Orlando, FL — 3/26/13 Alliance Flooring, Inc., parent company of CarpetsPlus COLORTILE®, Carpetland USA COLORTILE®, Floorco and Clean Touch Pro®, recently held its 2013 Convention in Orlando, March 23-26 at The Peabody Hotel and Convention Center. The theme of the Convention was “Drive 2013 – Pillars of Success”.
During keynotes and breakout sessions, members were encouraged to focus on these three main “Pillars of Success,” among others, that will help them gain a competitive edge. These pillars were announced and discussed during the Opening Session by Ron Dunn, Alliance Flooring’s co-CEO.
The past two summers Dunn ventured out on summer-long road trips visiting Alliance Flooring dealers all across the country. As he traveled, common themes began to surface highlighting what it takes to succeed. The three key ideas formed what became the theme of this Convention.
As he gathered these and other best practices from members, he added them all to their highly successful Proven Ways book, full of helpful hints to improve business from sales to operations. Dunn said, “The sequel, Proven Ways II, contains even more tips and details we gathered that provide an added value to Alliance Flooring members. This is just another advantage of belonging to our group.”
Jon Logue, co-CEO of Alliance Flooring, also spoke during Opening Session. He announced, “Welcome to the Recovery!” He cited many statistics and trends that pointed to a significant turnaround for 2013. He presented these facts: Mill shipments are up, GDP is up, housing starts predicted to be up another 25% this year after a 28% increase in 2012, existing home sales, new home sales and the remodeling index are up double digits plus interest rates remain low. Logue added, “Alliance Flooring dealers were very positive at the Convention and many had seen double digit increases in 2013 already.”
Pillar One: People
During these treks, he spoke with dealers about what makes them successful. “It was so evident talking to the dealers. The old adage is true; this is a people driven industry,” Dunn stated. “Our employees, installers, sales reps, our relationships with our customers. It was stated over and over again that people and healthy relationships are the strongest asset behind successful operations”
Claire McCoy, owner of Rugs, Rolls and More in Plaistow, NH, agreed with Dunn, “We can’t be transactional in our business. We have to be relational. Our people make the difference – from me to our employees to our installers, our relationships are so important. If we don’t have good relationships and great customer service, we have nothing.”
Pillar Two: Perception
This dynamic is not often thought about, but the perception of a business in the local community is key to repeat business and the irreplaceable word of mouth
advertising of satisfied customers. Dunn asked the attentive group, “If we interviewed 10 people in your town, what would they say about your business? What would their perception be? What would you want them to say?” Successful stores strategically bridge the gap between what the perception is and what they want it to be.
To explain one simple aspect of the way people feel about their store, Ray Alter, co-owner of CarpetsPlus COLORTILE of New York, told this story, “We’ve had people come in off the street asking to use our restroom because they know it’s clean and representative of their own home. You can’t pay for that kind of advertising. Taking care of little details like that really makes a big difference to people.”
Pillar Three: Planning
The uncertain economy has caused many business owners to pull back on planning and go with their gut. Void of planning, people will react and before we know it circumstances will be running us. Proper planning involves setting goals, briefing, executing and then debriefing. Members were reminded, challenged and encouraged to bring back this type of proactive leadership to their weekly activities. “When time is short, plan with the time you have,” Dunn noted.
Tom Simmons, owner of Premier Carpets & More in Sellersburg, IN, said in his business, “The key to planning is carving out some time in your week to just sit down and do it. We have a checklist of 15 things that must be done at the end of every week. We also plan strategically and look at weekly and monthly sales. We look at what’s selling and what’s not. As owners, we have to be involved but also give our people some freedom to be themselves but within a structure.”
Members enjoyed superb keynote addresses by two exceptional speakers. Flawless Execution, presented by Patrick “Lips” Houlahan, a former Marine instructor pilot, was a timely presentation about the key principles of Flawless Execution, a proven strategy that aligns individual and company goals while meeting the organization’s goals. He described a communication-focused managerial approach that uses the continuous improvement process of “Plan. Brief. Execute. Debrief.” to increase efficiency and productivity throughout all levels of their business.
Jon Petz, author, corporate trainer and motivational speaker, kept our members on the edge of their seats by involving them and keeping them engaged in the presentation while he communicated his message. He taught members the “take no prisoners” approach to driving out the things that drain time and energy from their businesses. He also told them to decide to actually make a commitment to get — and stay — out of the box and keep driving forward. He also said they have to be willing to do what their competition isn’t willing to do.
After hearing these great speakers, everyone was enthusiastic about what was coming up next. Excitement filled the air as the doors were opened to the Rush Hour event for members to get a head start on special buys from suppliers. Near the end of this event, the group added to the frenetic pace of the evening by having their first ever Alliance Flooring National Championship during their Elite 8 basketball speed shooting competition. Everyone had a blast including the suppliers who sold a record number of rolls and pallets during this year’s Rush Hour event.
After getting their marching orders during General Session, members flocked into the Exhibit Hall where they were greeted by the stars of the show. The group’s merchandising efforts focused mainly on new super soft carpet, value residential and commercial carpet and luxury vinyl tile introductions. Many key hard and soft surface displays were also updated.
“For the last two years we focused primarily on building the COLORTILE hard surface brand for our dealers. This year, we felt it was time to shift our focus to our soft surface merchandising, beginning with super soft carpet and a new flagship carpet display,” said Kevin Logue, co-COO and vice president of marketing for Alliance Flooring.
Building on their highly successful private brands, UltraTouch® and Elite Performance, they added a super soft collection to each of them – UltraTouch Satin and Elite Performance Silk. Logue continued, “We’ve had tremendous success with our UltraTouch and Elite Performance carpet brands and we received an overwhelmingly positive response to these new super soft brands at our Convention.”
Another hot category enjoying double digit growth with the group is luxury vinyl tile or LVT. Alliance introduced a new collection in a private-labeled COLORTILE LVT display featuring tile that can be installed edge-to-edge or grouted. In addition to LVT, a COLORTILE decorative accents display was introduced targeted for the kitchen backsplash and custom bath markets.
Websites and Social Media
Alliance Flooring revealed improvements to its customizable website solution called Alliance Web Pro. Members will continue to be able to add an unlimited amount of custom pages and in-stock product photos as well as promote events and sales. New features will include a new design with video and improved search engine optimization, among many others. The majority of Alliance members have a Web Pro site.
In social media, the group offered members an easy-to-understand guide to getting starting in social media. The major social networks including blogs were explained with definitions, reasons why to use them and how to get started with step-by-step instructions.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Each year, Alliance Flooring recognizes an individual who has made significant contributions to their company, to their community, to our group, as well as to the flooring industry overall. This year, the group recognized Jerry Caputo, whose pioneering spirit and humble leadership has been a real inspiration to friends and family.
Caputo began his flooring career as a carpet installer. He then went to work for Carpetland USA corporate and went on to purchase a Carpetland USA franchise in Dothan, AL, and operated it for 20 years. He instilled the same drive and passion he had for his business in his son Bob, who now runs the store.
Retailer of the Year Award Winners
“The Retailer of the Year award recognizes those who embody the real meaning of being an Alliance Flooring member. It’s something they strive for. I always have someone tell me after the Awards Dinner that next year’s award will be theirs. It’s a difficult choice for us because we have so many great retailers,” said Ryan Dunn, co-COO and vice president of sales for Alliance Flooring.
Josh Elder and Stephen Elder of Gainesville CarpetsPlus in Gainesville, FL, won Retailer of the Year for the group’s CarpetsPlus COLORTILE division. Gene Podell of Carpetland USA with five locations in Virginia, won for the Carpetland USA division.
“Having experienced other buying group conventions in the past, I continue to be amazed at how friendly and approachable Ron, Jon, Ryan and Kevin all are, and the rest of the staff always taking the time to address any concern we might have.” — Sally Wildeman, CarpetsPlus of Rochester, Rochester, MN
“Thank you for a great convention. The key speakers were very motivational and made me look at what we can improve upon as well as reinforcing some of the things we do well. This business is forever moving and it was nice to meet with many of the members and exchange ideas. I am excited to receive the new racks we have on order. Many thanks!” — Alison Dennis, Steamboat CarpetsPlus, Steamboat Springs, CO
“It was a huge eye-opener to see how the members network with each other, being open and sharing. It was an overall GREAT convention, (including the food). There was never a boring moment and I enjoyed every single moment!!” — Jandi Owens, Right Carpet and Interiors, Alamosa, CO
“I had been thinking about starting a new marketing plan, I was excited about the things I found (in the Proven Ways II book) that I could immediately or very soon, implement into my business. In general, the Proven Ways binders are one of the most beneficial things I receive from CarpetsPlus COLORTILE.
It’s interesting to see different perspectives on the same topic from other members. These books give me an idea of what I can implement, change or improve in my business.” — Shawn Yaeger, CarpetsPlus of St. Louis, St. Louis, MO