KISSIMMEE, FLA.—While there are indications the worst is over and business is starting to grow for the first time in over three years, members belonging to the Alliance Flooring network of groups were urged to focus on controlling their destiny and leaving a positive mark for when things really do turn around for the better.
“How do we leave our mark as leaders for when business comes back?” asked Ron Dunn, co-CEO of Alliance, which consists of franchise groups CarpetsPlus Color Tile, Carpet- land Color Tile, Floorco and Color Tile Outlet. “There is encouraging news on what appears to be going on in retail—hopefully it is not just a tease.”
Nonetheless, he noted that when business starts picking up over the long haul, “there’s going to be challenges.” The reason? “A lot of people here have taken a lot of costs out of their business, but when does the downsizing stop and when should you start investing back?”
Under the convention theme “Lead and Succeed,” he said that the time is now, noting the company has worked with suppliers to create programs that allow dealers to upgrade their showrooms at little to no cost. Alliance has also partnered with new vendors to give members a chance to earn additional business and keep customers over longer periods of time.
Knowing it was asking members to invest in new ideas and programs in what is still a difficult business climate, Alliance brought in a number of key speakers to encourage the group to “work smarter, not harder.”
For example, Victor Antonio, a leading sales trainer and author of “The Logic of Success,” not only gave a seminar on “How to get people to buy what you’re selling,” during the general session, he encouraged the group to break out of their shells and try new things. “When was the last time you tried something for the first time in business to succeed?” he asked. “In the end, unless you do something, nothing will happen.”
Along the same line, economist Mark Lapolla congratulated those in attendance for still being in business but noted, now is the time when “you need to take share. Stop reading the papers and listening to the TV, because the economic issues are extraordinary complex. We’ve entered a new era and it is the end of entitlement.”
He told members to take control of their own destinies, stop paying attention to things outside their realm of influence and constantly innovate. “You can either bail or become the best in the world at what you do. For a floor covering store that is not as tough as you think—the bar has been set low.”
With that, Alliance executives rolled out a number of specials and new programs designed to help members make more profits and take market share. One of the main ones is a customized, turnkey maintenance and water restoration program.
While they are technically two programs, Dunn said they go hand-in-hand. In explaining the rationale
for these, he said if each member is to lead and succeed in his community, “There has never been a better time to diversify.” Beyond that, Dunn noted some members are already “doing a great job with this type of business. And those who are in it have the greatest amount of repeat customers since they are staying with them beyond the final sale.”
He added many of their customers already have their floors professionally maintained, “So why not be the one to do it?”
In developing the program, Alliance teamed with Inter- link, an international supplier of cleaning equipment, chemicals and accessories for all types of flooring and restoration professionals.
Dunn said the program was developed by doing such things as speaking with those members who have successfully mastered the maintenance and restoration business. “By combining their experience, our knowledge of the industry and Interlink’s expertise in this area, we have created a program that will increase customer retention and our sales.”
Jon Logue, co-CEO of Alliance, said what makes this program different than those that have been offered by other groups is the support that will be available. “We’re going to have weekly communications, including an exclusive magazine; there is fully dedicated backroom support on our Web site; we will conduct year-round training, including how to train and motivate the technician, and more. There’s a whole
checklist of items.”
Dunn added the program is not being launched blindly as the group held a soft launch four months ago with a few members and the convention marked the official launch.
The other big new initiative at convention was the launch of Design Touch. Rob Boland, Alliance’s director of technology, de- scribed it as a 32-inch iPhone for the store. “As we grow and move forward, we’ll need to do things that are cutting edge because technology is so important in business today.”
Design Touch, he noted, “could be the future of where we and the industry goes.” The system is designed to help customers select the right products for each room and it even indicates where each product is in the dealer’s showroom, along with calculating the sales of everything so she can see how she’s doing with regard to her budget.
“It’s a great showroom tool,” Boland said, because it helps her not only visualize what the final room will look like, it shows her how to make it happen.”
Mike and Mary Ann Dougherty of Hoosier CarpetsPlus in Bloomington, Ind., had nothing but positive remarks on what was presented and what they were seeing from suppliers. “Technology is where it’s going and customer expectations will be met even more by incorporating these types of things. Design Touch is something she may not walk in demanding but it’s something she wants.”
They were quick to add that even in this technically oriented world, “She still wants personal service. This business is still very much about relationship building and making her feel at ease—whether it’s in the store or at her home when your installers are there as they are the last image of us she has.”
Chuck and Cindi Rude of Family Carpet Center in Redding, Calif., were new to the Alliance family, having just joined in January, but were liking what they were hearing and seeing. “It’s been very uplifting, from the core programs they rolled out to the speakers at the general session.”
Despite being new members, they reported seeing the benefits of Alliance “from the first day. It’s already been beneficial for us.”