Fuse Commercial Flooring Alliance board member Mark Hutto is president of Certified Finishes based in Atlanta, Georgia. Certified Finishes, with three southeastern U.S. locations, was founded in 2004 and specializes in sales and installation of all flooring in commercial, institutional, healthcare, retail, and multifamily spaces. Certified Finishes has the largest commercial carpet reclamation program in the southeast and offers a variety of flooring maintenance services. Hutto got his start in the commercial flooring industry as a sales representative and national sales manager for domestic carpet mills. We had the opportunity to sit down with him at the Fuse annual conference in Dallas, Texas. 

FT: Tell me about your business.

Hutto: We have three locations. We are in Atlanta, central Florida, and also Charleston, South Carolina. Each location focuses in different areas. In Atlanta, we started our business in the corporate rehab business. In the last five or six years, a big portion of our business is also multifamily—and that goes through all three of our offices. Central Florida obviously has a big focus on hospitality. We do a lot of work in the theme parks. We do a lot of specialty flooring, so we do a lot of cool things down there. And in Charleston, we do a lot of institutional work over there and a general mix of everything. So we focus in all sectors, but we kind of go where the business take us. 

FT: What are you experiencing in terms timelines for projects and having enough installers? 

Hutto: We go through peaks and valleys on that. Obviously, we can't control when the jobs go. Right now I would say we are doing okay with our current team—guys that have been with us for a long time, but we see some real challenges as business ramps up. I’d say June through the end of the year, we've got to bring in more people, and so we're extending out and, we've gotta grow that base.

One of the main reasons we service and have three locations is to develop different installation bases that we can share with the organization. We started doing that some over the past few years. Right now, ultimately, it is a race to the labor for pretty much everybody.  We treat them as partners. Just like this meeting at Fuse, where we’re talking about partnership with our vendor partners, we look at the same way with our installers. We have to treat them, just like we want to be treated, and ultimately that’s the true test of our success.

FT: Are your customers becoming more patient with timelines due to delays in product or delays in not having labor available immediately?

Hutto: We are clearly bringing material in earlier than we ever had due to the unknowns. It has created a full warehouse for sure. And also we have to spend a lot more of our capital on bringing these products in for these projects and not necessarily being able to recapture our money in a normal process. So it has put a bigger strain on cash flow. Our receivables are at our all-time high for what we do. We do get paid, but it's extended that a little bit because, you know, everybody's under a new set rules. Owners having to plan for stored material, and it is something they're not accustomed to. It’s a paradigm shift. 

FT: So everyone’s business is getting tested. 

Hutto: Cash flow is name of the game in this business.  I will say this: we have seen a lot of talking about business and being better, but I do think that’s limited to the bigger contracts. I do think that the general contractors are taking notice of your financial position more than they would have historically. So going the more conservative route has paid off. I do think there will be exposure for people that suddenly have a business that has dropped 34% and it picks back up and it's growing to 19 levels. If you haven't been conservative with your cash flow, it’s a challenge. 

FT: What keeps the Fuse board up at night? 

Hutto: Goodness, that’s a good question. We have a very diverse group of people from all over the country, men and women, and the group is evolving. I do think we all worry about the same things: how do we keep our companies relevant? Are we making the right decisions with our investments, capital? You hear from this work family a lot—that’s how we feel about each other even in the situations where we're competing. I think what keeps us up tonight at night is keeping all our people employed, being able to deliver what we’re used to delivering: high quality.

FT: What's your outlook for 2022? 

Hutto: We're cautiously optimistic. Cautiously is a good word just because we worry about the outside factors that we can't control. I see our business should grow substantially—at least 30% this year over '21, and '20, which we were basically year-to-year flat, over that timeframe. We're going to exceed 2019 for sure this year. We have the opportunities there and we just need to be able to execute.