Before the economic downturn of the Great Recession, today’s DSB+ of Livermore, Calif., looked like many other commercial flooring operations which are organically grown based on several factors, including geographic business opportunities, the skills and experience of the ownership team, and a need to respond to the available work in the market.
Technically proficient and well-organized, the company had evolved from two independent commercial flooring companies—D. S. Baxley of Livermore and Preston-Borg of Milpitas, Calif. The companies eventually began to market under the D. S. Baxley name, with each of the branch offices addressing a different geography in the Northern California market. Overall, the company was growing modestly and securing customer loyalty, but not distinguishing its business vs. the competition in the market area.
Basically, we realized that we were stuck in a commodity business. Our work was good, but we did not have a solid strategic plan nor were we creating a distinctive impression with our customer base. We were known for installing primarily carpet and resilient—plain and simple. And, when possible, we specified the type of flooring to be installed. We offered some additional services, which were viewed as secondary to our main business.
Put simply, we were not creating a unique space for our company and we certainly were not creating a clear and solid future.
As is often the case, business adversity served as a catalyst for change. In 2009, when the recession was taking hold in the Northern California market, the management team at D. S. Baxley including myself, Si Baxley and Cory Preston decided to make some bold choices for the business which would not only ensure its future, but would provide a foundation to grow the business to new levels.
We started with three simple questions:
•Who are we as a company?
•What do we want to be?
•How will we survive and thrive in the current business environment?
The answers to these questions made it clear to us that change was necessary in all aspects of the business. Our customer base was increasingly demanding that D. S. Baxley increase its service offerings. Also, D. S. Baxley needed to elevate its capabilities to ensure all services could be handled internally to maintain consistent quality and support.
In addition, when analyzing our customer base, the management team realized that we needed to more evenly balance our various customer types—general contractors, architects and designers, and end users. We were heavily reliant on the general contractor segment and did not exert enough influence on the material choices for their projects.
We realized we needed to broaden our customer reach in order to increase specifications on projects and better control the future of the company. Our goal was to increase business with both the A&D community as important project planners while developing the end user relationships aspect of the business as well.
Finally, the team agreed it needed to set clear expectations for the business in terms of revenue and profit growth. We needed to analyze the range of services we could offer and that these services had to lead to overall business success.
In early 2011, a multi-pronged business plan unfolded for the D. S. Baxley business. During the development of this plan, Si, Cory and I took advantage of our connections in the commercial flooring industry, many of whom we knew from being members of Starnet Worldwide Commercial Flooring. Discussions with fellow members of Starnet helped us review and assess our ideas about the business and to learn from the successes of other commercial flooring companies.
Our connections through Starnet were invaluable. If we had to learn industry best practices on our own, the process would have taken years. Instead, we developed a strong survey of industry best practices in four months through our Starnet connections.”
With this knowledge, the team agreed on several basic principles: First, it would develop a strong range of flooring services and, where necessary, would sub out these services in the early days of the business’ revitalization in order to quickly ramp up to the goal of being a single service source.
Secondly, we would leverage our maintenance or floor care business as the foundation of our new business model. We joined Starnet Floor Care, a subset of the Starnet membership, and determined that maintenance was one area, which must be supported from the beginning by our own team. By following the Starnet Floor Care protocol, we increased capability internally and were able to leverage this foundation across what is now four branch locations.
Thirdly, employee training became a huge priority for the company. Our goal was to establish internal capability through a rigorous training effort and to prudently but effectively be prepared to offer a complete range of services to end users. This was a costly proposition for the managing partners, but our goal was to move away from outsourcing services as quickly as possible while increasing quality. In many areas, fortunately, the vendor partners who work closely with D. S. Baxley provided critical training on their product application and installation.
The result of this effort was the company evolved into a full and consistent range of services across all four branches within 24 months. The floor care business delivered on its goal to provide strong profits and a consistent cash flow to the parent company and this success helped to fuel the expansion into other critical services. Of the other services, concrete polishing has been the strongest growth engine for the business in total and, as I’ve said many times, this service has been a real game changer.
The only missing piece as the business entered 2012 was a clear marketing and communication program to change the image of the D. S. Baxley business. At first, the team attempted to develop a rebranding plan internally, but quickly realized we needed external, expert help to bring the strongest plan together.
The marketing agency, The Oya Group, created a revitalization plan that included a new corporate name, DSB+, and a strong corporate logo, which symbolized the breadth of the company’s services. The new corporate identity, “We Do More for Your Floor,” underscores the company’s commitment to its customer base. From our fleet of service vehicles through staff uniforms, the field teams who support DSB+ now offer a professional and distinctive image.
The new marketing effort was launched in early 2013. To date, the business results from both the new business platform and the overall communication plan have been strong. For DSB+, we are specifying more business and our customer base has steadily increased among the A&D and end user communities. Our pace of sales growth is on track to achieve our long-range targets of quadrupling business by 2020.
Overall, the investment in the business is returning at the pace we anticipated and, earlier this year, DSB+ won its first Starnet Design Award—it was also the first time we had entered the competition.
For us, winning a gold award in the Starnet Design Award competition was a meaningful event. We know our work is stronger than ever and the reputation we are building in our marketing area is supporting our long-term plans. We are excited about the future for DSB+.
Mike Patton is the CEO of DSB+ in Livermore, Calif. He started his flooring career with Walter Carpet Mills, and then, for almost 30 years, ran The Patton Group, a multi-line sales agency focused on commercial flooring products marketed to the A&D community and contractors in Northern California. In 1997, he formed D.S. Baxley with Si Baxley, and they later teamed with Cory Preston of Preston-Borg. In 2013 the company started under the DSB+ moniker. For more information, contact Patton at (415) 298-1243, or firstname.lastname@example.org.