Life can take many turns before you find your calling in flooring. For some it can begin with a career in sales and marketing in non-related industries. For others it can start with a calling to the military.
For the owners of About Floors n’ More in Jacksonville, Fla., the company’s life began with a plan to grow into related segments (hence the latter part of its name). But a vibrant industry, a strong client base and a need for dedicated and community-minded flooring professionals has kept the business securely seated in the flooring segment with no current interest to expand into other categories.
“Flooring is a great industry that’s always changing and moving forward,” explains co-owner Richard Scherzer. “The depth and breadth of product is exciting, as is the overall move to hard surfaces from soft, and we make people happy.”
No strangers to adapting themselves, Scherzer and co-owner Rick Costner both came from different backgrounds before the flooring lure reeled them in. Scherzer was a sales and marketing professional having worked in a number of industries including technology, food, health and beauty, and advertising. Costner served 22 years in the Navy as a helicopter pilot before “retiring” to use his business degree in the private sector in medical sales.
Both were coincidentally seeking a life change a little over a decade ago and were brought together by a mutual friend to take over a former NY Carpet store in the area. Scherzer wanted to get involved with the growing building sector locally; Costner was looking to do something technical while at the same time be able to work hands-on with people.
After renaming the business to its current moniker, the partnership grew, as did the business—to two locations, seeing double-digit sales growth in each store over 13 years. They haven’t looked back since.
“We decided what we do is flooring and we will be the best flooring retailer in town,” Scherzer says. “What makes us different is how much we care about getting the right solution for our customers.”
“We always go out of our way to satisfy her,” reinforces Costner. “We built our business on the reputation we always go out of our way for our customer. The last thing we would want to happen is for our reputation to be challenged by some person who thinks we did a bad job.”
“We both come from customer service-oriented backgrounds,” says Scherzer of their mutual sales backgrounds prior to partnering.
That, and a further dedication to always standing by their word, has led to a strong referral business that accounts for more than half the company’s annual revenues.
“Our reputation is everything to us,” Costner says. “If we tell you something is going to happen, it is going to happen and we will do everything in our power to ensure it does.”
Customers have continually been drawn to their value proposition and dedication. Those same clients have also become some of the company’s best advocates. Costner relates how one diligent client was redoing her entire house in three different surfaces.
“She became the poster child for best customers,” he confides. “She was very detail-oriented and thorough. She researched a lot of places and products and saw the value and difference with us.”
After the job was complete, she shared her experience with her bridge club and other friends. “We can directly connect at least six other very sizable jobs to her. Every one of those [referrals] said they knew how thorough she was and didn’t need to go anywhere else because she said we were the ones to go to.”
It has also garnered the team numerous awards in the company’s relatively short life. They have earned Mohawk’s Floorscapes Dealer of the Year award for their region twice since opening their doors. As well, they have been recognized by Angie’s List, Houzz, Jacksonville.com and The Florida Times Union.
While referrals are obviously lucrative, Scherzer and Costner also have a strong promotional program to help bring new business through the doors.
Although they have opted to forego some of the traditional mediums like print newspapers, the pair have a strong online presence and maintain multiple avenues of communication and contact with customers. They also have strong community ties and work with multiple local and grassroots networking groups.
“Newspaper advertising is one of the least successful ways to reach customers,” Scherzer states. “People aren’t paying attention and the ads get lost in it. We’ve found we are better off reaching customers through mediums where they initiate the search. Customers go to Angie’s List and Houzz and search for a flooring company.”
Another advantage is their use of search engine optimization (SEO) to help keep About Floors n’ More top of mind with potential clients actively seeking their services.
“We are starting to see an uptick on our lead generation from the Internet,” says Costner. “In the last few years it has grown from 10% to 20% of our revenues.”
With that growth, though, has also come one of the biggest challenges for any of today’s retail shops: “And that is people’s perceptions from the information they have gathered over the internet and other sources,” says Scherzer. “All that information is very confusing, customers get confused and get the wrong information from a lot of places. It is up to us to make sure they have the correct information for what they need.”
Most often the confusion is around price. “People see tile at one store for $0.49 and expect all tile to be the same,” he says. “That’s like people saying to a car dealer they saw a cheap blue car, so why isn’t the blue Mercedes the same price as the cheap blue car?
“We haven’t established the difference in our brands in our industry,” he continues. “I wish we would go more towards the advantages of branding over pricing. Customers would then understand the wood they buy for $2.99 isn’t the same as the $5.99 wood.”
Putting themselves to task on that, Scherzer and Costner have developed a strong brand for their company in Jacksonville. Their customers have shown their agreement by spending their dollars with them.