With all of the changes that are taking place in the commercial world, it has become increasingly important to keep an ongoing connection to your peers. Being an independent dealer in an ever-changing contract world is a tough place to be if you don’t have others like you who you can reach out to for help or guidance. Even in this past year we are seeing changes in product mix as the industry appears to be accelerating at a quicker pace from soft surface to hard surface. These changes have convinced many of our members to jump into ceramic tile, polished concrete and other specialty surfaces. Coupling that with changes in the healthcare laws, technological advances and new regulations there is a lot to know as a contractor business owner.

Fuse Alliance is now in the second generation of leadership since its inception back in 2006. A network that started with many of the original Interface Resource dealers has evolved into a 93-member, 150-location group and is continuing to grow at a rapid clip. Ron Lee and Ken Daniels guided the organization from 2006 to 2015, and now Mike Hutton, our senior vice president, and I have taken the reins. A network to keep business and contractors connected is more important than ever in this ever-evolving industry.

As a network leadership team, we work hard every day to make sure our members have all the information they need from our key suppliers especially as it relates to all the new 99RH solutions becoming available. Slab moisture issues continue to plague our members, but we have to make sure we are providing everyone the tools needed to properly install the new systems that are now available. Wood Plastic Composite products (WPC’s) are the latest in vinyl plank technology, and as a result there are new things to learn. Floating floors are becoming more popular and even new installation techniques such as installing porcelain tile over tile.

How does an independent dealer stay abreast of all the changes without the benefit of a network like Fuse? Having run a contracting business for 10 years the answer is: it’s not easy.

At our last annual meeting our keynote speaker talked about the changes in construction technology, and it is mind-boggling! It is inevitable that 3D plans and 3D printing are going to be part of our world. We are already seeing systems where you can fly a drone through a building to take flooring measurements. During the speaker’s presentation, we saw an example of an iPad app that can take a conventional set of plans and instantly turn them into a 3D image. For our members to be successful contractors, we have to be ahead of the technology curve. Our members don’t have time to keep up on these advances while running their own businesses. This is where Fuse comes in.

We are always looking at the latest software for estimating and for job costing so that we can help our members make important, informed decisions that are positive for their business. As a network, we are beginning to get involved with some of the national training groups in order to help our members get the installation and sales training required. For instance, our online university, Fuse University, is a big hit with our members.

Our network has spent a lot of time in working with our members on helping to build general contractor relationships and end user/facility manager relationships. Our goal moving forward is to give our members the tools to help them build relationships with interior designers and architects. With a well thought out program focused on these initiatives, this approach will be extremely beneficial to our members as they look for new opportunities to grow their business.

For any successful business enterprise to grow, the owners must embrace change and be educated on all the new developments in our industry. I get dizzy just thinking about all the changes that have taken place since I have been in the business. Flooring contractors must control their own destiny. There is no better way to do that than by being informed and developing close, personal relationships with peers to share ideas.

Contractors will always be an integral part of the flooring business today and for years to come. In fact, our role is increasing since newer product categories and more sophisticated design installations require more expertise. It is our job to search out and find new tools, make them available to our members, but most of all, keep our members connected to each other as well as the advancements of our industry.