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Mayor asks: “How can we help you?”

BY Bill Addison

Bill Dieruf, owner of Dieruf Hardware in Jeffersontown, Ky., is not the first businessman-turned-elected-official. But he’s one of the few to bring customer service lessons from the hardware store into city hall.

The 55-year-old Do it Best member decided to run for mayor of Jeffersontown on a platform of customer service, with a goal of bringing pride back to his local community.

Dieruf said his ties to the town run deep: Dieruf Hardware is the oldest family-run business in Jeffersontown, a suburb of Louisville. And Dieruf himself has been a city council member for the past 10 years. He said both experiences have given him an idea of what his town needs and how to achieve it.

“I think the retail attitude that we see around the United States in hardware stores and home centers is something that, if you put it in government, then you’d have people want to live in that area,” he said. “Customer service is a key issue. People want to be informed and want to be treated not like they’re a problem, but rather have their problems solved.”

Dieruf said the township’s slogan will be, “How can we help you?”

By spreading the slogan among city employees, Dieruf hopes to create excitement about meeting the needs of the town’s residents. It starts with the mayor, and trickles down through employees and to the town’s residents.

One of Dieruf’s business-friendly proposals involves attracting new businesses by helping them meet local ordinances and navigate red tape and other obstacles. Dieruf said that by working with them to help them come up with a plan the council can accept, he can attract new businesses.

“If you wanted to open a hardware store, and you went into a community, and they showed you the easiest way to get your permits, the easiest way to get your advertising out to the local community, you’d know they want you there,” he said.

Another retail tool he wants to make available to the town residents is the idea of order tracking.

“A lot of times, if you call your city, and you report a drainage problem, you think it falls down a black hole,” he said.

Dieruf said he’d like to set up a Web-based system that posts reported township maintenance problems, like drainage, onto a website with status updates to give residents an idea of how and when they plan on addressing them. He said a system like that would not only hold the government accountable, but give residents peace of mind that their concerns are being addressed and eventually resolved.

“It sounds simple to somebody who does customer service all the time, but it’s not something that’s been done before,” he said.

Dieruf credited his customers for their support over the 2 ½-year campaign. By spreading his campaign messages through word of mouth, they helped Dieruf to secure 61% of the vote.

“I’m humbled by their excitement. It’s fun seeing people excited about their city again. They’re looking [to] the city for something to be proud of,” he said.

But as Dieruf moves forward in the political arena, he hasn’t forgotten the retail business. He said he saw the recession coming when he noticed the number of credit card transactions increasing, and spent the past few years being proactive by dropping underperforming departments and resetting the store. As a result, the store saw sales increase 18% last year, and month-over-month increases this year have been around 8.5%.

As for running the day-to-day operations, he spent some time while on the campaign trail training his son-in-law and store manager to take on more responsibility. Now, in his new role as mayor, he plans to treat the retail business as he would if he had a second location, and treat the city of Jeffersontown as his primary business, he said.

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Kleer Lumber gains distribution through iLevel

BY HBSDEALER Staff

iLevel by Weyerhaeuser is now distributing Kleer Cellular PVC Trimboard, sheet goods and other Kleer cellular PVC building products from its Baltimore, Md., and Easton, Pa., distribution centers.

iLevel is a new partner for Kleer as the company serves the key building markets of New Jersey, metropolitan New York and other Mid-Atlantic regions including Eastern Pennsylvania, Northern Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.

“iLevel is an ideal partner for Kleer Lumber because of its strong brand name, the products it represents in the marketplace and its commitment to outstanding service,” said Walt Valentine, president of Westfield, Mass.-based Kleer Lumber. “iLevel’s renewed commitment to focus on specialty product groups aligns perfectly with the core product development strategy at Kleer Lumber.”

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Construction industry loses more jobs

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The construction unemployment rate rose to 18.8% in November as the sector lost another 5,000 jobs since October, according to the Associated General Contractors of America, which just released an analysis of new federal employment data. The analysis indicates that the construction sector has been the hardest hit of any industry during the economic downturn, association officials said.

The industry’s 18.8% unemployment rate, not seasonally adjusted, was the highest of any industry and roughly double the overall unemployment rate. The construction industry has lost 2.1 million jobs since employment in the sector peaked in August 2006, according to the association. Since November 2009, the industry has lost 117,000 jobs, while the private sector added 1,088,000 jobs.

“The unemployment report shows construction still has not broken free of the recession that has gripped the industry since 2006,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Other than the stimulus and other temporary federal programs, it has been a pretty bleak four yours for the industry.”

The only construction segment to add jobs in the past years has been heavy and civil engineering construction, which has benefited from federal stimulus, military base realignment and Gulf Coast hurricane-prevention projects, Simonson observed. Meanwhile, residential construction has lost 79,000 jobs over the past 12 months, while nonresidential specialty trade contractors and nonresidential building — the other two segments in the nonresidential category — have lost 62,000 jobs.

Association officials cautioned that the stimulus and other temporary federal programs would begin winding down in 2011, most likely before private, state or local demand for construction picks up. They urged Congress and the Obama Administration to act on a series of long-delayed legislative bills for water, transportation and other infrastructure programs.

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