needs to be improved upon, then we can do it. We can just run with it. And so we really appreciate that ability,

(15:43): A quick reminder, that the best way to get the most out of this podcast is to engage with the builder nuggets community, visit our website@buildernuggets.com and follow along on Facebook and Instagram.

(15:56): That's something really important to be able to put into your company, no matter what size company you are, is that sense of empowerment and autonomy that you are. You're giving your people the opportunity to follow, you know, follow your company, vision and ideals, but put their own personal spin on it. This is how people grow within an organization. This is how you develop new relationships. And it's just a good mindset thing to do. And in every level and every level of the company too, if you're a project manager and you're overseeing things with trade partners, and you're on a job site to have these things in mind, how am I going to empower this person to put their spin on it within the confines of how we, how we generally need to run our business, but leverage the power of people like we've talked about earlier.

(16:44): There's so many people available or who are part of your build that all have individual talents. It's awesome. When you see a company that's as big as Kohler valuing what you guys are bringing it to the table, the conversations that you're having with builders, and you're actually getting stuff done. That's, that's cool. And in our conversation earlier this week, you talked about some other initiatives that you're doing for the industry around empowering more people to get involved. We know there's a shortage of people in trust and in a shortage of women involved in the industry, tell us some of the things that you're doing around that to inspire others, to get on board with you guys.

(17:22): For LinkedIn. I found an organization here in Charlotte called she built this city. I was very interested in their mission, which is to build the number of women who are in the trade, so that not only helps the labor shortage in general, but also bringing women up to, you know, provide them with opportunity that they wouldn't have had otherwise, especially in an industry that in the past hasn't had you know, a great deal of women in it. So there's just so many different facets of this organization that I thought were so interesting. So I brought it to Megan and said, what can we do with she built this city, maybe corporately. So we've, we've had conference calls with the organization, both Megan and I. And then we also, I brought this opportunity to nary as well. So I'm on the board of the Charlotte chapter of Neri. And we're actually partnering with, she built this city to try to bring apprentices, bring people together. So from remodelers who have positions available, and that maybe they could take some apprentices, who've gone through this, she built the cities program. It's just, I love putting those pieces together to find solutions. We're just starting now. But I think there's really some exciting things coming down the pike for, for us and for that organization, as we work to

(18:43): One of the other exciting things right now is the fact that people can actually get together and events are starting back up. What are some of the events that you guys are going to be at? And I know we'll have some of the audience out there who will want to go in or, or attend some of your things who are excited to get back out there, learn, share all that collaborate. What does your calendar look like over the next six to 12 months

(19:06): In October, we've got a trade show with PHCC for our plumbers. So that'll be in person. We're really looking forward to that. And we'll of course be at Cadas next year in February, 2022 in person you know, something that COVID is also allowed us to do is to reach a larger audience than we might have been able to reach in these in-person shows by offering virtual events. So I don't, I don't think those are going to go away from, for Kohler. I think that we will learn, and this probably applies to many different things with the shift we're going back in person. But I think that we will end up doing a mix of events to try to accommodate for as many customers as possible. So some virtual events coming up that will be a surprise at the end of this year.

(19:56): Okay. Well, keep us posted on the, on the surprises and we'll we'll help share the news with you. It has really given us an opportunity to come up with some creative ideas so we can still stay engaged with our customers. And there've been so many different events of virtual flower, bouquet design, virtual wine, and cheese, chocolate tasting, make your own Teddy bear like there's so many now. So I think it's great that now we realize there are ways to keep in contact with our customers and keep engaged, but we are super excited that now we're able to start doing in-person events. So wine and chocolate tasting events in person where we can actually show off the product to designers and specifiers. So they'll, there'll be starting back up in probably August, September. Well, I'm

(20:45): Sure you guys are gonna deliver it to mean that's one of the things that's struck me the most with working with the two of you, is that whatever the challenge or the opportunity you don't stop and wait for the answer, you know, you guys go out there and provide the solution. You know, sometimes you'll see folks will be presented with a challenge and they might kind of freeze or pause and we'll call that analysis paralysis. Sometimes there's so many ideas or options on the table that people don't don't know what to do do next, but you guys are a great example of how you just take the resources that you have and put it to work and get something moving pretty quickly. Tell us a little bit about the there was like a CE program, continuing education program you put together that turned out pretty spectacular.

(21:24): Yeah. So that was another need that we uncovered. It was a universal design. It's just such a, an, not just a hot topic, but an important topic. I actually was interested in universal design several years ago when I learned about it, it's that you want to make a space beautiful and accommodating for folks as they stay in their home. They don't want to leave their home as they age. People don't even want to think that they're going to age. So it's really planning the design of your home to enable you to stay in it for as long as possible. And universal design principles are very important for builders, remodelers designers, to understand, as you know, everybody, we have a aging population that we are working with. So years ago, Kohler did have a CU, which is a continuing education course on universal design, but it had lapsed.

(22:18): And, you know, I was being asked to present CPU's and I didn't have that topic. And I really wanted that topic. I put some feelers out and I asked, is anybody working on this? Or when are we going to have a new CU? And I wasn't really getting anywhere. So I actually became CU certified as a cap specialist, certified aging in place specialist. So I learned a lot from that course. And then I reached out to Megan and said, will you work with me on creating the CEU for us? And so she said, yes. And we actually, we didn't ask permission. We just did it. We spent a lot of hours in teams, chat rooms, you know, working on the PowerPoint together. And this is a big PowerPoint. It's a hundred, at least a hundred slides. We went through the process and it got approved by the AIA and ASI, D I D C C all the letters that are required.

(23:10): And it was posted onto a website where the trade can, architects designers can go and do self guided training. And within the first six months we had 500 people watch it. I mean, it was just very popular right out of the gate. So that was another one of our successes that we're really proud of. Yeah. It definitely met the need for a lot of customers and something, I think between projects. I mean, I work on is we rarely if ever say no, it's almost always, yes. I can't even think of a time for a project that either she's proposed to me or I've proposed her, or even like a refresh of something where it's a no, it's often, like how can we make this fit in to the small time that we have to work on things, but, you know, just thinking through like listeners and what they can take away from some of the success that Amy and I've had working together. I think like that, yes, mentality is really important. And I hear that also with making sure that it's meeting a customer or a client's needs. I think that's just like a great recipe for success.

(24:15): That goes back to when, when we spoke a few days ago, it was, you know, you talked about the culture of listening at all levels. I wrote that down when we talk, because I think it's so important. And for anybody listening, I mean, through your organization, through your, your own company, with, with trade, your clients, everybody listening to everything is so huge. You're, you're never gonna know what your end user, your client really wants or finds value in if you're not listening to them to start with. So it's interesting to see how you guys have taken that as a company Kohler from top to bottom, and you come up with solutions just by listening. We have listeners like all across north America, how many different Kohler reps like you are there across the network. And what's the right way. If somebody isn't working with their Kohler rep right now for our builders or designers or trade people to reach out and develop that relationship with their local rep, how do they figure that out?

(25:09): We do have a map of reps of what our coverage is throughout the United States. There's, I don't know, at least a hundred of us, 150, maybe more, we are channel focused in some regions and zone focus in others. So what I mean by that is I specifically focus on custom builders, remodelers designers, and showrooms. So if you fall into that category and you're in North Carolina, then I'm probably your girl, but you can always reach out to Kohler headquarters, customer service, one eight hundred, four cooler. It's a phone number 1-800-456-FOUR five three seven, and you can call them and they can pull up the map and find out which rep is in your area and focuses on what you focus on. So we have reps that focus on mainly projects and specifications, hospitality, commercial, national builder. So, you know, just having that information about what specific need you have and where you live, they can provide you with that. Rep's contact information.

(26:12): Dwayne, I think we need to make a trip out to Kohler, Wisconsin at some point and check this out. It sounds like an amazing experience. And we're grateful that you ladies are bringing that experience to us and our audience. We love collaborating with true pros. Dwayne, what were your what were your biggest takeaways today? These are the biggest takeaways for me really are the top of it really is the culture of listening to that. That's something that I think you can just apply no matter what you're doing, listening to your clients, to improve the experience that I think Kohler does a great job. I'd probably definitely at all levels. You know, they see a need, they see something that needs to be changed and they're doing it for that end user experience because they talk about that's really what makes them, they want people to have a memorable experience, solving problems versus finding problems.

(27:00): I think that's rampant in the industry, maybe even in society to some degree, that's a whole nother episode right there. But I think that that innate ability to just take on a challenge, you know, and solve it that's huge. And then the last thing really was being proud of who you are, your legacy. It, it reminds me of the pig and a dog show episode that we aired recently. You know, it's, everybody's gonna have their unique things, their quirks broadcast that stuff, you know, take it. And that's what makes you, you, and that is what's going to provide that experience to the, to the client. So I'm going to add one more thing too. And we touched, we did touch on it earlier, and that is, you've got the opportunity to put Kohler on your team. It's clear to me in talking to both Amy and Megan today, and there's other great companies and other great reps out there that this comes down to you as an owner and the culture you build within your team, all these resources are there.

(27:53): You know, these are people that are pros in the industry, working on educating the industry, attracting new people, empowering women, all sorts of amazing things. And they are literally a phone call away to be on your team. It's there and there, they're not the only ones. They're the only ones that are doing it this way with Kohler and, and putting their personal spin on it. But what a great mindset to put into your own business is that we're going to reach out. We're going to work on our relationships with our vendors, really get to know their strengths and what makes them tick. And, you know, it was great for, for you ladies to do a deep dive with us today into how you're doing it, because there will be people who say, yeah, I want that on my team. I can deliver that. And my business is worth investing into these relationships.

(28:39): So, yeah. Thanks for being so generous with your time to Dave's point. It is huge that it's so much more than just, Hey, I'm your Kohler rep or whatever the, you know, whatever the company would have understand I'm John, I'm your arm, your rep, you guys are there for all sorts of stuff. It's not just, I wouldn't just, well, my relationship with Amy, I wouldn't just think of calling Amy. If I had a client that didn't know how to use a faucet, it's so much more than that. It's Amy, we've got something going on here in the local building community, and we need a contributor. Somebody that can come in and help putting together programs for, for continuous education learning. There's so much, and it's, it's really powerful that it goes above and beyond that. So thanks for what you guys are doing.

(29:19): Kohler really can be an extension of so many teams. And if it's not a local rep, we've got one of the best customer service I'm biased, but one of the best customer service teams in the industry and resources and all sorts of things on our website and tools to help. And I think a lot of conversations I have with professionals at trade shows as often, I just didn't know I had the ability to have this. I didn't realize that this was accessible to me. And certainly if you can find an Amy, I mean, you've, you've struck gold as far as I'm concerned if you're a professional, but even if you don't have a rep in your area or, you know, just don't want a relationship in that way, we've got so many other solutions. So Megan,

(30:04): On the resources for, I guess, specifically for the builders and remodelers and other trades folks that might be out there, you have some pretty, pretty unique things online. Yeah, we do well, one way to access. Some of that would be through a local rep and we've got several programs that we offer for builders, plumbers, remodelers that a rep could help navigate to which one's best for that professional. And then things that are just open for any trade would be like high res imagery that they could use in marketing materials that has Kohler and Sterling and Calista brand. All of course, under the Kohler company, umbrella of set photography, logos, you know, things like that. I think sometimes pros that I've, I've worked closely with, that need assistance in that area. They're, they're focused on the building, but maybe not so much on the marketing side of things. And I don't mean that they don't understand the value of marketing, but maybe where to start with some of that. And how do I get imagery? And, you know, it's expensive to have set photography taken. So they want to utilize colors and we really do have beautiful, beautiful imagery. So all of that's free. We offer that to trade professionals, right on our website to access a full library of high res downloadable images.

(31:14): That's what the show is all about. It's about collaboration at all levels, and you guys are doing a great job of it. So thanks again. Well, hopefully things keep improving as they are, and we will see you guys. And there's a February next year, I believe for IBS. Okay. So looking forward to that. Thank you.

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