It makes good business sense to maximize the value of every customer by performing as many services as possible for that customer. And, in addition, by identifying the best route to an annuity business where a good customer becomes a repeat customer.
In commercial flooring, the immediate service offering is the purchase and installation of flooring in a commercial space. At Starnet, our 176 member companies are experts in converting flooring materials into a beautiful floor. However, at an increasing pace, our members are compounding the value of each customer by offering post-installation floor care. Proper floor care not only lengthens the life of the flooring, but significantly adds to the profitability of the business.
The Birth of Starnet Floor Care
Since Starnet was founded in 1992, a handful of Starnet members were performing floor care independently. However, there was no structure within Starnet to support these efforts.
Through informal networking, these members recognized that they could learn from each other and there were opportunities to improve their business by combining forces to create a larger group dedicated to this aspect of the business. In 2012, approximately 15 Starnet members who had developed a floor care business joined together in Washington D.C. for the first Starnet Floor Care summit. These members recognized the value of floor care which is defined as post-installation cleaning and maintenance of all types of flooring materials including carpet, resilient, ceramic and wood. For their businesses, floor care not only increased the revenue and profits of each project, but also it improved cash flow, an area which is challenging in commercial flooring.
At the time, Randy Weis of RD Weis Companies, was the chairman of Starnet and he was already a leader in the floor care arena. He was instrumental in launching this initiative and, in 2013, Starnet hired me to join the Starnet staff and lead the Starnet Floor Care initiative.
Starnet Floor Care is Launched
My first step was to understand the status of the current floor care operations. That is, how consistently are these companies going to market in floor care and what cleaning systems and equipment were in use across the network? I developed a tracking mechanism to identify common threads between these businesses and I determined the success levels by member. It became clear that the go-to-market strategy of these businesses varied and, through a better understanding of the current success rates, I could create an ideal business scenario. While my goal was to improve the business of those members currently in floor care; however, my long-term target was to train new members in floor care in order to establish a national network of floor care providers who could support multi-facility projects.
A critical step was the formation of the Starnet Floor Care Advisory Board which consists of five strong, experienced floor care providers from different geographic areas across North America. This group helped me to form a business plan and they recommended the training materials and protocol to most effectively support a floor care business. This group continues to have monthly calls discussing best practices for operations, safety, marketing and procedures as well as exploring and reviewing the latest technology in carpet care, resilient care, ceramics, concrete, stone and terrazzo. Their work has expanded as the Starnet members have ventured into new flooring innovations.
Only one year later, in February 2014, a total of 55 participants came together for the first Starnet Floor Care Convention. The convention triggered the intentional effort to marry the manufacturer’s maintenance specifications with Starnet floor care standards. From that meeting forward, there has been consistent communication and floor care practices shared between the manufacturer and the Starnet member companies.
Facing Challenges for Continual Growth
Of course, Starnet needed to implement a strong training program for both new and experienced floor care providers. For the new members, we have developed a three-day live training which is held at one of two Starnet member locations. The more experienced and successful members share their experiences while benchmarking best practices. Starnet also provides a comprehensive Starnet Floor Care Handbook which is a 53-page booklet packed full of information on operations, sales, marketing, productivity, pricing and customer service. Starnet also includes an on-site member visit by the director of Floor Care to assure the member is following the recommended procedures and to share best practices that have been gathered from across North America.
Starnet also has been very helpful to both new and experienced businesses by introducing new products such as high-performance coatings and new chemistry and equipment that improves quality and productivity. Most floor care divisions don’t allow time for researching and testing new products and services, so Starnet brings value by being the R&D arm for the entire network.
By far the biggest challenge to the Starnet Floor Care initiative has been the expansion into the hard surface category. Just four years ago, the Starnet Floor Care network was 85% carpet care and 15% resilient and ceramic care. With the expansion into concrete, terrazzo, stone and high-performance coatings, the current business mix is closer to 50% carpet and 50% hard surface. These trends mirror the larger industry and we feel this shift keeps us abreast of overall flooring product development.
Starnet Floor Care: A Success Story
I asked Starnet member Joe Carmichael of ACS Flooring in Houston to discuss how Starnet has helped him start and grow his floor care business. Carmichael commented, “We started from zero business in 2015. With the guidance from Starnet and the support from the Starnet Preferred Vendor partners and members, we have grown to be a very nice, profitable business. Starnet took the guess work out of floor care, producing a list of the exact training to take, the equipment to purchase and the chemistry to use in a successful floor care business. Importantly, Starnet has been very helpful on the pricing side of the business which was my largest concern. Joining Starnet Floor Care has been a great business move for ACS!”
A Day in the Life of Starnet Floor Care
In an ideal business model, the Starnet Floor Care leader manages both the technical crews and the paperwork necessary to support the business. This individual spends 95% of his/her time in the office. Also, each successful business should have a separate individual dedicated to selling Starnet Floor Care. At times, the salesperson is a blend with flooring sales also, but that formula varies by company.
The Starnet Floor Care network provides the most common answers from the membership. This is accomplished through networking with like-minded business people who share how they run their business in their particular market while implementing new ideas into their own businesses. It is a two-way street, people learning from each other.
Working with Starnet’s Preferred Vendor network, Starnet Floor Care extends the installation warranty into a lifetime guarantee as long as the Starnet member maintains the floor. Essentially, this allows the Starnet member and Preferred Vendor Partner to offer a continuous installation warranty vs. the traditional one-year guarantee. This warranty extension is incredibly valuable selling point to the end users and it creates trust and value in the flooring project.
Plans for Future Expansion
From its onset, the goal of Starnet Floor Care was to maximize the returns on each customer. Through involvement in Starnet Floor Care, our members evolve from floor care providers to floor care resources. Combining expertise in flooring selection and installation with excellence in servicing their customer base in floor care, these members have improved the financial aspects of their business while creating a long-standing relationship with the customer. The benefits of this move are obvious. At Starnet, we continue to add new members to the Starnet Floor Care team with the goal of having a connection in every major market in North America. Currently covering 85% of North America’s population, Starnet has the reach to handle national projects for customers and vendor partners along with delivering floor care best practices in each member’s local market. For Starnet, the full service dealer network approach has been a great success.