Are You Afraid  of the Technology Boogeyman?
Paul Johnson

The flooring industry has been a bit slow to jump on the technology bandwagon. For many, introducing and integrating new technology is, simply put, scary. Why? Because it is different. Technology is everywhere, and it continues to expand rapidly. Using it properly can help to grow your business beyond your wildest dreams, while improper implementation could lead to catastrophic failure.

Some concerns most commonly cited by the technologically cautious include worries that people will begin being overlooked; people feeling they are no longer being treated as people; the time and money required for extra training and equipment procurement; the list goes on and on. But when a company takes the time and the effort to properly train their staff, there is no reason to worry.

 “Technology doesn’t have to be scary,” Paul Johnson, president of Carpet One Floor & Home of Tulsa, said. “When someone says ‘technology,’ you don’t immediately have to throw your guard up; when you begin to embrace it, it gives you so much more information to help you make good business decisions.” 

To help make the transition as easy as possible, Johnson took great care with introducing technology into his stores, “We began with baby steps: Crawl. Walk. Run. [And as people get more comfortable] you begin to embrace things like email to make your company more effective,” he said.

The options various technology platforms offer can – when used correctly – be of tremendous benefit when it comes to showcasing new products, connecting with customers and clients, and also in keeping better track of information. For example, having iPads in hand or a computer readily available to show customers firsthand what their home, office or other area could potentially look like is a great way to combine technology with the personal, face-to-face element so crucial to the floor covering retailer.

 Adopting technology and putting it into practice is not a company’s way of making things more difficult for its employees, not does it mean a company is “selling out” the traditions that helped it grow in the first place.  As with any endeavor, continued success relies on selecting and using the right tools for the job – electronic and organic – and also in recognizing when those tools need an upgrade.

Johnson’s company uses all of the software modules from RFMS as well as Measure Pro. RFMS software is engineered to address the specific accounting, inventory and sales functions that flooring operations demand, the company says. Information on available inventory; special orders; measurements; labor costs; diagrams; invoices and other documentation is electronically saved in Carpet One of Tulsa’s system and can be accessed at any of their five locations.

To help ensure that their information is secure and doesn’t get “lost,” Johnson uses a server to connect all of his stores together. “On our server we have shared files that we can access from any of the stores,” he said. “Within that we have all of our company policies, procedures, company documents, price books, so any manager from any store can access that information and share those documents.”

 As in any industry, early adopters of technology suddenly find the laggards thrown into sharp relief. The manufacturers and distributors who continue doing business solely in the traditional manner need to speed up the implementation of ecommerce systems to allow orders and other transactions to be done electronically, Johnson said. Something as simple as allowing companies to order online would save time, money and make for a more efficient environment. 

For the company not at all comfortable or familiar with technology, the best way to start is to “crawl,” Johnson said. Start with the simple things: check out the Internet and email and determine what the potential benefits are for your business. Once you’ve nailed down the basics, begin looking into software programs that help track and maintain inventory, salespeople, installers and other areas of your business. Next, move on to some more-challenging-yet-increasingly-necessary areas like social media, blogging, newsletters and website development.

Remember, this isn’t just about what you want; it’s also about what your customers – today’s and tomorrow’s – are starting to expect from a service-based business. While the final transaction may be executed in person on the showroom floor, the first handful of interactions that same customer has with your company may well have been done online.

You have to do the basic fundamentals correctly,” Johnson said. “You need to make sure that your systems are in place and are functioning properly. It is imperative that a company not only has a website but that it is working properly and effectively. Customers want to know why they should choose you before they waste their time and their gas to get to you.”