Summer Fun 2019
Hello Paramount Family,
I hope all is well for you and your families and that you’ve been able to take some time away from work to savor and enjoy the moments with your families this summer. All of us at Paramount are grateful for the relationships we have with our Paramount family. As before, I will continue to stay hyper focused on our corporate culture of being customer centric. To that end, I came across this article written by Harvey Mackay columnist from AZ Central which really resonated with me. So much so, I wanted to share it with you. I’m thankful for your support, trust, friendship and all the faith you’ve put in Paramount. May God’s blessings of life shine upon you and your families.
IT’S NOT WHAT YOU CAN DO. IT’S WHAT YOU WILL DO.
As everyone who is in business knows, the customer is always right. The customer who isn’t always right is also not your customer. I’ve yet to see a business that can survive without customers.
I often hear stories that go both ways on customer service — the good experiences and the “what were they thinking?” moments. I’ve written and spoken extensively on the fundamental importance of stellar customer service, even when you’re not sure the person you are dealing with is ever going to be your customer. And I frequently use anecdotes to illustrate my points.
One of my favorites involves an animal, not a human, customer.
Elephants never forget, or so they say. A man who had gone to the circus as a small boy made a return visit years later. He was sitting in a cheap seat when an elephant came along, reached up into the stand, wrapped his trunk gently about the man and carried him over to deposit him gently in the best seat in the circus tent.
The man turned to his neighbor and said, “The elephant remembered that the last time I was here, years ago, I fed him peanuts.”
Just then the elephant came back, lifted his trunk, pointed it straight at the man and blew a stream of water in his face.
“Oh!” the man said. “I forgot I gave them to him in the bag.”
Elephants and customers have long memories.
Closer to home, my sister Margie shared an experience she had when flying with a veteran employee of Alaska Airlines. Not only does that company have (in my opinion) the coolest graphics on their aircraft, it is also consistently ranked highest in airline customer satisfaction among traditional carriers in by J.D. Power and Associates. Alaska’s bragging rights include a long list of travel industry awards.
Margie’s seatmate explained that the airline “goes above and beyond to pick employees in all fields that can each be described as a ‘people person.’” Its philosophy is that it can train someone to do their job, but it can’t train them to be a true people person unless they already are.
This attitude even extends to when employees are flying on their airline: they request a middle seat so their customers can get the better aisle and window seats. Alaska was the first airline in North America to sell tickets online and the first in the world to allow customers to check in and print boarding passes via the Internet. Very customer friendly, don’t you agree?
The company website acknowledges this commitment to customer service: “Whenever the history of commercial aviation is written, people ask how an obscure little airline in America’s hinterland has continued to survive and thrive while once-proud giants disappeared. Grit and determination will be part of the answer. However, more than that, it’s our people. Their caring, their resourcefulness, their integrity, their professionalism, and spirit.”
Back in Minneapolis, the Star Tribune recently featured Natalie Foltz, a Lyft and Uber driver who wanted to make a difference for her riders, “even if it was just getting them to crack a smile.”
So, she started giving handwritten notes to her passengers, inspirational quotes from famous authors and others she wrote herself. She even started a Facebook group for her riders that became an online community. One of the many messages said, “Thanks for the uplifting note today, and it was on green paper, my absolute favorite color. Thank you for taking time and brightening my day!”
Natalie says sharing the notes is the best part of her job. Make sure you and your employees share Natalie’s attitude.
The moral: It’s not about what you can do; it’s about what you will do.
Pool Financing Loan Battle Royale
EQUITY VS UNSECURED
Our goal here is to always pair each customer up with the best pool financing program based on each customers individual budget, goal, loan size and circumstances. We want to find the best program that gives every customer the best odds for approval, while always keeping interest rate, payment and budget in mind.
As equity has roared back into most markets these days, one of the most frequently asked questions we hear is: “Which is better, an equity loan or an unsecured loan?” There are multiple things to consider for each customer when answering this question. How long have they lived in the home? How much equity do they currently have? Do they plan on moving or selling in the next 5 or 10 years? Does a pool increase the value of their home?
Equity loans can be a great way to go for many customers. Rates tend to be lower vs. unsecured loans. The interest in some cases can still be tax deductible (always recommend to the customer to check with their tax advisor). And in markets where pools help increase home value, an equity loan can be an excellent avenue, as the customer is letting the home pay for its own home improvement. However, if a customer thinks there is a chance that they might move, sell or relocate within the next 5 or 10 years, then an equity loan may not best fit them. While we have experienced a very strong turn around in real estate since the recession, there are many professionals that believe a correction is overdue or inevitable at some point. Protecting your equity vs. utilizing it might be a better route in this example.
If a customer prefers an equity loan, I personally recommend a fixed rate 2nd mortgage vs. a refinance or HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit). Most customers have taken advantage of the low fixed rates that have been available for the last 10 years or so. It does not make financial sense to refinance out of that low fixed rate, incur fees, extend their loan term, only to get close to or receive a higher 1st mortgage interest rate than they currently have. HELOC’s are variable rate loans and those interest rates can and usually do adjust higher. Most HELOC’s are a balloon loan and very little, if any, of your money goes toward reducing the principal balance, especially if you are making, or plan on making, minimum monthly payments. A fixed rate 2nd mortgage is on a fixed loan term. Terms can range from 10yrs-20yrs. The rates do not adjust. Fees, if there are any, are minimal. More of the customer’s money is going toward principal. Typically, equity loans take 2-4 weeks to process and complete from start to finish.
Unsecured loans are by far the most popular loans being requested for pool financing. This has been a trend for the last 10 yrs. Over 80% of the customers we help, want or need an unsecured loan. They are very quick to process, no equity is required and most have no or very little in the way of fees. Most unsecured loans are completed within 7-10 business days and some are processed even quicker. Customers can protect their equity since the loan is not tied to their home. All of our partnered lenders have fixed rates, no prepayment penalties and most have no fees. Loan terms range from 3yrs - 20yrs. Our partnered lenders offer loan amounts from $1,000 up to $100,000+. We still speak with customers weekly that thought they needed equity to get a pool loan. Continuing to get that message out there will increase pool sales.
Educating your customers is the key to this service we offer authorized Paramount dealer customers. We do this so that your customer can make a more informed decision for their backyard dream and investment. And we do this for free. There are no 3rd party fees charged by Paramount like other loan services. Give your customers the most options and flexibility in getting their new pool, remodel, spa orlandscaping financed. Have them visit www.newpoolfinancing.com or feel free to contact me about getting a link set up on your website.
Wishing everyone a fantastic summer!
Raise Your Voice: A Vendor's Perspective
BUILD A BRAND. ONE CUSTOMER AT A TIME.
Branding is the secret ingredient to any successful business venture. Without branding, the consumer would always select the cheapest and most available product that would fill their need. Brand recognition is one of the most valuable things a product can possess. USA Today estimates that the value of the “Brand” Disney alone is over 39.87 billion dollars. That seems like an enormous sum for a concept, thought, or image that is brought to mind when you hear the word Disney. Disney has spent years and millions of dollars to bring that image to your mind, the image of family-friendly entertainment, of Mickey Mouse, movies and theme parks. If you think that Disney is significant, consider Apple and its logo. The same article places the value of Apple’s brand at 214.48 billion dollars. Remember that value is only for the brand, not stock or anything truly tangible. One of the main parts of branding is name or logo recognition; the best in the world in this area is Coca-Cola. Their red and white logo is recognized by 94% of the World’s population. Some brands are so dominant that they define the product itself. When was the last time you purchased petroleum or cotton-tipped swabs? Brands like Vaseline and Q-tips have become so common they define those products.
A good brand will do many things, but the most important are these five:
- Define your product/service.
- Confirm the credibility of your company and product.
- Connect consumers’ emotions with your company.
- Motivate consumers to buy your product.
- Create loyalty.
Having a brand without a reliable company to back it up will not succeed. A good brand can easily be destroyed by poor service or products, especially in today’s multimedia marketplace where one tweet could go viral and destroy a reputation or brand. Wet Edge chose to build our brand by first building a network of certified and trained installers. Our product depends upon proper installation and is not something a consumer can apply. Our installers are every bit a part of our brand as our product itself. We continually educate and update our installers as well as improve our product mix to meet consumer demands. Our installers are the real ambassadors of our brand since they are the ones who interface with the consumer. Wet Edge has the personnel behind the installers for support and continued marketing to promote our brand.
Today’s consumers have much more influence and power than those in the past. Many rely on customer reviews and the number of stars a product receives online rather than do their research, this concept has replaced the word of mouth method of product promotion. Brand development and marketing must include a robust online presence to reach today’s consumers. In developing our brand, we have sought to provide products that perform better than expected with distinct and marketable advantages over similar products. It is paramount that the overall customer experience is satisfying and positive.
In my first years, our original website was mostly drawings of our designs because we didn’t have a portfolio of built work. We relied on those drawings, great customer service and word of mouth referrals to keep our company moving forward. We didn’t fake people out with pictures from another local pool builder. Rather, we slowly accumulated photos and built our portfolio. When people steal or “borrow” imagery, it shows that they are unwilling to put in the time, effort and integrity to build up their own business. Could I hire an attorney and fight them? Sure. Could I spend energy watermarking all my imagery? Sure. However, I’ve decided that those efforts ultimately take away from my business. I lean on the old phrase, “It’ll all come out in the wash.” People who falsely brand themselves will be found out eventually so I’ve decided to focus on moving my business and branding forward with integrity and simply encourage others to do the same. Every aspect of your business and branding relies on real work and integrity. And here’s the bottom line: There is no shortcut.
Once a brand has been developed, and the infrastructure in place to support it, the marketing can begin. Many people confuse the difference between marketing and branding. They are not the same thing. Some even question which comes first, like the chicken and egg argument. Does branding come before marketing, or does marketing create brands? In reality, you must have a fully developed brand with products, support staff, and a delivery or installation network before you can promote the product itself. It would serve no purpose to sell a product you cannot deliver. Wet Edge has developed its brand and network and is expanding their marketing efforts online and by hiring representatives in different strategic markets. We drive customers from our website to local installers or pool builders who use our pool finishes. We provide consumer education videos to help consumers decide which product will give them the results they desire as well as the color and texture of their pool and water. Our telephones are answered by people trained to answer questions and make product and contractor recommendations. As with all business ventures, our success depends on the people within our company that support our brand and the ideals it represents.
Special thanks to Tributary Revelations and Lora Sharp of Wet Edge Technologies.
Reprinted by permission.