Roland Scherbel is the President of Accent Interiors who essentially makes sure the company runs smoothly. Accent is a provider of cabinets, flooring, lighting, countertops, and general contract services. Like all companies during the 2008 recession, Accent was hit hard financially from to the economic downturn. Nevertheless, through Roland’s guidance the company has rebounded its operations and is constantly looking for new growth opportunities to the Wasatch Front. Roland is a firm believer that you are either growing as a company or dying. You are never stagnant. It’s all about growing in the sense of getting better, not necessarily getting bigger.
What is your history, businesswise, for how you got to where you are today?
My career started in 2000 as a purchasing manager for a small startup, hot tub manufacturer called Bull Frog Spas, at Bull Frog I worked my way up to the Director of Manufacturing. In 2000 Bull Frog had only 19 employees and when I left we had 123 employees. We were the fastest growing company in Utah for 4 years in a row. I received so many opportunities with Bull Frog because I was in the right place, the right time, and was ready for the opportunities. Bull Frog was a startup company and when I joined and I had opportunities presented to me that allowed me to really grow with the company, I was able to get work experience at 25 years old that I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else.
After graduating with a degree in Business Management from Brigham Young University I moved over to a company called Fetzer Architectural Woodwork and started in manufacture operations as a consultant. After a couple years I served in positions of Production Manager and Engineering Manager. I sort of moved around from department to department depending on what Fetzers needed. When Fetzers purchased this business (Accent Interiors) they sent me over to run the business. Accent Interiors was supposed to be a complimentary company to Fetzers current product offering. Today our operations at Accent include selling cabinets, flooring, lighting, countertops, and general contract services.
What is the vision going forward for Accent Interiors?
The bottom line is that plenty of people can build countertops so we’ve realized it is more profitable to focus on producing locally rather than shipping around the country. Thus our target market is really the state of Utah and then cities like Elko, Green River, Wyoming or Evanston.
In order to be successful in any business moving forward you really have to know what is going on around you in the market and your competitors. I don’t necessarily focus on what our competitors are doing, rather I focus on leading from the front. I don’t want to react and do things like my competitors are doing, so that is part of our strategy. It is to be innovative and come up with new ideas that other people can’t do for one reason or another.
Most of our competitors are former tradesman. So without a lot of business training or anything outside of what they are currently doing as an installer they generally start up a little business. They go out, steal accounts they know really well and they think everything is great. They buy a machine and have no idea what depreciation is and they buy their next machine but have no cash so they go out of business. These companies generally last only 18 months to 5 years. We have the opportunity to out strategize those businesses because we have more facility space to differentiate ourselves through producing profitable volume.
What are the top lessons you’ve learned in business?
The first is that cash is very important for a business to stay a float. I can name a few things that I would say are more important than cash, but at the end of the day if you don’t have cash then you can’t grow or maintain your current business. In our line of business, we generally receive cash two days after the completion of our job and that is key. Other customers that are costlier to maintain then we require they put 50% down and that allows us to cover some of our upfront costs that we generally wouldn’t recoup until the completion of a project.
The second most important lesson is staying focused as a business. It is very easy to get distracted by shinny objects, in our case it might be a big commercial job. If we allowed ourselves to get distracted by these jobs, then we would have already been out of business. We are taught from an early age that the customer is always right and that if the customer is willing to spend money then you want to be the one to collect that money. I honestly believe that is a terrible philosophy. If you loose sight of who you are really trying to be, you just end up being someone else and loose the ability to control your own destiny. It may work out by happen stance, but it also may not. There is no reason to take that risk especially when you are a young company that is just trying to make it.
The last lesson is to not have all of your eggs in one basket. As a company we really don’t want to be heavily reliant on the big box stores or the builders. If either of those markets go away, then we are essentially out of business. So we’ve made a big push to invest in things that will help us from a retail standpoint, for example the show room we just remodeled. Those are things that will help us from a retail standpoint. Then we have a team of salespeople that go after retail jobs with a lot of different methods. We have a lot of different methods for reaching out to these retailers: direct mailers, we knock doors, home shows, we drive around and look for new construction that is being built. We contact general contractors. We’ve invested into those sales people to go out and develop relationships with our prospective clients. That is were a lot of our money goes.
What are your top worries within your business?
I worry a lot about people. In our industry we depend on skilled labor. So when an employee leaves or I want to grow then I must have someone skilled enough to handle that growth. Otherwise it ends up taking a very long time to start growing.
It is my belief that if I continually treat my employees right and give them a voice in the company then we will succeed. I try very hard to provide excellence in our management team so that we keep our key employees. As a manager its important that you have a degree of humility that you are willing to hire employees that are smarter than you. Our goal is to double in size within the next five years. We can only do this if we have the systems in place, the processes in place, and the people in place. Our systems and processes are pretty scalable and so that is not really a worry for us. Our people aren’t scalable for growth. I must be able to find the people and skill sets required to support our future growth.
What legacy do you want your customers, clients, employees, and community to remember you by?
At the end of the day I hope that people think of me as somebody that put them first over money, even the business. That I care more about individual people and treated them that way. That I treated them as equals and part of the team rather than someone that just cleans the toilets. That is what is important to me. I really don’t care if I’m a millionaire or make $10,000 a year. As long as I can support my family and they’re doing fine then nothing else really matters. These people are important to me.