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Technology: 10 retailer tips for choosing software tools

June 11/18, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 26

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Most flooring dealers use software to help manage and automate their businesses. However, choosing the right program to use can be a challenge, especially when considering just how many software companies and platforms exist. While some dealers find it easier to implement generic systems, others swear by using flooring-specific software. Despite differing opinions, all flooring dealers agree any program should make day-to-day business easier—if not, it might be time for a change.

Following are some software suggestions and considerations from flooring dealers who have achieved positive results in this regard.

Tip #1: Do your research

Jake Pierce, Pierce Flooring & Design, with three locations in Montana

In addition to using RFMS and Podium, Pierce Flooring & Design has an IT team that has created apps off the company’s database to monitor aspects of the business. According to Pierce, flooring dealers should consider their budget and the program’s efficiency. Ultimately, a software program should help get daily tasks completed faster. “All software will be lacking some reporting features when it gets to each individual business and how it runs,” Pierce said. “Also, every system has drawbacks when it comes to what it can and cannot do. Do your research, take your time and ask questions to other businesses that are using the software you are considering.”

Tip #2: Make a list

George McMurtry, America’s Carpet Outlet, State College, Pa.

America’s Carpet Outlet has used RFMS for its business software needs for 22 years. McMurtry recommends flooring dealers consider several points, including: who needs to have access to the program, and whether or not they want to immerse themselves in b2b. If a dealer answers ‘yes’ to the latter, he or she should “reach out to the major suppliers and see what systems are compatible.”

In addition, McMurtry suggests writing down everything the dealer wants the program to do. “For example, order entry, payroll, back office, etc. If you have multiple locations, you might even want internal inventory management. Then, look to see which programs can offer you the most.”

Tip #3: Find a program specific to your needs

Kevin Rose, Carpetland USA, Rockford, Ill.

Carpetland USA utilizes Comp-U-Floor software to run its business. “The [company] has always taken care of us and is constantly trying to keep up with changes in the flooring industry to accommodate the retailers and wholesale industry,” Rose said.

Carpetland USA suggests dealers ask themselves whether or not the software they’re considering is specific enough to their needs. “General software that is not flooring specific can create several issues once you get into the details of inventory, cost tracking and detailed information,” Rose noted.

Tip #4: Select tools that expedite tasks

Martin Cohen, Peacock Interiors, San Francisco

Peacock Interiors has used QuickBooks since 1999. (It also uses Measure Square.) The store is unique in that it is a one-man operation that mainly handles commercial and cash-and-carry jobs. According to Cohen, a flooring dealer can get easily married to the first program he or she uses, so it is critical the software saves the dealer time on everyday tasks. “If you’re a hands-on guy, you’re going to be using it every day and the support from the software is critical.”

When Cohen incorporated Measure Square, he was looking to speed up measuring processes. “The first job I did paid for the Measure Square program,” Cohen said. “Being able to import PDFs and easily do takeoffs with the program is amazing.”

Tip #5: Select a user-friendly program

Greg Besteman, Advanced Interiors, Jenison, Mich.

Advanced Interiors has been using QFloors for a little over five years. That’s the company’s primary business operating software for daily transactions for producing financial statements.

From a management perspective, Besteman suggests finding a software program that is easy for staff to use. “I don’t make money if I have to help everyone work through using the software,” he explained. “So the ease of them using the software by themselves on a day-to-day level is crucial.”

Tip #6: Choose a program you’ll be comfortable using

Steve Weisberg, Crest Flooring, Allentown, Pa.

Crest Flooring uses Rockson Technologies for management and accounting purposes. The store is also considering Measure Square software to fulfill its estimating needs. For Weisberg, flooring software should be easy to use and easy to teach to store employees.

“Consider how your business is run and don’t overkill it with more technology than you are comfortable with,” he explained. “Many dealers wear a lot of different hats every day that you will eventually need someone in your organization to be totally responsible for your software.”

Tip #7: Consider integration capabilities

Claudia Smith, Aggieland Carpet One, College Station, Texas

Aggieland Carpet One uses Pacific Solutions software. “Job Runner has really helped us grow without having to hire too many more people,” Smith said. “The learning curve is very short, and it’s easy to marry your paper flow along with the software processes. Smith said one key point is whether a software program will properly interface with other systems. “If you want to run a good business your processes have to be integrated,” she said.

Tip #8: Compare cost and flexibility

Colin Pinder, Pinder Tile & Stone, Nassau, Bahamas

Pinder Tile & Stone uses ABS for three different businesses in four locations. “ABS has customized its program to help me consolidate all of the accounting at one location,” Pinder said. “I met ABS many years ago at Coverings and found it was up to date with the newest technology.”

Pinder believes flooring dealers should strongly consider how much a software program costs as well as whether or not the software company is willing to customize programs. “I am in the Bahamas, so I have specific customs and freight rate issues that impact the cost of goods,” Pinder explained. “ABS worked with us so that we could enter inventory into the system without missing any hidden costs.”

Tip #9: Request (and complete) multiple demos

Brooks Clem, Peters Flooring and Paint, Hot Springs, Ark.

Peters Flooring and Paint has been a Roll Master user since 2005. “It just really runs our business—it’s our everything,” Clem explained. “I’ve gone through several kinds of software, and we’re also in the paint business. Our past software was more for paint and didn’t really handle inventory well. Before choosing a software program, Clem suggests requesting demos with multiple companies. “You need to interview the companies. Clem also recommends properly planning on the front end. “You need to know what you’re missing from your current software. Figure out what your needs are.”

Tip #10: Evaluate customer service

Heidi Press, ImPressive Floors, Bedford, Pa.

ImPressive Floors has used QFloors to operate its business for the last 10 years. The company also uses Measure Square for its estimating. Prior to QFloors, the retailer used a generic software program designed mainly for accounting. When considering a new software program, Press urges dealers to interact with the customer service departments.

“The best part of being a QFloors customer is the service it provides, which is only a phone call away,” Press said. “The online wait is minimal, and a well-trained representative is always available for any of the operating or accounting questions that come up.”

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Business is truly a family affair at Alliance Flooring

March 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 19

By Ken Ryan

 

Tucson, Ariz.—Not since the heady pre-recession days has Alliance Flooring and its dealers been in such a sweet spot: an improving economy; a growing, contented membership; exciting programs coming of age and a supplier network that treats the annual convention as if it were a family reunion.

The 2018 annual convention held here last month amplified those good vibes—from co-CEO Ron Dunn’s opening Power of 10 talk to the Oscars-like awards dinner to close the show.

Suppliers were uniform in their support and appreciation of Alliance Flooring—which comprises CarpetsPlus/Color Tile and Carpetland USA—and its membership. “Alliance Flooring is an extended family; they treat suppliers as partners and appreciate all of our efforts,” said Kelly Oberschlake, senior director, residential sales, for Mohawk, which won Supplier of the Year (see page 27).

Tim Hanno, vice president of retail sales, Karndean Designflooring, said Karndean has a great relationship with all the buying groups, but “this one just takes it to another level entirely. We love this group and the family atmosphere that exists here. It’s like you’re going to a family picnic. This business is about relationship sales, and this is a great relationship.”

Ann McDermott, vice president, national accounts, Shaw Industries, agreed. “It’s not like coming to a convention; it’s more like coming to a family reunion. This group is special.”

In the past year, Alliance Flooring has added 18 members, bringing to 370 the number of retailer members, which represents well over 400 storefronts. About one-third is part of the Destination program, which was launched in 2015 and is now in its fourth phase. What started as a carpet boutique within the showroom has expanded into hard surface and continues to evolve. “It is the most successful program ever for CarpetsPlus,” said Kevin Logue, co-COO and vice president of marketing. “We will continue to expand the program, especially in hard surfaces.”

In 2018, CarpetsPlus will add 12 new private-label programs to Destination, which is offered to members on an a la carte basis. Members don’t have to take on any elements but are encouraged to do so as research shows the average selling price of products within a Destination showroom goes up $1 to $2 per yard. “Destination has definitely created a buzz, and more suppliers want in on the program,” said Ryan Dunn, co-COO and vice president of sales.

Before convention there were 116 stores in the program. By the end of the second day, there were 121 members in the program—and that number is expected to rise.

“We have some progressive plans to grow this company,” Logue explained. “We’re adding new vendors; we have suppliers coming to us now. As for retailer members, we have to be very selective who we let in. We have spent a lot of time researching the industry and we are not just trying to sign up anyone. They have to be open and willing to share their best practices.”

That willingness to share best practices, to help each other in need, is one of the hallmarks of the Alliance Flooring group that stands out for retailers like Ben Case, owner of Carpet Collection, Lockport, N.Y. “We can have open-book discussions with almost any member we want. This allows growth for my business in avoiding the pitfalls others have experienced. Other members are just a phone call away, and most look forward to helping another member; I know I do.”

Bob Dauenhauer, owner, Carpet World, Bismarck, N.D., concurred. “If you have any questions you could go to any one of the dealers and they will help you out. It’s the friendliest group you could be with.”

It’s not just a cliché with Alliance Flooring—the group really does work with each other and can serve as a supplier/distributor when necessary. One example is the relationship between Montgomery’s CarpetsPlus Color Tile in Venice, Fla., and Gainesville CarpetsPlus Color Tile, located roughly 200 miles apart—not exactly around the corner. Still, when Montgomery’s was out of stock on a particular product that it needed, it turned not to a supplier but to Josh Elder, who runs the Gainesville store. He delivered the goods in a timely manner and sent them the invoice. Scores of these examples were retold at convention.

New offerings
Alliance Flooring has added 40 LVT-type products since September, and the combined LVT/WPC/SPC category now represents 20% of its mill shipments; resilient sheet makes up another 10%. Carpet is now at 39%, down from 80% in 2002. “I never thought in my days that I would see carpet at 39% for our group,” Logue said. “Meanwhile, LVT is going off. My phone is ringing once, maybe twice a week from people who say, ‘Hey, you want to see my rigid core line?’”

Rather than take them all in, Alliance chooses roughly five “winning” lines for its members, with WPC and SPC commanding equal time. As Logue explained, “We are never going to be the group that has 35 suppliers in one category. We pick the right ones. We boiled down our LVT business to five lines because we need to put our members in a position to be as competitive as they can be in their own markets.”

This year’s new offerings include denser, more rigid cores; wider and longer planks; and tile and stone visuals in larger formats. The lineup features Shaw’s new Floorte Pro products (48 SKUs) and COREtec Stone. “No other group is showing this right now—we think this product is going to be hot,” Logue said.

The carpet introductions “are pretty short and sweet this year,” Logue noted. Leading the way are Anso Foundations and Bellera from Shaw and Dixie’s PetProtect Destination.

For Color Tile dealers, ProGen from Tarkett and Korlok from Karndean are new offerings in rigid. “This is their foray into the floating arena,” Logue said of Karndean. “They really did their homework and took their time in bringing this to market.” Laminate represents 4% of the group’s sales but has stabilized, Logue said. “We feel the waterproof story is compelling.” To that end, Mohawk’s RevWood, a new waterproof collection, will fill that niche.

Alliance Flooring welcomed several new suppliers. Phenix Flooring is the replacement for Beaulieu, which was acquired by Engineered Floors in 2017. Phenix is expected to help Alliance dealers in the area of solution-dyed products.

Peerless (which is Beaulieu Canada; however, legally the name Beaulieu cannot be used in the U.S.) is a new member with a familiar name running the program—Greg Payne, formerly with Shaw. Also new is DuChateau. “We needed a higher-end line,” Logue noted. “I have been after them for two years. DuChateau is a good pickup for us.”

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Alliance Flooring ‘leaders’ step up efforts

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

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 10.34.57 AMSan Antonio, Texas—The theme for Alliance Flooring’s 17th annual convention was “Accelerate Your Leadership,” and while an opening video showed many well-known figures, co-CEO Ron Dunn noted there are numerous everyday leaders among the ranks of CarpetsPlus Colortile, Carpetland USA, Floorco and Clean Touch Pro—the retail stores that make up the group.

“There’s a reason why Mike and Tammy Robinson in Oregon have been awarded by their local media for being the best place to do business,” he said. “There’s a reason why Montgomery’s [in Venice, Fla.] has been named the best retailer for 13 consecutive years….”

Dunn rattled off the names of other Alliance Flooring dealers who have demonstrated true leadership while facing difficult odds or who overcame obstacles to achieve success in their markets. Continue reading Alliance Flooring ‘leaders’ step up efforts