A designer, his brothers, and their parents prove the value of partnership in running a business.
FOUNDER OF FT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – based Allied Kitchen & Bath, Bill Feinberg has faced adversity and achieved success by maintaining his core beliefs in the strength of community. Going on 40 years in business, he shares his insights and experiences.
How does your background influence the way you approach the design business?
I’d say my experience came mostly from the school of hard knocks. When I moved to South Florida in 1979, I worked for a remodeling company, selling its services door-to-door. I loved sales and was pretty good at it. It’s that experience that got me into the design business.
I’d say it was my relationships that helped me start Allied Kitchen & Bath in 1984. About 10 associates from the company we were all working for came with me, and some are still with me to this day, including my three brothers. Even our parents worked for us for about 20 years until my dad passed away.
To be honest, it’s the relationships with my brothers that is our success formula. The four of us have been working together now for almost 39 years. And although I am the president of the company, we each play an important part and together have built a successful business.
What has been your biggest challenge – and how did you resolve it?
We just had knocked down our old offices and showroom to construct a new, larger building. Here we are with no real showroom, working out of a rented trailer on site, and boom – the 2008 recession hit. We had many people and families depending on us, and with the new showroom underway and a huge mortgage to pay, we had to survive. Failure was not an option, nor was it in my vocabulary. Using my life savings and a line of credit on my home, I decided to invest further and went on an advertising blitz. I also got more heavily involved in our community – first with our chamber of commerce and then with my non-profit organizations.
Between all the advertising and networking and everyone seeing this huge showroom being built in the middle of a recession, things started to click. More than 300 people attended our grand opening in 2009, and we raised about $30,000 for local charities. Over the past 13 years, we have hosted 200+ events in our showroom and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for worthy causes.
Today, we are known as the company that pays it forward. We host our biggest fundraiser every October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Our entire building turns pink, inside and out.
What is the most important career lesson you’ve learned?
Once we continue to learn everyday. That’s important to realize because there is always room for improvement and a way to do things better. Second, your word is more important than your written contract. Always keep your word, and give clients more than expected, even if it costs you more. Finally, charge enough for your work so you are able to withstand those hits you didn’t expect. Not every job is going to be a home run, but every job affects your reputation, so do whatever is necessary to satisfy every client possible, and make sure you finish on good terms. Previous clients and referrals are the backbones of our business, and we so value those and depend on them for future business.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about getting into the design business?
Strive to create relationships that will last a lifetime. Network; join your industry association; get involved with your local chamber of commerce, a charity, or a community organization; attend as many events as possible, and build relationships. Our clients become our friends, and if we create enough relationships, we will always stay busy
What activities do you enjoy when you’re not in the studio?
I am always somehow working or thinking about working. Work has always allowed me to do what I want, and my favorite thing to do – especially these days – is travel. And if I’m connected, I can still work (even if just a little) while I’m traveling.