Software developers and flooring retailers agree: using the technology is about having control. This means control over all aspects of the business, from profit to loss reports, sales invoices to ordering product and delivery orders, and everything in between. Ted Underwood, owner of Quality Floorcovering in Clarksville, Tenn., said he saw a dramatic improvement in his business after using software from software developer, QFloors.

Like many retailers, Underwood said he started out using QuickBooks accounting software for all his bookkeeping and accounting. “It works pretty good as an accounting program, but the problem is you can’t incorporate your inventory,” he said. “So basically you never know what your numbers are until later.”

“We never really knew if we were making money or not, because we were looking quarter by quarter, and three months is a long time to wait to see where you are,” Underwood added. “But with this [flooring industry specific] software, we can check our profitability every day. I can check my expenses. I can see what my overhead is.”

And since incorporating the software into his business more than two years ago, he can now quickly spot mistakes and control shrinkage. He acknowledged that while there was a learning curve of a couple months, the software has already paid for itself several times over.

“You can hit a button and it will show you the percentage of profit for a job. We try to stay around the 20 to 25 percent margin, and I’ve caught mistakes where we are under. Using the software I’m able to figure out where the mistakes are,” he said. “The software has been one of my top three essential purchases, along with my carpet cutting machine and my tow motor.”

Terry Wheat, CEO of RFMS, said retailer-specific software is important for several reasons: For one, it offers the consumer a better experience. “When we handle a sale in the traditional way, with a pad of paper and a pencil, she loses confidence. She is not having a good experience. But when you can use software to look up information about the product, use graphical estimating software and show her the layout placement, she is going to have confidence in you and the purchasing process.”

Another important area where software excels, Wheat noted, is controlling costs and inventory. “Now more than ever, every order you have should have checks and balances in place to make sure you’re not forgetting anything. Do you have all the trim pieces? Reducers? End caps? Listellos? Those extra trips to the job and ordering after the job, when you didn’t charge for it on the front end, are a dead loss. Software should prevent that from happening.”

Finally, he added, software is important for project management. “You should know what stage the job is in at any given time and what the next procedure needs to be.”

Tim Magnuson, CEO of Kashmoo Business Software, said once retailers are ready to look into software, they search for “solutions that will allow them to automate their business without turning their lives upside down.”

“The key thing is getting everyone on the same page,” he noted. “The warehouse person, the general manager – everybody in the business has a need to know what orders are coming in, what the status of the installation is, and other information.”

He added any retailer looking to purchase new software should set up a visit from the vendor to demonstrate the product. “Many times, the software and all its features can seem overwhelming, and it’s important to buy a product you are comfortable using.”

Catching up with fcB2B

Pam Bowe, executive director of the Floor Covering Business to Business Association (fcB2B), said it is more important than ever for flooring companies to start using technology as a fundamental part of their businesses.

“The importance of streamlining and connecting the floor covering supply chain has never been more critical,” she noted. “In this day of high expectation for instant information, accurate detail and minimal errors, those entities that can enable their business to respond and react will most certainly benefit. Those who lag behind in technology and find their time consumed by errors, repetitive data entry and costly reporting requirements will not.”

The fcB2B has more than 125 members representing mills, distributors, suppliers and software developers. Additionally, the group has several retail buying groups, dealer associations and contractor associations in its membership. The goal of the group is to develop and implement its fcB2B standard to facilitate broader B2B communications in the industry.

“Once a year we meet physically and we meet regularly throughout the year virtually,” Bowe explained. “Members of the association work together in committee to develop and refine the use of the standard. The implementation of technology designed to further the use of fcB2B is a primary goal of the association in 2010.”

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