FT. LAUDERDALE, FLA.—What began as a damp, dreary start to its two-and-a-half day annual Network Exchange event here, the sun and smiles eventually came out as the ReSource Commercial Flooring Network (RCFN) held one of it most successful meetings ever.
“What we want is to start looking at what we do from the customer’s perspective,” said Ron Lee, executive director of the contractor buying group, “to really give them a realistic understanding of how to get these products into their environment and make them work effectively. There’s not one thing in the flooring industry that comes installed; it’s got to be taken care of properly. That’s our intent [here]. We know this is valuable.”
An increased focus on networking among the members was evident. “In prior meetings, we had more focus on suppliers,” said Ken Daniels, RFCN’s vice president. “This year, we tried to balance the time and the energy between the suppliers and the members. Our members told us they need more time to exchange information with each other. So we started the first day with just our members and some expert speakers talking about moisture, installation and marketing. It’s worked extremely well.”
Discussed at the meeting were the changing avenues of distribution heading into the future, different ways for members to market themselves and the challenges currently facing commercial flooring contractors. Topics among the breakout sessions included social media, green, moisture, banking and credit, performance compensation, workplace logistics, marketing and labor.
For Segundo Quinones of City Floors in Capitol Heights, Md., RFCN’s focus on providing proprietary products to its members has been a very positive development. “These products that we can go out and sell knowing we are the only ones who have them is [great]. This helps us get more business. It assures the customer, as well as us, that we are selling a good product—especially things like adhesives, which can be tricky.”
Speed-dating a hit
Another major change at this year’s show was the subtraction of the usual trade show exhibit which was replaced by Supplier Sessions. Many of the members, as well as suppliers, likened it to speed dating, where members were able to spend several minutes of face time with different suppliers before moving on to the next supplier.
“Having this one-on-one type of event represents a great opportunity to really understand what the contractors are looking for and what problems they are facing in the market today,” said Tracy Muller, brand manager for Chapco, one of ReSource’s 24 suppliers to attend the show. “This is definitely an opportunity for us to help them better sell their services. It’s more direct. We can give them the tools and information they are specifically looking for instead of loading them up with stuff that they are just going to toss aside.”
According to Phil Kellen, principal and president of McCoy Floor Covering in Houston, the supplier sessions “allowed us to get with each of the suppliers individually. It’s good for the suppliers, too, as it allows for a more direct, one-on-one. I’ve been to every meeting since Re- Source started, back when it was Interface, and this is probably
the best one I’ve been to.” Geoff Gordon, president of SCS Flooring Systems in Orange, Calif., agreed with Kellen. “The speed dating was a good idea in that the suppliers sought us out as a company where we could sit down and talk one-on-one about local
A major topic of conversation amongst members was the business environment today, including the economy and the ways things are done now as opposed to a few years ago.
Business for SCS has been “really up and down,” Gordon noted. “We had a very good January; we were up 30% for the month. Then we were off 15% in February.”
Gordon is being more proactive than years past. “We are trying to sell more,” he explained. “We have to be in front of customers in order to get work. We can’t sit back and wait for a general contractor to send us a bid on a job anymore and expect to grow our business. So we’ve gotten much more aggressive in terms of calling on end users, designers and even general contractors so they know we’re out there. We have to have face time with customers.”
Some people are simply expanding their geographical territory. According to Daniels, “People are not just going from residential to commercial. They’re going from a 50- mile radius to a 150-mile radius to do business. Some- body that typically wouldn’t go outside his county line is now two counties away bidding on work. He may be residential, or he may be Main Street contract getting into main line commercial. This creates some consternation. The same thing is happening at the general contractor level. You’ve got hardcore commercial general contractors now bidding against people who occasionally do some commercial work. It’s a real challenge.”