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Armstrong Flooring promotes several employees

Deborah Lechner

Mike Penney

Denise Bird

Lindsey Groft

Lancaster, Pa.—Armstrong Flooring has announced several new promotions. The new titles and roles are as follow:

Debra Lechner is now vice president, marketing, and will be responsible for the teams that handle channel management, advertising, public relations, social media, digital marketing, creative services, customer insights, merchandising and sustainability. She previously was channel marketing director and has worked for the company for 16 years.

Mike Penney was promoted to vice president, commercial strategic accounts. He will be responsible for the sales team that serves customers in the retail, healthcare, senior living, hospitality and office market segments. He previously was director, commercial strategic accounts, and has worked for the company for 18 years.

Denise Bird is now vice president, customer service. In her new position, Bird will be responsible for customer service, technical services, data management and orders and shipments. She previously was director, customer service, and has worked for the company for 34 years.

Lindsey Groft was promoted to vice president, human resources. Groft will be responsible for the HR teams supporting Armstrong Flooring’s manufacturing plants, research and development, marketing and leadership development program. She formerly was director, human resources, and has worked for the company for 16 years.

“I’m pleased to announce these promotions and recognize the ongoing contributions that Denise, Lindsey, Deb and Mike are making to Armstrong Flooring,” said Don Maier, chief executive officer. “We are fortunate to have leaders who are dedicated to developing teams to fuel the success of our company and our customers.”

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Mohawk Industries makes rank on Training's elite list

Calhoun, Ga.—Mohawk Industries once again took top honors on the 18th annual Training magazine “Top 125” list, placing 47th alongside some of the United States’ most highly regarded businesses. Other organizations on the list include Edward Jones, CVS Health, Walmart, U.S. Postal Service, La Quinta Holdings and Best Buy.

This marks the 12th consecutive year Mohawk has earned a spot in the “Top 125” rankings compiled by the leading publication for learning and development professionals. The 2018 rankings were unveiled at a black-tie gala on Feb. 12 as part of the annual Training Convention & Expo, held this year in Atlanta at the Georgia World Congress Center.

“Being recognized on Training’s ‘Top 125’ list every year for over a decade is a testament to how Mohawk’s learning culture actively brings value to our customers,” said Becky Redd, director of Mohawk’s Learning Resource Network. “Whether in formal programs or through informal training, coaching and mentoring, we are investing in our people to ensure that they have the skills to succeed in their current and future roles while delivering industry-leading design, service, quality and innovation.”

Training magazine’s annual list evaluates excellence in employer-sponsored training and development programs across all aspects of business: manufacturing, logistics, sales, administrative functions, safety and compliance. The magazine employs a panel of judges to evaluate the results of these initiatives both qualitatively and quantitatively, seeking the impact of the programs to the business.

While Mohawk facilitates many robust training initiatives across the enterprise, one point of pride is the company’s nationally-recognized, registered mechatronics apprenticeship program. The program combines work experience and classroom education as part of ongoing mechatronics training that includes mechanical, electrical, telecommunications, control and computer engineering skills. At the end of the program, which can be completed in four years or less depending on initial skill levels, participants receive their apprenticeship certification and have the option to complete additional coursework to receive an associate degree in mechatronics. Mohawk covers the cost of tuition and books, as well as compensating apprentices for classroom hours and on the job training.

“At Mohawk, we recognize the need to attract and develop talented individuals who can meet the increasingly technical demands of our highly competitive industry,” said Linda McEntire, director of technical training. “The company invests in state-of-the-art technology and needs people whose talent and skills can optimize that technology to benefit our customers and maintain our position as the innovation leader in the marketplace.”

Since its 2014 launch, the Mohawk Apprenticeship Program has attracted more than 60 apprentices at 14 manufacturing locations across the country and has maintained a 94% retention rate with 100% of apprentices becoming full-time, skilled Mohawk employees.

“Our Mohawk Apprenticeship Program and other company initiatives are contributing to a trained workforce, an increase in local workforce development, and strong partnerships with local technical colleges and career academies,” McEntire said. “Mohawk is not only advancing the future of our company, but we are also advancing the lives of people in our communities.”

The current “Top 125” was highly competitive, according to Training magazine. The rankings are determined by assessing a range of factors, including the scope of development programs and how well those initiatives assist the organization in achieving its business goals and objectives.

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Al's column: How to better manage lead generation

February 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 17

By Jason Goldberg 

(First of two parts)

It stands to reason that more leads will result in more sales for your company, right? Not so fast. Leads only convert into dollars when they are properly managed by your salespeople, managers and marketing team.

Many flooring retailers make the mistake of thinking lead generation is the key to success, so they invest thousands of dollars driving potential customers to their stores. But before you start spending money on generating more leads, shouldn’t you make sure you’re getting the most out of the ones you currently have?

Take a moment to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you know how many leads your salespeople are handling and what stage they’re at in your sales pipeline?
  • Do you know the advertising sources that drove those leads to your business?
  • Do you know the history of each of these leads including job quotes, site diagrams and “before” photos?
  • Do you know the close rates of your locations, divisions and salespeople?
  • Do you know which of your stores is getting the most traffic?

If you don’t know the answer to these questions, you’re not alone. The good news is the right lead management system can answer these questions for you.

Lead management 101
A good lead management system is a software program that helps you keep track of your company’s sales prospects as they move through your sales funnel. The fields that are used to capture lead information and the sales pipeline can be customized to suit your company’s specific needs. When a customer contacts your business for service, the new lead is created manually in the system by the salesperson or manager.

Website leads can be automatically generated by the system if integrated with your website’s forms. The lead’s name, contact information, products of interest, store location, advertising that drove them to your company and any other information you deem valuable can be captured and stored in the system.

Next, leads are then assigned to a salesperson or manager who will be responsible for converting the prospect into a customer. Each interaction a salesperson or manager has with a lead is recorded in the system via a note or an update to the lead’s stage in your sales pipeline. Follow-up tasks can also be created to remind users to contact the lead until the sale has been closed. Once a lead is closed (sold or lost), the final sale amount, the products she purchased, or the reason why the sale was lost along with any other relevant information can be recorded.

The biggest advantage of a good lead management system is the operational efficiency it offers. If you’re managing leads with an excel spreadsheet or with pen and paper, you’re wasting tons of valuable hours that could be saved by transitioning to a lead management system. In short, the faster you get in touch with a potential lead and discuss her flooring needs, the more likely you are to close the deal.

Good lead management systems also provide increased visibility. Managers have a 360-degree view of all leads in the system; they can see the current stage of the lead within the sales pipeline and associated tasks, notes and documents. If the system is used correctly, you’ll never have to call another salesperson again to ask about the status of any given lead.

In the next installment, I will discuss other advantages of good lead management systems such as accountability, accessibility and data retrieval.

 

 

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Investing in RSAs pays dividends

January 22/29, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 6

By K.J. Quinn

 

Let’s say you are a floor covering store owner and your business is running smoothly. The latest advertising campaign is reeling in customers and sales are holding steady, if not thriving. Then, your top salesperson quits.

After trying in vain to talk him out of leaving, you quickly write up a help wanted ad and place it online and/or in a local newspaper, or attempt to recruit someone from a competitor. Your hope is a superstar salesperson will soon call and everything will return to normal. But the reality is it could take months or even a few years to find one person to replace the success and sales volume achieved by that salesperson, industry members say.

“Unfortunately, this industry does not do a good job of attracting younger, more aggressive, design-oriented people,” said Steve Lewis, president, Lewis Floor & Home, Northbrook, Ill. “Our industry needs less product training and more design and sales training.”

By properly investing in sales training, dealers not only put their team in a position to put their best foot forward, but provide a cushion to absorb the blow of losing a valuable performer. “If you are truly committed to sales training, it’s never ending,” noted Olga Robertson, president, FCA Network. “With the plethora of products today and 90% of consumers doing research online, the retail salesperson needs to be armed with all the tools available to win the sale.”

Characteristics of a successful salesperson

The list is long, experts say, but it often starts with being honest and possessing integrity, reliability, punctuality, patience and good judgment. “It’s not always product or PK training,” FCA’s Robertson said. “It’s more about building rapport and guiding the customer to the product that best suits her needs.”

The best salespeople possess excellent communication skills and the ability to quickly make customers feel comfortable. “One of our salespeople is a real ‘people’ person, so that’s a great asset,” noted Lola Ledebur, co-founder of Carpetime, Grand Junction, Colo.

One thing that can’t be taught, or changed overnight, is a salesperson’s attitude and personality. “You can’t really teach personality,” said Kim Campbell, owner, Campbell’s Carpet, Port Washington, N.Y. “We deal with many designers, so you must be careful not to step on their toes and be respectful of their opinions.”

Salespeople also have to pay careful attention when sizing up a customer’s needs so they can recommend the appropriate styles and floors. “The key is teaching them to listen and really pay attention to what the customer is telling them,” said Matt Pfeiffer, owner, Northern Flooring & Interiors, Lake Orion, Mich. “If you’re listening and you get that window where you can offer a solution for the problem the customer is trying to solve, then ask for the sale.”

Salespeople should thoroughly understand the store’s products and services and come across as knowledgeable and professional. “Given the breadth of products we carry,” Lewis Floor & Home’s Lewis said, “it is a never-ending battle to keep the salespeople informed of all the new products and changes.”

Success in sales is often measured in dollars, and retail is no exception. Salespeople are challenged every day in an increasingly competitive environment. “Most customers visit more than one store,” said Tony Greco, vice president, CAP Carpet, St. Paul, Minn. “You have to be the one that wants their business, go after it [and] follow up.”

Utilize training to improve selling skills

Successful retailers spend their time and capital wisely to find and keep the right salespeople. This makes it imperative to focus their resources on the front end of the business and develop an effective sales staff to keep customers coming back.

“A consistent, ongoing [training] program gives sales consultants confidence in most situations,” CAP Carpet’s Greco said. “A confident salesperson has less fear and is able to consistently improve and close sales.”

It’s rare for a new salesperson to achieve success right out of the gate. Many may not achieve their full potential until after training and learning the ropes from experienced professionals around them. “We put our new salespeople through a relatively intensive sales and product training when they start,” Lewis Floor & Home’s Lewis said. “However, to be honest, much of it is done by the local reps who really don’t do more than pitch their products.”

Buying groups and trade associations offer training classes that teach, among other things, basic and advanced selling methods and how to maximize their sales and marketing tools. By utilizing sales training techniques, “successful salespeople become more adapt at selling both solutions and visions to the customer rather than constantly resorting to selling on price and specifications,” said Tom Jennings, vice president of professional development, WFCA. “They learn to sell as customers want to buy.”

WFCA offers online training through its University, plus weekly video tips and custom on-site training events for members. “One of the most popular sessions is titled, ‘Installation for Salespeople,’ which focuses on ways to build value into the service element of a sales presentation from the moment RSAs and potential customers are first introduced,” Jennings explained.

FCA Network trains its salespeople how to compete with home centers and deal with customers who shop online and by price. “We also work on phone techniques—role play—to enable them to handle price objections or pricing inquiries over the phone,” Robertson said. “Ultimately, the goal is to get them in the store, not negotiate price over the phone.”

Overall, industry members agree if salespeople know their products well, understand their customers’ needs and are proficient at delivering product at minimum hassle and discomfort to the consumer, then dealers will be successful. “Knowledge is power,” Robertson said. “It builds confidence.”

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IC vs. employee update: As enforcement heats up, flooring dealers need to be vigilant

January 22/29, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 6

By Ken Ryan

 

The debate over the misclassification of employees—treating them as independent contractors instead of employees—became a hot-button issue during the Obama administration after the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued new guidance that potentially put some flooring dealers at risk for the way they use subcontractor installers.

Fast forward to 2018 and a Republican administration and GOP-led Congress are calling the shots. Is the coast clear? Not exactly. While there have been some tweaks to the interpretation of language, the fact remains the law still exists and all flooring businesses need to be careful.

Jeff King, counsel to the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) and author of “The Independent Contractor,” said his ongoing message to specialty flooring dealers is to be vigilant. “I want to emphasize the continuing importance of complying with the independent contractor rules,” King told FCNews. In late December, King noted an administrative law judge at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled misclassification of an independent contractor is an unfair labor practice under the National Labor Relations Act.  “This is an issue that will continue to confound flooring dealers and contractors until a single basic standard is developed,” he surmised.

New developments
In June 2017, U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta announced the “withdrawal” of the U.S. DOL’s 2015 and 2016 informal guidance on independent contractors, essentially a relaxation of enforcement. The Obama-approved independent contractor “interpretation” (issued July 2015) discouraged the misclassification of employees as independent contractors. This interpretation also caused deep concern among many business owners who used independent contractors.

In response to Acosta, David Weill, who served as the administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor under Obama, said from a practical perspective, “removing the guidance will change nothing in terms of employer responsibilities—the law is still the law. But it did potentially signal an intention to move away from addressing worker misclassification as a fundamental problem worth addressing. That is disturbing.”

However, despite Acosta’s move, others say the withdrawal is unlikely to significantly change the legal landscape because the issue is now handled mostly in a growing number of private class-action lawsuits and state unemployment insurance audits and proceedings—not by the U.S. DOL.

In July, legislation was introduced to protect the independence of independent contractors. U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, introduced the New Economy Works to Guarantee Independence and Growth (NEW GIG) Act, or S. 1549. This legislation creates a safe harbor for those who meet a set of objective tests that would qualify them as an independent contractor, both for income and employment tax purposes. “Today’s fast-growing gig economy has made it easier for people to offer unique services like home repair and cleaning, child care, food delivery or ride sharing through easy-to-use mobile applications that can be opened with a simple swipe of a finger,” Thune said. “While these gig economy companies have created thousands of new jobs, they’ve also faced new challenges when it comes to how the service providers are classified by the IRS. My legislation would provide clear rules so these freelance-style workers can work as independent contractors with the peace of mind that their tax status will be respected by the IRS.”

The safe harbor focuses on three areas that are intended to demonstrate the independence of the service provider (IC) from the service recipient and/or the payer based on objective criteria rather than a subjective facts-and-circumstances analysis:

  1. The relationship between the parties (e.g., job-by-job arrangement, the service provider incurs his own business expenses, the service provider is not tied to a single service recipient);
  2. The location of the services or the means by which the services are provided (e.g., the service provider has his own place of business, does not work exclusively at the service provider’s location, provides his own tools and supplies); and
  3. A written contract (e.g., stating the independent contractor relationship, acknowledging that the service provider is responsible for his own taxes, providing the service recipient’s reporting and withholding obligations).

In the meantime, enforcement continues. The California Labor Commissioner’s Office recently ordered Oakland-based Attic Pros, an attic cleaning company, to pay more than $3.5 million in back wages and penalties for misclassifying 119 workers as independent contractors. The agency said investigators found that Attic Pros’ employees worked 10 to 14 hours per day up to six days a week and were paid a daily rate regardless of the actual number of hours worked, thus putting their earnings below minimum wage.

“There are so many abuses of it,” King said, citing other cases such as Uber, Lyft, Menards and FedEx. (FedEx Ground Package System agreed to pay drivers in 20 states $240 million to settle lawsuits claiming the second-largest U.S. parcel delivery company misclassified them as independent contractors.)

Despite encouragement from the WFCA/CFI for flooring dealers to either employ their installers or hire a third-party firm to do the work, King said they have not seen “big movement” on the part of specialty dealers to progress in either direction. There remain many “mixed” models where the same retailer uses both employee installers and subcontractors. King advises these dealers to call them “sub” and not “independent contractors” and to make sure the subs have employee ID numbers and are registered as an independent business.

King believes the IC issue is not going away, no matter who occupies the White House or which party controls Congress.

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Tried-and-true interview techniques to pick the right person for the job

January 22/29, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 6

By Reginald Tucker

 

Finding the right employee for your business—whether you’re looking to bring on new salespeople, installers or even managers—can be a challenging, time-consuming task. First, there’s the creation and posting of the job listing. (Or perhaps you’ve decided to recruit via the networking route.) Then there’s the screening process, scheduling of interviews and, ultimately, the actual hiring and onboarding phase.

But experts in the field of hiring, recruiting and training believe the selection process needn’t be so arduous. Some say it can be an enlightening, eye-opening experience. Following are some trusted interview tips and techniques business owners, managers and consultants recommend in narrowing the search for the ideal employee.

Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions
In a recent CNBC feature titled, “Eight highly successful entrepreneurs reveal their best hiring secrets,” hiring managers and business owners—including

several start-up companies—emphasized the importance of avoiding run-of-the-mill questions during the interview process, such as, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” or “What are some of your strengths and weaknesses?” Instead, experts recommend managers pose more probative inquiries—or a series of associated questions—to illicit more genuine responses and discern the true nature of a particular candidate.

“I’ve found that I learn the most from a candidate when I ask them a bit of an uncomfortable question,” said Liz Wessel, WayUp co-founder and CEO, in the CNBC report. “I like to see how they react and whether they’re able to stay calm. I don’t do this because it’s fun; I do this because I want to see whether can they keep their composure and how they perform when they’re out of their comfort zone.”

John Kelley, CEO of CoachUp, is in agreement. His technique? Pushing candidates to answer the whys. For example, “Why did you choose that college or that course of study? Why that company or that role? Why did you decide to move on? I feel this gives me a deeper understanding of their motivations and goals, which helps me determine whether our company and culture are a good match,” he said.

The more specific the question, hiring managers say, the more meaningful responses you’ll get from a candidate.

In 2010, Jenny Blake, who oversaw Google’s career development and mentorship program prior to launching her own coaching firm, started a global program at Google to provide scalable, drop-in, 1:1 coaching to all Googlers, which involved teaching dozens of senior-level staff members transformative coaching and career development skills. Her new book, “Pivot: The Only Move That Matters is Your Next One,” offers a sampling of meaningful interview questions:

  1. “Tell me about a time when you solved a particularly interesting problem.” According to Blake, this question gets at problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.
  2. “What are you most excited about learning?” Blake said this is a good alternative to the popular five-year question. “I don’t like the question, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’” she said. “Because things are changing too quickly, it is totally irrelevant.” Instead, she recommends employers get a sense of what potential employees are eager to work on and which skills they want to develop.
  3. “Recall a time when things didn’t go as planned—how did you handle it?” Regarding this question, Blake said, “I do think it’s good to try to frame something up around how someone handles uncertainty or even mistakes.” Missteps, she said, are inevitable; therefore, hiring people who bounce back is critical.

Properly structure and plan for each interview.
Statistics show that nearly 30% of candidates refuse a job offer because of how poorly the interview went. This is why it’s vital for employers to create—and consistently follow—the proper protocol for job interviews. Hiring and recruiting experts like David Romano, currently director of Romano Concepts—creator of six national restaurant models and multiple brands in the Dallas market—is a firm believer in this principle.

As the former owner of Benchmarkinc, which provided consulting services to retail businesses, including flooring dealers, Romano knows a thing or two about developing effective hiring processes. Once a regular columnist for FCNews prior to the recent sale of his consulting business, he continually stressed the importance of following a well-planned interview process.

Step one is to establish an interview agenda. “Build an outline for the entire interview, which should take no more than 45 minutes. Sketch out the framework with a set length of time for each section, covering information about the company, the job scope, position requirements, compensation. Include time to find out about the candidate through probing questions. Reserve a few minutes at the end for question and answer.”

Step two is to focus on the candidate. “Before asking the first interview question, review the job description, especially the hiring criteria, as well as everything the interviewee has submitted: résumé, cover letter, online profile, etc. This allows you to hone in on what you’re looking for in candidates.”

Romano advises against improvising during the interview process. While this might seem counterintuitive, it helps to keep the interview on track. “Prior to the actual interview, write down questions you intend to ask based on key areas of the candidate’s background,” he stated. “While it’s a good idea to have a core list of questions that you ask every candidate, it’s also helpful to jot down some targeted questions for clarification as you review the job description and résumé.”

Romano suggests managers ask more open-ended questions, as they require more thought and will help the person speak openly. Ask two or three hypothetical questions framed in the context of an actual job situation. More important, he said, it’s essential that hiring managers pay particular attention to the candidate’s answers. “Don’t rehearse your next question in your mind. Although you have your questions written down, don’t hesitate to veer from those if you want to reword or follow up, or eliminate questions already covered.”

Step three is closing the interview. After the candidate has had a chance to ask questions, end it by thanking him/her for his/her time and tell him/her when to expect to hear from you. “As soon as the candidate leaves, collect your thoughts, write down your impressions and summarize your notes. Get feedback from the other interviewers while the interview is still fresh.”

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Al's column: The importance of employee retention

November 27-December 11, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 13

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

A friend of mine was recently fired for having a side business that was in competition with his employer’s. He had developed a reviews-based platform for businesses, but he never took any of his employer’s customers. It was developed simply to have an extra source of income. Does this sound familiar?

Early on, he spoke to his boss to explain the type of business he had built and suggested the boss’s company should do the same. His employer wasn’t sure it was a good idea, but the truth is he didn’t understand it. Had he taken his advice, he would have been light years ahead of the competition. As an entrepreneur, my friend couldn’t pass up the opportunity to experiment with the technology. When he was asked to close his business he did, but was still fired afterward (without ever signing a non-compete clause).

About six hours after losing his job, he was called to come in for an interview by a competitor who had been following his progress, heard about his talent and ultimately hired him four days later to rebuild exactly what he was fired for. As soon as word got out, he started getting calls from his major customers asking if they could follow him.

What kind of employee would do this? I think it’s one who is talented, bored with his job and knows how to make money. My friend handled all major accounts and customers, and his fellow employees loved him. Plus, he made the company millions. He had all the traits businesses look for in an employee, but they didn’t know what to do with him.

What do you do when one of your employees is capable of outshining you and your company? Here’s my advice:

  • If you hire someone who is clearly heads above the rest of your employees, talk with him or her about how you can work together. Businesses don’t often talk with their employees about their hopes, dreams and capabilities, but it’s a good conversation to have when people are hired and progress.
  • Look for unusual talents in your employees, such as those who are willing to take risks and are able to build good relationships with your clientele.
  • Delegate. Do you have employees with entrepreneurial skills? Have they owned a business before? Once an entrepreneur always an entrepreneur. Take this skill and put it to good use; give them something to manage or build.
  • Once you’ve ascertained your employee’s hopes and dreams, try to harness some of that energy. As a big fan of the TV show “Undercover Boss,” I’ve learned that employers who help their employees inevitably win by keeping talent and gaining loyalty. Many times they give their employees money for school and then promote them within the business.
  • Don’t underestimate your employees. Just because you own the business doesn’t mean the people you’ve hired are less talented or less intelligent. Not long ago, I ran into a former employee of mine who had become a lawyer.

Bottom line: You never know how you can help someone and what it will bring back to you. Talent is hard to find. Make sure you find a way to harness it when you do find it.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. Register for Surfaces at tisewest.com to hear her presentation, “The Coaching Edge: Building a Successful Team” (WE04) on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2018 at 8 a.m.

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National Floorcovering Alliance: Spirited discussions on thorny issues set the tone

October 23/30, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 10

By Steven Feldman

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.01.40 PMNewport, R.I.—The National Floorcovering Alliance (NFA) is 42 retailers and 256 storefronts strong, representing a collective $1.1 billion in annual sales. But the issues these dealers face every day are no different than every other flooring retailer; in fact, it can be argued that their sheer size creates an even greater depth of challenge than most.

The key topics discussed at the group’s fall meeting were diverse, ranging from ways to find quality installers and sales associates to dealing with manufacturers who want to eliminate discounts for paying invoices within a certain time frame and dealers who encroach upon fellow members’ territories—legal by bylaw but challenging the spirit of the group.

Dave Snedeker, division merchandise manager, Nebraska Furniture Mart and president of the NFA, called this one of the best meetings in a long time. “I feel we heard the voice of everyone—just a lot of participation.”

Participation is often fueled by issues that can affect the bottom line, and that was unequivocally the case when Shaw and Mohawk announced they were doing away with “terms”—percentage discounts for paying bills within a certain time frame (see related story on this page). Eventually the NFA and the two major mills reached an accord, but not before members weighed in vociferously.

“For a lot of people terms are a sacred cow,” Snedeker stated. “You have little control over price increases, but terms is a part of the business we believe is earned for being a good steward of your financial responsibilities. It’s not necessarily part of the price; it’s about paying your bills on time. So to have that taken away would be a negative for a lot of stores.” (There is no group terms rate as NFA members negotiate their own deals, just as they do on pricing. However, the power of the NFA is such that this one voice speaks at exceptionally high decibel levels.)

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.01.33 PM“[The elimination of term discounts] would seem to penalize the better customers who pay their bills,” said Phil Koufidakis, president of Phoenix-based Baker Bros. “They would seem to be taking away an incentive for people to pay their bills on time. I don’t know why the mills are doing it. They never communicated that to the group nor myself.”

Sam Roberts, president of Roberts Carpets and Fine Floors in Houston, said terms are very important in the specialty dealer community. “I think most quality specialty retailers are opposed to the removal of terms, specifically going to zero discounts in their terms, and I think the vendors need to think very carefully about what’s in everyone’s best interests.”

While the terms issue may have been resolved, another controversial subject lingered. That involved one member’s recent new store opening. But it was not your typical expansion. That’s because the store encroached upon another member’s turf, something not illegal by bylaw but a questionable decision in the eyes of some.

“Expansion into the territory of another member is not disallowed,” Snedeker stressed. “The NFA’s position is there are no bylaws that preclude it. In the case of a prospective member, anyone can protect their turf, but once they are established it gets a lot grayer.”

While not necessarily a common practice, it is certainly not unprecedented. For instance: Nebraska Furniture Mart expanded into Dallas, where Carpet Exchange is a member; and Star Lumber expanded into Oklahoma City, where Akin Bros. does business.

The prevailing issue is that one of the major benefits of NFA membership is the sharing of information and best practices. The fear is two competing members may be uncomfortable giving away secrets of their stores, which can be detrimental to the group at large.

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.01.20 PMMembers are divided on the matter. “I did it, so I understand the issue,” said Roger Voge, division president, Star Flooring, Wichita, Kan. “I let the NFA board know I was coming to Oklahoma. I was working on an acquisition and had a non-disclosure, so I couldn’t call the competitor in town. At a certain point you need to go to another market for growth. I understand this could hurt the sharing of information within the group, but a lot more of that occurs in informal settings.”

Stuart Perque, president, Perque Flooring, New Orleans, has a different take. “I’m not too comfortable with that unless it is discussed prior. We were the eighth member of the NFA. There was pretty much a gentleman’s agreement when we were 10 people in the room that we would not expand into another member’s territory without bringing it up first.”

Steve Brannen, COO, Carpet King, Minneapolis, may not be opposed to the idea of expansion into another member’s area, but he agrees with Perque in that communication is key. “If you are up front with people and tell them what you are going to do, that’s OK. When you do it stealth it’s not the right thing to do. This group is based on openness and sharing.”

Koufidakis, a former NFA president, sees it as an issue between the two members. “The group has no bylaws about people expanding into other areas. Obviously we can’t control how members expand their business, and we do from time to time run into that expansion. That’s for the members in question to deal with on a direct basis more so than the group getting in the middle.”

Roberts, another former president, agreed. “Once you are a member of the NFA, there is nothing in the NFA bylaws that precludes any dealer from expanding into any market they choose to expand into. The only time we can pay attention to geographic-protected areas is when somebody joins the group. My thoughts are if somebody wants to expand, they are totally welcome to do that wherever they want. And as far as the impact of sharing best practices with competitors in the room, is it potentially an issue? Yes. Is it potentially a major issue? No.”

Desperately seeking salespeople
Replacing an aging sales staff is somewhat surprisingly a key issue for many NFA members. And they all go about it in different ways. For example, networking is the secret to success for ICC Floors in Indianapolis, but not at the management level. “We get some young people and then the word spreads amongst their group of friends,” Cam Haughty, president, explained. “The first one came through a Daltile rep a couple of years ago, and then we tapped into his network. They are big on social media, and they talk about our good work environment and that we pay pretty well.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.01.10 PMCarpet King’s Brannen told FCNews finding good salespeople is a perennial problem. But he has a unique way of accumulating good ones. “Ads don’t really produce. It’s more about interactions with people in other industries. If you find someone who offers good service you have to approach them.”

An aging salesforce is a big issue at Perque’s. “I’m finding the older people are just staying around for the health insurance,” Perque said. “We’ve been trying to find new salespeople for the last two years. We are bringing in people who have never been in the flooring industry. We can’t find anyone who wants to go on 100% commission, so we do the training, put them on a salary and then evaluate them after a year. It’s a very expensive venture, but we can’t seem to find anyone who wants to work full commission.

“We found one interior designer, and one was a schoolteacher. I find those who go on full commission, after four or five years they are going to make a good income. But it’s a process, and very few people want to go through a four- or five-year process.”

Baker Bros. has had four or five people retire this year. “We are finding them predominately through job postings,” Koufidakis said. “We have expanded the range of people we look for. We don’t worry about just looking for ‘flooring people.’ We look for really good people who fit the company and our culture. That’s the big issue for us—fit. We can teach them the rest.”

 

In other NFA news…

  • NFA members as a whole are up about 5%-7% in 2017. “Hurricanes have hurt overall numbers for a few dealers,” Snedeker said.
  • There were two fewer suppliers at the vendor-member round-robin meeting with Royalty shutting its doors since the last meeting and Beaulieu choosing not to come. “The board is looking at all the options about what we will do going forward,” Snedeker said. “We can bring in new core vendors, or we can keep it at 24. We have a couple of people interested in taking a spot if we choose to go that way.”
  • Snedeker is excited about the NFA’s Specialty Vendor Showcase, held the day before Surfaces in Las Vegas. The 2018 version promises to be the biggest yet with nearly 60 vendors lined up, up from a record 42 in 2017. “It’s a great opportunity to see different things you might not spend a lot of time seeing at Surfaces. The list is very strong this year.”
  • Carpet Den Interiors in Nashville could potentially be the 43rd member of the NFA pending unanimous member approval. The $30 million retailer has been in business almost 40 years, has 55 full-time employees and more than 100 installation crews. The stocking dealer is a Stainmaster Flooring Center and has a nice blend of builder, residential and commercial business.
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Armstrong Flooring supports Lancaster Day of Caring with largest employee team

Day of CaringLancaster, Pa.—More than 220 Armstrong Flooring employees and their family members volunteered for service projects during the annual Day of Caring sponsored by United Way of Lancaster County. The Armstrong Flooring team was the largest group of volunteers from a single business at the event on Sept. 8 and 9.

The Armstrong Flooring group volunteered at 11 nonprofit organizations, including a children’s museum, a school, an animal shelter, parks and service agencies. Projects included replacing flooring, cleaning, landscaping and painting. In addition, employees at company’s corporate headquarters in Lancaster recently pledged more than $130,000 to the annual United Way campaign. Contributions fund initiatives designed to provide education, preparation for employment, and access to medical care.

“One of our corporate values centers on support of the community, and our employees certainly demonstrated that in their generous response to United Way this year,” said Don Maier, Armstrong Flooring CEO and a member of United Way of Lancaster County’s board of directors. “I would like to congratulate our team and thank them for supporting United Way both through the campaign and their volunteer efforts.”

Employees at Armstrong Flooring plants around the country also conduct United Way campaigns and participate in volunteer service days throughout the year.

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WFCA presents winners of 2017 Gold Standard Awards

WFCADalton—World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) announced the annual winners of its Gold Standard Award which recognizes stores that have created an outstanding consumer retail experience. In the category including retailers with sales over $10-million, Sergenian’s Floor Covering based in Madison, Wis. took home the honors. In the under $10-million category, Classique Floors & Tile based in Portland, Ore. was recognized.

Sergenian’s Floor Covering received a choice of one of the following: two-day on-site custom CFI carpet seaming class; two-day on-site custom sales training; or one-year online WFCA University tuition. Classique Floors & Tile received the same options as above but only a single day of classes.

Each award category also recognized 2nd and 3rd place recipients. Second place winners in both categories received six-months online WFCA University tuition while the 3rd place winners in both categories were honored with three-months tuition to WFCA University online. Additional winners included:

Over $10-million:

  • 2nd place – Coles Fine Flooring (San Diego, Calf.)
  • 3rd place – Carpetland USA (Davenport, Iowa)

Under $10-million:

  • 2nd place – Independent Carpet One (Westland, Mich.)
  • 3rd place – Brian’s Flooring & Design (Birmingham, Ala.)

To receive the Gold Standard Award in either category, companies are reviewed and judged based on knowledge, customer service, quality of store image and code of conduct. A company also must be a member of the WFCA, have been in business for at least three years and have a clear Better Business Bureau report.

Companies interested in entering or nominating an entrant for the 2018 Gold Standard Awards can visit wfca-pro.org for more details.