Connecting with customers is vital to the success of any business. Flooring contractors are no different, but which customers and how? Who do you spend time with—architects, designers, end users or general contractors? What about product manufacturers?
The best answer is all of the above. Successful flooring contractors connect the lines between all these customers and the product manufacturers by building relationships with all the parties involved in any given commercial flooring project.
Modular Designs of Charlotte, N.C., for example, has built its business on strong relationships with its customers and product suppliers. Founded in 2002, Modular Designs initially focused on selling carpet tile to end users providing services to replace carpet in occupied office spaces.
My career in floor covering began as a sales representative and regional vice president for Milliken working in markets from North Carolina to Colorado. My desire to move closer to family brought me back to Charlotte along with an opportunity to start Modular Designs with veteran office furniture dealer Chris Young who owned Office Environments of Asheville, N.C., and had started other Modular Designs offices in Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville, Tenn., and Jacksonville, Fla.
My experience from the manufacturer side of the industry provided him with the knowledge and understanding of end users and the A&D community. He then used that knowledge to expand Modular Designs’ focus as a full service commercial flooring contractor.
Actually we were more than a flooring contractor, we were—and still are—a solutions provider. To best service its customers, Modular Designs needed to provide its customers solutions: Products and services that met customers’ needs—whether aesthetic or functional. Positioning Modular Designs as a solution provider meant offering additional products and services such as hard surface, specialty flooring, coatings and carpet maintenance.
Listen to Customers
Most of Modular Designs’ initial meetings with clients don’t involve products. We just ask a bunch of questions, walk the space and listen to the customer. After that meeting we bring in what we believe are the best products for their facility and budget requirements. On subsequent meetings, a manufacturer’s representative will join the conversation to provide additional technical knowledge and promote the partnership.
Sometimes providing the best solution means finding the best partner. Modular Designs forms joint ventures with companies that provide specialized solutions like coatings, cable management and odor neutralization to bring these solutions/services to our customers. Many of these joint venture relationships developed through leads and organizations like the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, CREW, BOMA, IFMA and IIDA.
An early joint venture opportunity came about upon completion of replacing the flooring in a large commercial cafeteria. Once the carpet was replaced, the cafeteria seating looked dated and required a change. Modular Designs brought in an onsite upholstery service to update the existing seating, opened accounts with contract fabric manufacturers and then began offering this service to other clients.
Offering maintenance services gives Modular Designs the extended opportunity not only to protect and maintain our customers’ floor covering investment, it allows us to keep ongoing communication with the client beyond just the installation of flooring.
Manufacturer relationships are just as important as customer relationships. Having access to a variety of quality products with strong manufacturer relationships supports Modular Designs’ role as the solution provider, the source for the best products and installation services for any facility’s needs. When a manufacturer has confidence in the flooring contractor it will not only support you, it will promote you. When a manufacturer is looking for a flooring contractor to bring into a project, it wants the best knowing its customer will be taken care of professionally with an exceptional end result.
Sharing in Success
Communicating project success stories with the entire project team including A&D, general contractor (GC), end user, product manufacturers and our staff allows everyone to share in a job well done. Additionally, promoting these projects on social media provides exposure for the manufacturers, GCs and Modular Designs.
Each year Modular Designs hosts an annual event called “Chicago comes to Charlotte” where we bring the latest industry products from NeoCon to the local market with a tradeshow and reception at our facility. The event provides an opportunity for architects, designers, end users and GCs to socialize and learn about new products from a variety of flooring manufacturers. The event allows Modular Designs to entertain and thank customers for their business while supporting our flooring product manufacturer partners.
Modular Designs is also very proactive when it comes to connecting with the community. Modular Designs participates in supporting local organizations like Jackson Park Ministries. Working with customer Turner Construction Co., we donated material and installation services to create a counseling center for the non-profit organization that supports low income families and at-risk children in the greater Charlotte community. It’s a wonderful opportunity to work with a customer and give something back.
In 2012 Modular Designs was awarded the Charlotte Douglas Airport carpet renovation project. The city required 100% of the old carpet to be diverted from local landfills. Modular Designs had an existing relationship with Habitat for Humanity doing volunteer work. Modular Designs mechanics packaged the used carpet tiles from the airport to be sold at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, thus diverting 100% of the old carpet from the landfill and generating revenue for Habitat’s local charitable work. Habitat for Humanity ReStores are non-profit home improvement stores and donation centers that sell new and gently used furniture, home accessories, building materials and appliances to the public generating income for Habitat’s work in the local community.
Modular Designs stays current on industry issues, installation technologies, environmental practices and other educational opportunities through its affiliation with Fuse Alliance. The commercial flooring contractor group provides Modular Designs with connections to industry experts, best practices and networking with other commercial flooring contractors.
Modular Designs has 14 full time associates and employs 12 crews installing four to five projects a day. The majority of our work is in and around the greater Charlotte area. In keeping with our efforts to be a solution provider, we occasionally travel out of the local market when a customer has the need.
Modular Designs provides its customers with the best solutions for their particular needs. Building a relationship, understanding the customer’s need and creating a foundation of knowledge, service and quality to ensure the customer is getting what it needs, within budget and on time is not only our priority it is the key to our success.
Charles Hollar is the president and co-founder of Modular Designs of Charlotte, N.C. He has over 20 years of commercial flooring industry experience. Modular Designs is a member of Fuse Alliance, a member owned network of professional flooring contractors throughout the U.S and Canada. For more information, contact Hollar at (704) 523-4950, or firstname.lastname@example.org.