In 1958, one year before Hawaii became the 50th state in the Union, a husband and wife team of Raymond and Carol Mori launched a new flooring business designed to capture a share of the burgeoning multi-family housing market in this territory on the verge of statehood. Looking back on the history of Island Flooring, our growth has mirrored the development of Hawaii, and our successes have paralleled the many accomplishments of our magical state.
Supporting the Housing Boom
In the 1950s, Raymond Mori had already been serving as a painting contractor in the islands for several years, and he was very aware of the expansion opportunities ahead for Hawaii. He decided to focus his business exclusively on flooring, concentrating on the residential housing market. He and his wife saw the tremendous economic growth predicted for Hawaii after statehood, and by concentrating on this market segment, they could maximize their profitability. This strategy supported Island Flooring for the next 10 years.
Of course, the attraction of an economy backed by the U.S. government spurred growth in hospitality. More and more people sought to visit the islands, and new hotels were required to satisfy the increased tourism demand. The education market also became an area of focus for the company as the state’s increasing population resulted in a need for more schools. In the early days, carpet and vinyl tile were an essential staple for Island Flooring. The Moris started with approximately four installers working primarily on Oahu, home to the state’s capital and largest city, Honolulu.
A Leadership Position
Over the next 56 years, the Mori family successfully built Island Flooring into the largest union flooring contractor in the state of Hawaii. From small independent hotels, the company expanded its scope to include a wide range of major hospitality chains including the Four Seasons, Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and Outrigger. Island Flooring also entered the healthcare market, which required developing highly technical expertise in products such as commercial sheet vinyl and rubber flooring. The company performed work on several high-profile projects such as the Hawaii Convention Center and the new main branch of the state’s largest bank, First Hawaiian Bank.
By 2014, Island Flooring had more than 60 employees, including 45 installers. After more than five decades in the business, Raymond and Carol decided it was time to retire. With a desire to see their legacy continue, they decided to sell their business to a seasoned local investment group. The senior management team, many with 10 to 20 or more years with Island Flooring, all remained with the company.
I joined as president in February 2016, after more than 20 years as the vice president of construction for the largest retail grocery chain in Hawaii. After overseeing subcontractors from various trades in the buildouts and repairs of our stores statewide, I jumped at the opportunity to lead a flooring company with such a storied past and outstanding reputation in the industry. I saw it as a natural progression for me professionally, and after a little over a year, I can say that the experience has exceeded my expectations.
Transitioning to a New Team
Today, the team at Island Flooring is focused on working together to achieve continued success. We have clear goals and financial targets that we are striving for. In particular, I want to focus on military and government work, since, as a union company, we have many opportunities in that space. Both healthcare and corporate work are also of high potential, and I have set a goal of double-digit growth in these segments. In terms of product types, we have already expanded into floor prep and a wide range of new flooring materials. We are seeking to offer more specialty solutions such as turf, epoxy, and polished/stained concrete applications.
Organizationally, we have a traditional structure. We have two vice presidents, one overseeing estimating and planning, and one overseeing operations. We have two project managers who are supported by a team of coordinators. On the financial side, we have a controller and an assistant controller. I would like to strengthen our sales capabilities, and possibly add a business development position to work with the designers and architects in the market. We believe that our knowledge and relationships in the marketplace give us a unique ability to strengthen specifications, in order to provide value on both the financial and material integrity aspects to our customers.
As a union company, our installers receive excellent training. We have been able to supplement that training with support from our manufacturers. Geographically, we are challenged to tap into regional training courses due to our isolated island location. However, we take advantage of the training sessions offered at trade events such as The International Surfaces Event. In particular, on the more technical products, like those from Ardex, we have gained a great deal of installation expertise. We have participated in Certified Flooring Installers training with companies such as Mannington. All of these training opportunities have strengthened our performance, and have helped us to maintain our position as the market leading provider of flooring solutions.
Finally, Island Flooring was very fortunate to join Starnet in 1997. Our affiliation with Starnet has been a critical factor in our success. Through Starnet, we have connected with the leading flooring contractors in the U.S. and Canada, and their training programs have supported our business expansion plans. I feel we have tapped into an extensive database of knowledge and experience through our membership with Starnet. For the Island Flooring team, the accessibility of the content is invaluable.
Looking Forward to the Future
The entire team at Island Flooring is excited for the future. We have worked through the transition to new ownership, and we have strategically grown our business to capitalize on market demand. While the focus of our business remains on the island of Oahu, we have expanded with selected projects on the other islands as well. We have a strong relationship with our owners, who support our plans while allowing the management team to drive the business.
Just like the Hawaiian Islands, Island Flooring has flourished since the early days of statehood, and we are grateful for the strong foundation built by Raymond and Carol. In keeping pace with past successes, and with our strategic vision for the future in place, we aim to continuously improve on our core values of accountability, team work, honesty, integrity and safety.