Las Vegas set the stage for the 2019 Floors and More Winter Convention. Much like in a game of poker, attendees were encouraged to confidently take risks, commit, put it all on the line and ‘Go All In’ to win.

“We want people to know that they have to commit fully to everything that they do,” said Mike Cherico, vice president of Floors and More. “Most people don’t go all in, they try things. Going all in is really committing to something and making it work. No question of, ‘I hope’ or ‘I’ll try’—it’s making it work. That’s what winning is about.”

Positioning its members to win, Floors and More is rolling out programming and support that will best equip members to take advantage of digital marketing, comfortably face upcoming economic uncertainty head-on, strengthen vendor partnerships, manage the pipeline, invest in their businesses and have a team that is thoroughly built and blended for success.

“Most of our members have seen that the economy is almost like a yo-yo; you don’t have that same seasonality that we used to know and love, so we are talking about going all in—how do you invest in your business? How do you make sure you have the right people?” said Vinnie Virga, founder and CEO of the buying group.

“It’s a challenging time,” said Lowell Matthys, president and owner of Minnesota-based Floor to Ceiling. “It seems like we have an up-and-down economy. It doesn’t seem to be straight across the board, which makes it hard to manage things like advertising and trying to staff the floor accordingly. It’s a different atmosphere than what we are used to. We are used to traditional times of the year that are busy and then other times that are traditionally slow, but we are just seeing a roller coaster right now.”

The topics of economic uncertainty and the lack of skilled labor found their way into many conversations among members, as they continue to resonate with those in the industry and have a visible effect on businesses.

Eyeing the opportunity for expansion into multifamily, retailer Blair Schmoekel of Utah-based Steve Ogden’s Flooring, says he’d like to build a small percentage of his business into the booming sector, but is severely limited due to the shortage of skilled labor available in his market.

“There’s a lot of [multifamily] going up in our market,” said Schmoekel. “Everywhere I look there’s apartments, condos, townhomes. I think because home prices have risen, it’s harder for people to get into a single-family property, so we just see these multifamily projects growing and we are being left out of that.”

But attracting and keeping qualified installers to back business growth and help get the job done is a real battle says Schmoekel. “Skilled labor is absolutely incredibly difficult to find right now. We are more limited by our labor capacity than we are by our demand for material.”

To combat the issue, Ogden’s Flooring is increasing its labor rates with hopes to outshine the competition and to not only attract, but retain, skilled labor.

“Our business always has had growth in bust cycles for installation,” said Virga. “So when the business is heating up, we don’t have enough installers. As the business gets hot, we run out and then business gets softer, there are too many installers and some leave the business. So that’s always a cycle that we have to deal with.”

Member round-table discussions led to the brainstorming and sharing of best practices. With input from members representing a bevy of business sizes, markets and generations, groups were prompted to reflect on their businesses and industry experience with questions like, “What would your dream testimonial from a customer say?” and, “If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give your younger self?”

Create a company culture that celebrates and rewards success; don’t just meet customers’ needs, exceed their expectations; increase marketing and advertising initiatives; hire skilled labor. These were just some of the sentiments shared among all of the buying group’s membership that can be applied to all businesses and markets.

First-time attendee and new Floors and More member Broc Mortensen of Alaska-based Kenai Quality Flooring, found this networking and collaboration among the membership especially beneficial. “I’ve been in the business forever, but there are so many things that I’m kind of stale at. I only know what I know and there’s so much more to know.”

For some Floors and More members, the most pressing concern is switching gears to learn how to comfortably and securely operate in the robust digital marketing space.

“One of the biggest challenges we have right now is trying to reach the customer, because what has worked doesn’t seem to be working now,” said Matthys. “There are so many different avenues that people are using to find out information and traditional advertising has changed.”

To better reach existing and potential customers, Matthys and the Floor to Ceiling team is committed to transitioning into the digital space, with the assistance and assurance of the buying group’s digital marketing programming.

“Another big issue for our members is how to take advantage of the new digital marketing because traditional marketing isn’t working anymore,” said Virga. “We’re very afraid for regular independent retailers. There are lots of companies that will take their money. There are tons of them that charge a lot of money for digital marketing. That doesn’t really work for most of our retailers. I think that’s a big concern for a lot of them. They know they need to be there, but they need the reassurance that either we’ll do it for them or here’s the right steps to take so that they don’t waste their money and they get a good return.”

While concerns across the industry and businesses vary, Floors and More’s Winter Convention aimed to offer something for everyone to help them work on their business a little more and work in their business a little less this year.

“Rather than having one message that will resonate for everyone, we don’t find that we’re able to figure that out because everyone’s at a different stage in their journey and we have lots of different business types in our membership,” said Virga. “So instead we try and make sure that we’ve got several different things that people can pick and pull from based on where they are and then use those to go back in their business.”

However one message that Virga says everyone can take back is to cultivate their business so that they will be in a good position if the economy does happen to turn. One way he says that can be done is by strengthening the business from the inside; by having a solid team with the right blend of hunters and farmers.

“A hunter is someone who goes out and helps bring business in from outside the four walls,” said Virga. “A farmer is someone who’s inside the business who works on those relationships. Most people have one or not, but not the other. So we’re trying to make sure that they have the right blend.”

As the buying group’s membership continues to grow across Floors and More, Floor to Ceiling and Big Bob’s, Virga says as a collective, members are focused and ready to work hard no matter what challenges lie ahead. “Our membership is growing exponentially. We’re really starting to hit our stride on the membership side, so we’ll have very big growth with new members over the next few years. So that’s exciting. We’re going to have a great year.”