Stealing From the Best

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Take from the rich — the rich in ideas, that is. I was reminded of the importance of copying other people’s work by Robert L. Nardelli, president and CEO of The Home Depot.

September 01, 2001


Kim Sweet

Take from the rich — the rich in ideas, that is. I was reminded of the importance of copying other people’s work by Robert L. Nardelli, president and CEO of The Home Depot. During his keynote speech at the 2001 National Hardware Show, we listened enthralled as Nardelli chronicled the superstore’s steady march forward.

Sales for 2000 were $45.7 billion. The company already has more than 1,200 stores in North and South America, and is on track to meet its goal of opening 200 new stores this year, the company’s most aggressive roll-out since 1988. Home Depot’s Expo Design Centers now number 44 across the country. Other spinoffs — Villager’s Hardware and The Floor Store — are being tested.

And in the midst of the worst economy we’ve seen in a decade, Nardelli said he’s committed to doubling the business. How do they do it? "We steal, shamelessly, good practices," Nardelli explained.

Stealing — borrowing, copying, imitating, appropriating, whatever you want to call it — good practices is excellent business strategy. (Practices, not property.) And thankfully, we’re in an industry in which people are eager to share, so there’s no need to steal. Learning from peers — the peers who are hitting ambitious financial targets, retaining talented employees, getting great deals from suppliers, winning prestigious design awards — is one of the best means of obtaining professional education and of bettering your bottom line. There’s a reason Remodelor 20 and Remodeler Roundtable groups are gaining in popularity.

So think of Professional Remodeler as the biggest Remodelor 20 group in the country. One of the magazine’s core missions is to search out and explain remodeling best practices from across the country, making them yours for the taking. And with a devoted staff whose experience spans not only remodeling but also financial services, venture capital, supply-chain management and integrated marketing communications, we plan to talk about which best practices remodelers can steal from other industries.

Success does not have to mean growing as rapidly as The Home Depot, but we can still learn from the deliberate, strategic and bold manner in which the company selects seemingly impossible targets and then hits them. Right now, Nardelli says that means going after the baby boomer market, which is transforming from do-it-yourselfers to "do-it-for-me" types. It also means improving services and distribution channels to win over new customers and deepen loyalty among existing customers. Worthy goals for a remodeler. Watch and learn. And steal.

In this month’s cover story, marketer Brett Boyum explains why a marketing plan is just as important as a business plan, using examples from two remodelers who bravely shared their actual plans with us. Take what works; learn from what doesn’t. And get ready for the October debut of Professional Remodeler’s annual Pinnacle Marketing Awards, which will showcase the best-executed marketing strategies of 2001.

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