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Gilford ‘celebrates champions’

Volume 27/Number 23; March 17/24, 2014

By Louis Iannaco

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 10.53.06 AMCincinnati—With a theme that focused on a salute to champions, Gilford Flooring hosted 25 suppliers and key retailers, including the majority of its 150-member Gilford Advantage Program (GAP) dealers, for its annual sales event and GAP awards banquet here March 6-7.

Dennis Cook, president of the Midwestern distributor—which covers Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and, most recently, Tennessee—said he came up with the idea for this year’s sports-related theme, “Celebrate Champions…You Are #1,” after hearing Queen’s classic rock hit, “We Are The Champions” on his car radio.

He said he wanted this year’s event to be about acknowledging the vital role Gilford dealers play in the shaping of the wholesaler. “We wanted to celebrate and salute our dealers as being No. 1.”

The majority of the 300-plus individuals who attended the two-day event seemed to be “feeling positive,” Cook said. “There are many great relationships continuing and people making purchases. They’re not afraid to spend money. It’s great to see that; we’re writing a ton of business here, but it’s not necessarily about that—it’s about relationships.”

Dick Wallingford, senior vice president, reiterated Cook’s sentiment, saying the focus of the event was for the customers to have a good time and make connections. “Without question, we’re here to sell, but they come and have a good time,” he said. “With the solid products and competitive prices we feature, the selling will take care of itself.”

Wallingford added, “When [retailers] come to meet our team, that’s an advantage in and of itself. Their only connection with Gilford may be with their individual sales rep. The people here represent purchasing, credit and customer service. Our dealers have never seen them face-to-face. That’s the kind of connection we want with our customers. We’re a family-oriented company, and we want them to be included as part of that family philosophy.”

On the educational side, the event featured seminars by Brett Miller, director of education/certification for the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), who presented  “Avoid Moisture Related Claims on Wood Floors,” as well as NWFA inspector Scott Taylor, who led, “Limiting Liability, Who’s Responsible?”

Cook believes Gilford is obligated to offer education to its customers. In fulfilling that responsibility, he spoke with several dealers about the seminars. “NWFA is reaching out and getting people to become more familiar with issues like how to handle claims, moisture and gapping. [The association is] really good with those challenges, and because they’re liability issues, our dealers need to hear them.”

A day before the sales event officially began, Allen Gindt, retail sales manager for Blakley’s Flooring in Indianapolis, participated in a panel discussion alongside Nick Freadreacea, president of The Flooring Gallery in Louisville, Ky., and Steve Contois, CEO of Schumacher & Co. in Milford, Ohio. The audience was the Gilford sales force.

“We discussed what we believed would make a good representative,” Gindt explained. “I believe we provided a lot of valuable input as they did not realize what a retailer might be looking for from their rep. Anyone who came up to me after the meeting told me how much they learned from it and appreciated it. ”

Gindt, who received the GAP Dealer of the Year award and is also a member of Gilford’s 100K Club (those who purchase at least $100,000 worth of products from the distributor), said Gilford is one of his favorite distributors. “It’s small enough that you know everyone from your rep to the owner, and everyone cares. I like its product assortment, and the staff works with us. They are a top-notch company.”

John Bennett, vice president of sales and marketing for Bennett’s Carpets in Russell Springs, Ky., and winner of the Above & Beyond Dealer of the Year award, agreed with Gindt, noting his “great partnership” with Gilford. “It’s one of the best distributors as far as providing service, as well as variety of product. We’ve been with them for about a decade now, and we keep growing with them.”

According to Daniel Lang, vice president of sales and marketing for Inhaus, Gilford is also a valuable partner for manufacturers. “It’s as if we’ve built our program together. We work at creating solutions together. We pick the right products that, in turn, the customers like, and Gilford isn’t afraid to take a chance on our designs.”

Kevin Flanningan, installation manager for IVC, another supplier that attended the productive show, said Gilford jumped on board with the resilient producer “when we were nobody. Gilford has been with us through all of our growing pains and has watched us become one of the largest flooring manufacturers in the world. They took a risk with us. As far as Gilford goes, they are gold for IVC.”