On August 23rd I attended the Flooring Installation Taskforce meeting held at the CFI convention in San Antonio. This meeting was hosted by the Floor Covering Leadership Council to help further the mission of solving the installer shortage. Robert Varden, head of the CFI, did a fantastic job presenting the challenges, and providing real, actionable solutions to recruit a steady stream of young people to the installation profession. The only thing needed to implement these solutions is funding. Hopefully a few big players, or a group of smaller players, or some combination, will recognize that funding these solutions is in their own best interest. After all, if you can’t install it you can’t sell it, either at the manufacturer, distribution, or retail levels.
Short Term Solutions
So, in the short term—while we work towards an industry-wide solution—you need to solve the installation problem for yourself. I believe there are really only two viable options to do this. The first option is to recruit installers away from other dealers. In today’s market it’s rare to find an experienced, qualified installer who is unemployed, therefore you’ll often be hiring them away from other dealers, which requires that you pay them better than your competition. The second option is to recruit and hire new, inexperienced installers. In this case you’ll need to provide training and—this is critical—a career path. (CFI has training programs to which you can send new installers.) You’ll need to show them how they’ll be making x-number of dollars, and how that amount will go up as they gain experience. You’ll also need to provide health insurance and a retirement plan. In other words, you’ll need to hire them as in-house employees because 18-24-year-olds are generally not interested in starting their own installation business, buying a van, the tools, etc.
Overcoming The Obstacles
Neither option is possible if you don’t have enough customers, your close ratios are low, and your margins are in the toilet. If you’re trying to compete by being cheaper than everyone else, you’ll cause a myriad of problems for yourself, just a few of which include:
- Inability to recruit quality help of any kind, including installers
- Inability to grow
- Difficulty weathering recessions
- Massive stress and overwork for yourself
- Yes, there are large companies which sell on cheap price (or at least pretend to), but as an independent retailer you shouldn’t emulate them.
First, they have a business plan which supports a cheap price model, including the ability to buy in massive volume. Second, whenever “cheap price” is your big market advantage, all it takes is for someone to come along offering cheaper price to eliminate your advantage. Case in point: I was recently consulting with a dealer from Georgia who told me, “No one beats our price.” Awhile later in our conversation he complained that he was surrounded by dealers who owned nothing more than a website and some samples, who were selling out of their truck or garage and undercutting his prices. I pointed out to this dealer that this is why cheap-price selling is a dead end. I’m now working with him to completely reposition their business away from cheap price, and implement marketing to attract the right customers.
The good news is that you can attract plenty of quality customers, while having high close ratios, and while selling at high margins. I have worked with many dealers from every conceivable type of market who are doing it right now, as I write this. They’ve done it using the right kind of marketing, and if they can do it, you can, too. In part two I’ll cover specific strategies to make this happen in your business, and thereby help you solve the installation crisis yourself.
To Tons Of Customers!
Jim Augustus Armstrong is The “Coach”
Jim Augustus Armstrong is the President of Flooring Success Systems, a program that equips dealers to double their profits, cut their work hours in half and beat the boxes! Many dealers have totally transformed their businesses and their lives for the better after joining Flooring Success Systems.
See what real, live dealers are saying!