Contractor’s Corner: Beatty Floors: A Flooring Business Growing with a Dynamic City
When Beatty Floors was founded in 1929, Vancouver (located in British Columbia, Canada) was a small town with dirt and cobblestone roads and limited economic development.
The original founder, Fred M. Beatty, opened a retail flooring business, which offered basic building supply products as well as flooring. Fred tapped into the local lumber trade by offering wood flooring only, a product type that met the needs of the residents of this beautiful western Canadian town.
Over the next 20 years, Fred rode the economic roller coaster in Vancouver in order to sustain his business. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the sharpest businessperson and, despite positive customer trends, by the late ’40s, Beatty Floors was in trouble. The suppliers to the business went in search for a new owner and found Ray Crompton and his wife, Marg, to take over the company.
The Crompton’s were an excellent team and they dramatically accelerated the growth of the business with a strong vision for the future and the ability to meet customer demand at a higher level.
Ray and Marg had several positive factors as they developed their business.
First, the population of Vancouver was exploding and most of the residential activity was in high-density housing. However, in order to get a mortgage on properties, the builders needed to comply with a law dictated by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp. requiring the flooring in all main floor residences be hardwood.
With the high demand for housing, Beatty Floors capitalized on its history with wood flooring and created a strong business. Then, because the appearance of wood flooring was not fashionable in those days, the wood was covered with carpet (even shag carpeting), which was very trendy during the ’60s and ’70s.
Ray and Marg were working on 2,500 homes annually and, eventually, they expanded their business into commercial projects while maintaining a storefront. In addition, they diversified their product offering into all types of flooring including carpet and resilient.
For Ray Crompton, however, his heart was always in wood flooring. In the ’80s, he opened BC Hardwood and then spun off Beatty Floors with a primary focus on resilient and carpet. He continued to manage BC Hardwood and, in fact, Ray worked until the day he died in 2009.
His son, Ken, became the president of Beatty Floors, working with all flooring types. However, fortunately for the Beatty Floors’ business, wood flooring was becoming more fashionable on its own and the company created beautiful oak flooring which was trimmed in ebony and sanded and polished onsite.
Ken loved the operations side of the business, but he had limited interest in sales and marketing. In the late ’80s, he appointed my former partner, Howard Obrand, to the position of sales manager, and I worked with Howard as a supplier salesperson in the Vancouver market.
Our third associate, Ron Paulger, oversaw the installation side of the business, and Jaff Valiani was our controller. In 1996, Ken sold Beatty Floors to the four of us with Howard being the majority partner. I became the vice president of sales in 1999. Ken returned to run BC Hardwood, where he remains today.
Howard and I determined that commercial flooring was our goal for the future. We focused in that direction and, while the residential side is still a portion of our business, we primarily service the personal needs of our commercial customers.
Riding Vancouver’s Growth Surge
As is often the case, timing was everything, as we launched the next generation of Beatty Floors.
The population of Vancouver was growing through a massive influx of immigrants, primarily from Korea, Southeast Asia, India and China. Large companies were building North American offices in Vancouver and the high tech industry was moving infrastructure into our market at a rapid rate.
The Beatty Floors team had a particular focus on high-end corporate as well as university work, and both of these segments were strongly benefitting from the new business and population trends.
Fortunately, these trends have continued. Today, corporate growth has been stimulated by the likes of Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft all moving into Vancouver. While Calgary and Toronto are still major headquarter cities in Canada, Vancouver is leading the pace on the growth front. With over 2 million square feet of new office towers finishing in Vancouver in 2015 and into 2016, the TI (tenant improvement) and retrofit business is quite busy.
Of course, healthcare is evolving along with our aging population, but we avoid the large medical centers because we feel the scope is too consuming. Instead, we focus on smaller medical clinics, dental offices as well as assisted living complexes.
Summer work with school districts and post-secondary institutions is a mainstay.
Finally, we have strengthened our relationship with property management companies, which have been a surprising source of business for us.
Beatty Floors is a union operation and we are proud of that fact. The union has been under pressure in the residential high-rise boom, but we have maintained the majority of the commercial business. We believe in the strong training offered by the union and we are committed to working with it as a long-term strategy for the business. All of our labor is in-house and we currently employ more than 60 installers.
At this point, we handle all types of flooring solutions with the exception of ceramic, which we occasionally subcontract. Our customers are comfortable with this position. Of course, hardwood remains a growing segment of our business as the design elements of wood continue to improve. LVT and carpet tile are the two strongest segments of our business and, like wood, both are growing in popularity. Broadloom continues to decline as does sheet vinyl and other resilient products. We handle all aspects of floor preparation and moisture mitigation. Because we own a “ride on” motorized scraper, we often are called on for demolition as well.
A very important aspect of our business is the fact we specify a high percentage of our projects in terms of material selection. That percentage is growing. We feel we have better control over our projects and, as a member of Starnet Worldwide Commercial Flooring, we are able to direct purchases to the group’s preferred vendor network.
In particular, we specify a great deal of carpet tile, which we can get via “quick ship,” a competitive advantage for certain projects. At this point, design firms are coming to us for specification support. We maintain a presence with the IIDA and the Interior Design Institute of British Columbia.
Becoming a Starnet member was a great decision for Beatty Floors and the value has been enormous for us. We are able to leverage the training calendar offered by Starnet in many aspects of our business and we regularly attend the membership meetings to strengthen our networking opportunities with fellow members. As an owner, Starnet participation has been particularly important, as it opens the door to industry best practices, new ideas and numerous connections. I try to implement changes every year to the business to deliver continual improvement.
Very importantly, our connection with Starnet has created a stronger working relationship with the local representatives from the preferred vendors. These reps are critical to our business and we continue to focus on making these partnerships stronger each year.
Today: A Culture of Excellence
Today, we continue to evolve our leadership team. Howard retired last year and Ron Paulger and I remain the majority shareholders of the business. Three other employees hold minority share positions and we feel this structure is creating a stronger sense of shared goals and a commitment to growing our business.
Throughout the organization, we have a clear working model: We work together, pulling on the same rope. We have a great team at Beatty Floors and all are committed to the success of the business.
We are fortunate to be located in downtown Vancouver, a vibrant and growing market. We give back to the local community at every opportunity. Specifically, we have a special focus on a Canadian Autism network, Children’s Hospital and help with a toy donation each year during the holidays. We all feel good when we give back.