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Starnet fall conference: All about people, partnerships, progress

October 29/November 5, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 10

By Reginald Tucker

 

San Antonio—Raw, damp weather greeted many of those who turned out for the kickoff of the 2018 Starnet fall conference here earlier this month, but the unusually dreary conditions didn’t put a damper on the spirits of the convention guests in attendance at the sprawling La Cantera Resort & Spa.

“When we booked this venue three years ago, resort management told us it’s usually 70 degrees and sunny in San Antonio this time of year,” Jeanne Matson, Starnet president and CEO, said as she welcomed members during her opening presentation. “But when we arrived they said it was the worst October they’ve seen in years.”

Nonetheless, it was the group’s highest attendance ever for a fall membership meeting, according to Matson. Close to 400 people representing roughly 60% of Starnet’s 178 membership turned out for the event. “We believe it’s due to venue as well as the agenda,” she said.

The jam-packed conference meeting agenda and events schedule, by design, was predominately geared to foster networking amongst contractor members, vendor partners and Starnet staff; sharing best business/management practices; and, of course, education. There was also a half-day dedicated to instructional product demos focused on subfloor prep and moisture mitigation—a hot-button topic for many commercial flooring contractors.

It was all in keeping with the overriding conference theme, “Partnership for Growth,” which included member to member relations as well as alliances with the group’s preferred suppliers. “The members really like each other and learn from each other. Also, the vendor network is incredibly important to us,” Matson told FCNews. “When our members at the field level can partner with our vendors to create business and generate projects together, specify the materials and provide post-installation care—that’s where the partnership really comes together.”

Starnet vendors tend to agree. “As a charter vendor partner, Armstrong Flooring has benefited from Starnet’s ‘Partnership for Growth Initiative,’” said Shelley Ackerman, national sales manager, commercial groups. “Our partnership with Starnet affords us deeper and more meaningful access to their membership through board of director meeting participation, vendor roundtable meetings and meeting trade show opportunities. The partnership is truly a two-way street of collaboration, idea sharing and defining mutually agreed-upon goals.”

Starnet contractors also attested to this key aspect of membership. “Starnet has fostered relationships with key individuals within a manufacturer at all levels, from the local representative and regional vice presidents and as far up as the national sales manager and president,” said Dave Triepke, CEO of Universal Metro, based in Santa Fe Springs, Calif.

For other contractor members such as CB Flooring, based in Columbia, Md., the primary benefit of an affiliation with Starnet is the ability to network with—and learn from—dealers across the nation who openly share their best practices. “The camaraderie in our group is amazing,” said Chuck Bode, president. “Starnet is a band of brothers and sisters who have joined together to help improve their businesses and preserve the role of the independent entrepreneur in a fast-changing industry.”

Catherine Franzella of Sun Interiors, based in Harahan, La., leverages her company’s partnership with Starnet as a means to accomplish several key objectives. For her, the fellowship the conference provides valuable opportunities to learn from larger companies and vendor partners. “We definitely strive to reinforce our connections with our vendor partners and other dealers when we head out to train,” she explained. “This gives time to network, communicate and strategize on ways to separate ourselves in the marketplace.”

As a growing player in the floor prep/moisture-mitigation world, Franzella said she received a wealth of important information and hands-on/visual training to take back to her business. On a more personal level, actively participating in the commercial cooperative has enabled her to grow “tremendously in the nearly two years since I attended my first meeting, both in knowledge and in confidence,” she told FCNews. “I’ve met people from all over the country who are in similar positions coming up in the next generation.”

And that’s precisely the point—putting members in the best possible position to succeed, Matson noted. “Our No. 1 focus is supporting our members as they grow,” Matson said. “When you read our mission statement, it’s really about improving their profitability. Obviously, the revenue growth is going to be a big part of that. But the more services they can offer their end users, the more products we can offer them to give them that profitability.”

But make no mistake—it’s not a one-size-fits-all program. “I always say we have 178 members, but we have 178 different business models,” Matson said. “While some of our members do residential work, I would say 85% are committed to commercial flooring as their driver.”

Favorable conditions
Of course, it can’t hurt when positive market conditions support an environment that’s conducive to new business opportunities. In his presentation to Starnet members during the general session, Mark Bischoff, vice president, vendor relations, provided useful research findings and statistics that bode well for the non-residential market.

“This year, the strongest growth is expected to come from the commercial sector with spending in office, retail and other commercial and lodging all expected to see gains of 4%,” he noted, citing leading construction forecast data. “By 2019, the major commercial sectors will likely see slower growth, while industrial, healthcare and educational facilities are projected to see spending gains of 4% or more.”

Ample growth opportunities are expected to emerge in the healthcare sector in particular, according to Bischoff. Citing a phenomenon he calls the “silver tsunami,” he pointed to an aging segment of the population and the subsequent need for assisted-living facilities. “Follow the data,” he advised attendees. “Baby boomers are impacting the healthcare business. Senior-living facilities are going to be more and more in demand, and our members are well positioned to take advantage of that.”

But that’s not the only end-use segment worth watching. According to Matson, education looks like it’s going to be a big bright spot going forward (K-12) as well as higher education. “I’ve spent quite a bit of time over the past 10 years doing college visits; there are construction cranes all over campuses across the country. There are endowments to fund that construction.”

Matson also expects to see the hospitality sector further strengthen. “We’ve had a good run in that segment, and I think that will continue. There are a lot of hotels out there that require refreshing. The economy is doing well right now, but we know it’s going to soften at some point.”

In the meantime, Starnet contractors are keeping busy. Randy Rubenstein, president and CEO of Rubenstein’s Contract Carpets, based in Seattle, said he’s backlogged through 2020. “The hot sectors for us right now include multi-family high-rise and corporate, and we’re also seeing a lot of casino projects and hospitality work,” he told FCNews. Furthermore, these sectors have had an impact on the specific products being specified. “We’re doing a lot of ceramic, resilient and terrazzo, but not too much in the way of carpet.”

Hospitality and corporate jobs have also been providing contractors like CB Flooring with a lot of work. But the strongest growth potential, according to the company, lies in the healthcare arena. “Many members have a record sold backlog heading into 2019,” Bode said.

 

Starnet’s Fred Williamson takes a bow

Fred Williamson, executive vice president of Starnet, announced his plans to retire after 13 years on the board of the cooperative and 50 years total in the commercial flooring industry.

Jeanne Matson, president and CEO of Starnet, led the tribute to Williamson in her remarks to the general session on opening day: “There’s nothing I can say about Fred Williamson that you all don’t know already. He’s a true gentleman with integrity and intelligence—a tireless worker. He has really committed himself to building the partnership between our members and our preferred vendors, and somehow he has been able to do that with equal energy and honesty for all parties and a true commitment to making this organization better.”

Chuck Bode, chairman of the Starnet board of directors and president of CB Flooring, Columbia, Md., presented Williamson with a retirement gift—along with a few good-natured barbs—on behalf of the group. “Fred has the most unbelievable work ethic I have ever encountered. Smooth as silk professionalism, unparalleled moral compass. All of us will deeply miss his wisdom.”

Williamson, who received a standing ovation during his acceptance speech, thanked the group and attendees profusely. “The past 13 years for me have been an adventure. It certainly has been something I have enjoyed immensely because it meant meeting so many old friends, renewing friendships and, of course, building so many new ones. My thanks go out to all of the past board chairmen/chairpersons who have given me the opportunity to have an additional 13-year career that I was done with. It gave me new life and energy and was a great opportunity for me and my family. Thank you, I love all of you.”

Although this marks Williamson’s last go-round, Matson hinted at the possibility the group might see him again down the road. “This is Fred’s final membership meeting, but I don’t think you will ever find Fred to be a stranger.”

 

 

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Starnet members host pre-NeoCon event

May 28/June 4, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 25

By Steven Feldman

New York—Three New York City-based Starnet commercial flooring contractors recently collaborated on a pre-NeoCon product showcase featuring about 10 Starnet vendors. Consolidated Carpet, Lane’s Floor Coverings & Interiors and Architectural Flooring Resource promoted the event, dubbed Inspiring Possibilities, which featured inspirational speaker John Maclean.

“The theme is twofold,” said Umberto Aponte, vice president of Lane’s, which spearheaded the event. “‘Inspiring’ is Maclean, and ‘possibilities’ is what Starnet and its contractors give the A&D community. Those possibilities include specification to post-installation, maintenance and everything in between throughout the continental U.S. and Hawaii.”

According to Aponte, the idea was born about a year ago at the Starnet spring meeting in San Diego, where Maclean was the keynote speaker. (Maclean is an Australian triathlete who was paralyzed in a bicycling accident when he was 22.) He subsequently became the first paraplegic to finish the Ironman World Championship and the first to swim the English Channel. In 2014, he completed the Nepean Triathlon without using a wheelchair after regaining some use of his legs through Ware K Tremor therapy. His story is one of perseverance, triumph and philanthropy to motivate others to bend their challenges into successes.

Lane Brettschneider, owner of Lane’s Floor Covering, came up with the idea to have an event in New York City with Maclean as the headliner. The idea was to get the Starnet Worldwide name further entrenched into the A&D community through a Starnet-driven event that could educate them on what Starnet members and vendors bring to the table.

About 140 members of the A&D community attended and took advantage of the opportunity to connect with higher-level executives from Starnet vendors, according to Aponte. Those that participated in the event included Tarkett, Johnsonite, Tandus Centiva, Gerflor, Milliken, Atlas, Masland, Mannington Commercial, HB Fuller and J+J.

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Starnet finds strength (and value) in numbers

April 30/May 7, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 23

By Reginald Tucker

 

Orlando—Starnet may be well regarded as the nation’s largest commercial flooring cooperative, but at its core it’s really about a family of contractors, vendors and design professionals just helping each other to not only survive in a rapidly changing environment, but also thrive in the process.

This is especially evident in today’s market—an environment that poses a mix of challenges and emerging opportunities for members. “The installation and estimating labor shortage is really impacting the industry,” Jeanne Matson, Starnet president and CEO, told FCNews during the group’s spring conference here. “While I believe our members are managing as well as any company can, I know they’re concerned the situation will get worse in the coming years.”

In this regard, Starnet is leveraging its scale, collective member knowledge and industry affiliations to come up with solutions. In fact, the group recently formed a joint task force with Fuse Alliance to focus on critical issues facing the commercial flooring industry. The task force will address long-standing industry concerns—labor shortages in estimating and installation being high on the list. By tapping into each other’s base of knowledge and resources, Starnet and Fuse can tackle a broader range of issues affecting the architecture and design industry with the goal of crafting a better customer experience. Collectively, Fuse Alliance and Starnet Worldwide represent more than 250 of the most influential flooring contractors in the U.S.

“The Starnet board and staff are exploring ways to help the industry, starting with highlighting some outstanding recruiting efforts executed by several of our members,” Matson said. “We also plan to share both recruiting, training and retaining best practices with all members.”

Starnet’s efforts in this regard are not lost on members. “One of the great things about being a member of Starnet is we are able to share ideas and learn from so many knowledgeable individuals in the industry,” said Mike Rajner, vice president of Ohio-based Commercial Flooring of Toledo. “If we experience a new issue, there is a very good chance that another member has already—or is currently facing that same challenge—and can offer advice on how to navigate through that situation.”

Rajner sees the lack of well-trained, productive installers as an issue that has universally affected the flooring industry. “Many young people do not view flooring installation as a viable career, and we are working to change that perception,” he explained. “There is a diversity in how each individual Starnet member supplies labor. We have union and non-union contractors, as well as those who subcontract their installation. By discussing this and other issues with dissimilar members, we are able to view the situation from a different perspective and entertain methods that we might not have thought of otherwise. As a group, we are committed to hiring, educating and maintaining an exceptional workforce.”

Mike Nelson, executive vice president of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho-based Great Floors, also applauds Starnet’s efforts in tackling the installation issue head on. “Whether it’s the craftsmen in the field or the project manager running the crew, there just aren’t enough of them to keep up with today’s demand,” he told FCNews. “Starnet has spent a lot of time and energy developing and sharing training programs to accelerate and enhance the members’ training efforts.”

But the value of aligning with Starnet doesn’t end there. Nelson said networking with other members helps address a host of other issues. “The main benefits we have experienced are the result of Starnet’s mission to improve the commercial flooring industry.  We’ve found great value in the idea sharing, webinars and training available to Starnet members. There are initiatives and best practices we learned as members of Starnet that continue to have a positive impact on our business and the service our customers receive.”

Rajner and Nelson are not alone. Commercial flooring contractors like Cheryl Acierno, owner of Denver-based Acierno & Co., and Skip Mancini, owner of B.T. Mancini Co., San Francisco, also attest to the benefits of membership. “There are so many advantages to membership—networking with my Starnet colleagues, being able to build strong relationships with our Starnet vendor partners at the upper management level and the ability to learn from others, which has helped me grow my business, Acierno said. Mancini concurred, adding, “The main benefits for my company are networking with vendors and flooring dealers, learning of best practices and the sharing of ideas. One of the challenges we face in Northern California is finding people; Starnet’s training programs are very helpful in getting new hires up to speed.”

For David Meberg, president and CEO of New York-based Consolidated Carpet—which took home a Starnet design award in the “corporate” category—the value comes in the form of connecting with his peers and sharing what he calls “war” stories. But it doesn’t stop there. “The value I try to derive now is the development of my young and future leaders. That’s where we see the value as a company.”

Commercial market outlook

Beyond the core benefits that membership within Starnet brings, the group is also encouraged by activity it is seeing at the end-user level. Many Starnet members continue to observe strength in healthcare and higher education, and most believe the hospitality sector is settling down. Corporate, on the other hand, has not been growing as rapidly as it has over the past two years, but it remains a large business for Starnet contractors.

On the whole, Matson said she is confident that 2018 will remain a solid year for the industry. “A year ago, we predicted some softness toward the fourth quarter, but that does not appear to be a risk at this point,” she explained. “As for 2019, we expect next year to remain strong, although our keynote speaker this year [Alan Beaulieu] predicted a slight dip in the second half. However, based on our membership, they are planning projects well into 2019.”
 

 

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Bonitz Flooring wins Antron Performance Award

View More: http://katherinetaylordesigns.pass.us/awards-night-2Kennesaw, Ga.—Bonitz Flooring Group has won the first Antron Performance Award for its use of performance-driven carpet choices at Concentrix Corporation. Invista, Starnet and Mannington Commercial celebrated with Bonitz Flooring at an event held at the Avenue in Greenville, S.C., Oct. 26.

Pictured are Marc Ahrens, vice president global commercial solutions, Invista; Jeanne Matson, president and CEO, Starnet; and Pete Larmore, president and CEO, Bonitz Flooring.

 

 

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Starnet fall conference: Members look to finish the year on a high note

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

By Reginald Tucker

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.30.48 PMAtlanta—The momentum generated at Starnet’s spring conference and silver anniversary celebration earlier this year (FCNews, May 8/15) appears to have carried all the way over into the group’s fall meeting here this month as members expressed widespread optimism that business will finish strong to close out 2017.

“2017 has been good for Starnet members overall,” said Jeanne Matson, president and CEO, citing collective growth in the single-digit range. “Members have been busy this past summer and we expect a strong finish for the year.”

In terms of product categories, Matson said much of the action has been driven by hard surfaces. “We’ve been experiencing the shift from carpet and that’s been an ongoing trend. But this year I feel it has been a little more marked, especially with the LVT explosion and so many of our vendor partners getting into that business and hard surface in general.”

Ceramic is another hot category for Starnet members, Matson reports. When she joined Starnet about 11 years ago, roughly 30% of membership was active in the category; today that number is probably close to 60%. “We’ve had consistent good growth with Daltile, and a lot of that has come from more of our members doing ceramic work. Some of our members—particularly our larger ones—have built their ceramic business to about $1 million within a year. It’s a different kind of product to install, you need different technical labor and skills in estimating, but it’s very lucrative and it gives the end user a one-stop shopping experience.”

Contractor members like Randall Weis, CEO of New York-based R.D. Weis, can attest. “There is a visible shift from soft to hard surface. LVT and ceramic are the big winners and continue to take more share.”

That’s not to say that carpet is no longer desirable. “Carpet is being impacted by hard surface for sure, but we believe it will always be a factor,” Matson stated. “Obviously there are certain environments where soft surface is necessary. The area rug category, for example, has generated opportunities for our vendors and members alike.”

Starnet members are also benefitting from thriving end-use markets. “For our membership overall, corporate is a very strong market,” said Leah Ledoux, director of strategic accounts. “Hospitality is up and education seems to be coming back. Multi-family housing is still very strong, but that’s kind of at its peak right now. Healthcare, however, is down a little bit but continues to be an important market for us.”

But given the fact membership varies by region, it’s hard to paint the market in broad brush strokes. “Because our membership is so diverse, you may have some members doing a ton of work in education and others doing well in hospitality,” Ledoux said. “But we continue to look at the progress we’ve had in all these categories so we know where we need to be.”

Common interests, goals
Many longtime Starnet contractors attribute some of the success they have achieved over the years, in part, to benefits that group membership brings. Attending conference meetings also provides members with an opportunity to share practices that they might bring back to their own businesses. “I enjoyed meeting with my peers and manufacturing partners,” said David Meberg, president and CEO of Consolidated Carpets, New York. “Catching up and discussing the current events of the industry was the most valuable part of the conference.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.30.57 PMIn that spirit of cooperation, Meberg shared some of his insights with the group during the lead-off session, “Building profitable and sustainable business relationships,” along with Max Cavalli, director of education, Mannington Commercial; and Kathi Kennedy, business developer, Howard’s Rug, San Diego. Starnet’s Ledoux, who moderated the panel, explained the thought process behind the group session format. “The goal of the presentation was to put a member’s perspective on the three different positions of being a flooring contractor. For owners like Meberg, you’re driving business and specifying materials. A lot of the owners within Starnet are part of the process, they have their own accounts and they’re driving their own businesses and engaged in the process.”

It’s a position other longtime Starnet members can readily appreciate. “In my business I’m managing the cash flow, scheduling jobs and setting the strategy for the growth of the company,” said Jason Adams, president of Kingston Tile Co., Romeoville, Ill.  “The points I stress within the company are awareness of business opportunities, measurement of our initiatives and holding people accountable.”

The key to success for other members like Chuck Rajner, owner of Ohio-based Commercial Flooring of Toledo, hinges simply on taking care of the customer. “Our gross margin is enhanced by our relationships with our customers. If we make our clients’ jobs easier, then we’ll usually get the business.”

Regardless of the particular strategy, members stand to take away something of high value by learning about other contractors’ experiences. “People told me it was interesting to hear about different business models during the sessions,” Ledoux said, citing presentations that touched on various topics such as profitability, technology, management and environmental issues. “We may have 174 members but that’s really 174 different business models.”

It’s precisely that sharing of experiences that keeps members coming to convention. As Weis explained: “A key benefit of two live Starnet meetings per year is for the members/shareholders to get an update on where we stand with our vendor partners, and how the co-op is doing overall. For me, one of Starnet’s biggest values is it provides professional training, education and networking that no other group provides its members.”

Even new members are already reaping some of the benefits of aligning with Starnet. Such is the case with Athens, Ga.-based DCO Commercial, which joined the group back in January. “The networking and relationships we have built with vendor partners, members and Starnet staff over the past 10 months has well exceeded our expectations,” said Curtis Blanton, vice president. “The networking amongst like-minded individuals is always the best part of these events. It is tremendous for companies to come together, network and share best practices for the good of the overall industry and to strengthen our alliance.”

The main goal, according to management, is to put members in the best position to succeed. “We’re always looking to grow the group both organically and in terms of our vendor base,” Matson said. “I think we’re poised for growth into 2018 and 2019.”

 

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Starnet conference marks ‘silver’ milestone

May 8/15, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 24

By Reginald Tucker

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 9.31.12 AMCarlsbad, Calif.—Starnet kicked off its 25th anniversary conference in a big way earlier this month, drawing a record number of members and manufacturer reps alike. The event also marked a key turning point in the evolution of the organization.

“We have more than 700 people here—that’s the most we’ve ever had,” said Jeanne Matson, president and CEO. “The mills and vendors are bringing more people than they used to. And our members are bringing more people, which is the byproduct of a good, strong economy.”

Not only are more people coming to Starnet, but the mix of attendee profiles is shifting. “We’re seeing more regional vice presidents here and more local people, which is really good because we’re getting the message down to the street on how critical the relationship is between the Starnet member and our vendor partners,” said Leah Ledoux, director of strategic accounts.

Indeed, Starnet members have evolved over time, right along with the overall industry. Matson, who has been with Starnet for 10 years, said the group has seen a lot of change over the past quarter century. “I think we are more sophisticated as a group, and the members are doing their businesses in a more technology-based way than they did in the past. The challenges with evolving flooring materials and what that means in terms of installation is changing and causing them to be smarter.”

At the same time, the more things change some lingering issues remain. “Labor continues to be an issue—the members can’t seem to find enough good installers,” Matson said. “But that’s one of the areas where Starnet can really provide assistance.”

For instance, Starnet strives to help members connect with one another. This is not only for the purpose of networking but also problem solving. Matson cited an example where one member, Jeff Lasher (The Rouse Co.), was able to help another member who had an issue with wood and humidity.

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 9.31.33 AMStarnet is also working to better serve its members by developing strong educational programs. Members got a glimpse of that objective via the sessions offered at the conference. “We really try to gear the education to some of the issues such as resolving family leadership issues, profitability issues and running a business, because a lot of our members started out on the installation side,” Matson said. “These seminars help them focus on the day-to-day business issues.”

Starnet’s work doesn’t end there. The group’s leadership also works closely with vendors to ensure success for suppliers and contractor members alike. (The price of admission in the group is at least $5 million as members are expected to meet a certain purchasing threshold.) “Our vendor partners are important to us,” Matson said. “We work hard to make sure they are getting value from this group, so there’s more of an emphasis on partnerships.”

While the market shift to hard surface hasn’t necessarily changed Starnet’s vendor lineup, it has changed its purchasing strategies. As Matson explained: “The carpet tile sector was up slightly last year, but broadloom was down. Hard surface continues to be strong, especially ceramic. Many members were not in ceramic 10 years ago, and a lot more are doing it now. LVT is strong as well. End users are demanding one-stop shopping.”

Equally important is the focus on programs, especially as it pertains to cleaning and maintenance, and strategic accounts. “We now have 40 companies in cleaning and maintenance,” Ledoux said. That’s up significantly from 10 years ago. “We have a national network so we can do national accounts now. It’s a profitable business for our members.”

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 9.31.21 AMHaving the ability to do turnkey services and installation and then floor care, Ledoux said, gets Starnet members “in the door. We have 100 points where we can service the customer. A lot of clients don’t want to have subcontractors come in who don’t work for them. With our members we have the ability to do that in terms of both installation and floor care. It’s a strong point with end users.”

Key drivers
Starnet leadership cited several key end-use sectors that are driving the business. Healthcare continues to top the list, especially on the assisted-living side. Meanwhile, education has stayed pretty strong. Hospitality, which entails a lot of direct selling, has also grown; corporate has been pretty solid.
“We try to drive specifications through our vendor partners in corporate applications,” Ledoux explained. (Members collectively generate more than $3 billion in sales.) “That’s been a consistent segment for us.”

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 9.31.27 AMMany contractor members are reaping the rewards. “We’re in the fortunate position that we’ve had to turn down work,” said Randy Rubenstein, president of the Seattle-based contracting firm that bears his name. “We have more jobs than we can handle. Corporate clients are hiring; Amazon brought in all these workers to the city, and as a result multi-family construction is up. We’ve been getting a lot of that work.”

In keeping with the overall market shift to hard surfaces, Rubenstein’s mix is changing accordingly. “We do a lot of work with terrazzo and LVT,” he said. “In many other commodity categories we find we just compete with our vendors. There’s better margin in terrazzo; it’s just the material and epoxy and we do it on the job site. It has been very profitable for us.”

Mill partners are prospering as well. “Our first quarter was up by single digits, and multifamily is strong,” said Russell Grizzle, president and CEO, Mannington Mills. “The shift from soft surface to hard surface is just unbelievable.”

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Tarkett products earn 14 Starnet honors

tarkett-logoSolon, Ohio—Tarkett’s Johnsonite and Tandus Centiva brands were recently honored at the prestigious Starnet Design Awards. The two brands were featured in a combined 14 award-winning projects, including six gold, four silver and four bronze. Starnet members entered more than 100 projects featuring the two brands.

The Starnet Design Awards launched in 1998 to spotlight the innovative use of flooring in commercial design. A panel of three professionals hand-selected from respected commercial A&D design firms serve as the judges. Judging is open to Starnet members within the People’s Choice category.

“It’s always an honor to hear our name and products associated with these awards,” said Rusty Joyce, senior vice president of sales, Tandus Centiva. “These are projects entered by people who have used our product, are proud of their work and stand behind it. It speaks volumes about the quality of our brands for these respected Starnet members to turn to them year after year.”

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Starnet members look to optimize opportunities for growth

April 25/May 2, 2016; Volume 30, Number 22

By Jenna Lippin

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 12.29.33 PMDoral, Fla.—Starnet Worldwide Commercial Flooring Partnership members met here April 14–16 for what is believed to be the largest gathering in the group’s history. The meeting served as a platform for members to discuss emerging opportunities while reviewing significant strides made in the last year.

“We had a good 2015 and solid growth with a number of our vendors,” said Jeanne Matson, Starnet’s president and CEO. “We saw the highest rate of return to our members in years—probably in our history—and that’s what our goal is. We see 2016 continuing to be conservative but strong across the country.”

A year after bringing on commercial flooring veteran Leah Ledoux to head up strategic accounts, Matson cites growth opportunities presented by the initiative. Starnet waited until March 1 to launch the strategic accounts pilot program to give leadership and board members an opportunity to fine tune it and ensure there was sufficient participation from the most appropriate members.

“The members in the pilot program already do multi-location work,” Matson said, adding that some members are now getting business from Starnet feeding into the structure they’ve already established. “We are looking to learn from them, too. We want to succeed with this and move prudently. We’re really looking to bring more members in as we expand.”

According to Ledoux, the seeds for the pilot program were planted with a mandatory survey that went out in November assessing involvement in national strategic accounts. According to the results, roughly 80% of members were interested but only about 30% were currently involved in that side of the business.

“We took it a step further and asked what percentage of their business came from each segment,” she explained. “We found there were about 21 members who were involved in all segments. The Starnet executive team and board decided from there that we would launch a pilot group with 12 to 15 members that did programs in each of the different segments on a national accounts level.”

There is a buy-in for members to get involved with strategic accounts that includes various benefits such as project tracking, CRM and Sitefotos, a tool that provides real-time job reporting through photographs set up like a Pinterest page. This also allows customers or clients to view the progress of all accounts on which they’re currently working. Qualifications to join strategic accounts include preexisting multi-segment business, the capability to have liability insurance of $5 million and an established infrastructure that manages national and strategic accounts.

“Floor care wasn’t a requirement, but it is factorable to the program’s success because that element doesn’t exist in many national accounts today,” Ledoux noted.

Starnet will seek to add more members to strategic accounts over time. The goal is to help create opportunities by expanding into different regions. This may mean leveraging relationships with different members in various areas and using the tools and resources offered by those working on national accounts.

“Geographically there are members throughout the country that are involved,” Ledoux said. “We are very conscious of different territories and we wouldn’t want to overlap members in terms of location.”

 

Ceramic opportunities

In addition to the strategic accounts program, Starnet is putting emphasis on the lucrative ceramic category. It’s an expanding area for members, with some involved in the ceramic side of the business for years and others just becoming more acquainted with the category.

“We have two ways we can grow,” said Les Lippert, president of Lippert Tile Company, Menomonee Falls, Wis., and a member of Starnet’s board of directors. “Vertically, which means doing more of what we’ve always done, or horizontally by adding services that complement what we already do. This includes tile or other untapped categories, maintenance, etc.”

In discussing the opportunities in tile with other Starnet members, Lippert reviewed the most important factors when considering tile work. The first is qualified labor as tile installation is more technical and time consuming. “Tile is more labor intensive,” he said. “Variances in project costs including labor will have more of an effect on the project than with regular floor covering. Mistakes pose a great risk; installers for tile must be experts, not just experienced. I have not found many flooring installers with real, demonstrative skills in tile or stone.”

Another important aspect of getting involved in the tile business, Lippert said, is continued education. “Ceramic tile and marble work continue to evolve with standards from the TCNA [Tile Council of North America] and manufacturers continuing to adapt, change and introduce new things. Without the TCNA handbook you’re in trouble and misinformed. You also want to verify materials used to conform to ANSI standards.”

Getting and staying current in technical knowledge in tile is most important; the cost of failures is unreasonably high. To that end, Danielle Hunsicker, general manager, commercial sales, Dal-Tile, talked to members about the benefits of ceramic business and how Dal-Tile can help them in this growth arena by offering educational services. Specifically, Dal-Tile’s approach in helping Starnet members’ involvement in the ceramic tile business involves offering tools and resources, including tailored training sessions.

“There’s a growth opportunity with ceramic tile because the category continues to expand year after year,” she told FCNews. “But you have the need for qualified labor. As people are retiring, you have a lot of the next generation coming up and we need more great companies to engage in tile to meet that qualified labor. With Starnet there’s a great opportunity for members to diversify or grow their businesses in new ways.”

For Jessica Hansen, design and sales consultant for Starnet member Workplace Services based in Escondido, Calif., ceramic tile has helped the company build additional business. “We’re starting to dabble in tile; there is so much demand and so much opportunity,” she said. “We may not have won a flooring bid but now with tile we can work our way into a job in a different way. We also have the door opened with general contractors or new architects thanks to tile. It’s another way to get our name out there.”

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Starnet adds two members to cooperative

Starnet-LogoDarien, Conn.—Milburn Flooring Mills, Copaigue, N.Y., and JDS Flooring Associates LLC, Londonderry, N.H., have joined the Starnet Worldwide Commercial Flooring Cooperative, the group announced.

These additions bring the membership to 165, with 305 locations throughout 48 states in the U.S. and nine provinces in Canada.

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RD Weis Companies to acquire CTS Flooring

RD_Weis_Companies_logoElmsford, NY—RD Weis Companies said it would acquire CTS Flooring of Limerick, Pa., effective Jan. 1, 2016.

Founded 56 years ago, CTS Flooring has made its name as a specialty firm, focused on multi-location/national account roll outs where flooring installations are often combined with other commercial building needs such as painting, signage and other services.

“The combination of RD Weis and CTS Flooring, both StarNet members, gives both firms a unique platform to learn from each other and also offer services that will expand the breadth of both firms,” said Randy Weis, president and owner of RD Weis Companies. “CTS Flooring has very solid and experienced people throughout the organization and has an impeccable reputation in the national flooring installation arena.”

Drew Guinan, who has led CTS for the last decade, will continue in his role as CEO to assure business continuity throughout the organization.

Weis added, “I am looking forward to working with Drew and the entire team at CTS Flooring, as we have known each other for a very long time, and have similar values and goals. This will be a win/win for everyone.”

After Jan. 1, the official name for CTS Flooring will be CTS Flooring Group. CTS and RD Weis’ common ownership ensures that their customers and prospects can take advantage of the strengths of both companies to solve their flooring and other interior needs. CTS Flooring, like RD Weis Companies, is a member of StarNet Worldwide, the industry’s largest commercial flooring partnership.