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Measure Square partners with Bonitz Flooring Group

Measure SquarePasadena, Calif.—Measure Square and Bonitz Flooring Group have entered a strategic partnership. The partnership will provide Bonitz a solution to meet both long- and short-term objectives regarding quantitative analysis, standardized bid generation and integration with current and future management systems, including CRM solutions. Meanwhile, Measure Square will expand its technology solution with deep insights from one of the largest commercial flooring operations.

Measure Square has specialized in measure estimating technology since its inception in 2003. “Over the last 14 years, we have been obtaining inspiration from our customers,” said Steven Wang, founder. “I, myself, have always been actively involved in refining the product, along with a dedicated team of programmers.”

After lenghty review conducted by Bonitz senior leadership, in collaboration with front line associates, Bonitz has determined that a standard estimating software package was the best way to accomplish the long-term objectives and growth plans of the organization. Multiple estimating software companies were evaluated to determine the best fit.

“At the conclusion of this evaluation, it was obvious that Measure Square was most suited to meet our needs,” said Todd Wade, vice president, Bonitz. “Steven Wang personally met with Bonitz associates and identified areas of concern and opportunities for both parties and has committed to continued development and implementation.”

Wade added, “Since the decision to partner with Measure Square, we have been impressed with the response and cooperation from their management and technical staff. Our associates have embraced this change and the implementation has been seamless.”

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Starnet members ‘rev’ revenue, enthusiasm

October 27/November 3, 2014; Volume 28/Number 10

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 10.51.10 AMDenver—Unlike the larger spring meeting in which attendance is mandatory, the fall conference of the Starnet Commercial Flooring Partnership is an optional affair. But that did not deter a large turnout of members and vendor partners here for two days of workshops, a trade show and networking.

“It was excellent attendance if we look at the percentage of members here,” said Jeanne Matson, president and CEO of Starnet.

The attendance of 309—compared to last year’s 280—included 100 vendor partners, which meant there was no shortage of quality networking and sharing of best practices during the conference. “Our members work in tandem with our vendors,” Matson said. “We have two equal parties. If both groups aren’t seeing a value in Starnet, there is a problem.”

Fortunately, everyone seemingly views the partnership as beneficial. Carlton Billingsley, vice president of Floors & More, Benton, Ark., said he has been asked in the past why it is important to be a Starnet member. His response was that anyone who has to ask that question doesn’t get it.

“If you want to be a leader, if you want to be different, there is no better group to be involved with than Starnet,” he said. “Those who are not in the group don’t understand how valuable the education and knowledge you get here is. You either continue to learn and adapt or you die. The way business worked 15 years ago doesn’t cut it today, and that is why you have to constantly learn new ways of doing things.”

“REV Up Your Business with Starnet” was the theme of the fall conference, with workshops focused on revenue generation and the bottom line. On both fronts, Starnet members say they are doing just that.

Matson called 2014 “a tricky year,” but one that will be satisfying in the end. “We didn’t see strong numbers until May and June. Now we have kicked it in and are seeing very strong business, and we see 2015 as an even better year. I looked at some industry figures today and they are very encouraging.”

Many Starnet members who spoke with FCNews said their businesses in 2014 will be up at least 10% over 2013, and with contracts and orders in place or pending, 2015 looks even more promising.

Harold Chapman, president of Bonitz Flooring Group in Greenvile, S.C., said after a slow first quarter, business has picked up substantially and the company will end 2014 10% to 14% ahead of last year in revenue, 5% to 8% on the bottom line. “We now have a backlog of orders that will carry into 2015,” he noted.

Lane’s Floor Covering in New York City saw its business climb 10% in 2014 over 2013, driven by hospitals, retail and ancillary work such as airports and law firms. Umberto Aponte, vice president, said the business “has come in waves” and summer was particularly strong.

New programs and initiatives

At the behest of members, Starnet has introduced several new initiatives designed to foster growth among its group. One such venture is the Next Gen group, which now consists of 70 members. The group comprises younger members who are currently in leadership roles, leadership-track positions or who have a stake in a company and will eventually take over the operations. The Next Gen group convenes monthly to brainstorm and share best practices. They also meet with older members who serve as mentors.

Matt Miller, project manager at Commercial Flooring Systems in Omaha, is a Next Gen member. “We’re still growing, still figuring it out. We want to make our vendor partners aware that we are their partners for the next 30 years and let them know what we can offer.”

About two years ago, Starnet members launched StarNetworking, a referral system among members. To illustrate how the system works, Randy Rubenstein, director of Rubenstein’s Contract Carpet in Seattle, referred a customer who needed a project done in Chicago to fellow Starnet member Mr. David’s Flooring International in Itasca, Ill.

“The door wasn’t just opened; the mat was laid out for me,” said Mike Gannon of Mr. David’s. He said Rubenstein wrote a letter on behalf of Mr. David’s, saying in effect, “You want to do business with this guy; he won’t let you down.”

A few Starnet members said they have benefited from the referral system, either by landing additional business or helping customers and other members. By design, there is no formal business structure to StarNetworking. Sometimes there is a finder’s fee involved; other times a referring member is looking for reciprocity down the road. Sometimes it is simply about doing the right thing.

“The beauty of this organization is no one tells you how to run your business,” Rubenstein said. “We are here to share knowledge and information.”

Trade show

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 10.51.54 AMTwo years ago, Starnet added a trade show component to its conference. At the fall meeting, 31 vendors set up tables and small booths. Space precluded a larger gathering, Matson said, but even so, the networking was brisk and beneficial to both parties.

Masland Contract, which returned to Starnet as a member this year, brought a contingent that included Dixie Group CEO Dan Frierson, Masland CEO Lee Martin and four regional vice presidents. “This is a wonderful format to build relationships in a non-pressured situation,” Martin said. “These meetings are about connecting with the owners.”

Jim Cave, vice president of national accounts for Mats Inc., agreed. “It’s a relationship show, not a buying show, so it’s a great way to see owners in a relaxed setting and be able to socialize with them in a non-business environment.”

Deb Lechner, director of commercial markets for Armstrong, was back in familiar territory at the fall meeting. Lechner worked at Armstrong from 1990 to 2002 before joining the Starnet staff for 10 years. She then returned to Armstrong in March.

“I’m coming here to see friends,” she said. “It was a seamless transition going from Starnet to Armstrong because I understand the contract market very well.”

In other news…

* During the general session, Eric Boender, director of Starnet FloorCare and national accounts, previewed a program called Starnet Mega Training, which will be held Jan. 18-20, 2015, at the Monte Carlo in Las Vegas, just prior to The International Surfaces Event. The strategy is to combine Starnet-sponsored training into a single, large event with multiple training sessions and networking opportunities. Among the speakers will be training/education experts Sam Allman and Stephen Covey.

“We think this is going to be the third main event of Starnet after the two members meetings,” Boender said.

* Bonitz’s Chapman, a board member of the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA), urged Starnet members to join WFCA. He highlighted the WFCA’s strength in, among other things, lobbying efforts for the flooring industry, and the relatively inexpensive $295 fee to join. He pointed out the WFCA pays out $500 toward education.

“A lot of people think of the WFCA as a retail organization,” he said. “That’s not true; they work for all of us. We can work in conjunction with them. There are things they can do for us that we can’t possibly do on our own.”

* Starnet has added four new members to its group and now has 173 memberships, including 13 in Canada. “We are very selective in who we bring in,” Matson said. “We want a company committed to a full-service model.”

The new members are ACS Flooring Group in Houston; Commercial Flooring in Toledo, Ohio; Prodigy Flooring in Tampa, Fla., and Jones Schlater Flooring in Columbus, Ohio.

Matson said she personally visits each new member and encourages company executives to get involved in Starnet activities. “It can be very daunting for a new member to walk into this room,” she said. “We try to help the new members navigate their way through the partnership, and involvement is a great way to do it.”

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Contract State of the Industry: Market improving, albeit with some rough patches

May 26/June 2, 2014; Volume 27/Number 28

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 11.41.16 AMThe contract/specified market continues to shake off the effects of the recession as it returns to a more favorable pattern of slow, steady growth. Flooring executives who estimated last year’s growth in the low single digits expect 2014 to surpass 2013 levels, despite a terrible winter that hindered first-quarter activity for much of the country.

Many commercial projects that were on hold—some for several years—are now being released as a better economic picture, coupled with pent-up demand, stirs the market.

“We see the state of the contract market improving,” said Ralph Grogan, chief executive officer, Bentley Mills.

Michel Vermette, senior vice president of commercial and international business for Mohawk Industries, said those commercial customers that did not want to spend major dollars during the downturn suddenly have to compete for talent and customers, and have to present the right image. “They have to update their spaces to be relevant. Three years ago everyone was holding back.”

Still, others are more cautious about what they are predicting for the market. “Some corporations will spend money but they will tighten their budgets,” said Harold Chapman, president and CEO of Bonitz Flooring Group. “We had a good backlog going into 2013, but 2014 is a little different. Our backlog is not quite as strong and the first quarter was really slow. However, I do see the third and fourth quarters as having the potential to be very good.”

Jack Ganley, president, Mannington Commercial, added, “Economic conditions remain relatively uncertain and we see some hesitation to release capital for large projects. However, like last year, we are seeing growth in the commercial market—albeit at a slower rate than anticipated.”

Most executives told FCNews that government spending is still lagging behind on both the state and federal levels. However, the corporate market and higher education that is privately funded are among the sectors thriving.

“It is very much a tale of two cities contrasting commercial vs. institutional,” said Dominic Rice, who on May 15 assumed manufacturing responsibility for North American commercial resilient products at Armstrong.

Growth segments

Bill Blackstock, regional vice president of sales in the Americas for Milliken’s global floor covering division, said a variety of factors have influenced the contract market, including the desire for end users to stay current, recruit top talent and remain competitive. “Workplaces see the value in creating a uniquely designed space that reflects their brand and corporate culture,” he noted.

Vermette said Fortune 500 companies in particular are looking for expertise, reliability, simplicity, and, most important, they are looking for a solution—not just a product. “It’s about who can hit the mark best for some of them, but more of them are looking for one go-to [supplier],” he explained. “One solution is to make their lives easier. Our approach has been resonating with them. They know they will get great value, great service; they know we can make the process easier. You have major end users that have 20 million square feet. They have projects going all the time. They get done quicker, get done with a common standard everyone is happy with, and get done more cost effectively. They also have a level of trust, a credible partner that can resolve an issue quickly and efficiently. And they don’t have to explain what they are trying to do every time. They know performance, sustainability and price point standards.”

In the hospitality sector, a brighter job picture, improved consumer confidence and a general desire to travel more have boosted the hospitality sector for both recreational and business travel, executives said. “Hospitality is in a significant state of rebound, and seems to be the top growing segment for the industry,” Blackstock said. “Our hospitality clients want to remain competitive. They’ve placed a priority on keeping their spaces updated, relevant, and welcoming to visitors, guests and employees.”

Peter Greene, vice president of marketing at Interface, also said hospitality has rebounded strongly since the recession. “There is plenty of pent-up demand, with a lot of conversion opportunities. Hospitality is showing very strong activity right now.”

The retail segment has also benefited from the improving economic climate; business owners that had tabled projects are now putting them on the front burner. The majority of the work is renovations and expansions.

For education, while state-funded programs continue to be constrained to some degree, the pace of activity at the university level—especially higher-end private institutions with large endowments—is picking up. “Higher education institutions are competing with one another to attract top-tier students, and space is a key component in how they differentiate themselves,” Blackstock explained.

Some executives said the healthcare segment came out of the downturn better than any other, as an aging population is creating a need for care facilities. However, the uncertainty of the Affordable Care Act and how it will impact capital expenditures has held down activity. Rice noted that there is a degree of caution around significant investment until there is better understanding of “what this is going to look like.”

Chapman noted that he has seen cuts to healthcare projects recently. “The budgets are not what they were in the past and the only work that will be done is out of necessity. Again, work will be out there but within smaller or tighter budgets. The uncertainty in how Obamacare is going to shake out has facilities managers in an indecision mode as well.”

Overall, 2014 is shaping up to be stronger than 2013, with the expectation of a fairly robust second half. Rob Cushman, vice president of marketing at Beaulieu Commercial, said that while the harsh weather in January and February constricted activity, the market has since rebounded. “We are seeing a lot of activity right now,” he said. “It feels like it is picking up all over, every segment.”

Rice said a return to “more normal growth” might not be realized until 2015 and 2016. “It is simply a matter of timing. Companies deciding to do work now have to go through the process of finding designers, specifiers … the flooring part comes in later.”

Product trends

To no one’s surprise, LVT and modular carpet are the products most likely to be specified for commercial projects. However, higher-end broadloom “seems to have gained some momentum,” Chapman said, “especially with companies like Bentley and Atlas.”

He praised several other companies and products, including Tandus Centiva, which Chapman said “is doing a very good job with styling and performance backings. LVT continues to gain some market share and more companies are introducing new products in this category. The 28 mil products are the ones performing the best. FloorFolio and Tandus Centiva seem to be leading the way here. Hard surface continues to gain momentum and more people are going to hard tile, in some cases over carpet.”

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FCICA announces Jewell as vp of associates

West Bloomfield, Mich. —  FCICA, the flooring contractors association, announces that Don Jewell of Capri Cork was elected the vice chairman of Associates for 2012-2014.  Don was elected to the position by members of the association at their meeting held during the convention in Savannah, Ga. in March. Continue reading FCICA announces Jewell as vp of associates

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Search gets under way to find WFCA's next president and CEO

by Steven Feldman

Monday, May 21, 2012. Boca Raton, Fla.—The search to find the next president and CEO of the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) has officially begun. A five-person search committee was formed at WFCA’s biannual meeting here as well as the process by which the next executive will be named. Continue reading Search gets under way to find WFCA's next president and CEO

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Starnet Fall Membership Meeting: Members, suppliers extol ‘power of parternship’

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA—Good times or bad, having someone at your side is always better than going it alone. That was the primary message of Starnet Worldwide Commercial Flooring Cooperative at its Fall Membership Meeting here, which also marked the first time the buying group held one of its biannual events north of the border.

Picking up where the organization left off from its spring meeting (FCNews, May 3/10), the three-day event was all about strengthening the relationship between supplier and contractor under the theme, “The Power of Partnership.” Continue reading Starnet Fall Membership Meeting: Members, suppliers extol ‘power of parternship’

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FCICA re-elects Capobianco

CHARLESTON, S.C.—Christopher Capobianco of Christopher Collaborative, Patchogue, N.Y., was re-elected chairman of the FCICA, the flooring contractors association, during the organization’s recent convention here.

In addition to Capobianco, FCICA’s 2010-11 executive board includes Gerry Swift of Potomac Floor Covering in Chantilly, Va., vice chairman; Michael Roberts of Bonitz Flooring Group in Knoxville, Tenn., secretary/treasurer, and Ralph Frye of Mats Inc. of Stoughton, Mass., vice chairman of associates. Kimberly Oderkirk will continue as executive vice president of the association. Continue reading FCICA re-elects Capobianco