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Marketing mastery: Dealers—Be a rancher, not a hunter

Nov. 25/Dec. 2, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 11

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(First of several parts)

According to Statista.com, Home Depot spent $1.06 billion on advertising in the United States in 2018. They were the third-largest radio advertiser in the U.S. in 2017 and made it to the list of top-five retailers in North America in 2017 based on sales. At press time, they have 4,939,108 followers on Facebook, 283,000 subscribers on YouTube and 940,000 followers on Instagram.

Home Depot is outspending you thousands of times over. You will never beat Home Depot, Lowes or any other giant, multi-national, multi-billion-dollar corporation by going head-to-head with them in the advertising game. Yet that is what many dealers try to do with their advertising, usually without realizing it.

The vast majority of dealers engage in “institutional” or “brand-building” advertising. This basically means that you put your business name out there repeatedly—both in digital and offline advertising—in an attempt to build up “name recognition.” The hope is that if people see your name enough times, consumers will think of you when in the market for flooring and buy from you instead of your competitor. It’s the basis for the old advertising “wisdom” that says people need to see your name at least seven times in order to think of and buy from you. It’s the idea behind the phrase, “You need to get your name out there.”

There is some truth to this strategy. You can build up name recognition, but there are three serious problems for independent dealers who attempt it.

No. 1: It’s extremely expensive. In order to build up name recognition to the point where a meaningful percentage of consumers in your market think of you when they need flooring will cost hundreds-of-thousands of dollars spent on advertising over a number of years.

No. 2: It takes a while to work. Assuming you have the budget to attempt this strategy, it can take years to build this kind of name recognition. Flooring dealers need their marketing efforts to generate sales now, not three years down the road.

No. 3: You’ll attract a lot of price shoppers. Think about the difference between a walk-in who is a repeat/referred customer vs. a cold prospect who came in because she saw an ad or discovered you online. The latter is much less trusting, more price-sensitive and she is much more likely to “shop around.”

An effective alternative to brand building for flooring dealers is ranching.

Most dealers are hunters. They hunt a customer, bag it, skin it, then they’re off hunting the next one. Smart dealers are ranchers. They round up a herd of customers, then invest time, energy and money into nurturing the herd, building a relationship with them and protecting them from poachers. A relatively small herd allows these dealers to have thriving businesses.

There are many advantages to this approach over brand-building: It’s less expensive, works faster, brings you the best customers, creates total differentiation from competitors and recession-proofs your business.

Finally, it fully utilizes the strengths and advantages you have as a small, agile, independent business owner, and exploits the weaknesses inherent in gigantic organizations like box stores. Over the next several installments I’m going to cover specific strategies that leverage your strengths and outline how these strategies fit within the ranching framework.

 

Jim is the founder and president of Flooring Success Systems, a company that provides floor dealers with marketing services and coaching to help them attract quality customers, close more sales, get higher margins, and work the hours they choose. For information, visit: flooringsuccesssystems.com.

 

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Lisbiz strategies: Make an effort to raise your digital game

Nov. 25/Dec. 2, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 11

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

I have been a supporter of the independent retailer for more than 20 years. However, I’m afraid some of you have fallen behind or given up. You want more customers, but you’re not willing to do what it takes to attract them; or you hire someone who has no idea how to market or how our industry works. There are times when you must bite the bullet and ask for help from digitally savvy experts.

Just because you didn’t grow up being digitally savvy doesn’t mean you can’t learn. Do you think things are fine just the way they are? Well, I’m here to tell you they’re not. What’s fine about your competitors stealing your customers because you’re afraid to look reality in the eye?

When you were first in business, you did everything you could to build success. You took all kinds of chances and didn’t care what anyone thought. Business was all “word of mouth.” You went to the right events and met people who could help you get customers, and you stayed in touch.

Nothing has changed, except that staying in touch is even easier if you’re digitally savvy. How long do you think you can continue living on the laurels of those 40-year-old customers? All businesses are dealing with the same phenomenon—their aging customers are leaving the marketplace and they’re having to deal with customer who are digitally savvy.

When did you become scared to learn new ways to run your business? That’s not the same business owner who was willing to take a crack at anything to build business. In the old days, the playing field was pretty level. There were only a few ways to get customers, and the winner usually had the biggest budget. Now, you don’t need the budget—you need chutzpah. Get out there, learn the game and dirty your hands.

Regardless of your age, you are already digitally savvy to some extent. You use email, maybe peek at Facebook and Twitter. Owners often say, “It’s stupid;” “I don’t want people knowing about me;” “It’s for young kids;” etc. Being digitally savvy has nothing to do with age. Your mistake as a business owner is thinking everyone is just like you.

The old expression, “Treat the customer the way you want to be treated” is simply not true. You have to treat her the way she wants to be treated. If you don’t have a digitally savvy plan in place, you’re treating her as you want to be treated. Every customer is different, you can’t lump them all into the same category.

Nor can you use the same strategy from 20 years ago. You’ve survived this long by staying ahead of the competition, not playing catch-up. You’ve always been a leader, stay there.

Communication with customers has always been the key to your business thriving. You relied on printed documents and other forms of what I call “static communication.” You told the customers what you wanted them to know, and customers didn’t talk back.

Like it or not, today’s customers are talking back and telling us what they want. I suggest you learn how to listen.

If you’re not digitally savvy, you can’t hear them when they speak. It’s like that proverbial ostrich—sticking your head in the sand and thinking because you can’t see them, you believe it’s not happening.

I can tell you that the tree is falling in the forest and, yes, it is making plenty of noise without you.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Lessons learned: Always focus on how the customer feels

Nov. 25/Dec. 2, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 11

By Tom Jennings

 

As retailers, we’ve all experienced this scenario at some point in our careers: A sale is lost to a competitor. It happens every day. But have you ever noticed how often the average salesperson seems to assign the blame to the customer?

We’ve all heard the standard excuses: “We’re priced too high,” “They found a color they prefer somewhere else” or “The competition must not know what they are getting into.” Far too often it seems as if the customer is somehow at fault for making an incorrect decision. I find this thought process to be terribly flawed.

Too often the root cause of this behavior is an attitude that says “I know best what my customer needs.” A typical salesperson will spend far too much time talking instead of listening to the customer—that’s a deadly sin. Many retail sales associates feel the need to “educate” the customer on everything ranging from the products themselves to the weaknesses of the competition. They’ll often advise that they have “the perfect solution” for you. Further, they’ll state that they have had many customers with situations “just like yours.” They have an air about them that says, “I’m pretty darned smart and you’re lucky to find me today.” This behavior may work some of the time, but not nearly often enough to be considered successful. With this approach they are doomed from “hello.”

Hopefully, all salespeople have been taught how to qualify a customer. What very few realize is the customer is busy qualifying the retail sales associate as well. As a product presentation is made, the customer is forming a perception of not only what is being said, but also how it is being said. She is judging not only the merits of your product, but of placing her trust in you. The customer is asking herself whether this person truly cares about her and her unique situation. For example, is he so busy providing answers that he didn’t even hear my questions? What are the chances he would even recognize me on the street a week from now?

Elite sales professionals understand that customers walk into a store asking one question only: “What’s in this for me?” They really don’t care how a product works, what makes it tick, how many Taber cycles it can withstand, etc. Most customers simply want to know how it will solve their problems or bring them enjoyment for years to come. They don’t care how busy your staff may be. They just want an assurance that their order will be delivered as promised.

And if you’re banking on your company’s longevity to help seal the deal, think again. Most consumers aren’t overly impressed that your firm may have been in business for many years; they perceive that as history. They just want assurance that the current staff is capable of quality performance. And believe it or not, they are not always looking for the cheapest price. They are primarily concerned that they receive full value for their investment.

Remember this: It’s never about what you think. Rather, it’s always about how the customers feel. They are only concerned about themselves—as well they should be. After all, it’s their money. The professionals who understand this will make their presentations customer focused and achieve great success. In the words of the late, great sales trainer Zig Ziglar, “You can have anything you want if you help enough people get what they want.”

 

Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a former retailer and sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.

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Sales pitfalls RSAs need to keep in mind

Nov. 25/Dec. 2, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 11

By Jerry Levinson

 

I’ve worked with many flooring dealers on a one-on-one basis as well as in the Flooring Business Master Classes. I’ve found that many flooring pros make the same mistakes when pricing their products and installation.

The most common error made is on the initial contact with the customer. A typical customer will asks, “What do you charge for new carpet?” Most flooring professionals will respond: “It depends—do you want a plush or a berber? We have carpets as cheap as $2 a square foot or as much as $10 a square foot. It depends on your situation.” However, this is the way everyone should answer that question: “Tell me about the project. What are you working on?”

This response leads to a dialogue that moves the customer away from price and into a more meaningful discussion that gets to the root of her needs and demands. Price will follow once more details about the project, the environment and how the space will be used are determined.

Following are other points to keep in mind when selling:

Don’t sell yourself short. Demonstrate the value of your product as well as your installation. Flooring installation is very complicated and requires a great deal of knowledge, experience and skill. Retailers should never allow a customer to believe that all things are equal. If you don’t value your services, your customers won’t, either.

Leverage your knowledge. It takes months, sometimes years, to learn and understand our product lines, services and the sales process. Yet we sometimes treat customers as if they are more knowledgeable about the product costs than they are when they walk in the door. Don’t assume they’ve been shopping around, getting prices from box stores or other retail outlets. Resist the temptation to lower your price in order to compete.

Never itemize. A lot of companies offer a breakdown of prices and services in the name of transparency. Newsflash: Many of our customers don’t care. What they really want to know is the final cost to put the flooring down and get their house back together again.

Remember, if you provide a breakdown of products, accessories and services, customers may feel they can pick and choose which service they want in an effort to save some money.

Protect your margins. There are a lot of flooring dealers who still work off of “mark-ups” instead of margins. Here’s the problem: with a mark-up you have to figure out your costs first. Then you have to add how much profit you want to make. Psychologically it is difficult to charge the customer more money when you or your sales staff understand what the exact wholesale cost is. Furthermore, with a healthy margin, you can offer discounts, sales, specials and free upgrades.

Never lead with price. All of my salespeople have a hidden shock collar on their neck in case they mention price before the customer. Too often it is assumed the customer wants less expensive materials, or she is looking for a bargain, or she is shopping all over town for the best price.

Asking a customer if she has a budget may be a legitimate question, but in most cases she doesn’t. Always allow your customer to ask about price first.

But when you get asked about price, be prepared with your response. Practice your answers with your team so they are prepared to show the value and awesome customer experience you provide.

 

Jerry Levinson is the owner of Carpets of Arizona and founder of Profit Now, a consultant business for flooring dealers. He has also authored two books on sales and marketing. In addition, Levinson, manages the Flooring Dealer Group on Facebook, which boasts more than 3,000 members.

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Marketing mastery: Do you want fries with that order?

October 28/November 4, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 9

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

You’ve spent time, energy and money attracting a prospect and getting the opportunity to measure and give them a quote. Doesn’t it make sense to maximize your profits with each “at bat?”

I’ve been working with flooring dealers since 2007, and I’ve found that very few do any- thing more than simply measure the areas the customer wants replaced, then give them a quote. This is a gigantic missed opportunity. Statistically, the likelihood of selling to a new prospect is 5%-20%, while the likelihood of selling to an existing customer is 60%-70% (marketing metrics). So, if you’re in front of a customer who is already going spend money with you, why not politely give her the opportunity to spend even more money? McDonald’s does this millions of times every day with their phrase, “Do you want fries with that order?”

To most effectively upsell you must first gain your customer’s trust. This begins with your marketing and is continued with your sales system. A great way to begin the process of building trust and creating differentiation in your marketing is to use testimonials. This includes online reviews as well as written and video testimonials—both online and offline.

Continue the trust-building process with your sales system. Sit down with your customer, ask questions and write down the answers. Educate her on your guarantees and warranties. Use testimonials during your sales process. Dress professionally. When visiting the customer’s home, call a few minutes before arriving, wear shoe covers and (with their permission) give their dog a treat.

When appropriate, get permission to measure and inspect all the areas of her home, even the areas she is not replacing. Let them know you want to give them recommendations on get- ting the longest life out of their flooring, even the areas you’re not replacing.

As you go from room to room, you’re looking for two kinds of upsell opportunities: No. 1 things which you sell, and No. 2 things your referral partners sell. For example, let’s say you’re installing hardwood throughout the high-traffic areas of Mrs. Consumer’s home and carpeting in her bedrooms. During your initial consultation you found out the new floors are part of a larger remodeling project which will include a bath remodel, window treatments and painting.

Along with the quote for hardwood and carpeting, you could include quotes for: upgraded carpet pad; area rugs for the living and dining areas; window treatments; a new vacuum; wood floor cleaning kit, etc.

When offering additional products, say something like, “Mrs. Consumer, here is your quote for the hardwood and carpeting we discussed. You’ll see I’ve also included quotes for X, Y, and Z. Which of these would you like to add to your order?”

You can also refer her to the bath remodeling and painting contractors with whom you have a referral relationship.

Let’s say your average ticket is $3,000. If you look for ways to add 30% in upsell suggestions, and half of your customers buy the upsell, you’ll increase your total revenue by 15% without spending another dime in advertising.

 

Jim is the founder and president of Flooring Success Systems, a company that provides floor dealers with marketing services and coaching to help them attract quality customers, close more sales, get higher margins, and work the hours they choose. For information visit FlooringSuccessSystems.com.

 

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Installments: A greener approach to luxury living

October 28/November 4, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 9

By Arthur Mintie

 

As the world becomes more focused on smart home technology, the tile and flooring industry has made leaps forward to make products that adapt to a new way of living. New products focus on their ability to contribute to green, sustainable living that benefits the greater good, especially as we continue to face global issues like climate change. Going green is no longer a bonus, but an expectation that must be met by construction professionals.

Electric radiant floor heating is a high-end design feature that is growing in popularity in both new homes and renovations that focus on clean, comfortable living and come with many benefits such as consistent, energy-efficient warmth. Through a series of wires, electric radiant floor heating systems produce heat through thermal radiation, which is absorbed by surrounding objects that in turn help warm the entire room.

With the systems that are produced today, customers can significantly lower their home or business’ kilowatt usage and reduce energy costs. Some companies even claim to have achieved a 15% decrease via thermal diffusion technology methods that eliminate cold spots with even heat generation. Increasingly, the wires used to transfer the heat are also being designed to achieve the utmost in customization, which not only allows for variability in design output but also directly impacts heat output.

Particularly for those with allergies, the way heat is conducted through electric radiant floor heating systems can also help improve air quality as it does not require air to be blown around, mitigating dust.

Once a system is in place, it must be covered with a finished flooring material. Tile is one of the best materials to choose because of its ability to conduct heat. To continue on the greenest path possible, one may also want to consider wood as it is a sustainable and renewable flooring option. Many wood types are compatible with electric radiant floor heating, such as American cherry, teak or bamboo, but installers should contact the manufacturer of their desired floor heating system to ensure compatibility. It’s best to avoid carpet because the thick padding typically installed will act as an insulator, making it more difficult for the heat to conduct through the floor.

To control the heating systems there are typically two options. Customers can either select a regular thermostat or opt for a Wi-Fi-enabled system that further promotes green living. With the user able to control the floor’s heat via a smartphone, these systems can learn routines and apply the most efficient settings to reduce heating usage. The addition of a radiant floor heating system work in the user’s favor to save money both short term and in the long run of the floor’s life cycle. While there is an initial investment, the payoff and benefit of the floors are worth it.

Ultimately, the greenness of the floor heating system depends on how power is generated. Electricity can come from fossil fuels or it can be produced from renewable sources like sun or wind power. Either method produces the electricity to power the system, but the latter is the better choice for the environment.

 

Arthur Mintie, senior director of technical services, Laticrete International, is responsible for overseeing the operations of the company’s technical services department, which provides technical assistance to specifiers and designers.

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Lisbiz strategies: Learn to strike while the iron is still hot

October 28/November 4, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 9

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

In the world of retail, salespeople and owners live and die by leads. These leads may come through sophisticated electronic marketing systems, or they may come to a flooring store by more traditional means such as word of mouth. In either case, the objective is to jump on them before they get stale.

I understand that managing and following up on leads can be difficult at times. You meant to call them, but you were too busy. Now, you’re afraid to follow up because you think the lead is too old. When you finally do reach out to the customer she tells you she has already bought from your competitor.

Why didn’t you set time aside to make the call? You’re not the only one who hates calling people you don’t know, and the longer you wait the more difficult it becomes. You need to contact potential customers as quickly as possible. Remember, they have already expressed an interest in what you’re selling. If they haven’t visited your website and connected, it’s your job to get them there.

Are you a flooring manufacturer who supplies consumer or commercial leads to retailers? Purchasing leads is a big investment for your company, but if no one is keeping track how will you know what has become of them? This is where a targeted, touch-point email marketing program can help keep potential customers interested in coming to your flooring store.

A touch-point email marketing program is specifically designed to deliver a particular message to your potential customer and is personalized to her shopping needs. According to Campaign Marketing, email is highly ranked in the marketing kingdom with a 380% ROI and $38 for every $1 spent. An email campaign is about building relationships, not just selling. Each email should have a message that is important to the customer.

Even if you haven’t met her, useful advice on your products will begin to build your relationship. It doesn’t mean sending one note to the customer and disappearing. You must be consistent and have a series of timed touch points.

It is also not the holiday card you send out to relatives to see if they’re still alive. This is an electronic magnet. Instead of putting it on the customer’s refrigerator, it will stay on her mind through digital marketing.

There’s no reason why you can’t put together a three- to five-week email campaign starting with a friendly “hello,” introducing yourself and offering an invitation to come in and pick up a gift. You can also direct her to useful information on your website, such as design tips or color ideas.

The key is to build a relationship so the potential customer feels like she knows you and wants to meet you. This is also why you need to market using your personal picture. It has been proven trust increases by more than 75% if the customer sees your picture before she meets you. Real estate agents routinely include their photos in marketing promos.

Remember, these potential customers have been referred to your store, so you’re just reaching out and providing something of value before they meet you.

There are a host of customer relationship management tools out there to help you track prospects from initial contact to close. Don’t make a big mistake by ignoring them.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Lessons learned: A little extra time

October 28/November 4, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 9

By Tom Jennings

 

When asked to compare the difference in performance characteristics between a top-producing sales professional and an average performer, I always respond that a common trait the professionals exhibit is they are willing to invest an extra few minutes per day toward their goal of being successful. By this I mean the minutes they are willing to prepare prior to their sales shift beginning.

Does this following scenario sounds vaguely familiar? One minute before he “has to be at work,” Sorry Salesman comes gliding through the front door with his breakfast sack in one hand and his ever-present cell phone clinched in the other. He appears as if he has been out of bed for about 10 minutes. His hair is still damp, his tie is draped over his shoulder and his shirt tail is untucked. His rationale is he doesn’t need to be dressed up yet. He’ll have time to finish getting ready when he gets to work. He proceeds to drape his coat on the back of his chair, drop his car keys on the desktop and announce, “I’m here!” like he has accomplished something.

While this may seem exaggerated to some, I have witnessed similar behavior far too many times. The sad reality is that those who are only willing to give such marginal efforts are allowed to get by with such non-productive performance. Even if Sorry Salesman is not concerned about his nonchalant behavior, management should be. As a manager, you will always get the minimum behavior that you are willing to accept.

Can you imagine a pro golfer stepping to the first tee with no warm-up session on the driving range? How about the bus unloading a football team in uniform at kickoff time? No mental warm-ups. No physical warm-ups. Just toss the coin and kickoff. You can’t imagine a great singer not going through the scales before a concert. A talented musician would not perform without ensuring that his or her instrument was in tune. Why would we strive to be any less professional in our chosen field?

Spend a few minutes each morning walking your showroom to make sure everything is in order. Are there new items displayed? If so, do you fully understand them? Are all prices clearly marked? Are all of the lights on and in working order? Is the music playing at a pleasant volume? Are the design tables clean and ready for the first customer in the door? Are your demonstration supplies restocked and freshened? Do you have sufficient collateral materials ready for distribution? Have you checked and returned any messages that may have been received since you last worked?

While these may seem like trivial details, professionals realize they are not. Any unnecessary time spent fumbling and stumbling in a customer’s presence reduces her perception of your professionalism and concern. As this perception declines so, too, does your chance of making this sale.

Spend a couple of minutes in front of a mirror. Recheck the appearance of your clothing. Touch up your grooming. Make sure your breath is fresh. Check your attitude. Give yourself a little pep talk. Visualize what is important to you and what your plan is to achieve it. Vow not to let outside problems affect your performance today.

If you want to be successful at sales, the first person that you need to sell is yourself. Create a mindset and working atmosphere that is conducive to your success. Invest a few minutes each day being prepared to succeed. Your customers—and your wallet—will be rewarded.

 

Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a former retailer and sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.

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Al’s column: How to get your team psyched

October 28/November 4, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 9

By Lou Morano

 

Everyone in every organization has a job description, whether written out or not, that includes their regular duties and tasks. (This includes owners such as myself.) If we are operating efficiently, everyone should be pretty much busy with little downtime.

Then we have additional projects that need to get completed. These projects are usually isolated tasks—some are recurring; many are not. Here are some examples: Your showroom may need to get new updated flooring; a new system is needed in your installation department to better handle communication with service calls; creating a better sample checkout system, etc.

As owners, we ask our people to take ownership in a project but they usually don’t get around to doing it. They will give reasons such as, “I will get to it,” “I have been super busy,” “I’ll get on it as soon as I can.”

Well, how would you like to have your people not only take ownership but contribute ideas on what projects should be addressed and have all the projects completed on an agreed date?

Here’s how it can be done: First, you make a list of the projects you would like completed. Then, tell your key people you are going to meet every quarter, and set a date for the first meeting. Explain to them that you would like input from them on what projects/tasks they think your organization needs—whether it is in their department or another department—and bring those ideas to the meeting.

When you all meet, put all the ideas (including yours) at the bottom of an Excel spreadsheet. Then, you explain the goal, which is to assign ownership of the tasks that can get completed within 90 days. Discuss who should get ownership of each task/project. Some people may only have one project assigned to them while others will have several. Next, discuss which projects are a priority. Then, discuss with each person each task/project and a date they feel they can commit to for completion.

Note: It is very important to give plenty of time and even add time liberally so they do not feel pressured. However, the completion date must be within 90 days. It is equally important not to give the team too many projects; you want to set them up for success, not failure. Do this together with your team and address each person individually.

At the end of the meeting, you should have several projects on the Excel spreadsheet with the project name, expected completion date and who is taking ownership of the project at the top of the sheet. You most likely will have projects at the bottom of the list that were not able to make it on the list. Distribute that Excel spreadsheet so everyone knows who is doing what and when their project is expected to be completed.

You will then meet in 90 days to go over all projects that were to be completed. Once you have gone through those projects, you can add some more projects/tasks to the bottom of the list, prioritize and repeat the process. In the unlikely event that one of the expected completed projects was not completed, you have a discussion as to why it did not get completed and get the commitment from the person responsible that it will be done in the next 90 days. When your people understand this process is ongoing and that you are committed to it, you most likely will see almost every project completed by the promised expected completion date and without you bugging them all the time.

Imagine that.

 

Lou Morano started selling carpet for a major retailer at the age of 19 in 1981. In 1985 he and his father incorporated Capitol Carpet, Inc., and opened their first full-service retail store in 1986. Today Morano operates five retail stores, including a commercial division, under the name Capitol Carpet & Tile and Window Fashions.

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Installments: Elevating your skills in flash-coving vinyl

October 14/21, 2019: Volume 35/Issue 8

By Mike Pigeon

 

As with all trades and trade skills, there are different levels of expertise and capabilities that everyone can achieve. When it comes to resilient flooring installations that require an integral cove, this is where it usually separates the good, the bad and the ugly. (Especially when you add in the seamless floor factor and every seam needs to be welded, both vertical and horizontal.)

As we all know, on the commercial side of the trade health care and medical facilities are booming. It really does not seem to matter what part of the country I’m in, the resilient flooring and flash-cove or self-coving sector is in great demand. However, no matter where I go there seems to be a shortage of installers at this skill level.

When it comes to heat-welded floor installations, whether experienced or not, there are a few sides to the story. Some will tell you they only do it periodically and it’s not worth the investment for training and tools to be fully invested. Some will tell you they invested in the training and tools and wish they had more installations to make it worth it. Others will tell you they turned their complete focus toward this sector and have never looked back. This is usually depending on the marketplace and location and the type of work that is booming in that area. The one common thing they will all tell you is this is a specialty part of the floor covering trade that takes a special hand, eye and skill that not everyone will be able to embrace.

First, education. There is training out there if you can get your hands on it. If you are working out of a union shop, there are the apprenticeships that have very thorough training programs and also require in-field time with journeymen. If you’re in the non-union sector, it is usually a case of getting pulled in under the wing of someone willing to share their skills. This is a very long and slow process as the best way to learn is hands-on training.

Second, required tools. When it comes to heat-welded seamless flooring in combination with flash-coving material, different tools are needed. There will be a small investment with these tools when it comes to cove cap cutters, scribes, gouging tools and also welding tips and skiving tools.

Last is mindset. The self-coving or flash-coving sector of the trade will separate the average from the above average, not only in terms of training but also in mindset. When a well-tuned, highly efficient installer on a flash-cove job is putting down large amounts of yardage and lineal footage of coved material, it is because he has spent the blood, sweat and tears to master the mindset required. No matter what, when you commit to this skill, you’re all in or all out. That includes taking into consideration that most bids want to pay for a Ford Pinto but get a Lamborghini-quality job. When you are paid hourly, speed does not matter as much, but when you are a self-employed contractor, speed improves profits.

When all is said and done and you are at the quality level that is the hardest to achieve, you will always be in demand. The work rarely diminishes, and you will be a highly requested installer.

Bottom line: make the commitment, find the marketplace and take your skills to the next level. You will never be out of demand.

 

Mike Pigeon is a technical installation specialist for Roppe Holding Co. He has 20 years experience an installer and an additional 10 years as a commercial project manager. Pigeon, who is a certified installation manager (CIM), currently serves on the CIM steering committee.