What Makes a Flooring Installation Services Program a Success?
Fuse Commercial, the installation and project management services program offered exclusively through Fuse Alliance, began as the brain child of the 2012 Fuse Alliance board of directors. At that time, the idea was to leverage the size and scope of the Fuse Alliance network to target large multi-location customers from a service and installation standpoint. Fast-forward five years and Fuse Commercial has been a huge success.
Launching a program such as Fuse Commercial takes planning. It meant that a strategy needed to be put into action with a dedicated person to lead the charge. Once the Fuse Alliance board approved the idea, it was time to find someone to head up the new initiative. The board tapped one of its very own members, me, Geoff Gordon. At that time, I was the president of SCS Flooring Systems in Orange, Calif. I made the move to the Fuse Alliance management team in May 2013 to spearhead this new arm of the business. As the senior vice president, I ran Fuse Commercial for two and a half years and got Fuse Commercial off to a very good start. Since then, I became executive director of the organization, and in January 2016, Mike Hutton came on board as our senior vice president. He took the reigns for Fuse Commercial and has been unstoppable ever since. Under Mike’s leadership, Fuse Commercial grew more than 50% in 2016 and is looking to do the same in 2017. With a focus on national accounts and developing relationships with key end users, Mike has been an outstanding addition to the network. To maintain this level of success and to keep up the momentum, it takes focus, relationship building and most of all, a strategy.
Why start a program such as Fuse Commercial? The idea behind Fuse Commercial was to create a separate business model catering to national accounts. With a network made up of a very skilled roster of professional commercial flooring professionals located throughout the United States and Canada, this was a no brainer. We could simply enlist the services of our network in a strategic way that could support an initiative like this. Over the years, our model has been refined, but at its core, still incorporates as set of guiding principles that offer large national account customers a strong platform for project management and ultimately extend the life of their flooring investment.
Early on, we had some immediate successes. Network supplier partner J&J Flooring Group approached us about Golden Corral, a national restaurant chain made up of 500 locations in 40 states. J&J Flooring Group was the broadloom and carpet tile standard for Golden Corral. Golden Corral had experienced poor installation in multiple locations, and difficulty in finding high-quality installation work across the country. The solution? Fuse Commercial partnered with J&J Flooring Group to address the customer’s issues, develop a solution and install the right floor with the right installer in every location. Three years later, Golden Corral is still a significant client for our network.
Today, our business model of single point of contact and quality of installation has been the key reason for successful long-term relationships. Diversicare Healthcare Services is another example of a customer that has benefited from Fuse Commercial. With 77 properties in 10 states, Diversicare was in search of a reliable flooring installation source that was easy to work with. Two years ago, our network got involved with Diversicare to help solve an installation failure on a project located in Cleveland. Since then, Fuse Commercial has helped establish a corporate flooring standard and completed many installations across the country.
These are just some examples of how the network’s Fuse Commercial initiative has proven success, partnering with suppliers and customers to tackle problems head on. But, before we find out what the problems are, we have a solid set of guiding principals that make Fuse Commercial a successful installation program:
- Keeping it simple—in the case of a national account, a single point of contact is key. An end use customer deals with one person at Fuse Commercial, who then works with his/her team to walk the job, prepare a takeoff, generate a proposal, run the work, bill and close the job. This simplifies the process for the end user. Fuse Commercial utilizes its own members as subcontractors to perform the work based on where the project is located.
- Consistency in approach and workflow always matter. Since Fuse Commercial is managing the business, every proposal, RFI, estimate, billing etc., looks exactly the same. Additionally, as Fuse Commercial does more work for the customer, the company can build up a wealth of knowledge that helps the work run smoother.
- Make sure savings are passed along through competitive network labor prices. Since a Fuse Alliance member has no sales cost and no credit risk (Fuse Commercial bills the client and pays the member for services rendered), that savings is passed along to Fuse Commercial.
- End users always work with professional flooring contractors not labor shops. Projects are getting more sophisticated all the time as architects and designers add hard surface offering as well as other products to a typical job. The majority of jobs require the installation of all different types of flooring, which makes working with a sophisticated flooring contractor a must. In addition, Fuse Alliance flooring contractors have warehouses to store material as well as logistics teams to coordinate onsite deliveries, schedule labor, and perform floor prep and moisture testing.
- Financial stability is behind every member and every project. An end user can feel confident in the fact that if there is a problem with any project, the Fuse network has the financial wherewithal to take care of the situation.
- In this case, size doesn’t matter. Fuse Commercial will take on any size job no matter how small. As a business, we recognize that major end users also have small repair jobs just as much as they have large projects. We focus on accommodating that work as well.
- Labor-only jobs are appreciated. We’re happy to do labor only work either on its own or in conjunction with a manufacturer partner.
- Keep it simple with competitive overall pricing. Since Fuse Alliance is a cooperative, it exists to support its network members. As a result, it is not necessary for the organization to make a profit on national account work but to simply cover its costs. Only a very small percentage is built into Fuse Commercial proposals, which is just enough to cover basic overhead costs.
At the end of the day, customers are always the focus and we’re in the business of service. In the last two years, we’ve added 26 new members to our network, bringing our total member count to 96 members in 140 locations. With the addition of these new members (with more to come), Fuse Alliance—and Fuse Commercial—can service multi-location customers anywhere in the continental U.S. and Canada. National accounts are all about service and response, and Mike and his team have delivered time and time again.