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NAFCD Acknowledges 2017 Education Donors

Posted By NAFCD, Thursday, December 14, 2017

The North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD) recognizes the donors of the NAFCD 2017 Education Supporter Program.

 

Mannington Mills, Inc.
Salem, NJ
Primatech
Quebec, QC
Quick Step
Dallas, TX
Shawmark Floors
Dalton, GA
Sika Corporation
Lyndhurst, NJ
USG
Chicago, IL

 

The NAFCD Education Supporter Program provides funding to support the distribution channel's evolving need for additional training and resources at competitive prices. With the support of these donors, NAFCD continued to develop and offer modern, cost-effective and dynamic solutions enhancing the productivity and profitability of not only the distributors that participated in 2017 educational offerings, but also their supplier partners and the industry as a whole.

“The commitment and support of these suppliers allows the association to provide resources focused on growing, training and educating professionals in the floor covering distribution channel,” said Kevin Gammonley, Executive Vice President of NAFCD.

The 2018 NAFCD Education Supporter Program is now open. Suppliers interested in this program can visit www.nafcd.org/EducationSupporter.

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Industrial Fleet Management: The Partner Every Distributor and Manufacturer Needs

Posted By NAFCD, Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Formed in 1973, Industrial Fleet Management (IFM) has for over four decades helped manufacturing and distribution companies save tens of millions of dollars on their fleet costs. IFM has worked with small businesses to some of the most well-known Fortune 500 firms. In fact, some of their clients are members of the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD). IFM's method of helping businesses save money is simple and can also prove invaluable for NAFCD members.

IFM Chief Executive Officer Jack Mandato explains, “We review the costs clients face in running their truck and material handling fleets. This free review includes full service and finance lease, contract maintenance, taxation, fuel, and other costs. So we take a comprehensive look at a company's equipment-related fleet costs. Mandato adds, “Our job is to determine for each individual client where there are financial opportunities to take advantage of that will reduce their costs of running their fleet.

Mandato says these savings opportunities can come from a number of areas. For example, companies may find savings in better negotiated purchasing of fuel or improving on equipment leases. IFM manages to find these savings by staying up-to-date on industry changes. Mandato says, “If we find something like a new tax law for example that might help a member reduce their costs we can make them aware of it.”

Part of Mandato's success lies in his diligence at staying knowledgeable about industry. He recently had a meeting with Tesla, the electric car manufacturer. Tesla is planning to release an electric powered truck that could change the fleet industry. Mandato is leaning as much as he can about this new truck and how it may one day benefit IFM clients. “Anything that we can pass on to a customer or NAFCD member that could help their business we will find,” says Mandato.

IFM also utilizes its knowledge of fleet industry best practices to guide the recommendations made to clients. They review thousands of lease rates, maintenance charges, fuel transactions, and equipment acquisitions each year. In some cases, companies are doing well without IFM's assistance; however, for the majority of clients additional savings can be achieved. Regardless, every client will receive IFM's comprehensive report on their fleet, detailing how their costs stack up to what IFM sees in the marketplace.

“When we share these findings with the client, we also address what alternatives may be available to how they are running their fleets today. For example, full service leasing isn't the only solution, particularly as it has grown more and more expensive compared to the alternatives,” adds IFM General Manager Joelle Marr.

She adds that savings opportunities also exist for NAFCD members that own their truck fleets. For example, IFM helped coordinate a recent partnership between NAFCD and Navistar that allows members to receive rebates on the purchase of International equipment.

Once the client has received the report they can make the recommended changes or chose to make no changes at all. If a company decides not to make any changes IFM does not make any money. However, that company still obtains an in-depth look into the efficiency of their company.

For clients that wish to make the recommended changes, IFM will work with the company and its vendors to make the cost savings a reality. “Only once those costs savings are achieved, does IFM receive any fee. That fee is based on a share of the actual savings as those savings are realized,” says Marr. “Essentially, our clients pay as they save, but they are never left short changed.”

And the time may be now for NAFCD companies to consider working with IFM to lower costs. Mandato says the company is currently offering a discount on top of their normal savings. The amount of savings realized depends on a number of factors, including the size of the fleet but Mandato says he has clients that have saved millions. “For NAFCD members with an average of 30 to 40 full service leased trucks there's an opportunity to save as much as $200,000,” estimates Mandato.

IFM's relationship with the NAFCD is still relatively new and Mandato looks forward to working with additional NAFCD companies. “The recent convention in Colorado helped us establish potential working relationships with many NAFCD companies. I think many members will find we have a lot to offer them,” says Mandato.

Ultimately, IFM's main goal is to build a relationship with clients and help them save money where possible. “For some companies the cost to get out of bad leases can be astronomical. The leasee needs protection. They need to pay the right price and have protection in the lease that gives him flexibility to make a change if needed,” Marr says.

“The reason I went into this business is because my experience as a salesman in the leasing industry showed me how the contracts were so one sided. The older, loyal customers paid more money than the new customers. The new customers were often more prudent when negotiating a lease, and would receive a better deal than older customers that just renewed every time a lease ran out. It's a market where you really need to be aware of what is really happening,” says Mandato.

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NAFCD Announces 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, Bob Wagner of Fishman Flooring Solutions

Posted By NAFCD, Thursday, December 7, 2017

On November 15, the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD) recognized Bob Wagner of Fishman Flooring Solutions in Baltimore, MD as the recipient of the 2017 NAFCD Lifetime Achievement Award.

Bob Wagner currently serves as President and CEO of Fishman Flooring Solutions. His experience in the flooring installation business dates back to the mid-1970s, when he was trained as a floor covering installer while in high school and worked in his family’s flooring installation supply business. He is a strong believer in giving back to the flooring installation community, which has provided him with continuous employment for four decades. He is actively involved in industry affairs and is a past president of NAFCD.

“Bob Wagner has given a significant amount of time and energy to not only NAFCD over the years but other industry organizations all in an effort to enhance the industry for all,” said NAFCD Executive Vice President Kevin Gammonley. “He is an effective and passionate voice in the promotion of the value of the wholesale distributor in the channel. He has been a committed volunteer leader who always has the industry’s best interest at heart.”

In his current capacity, Bob oversees more than 210 employees working in 35 locations who, since May 2012, own 100 percent of their company. His customer-centric leadership has helped the employee-owners of Fishman focus on improving how they serve and help their customers do their jobs better.

The NAFCD Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes an individual who has shown exceptional leadership and made outstanding contributions that have led to expanding the vision of the floor covering distribution channel.

View all past NAFCD Lifetime Achievement Award recipients.

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NAFCD Announces 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award, Leadership in Action Award, and Growth Award Recipients at Annual Convention

Posted By NAFCD, Thursday, December 7, 2017

Celebrating leaders in the floor covering industry, the North American Association of Floor Covering Distributors (NAFCD) announced its NAFCD Lifetime Achievement Award, NAFCD Leadership in Action Award, and NAFCD Growth Award recipients at the 2017 NAFCD Annual Convention.

The NAFCD Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes individuals who have shown exceptional leadership and made outstanding contributions that have led to expanding the vision of the floor covering distribution channel. Bob Wagner of Fishman Flooring Solutions in Baltimore, MD was the 2017 recipient of the award. Wagner has been a distributor member of NAFCD since the association’s inception in 1971. He has served on NAFCD’s board of directors in multiple capacities and continues to be heavily involved in the association.

The NAFCD Leadership in Action Award recognizes individuals for the positive impact and meaningful contributions that they have made to their company’s success. The recipient of the 2017 NAFCD Leadership in Action Reward was Kyle Gorny of Blakely Products in Warren, MI. Gorny has been involved in the construction and building industries for over 25 years, and began his career with Blakely Products in 2011. Committed to learning from the bottom up, he started by becoming familiar with the customer service and operational functions of the business, and soon used his experience to help the company provide improved services.

Introduced in 2015, NAFCD recognizes a member who has made outstanding contributions in furthering NAFCD membership. From increasing engagement with current members and growing support from industry partners to exceptional efforts in member recruitment, the NAFCD Growth Award is presented to a member who has had a positive impact on the association over the past year. Zack Zehner of Mannington in Salem, NJ was presented with this year’s NAFCD Growth Award. Since joining the NAFCD board of directors, Zehner has been proactive in promoting NAFCD’s value to his company’s distributors and also encourages participation in key NAFCD offerings, such as the Annual Convention and the recently updated NAFCD Financial Benchmarking Report. 

View all past NAFCD award recipients.

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Sika USA's Mike Croes on the Opportunities of a Manufacturer Selling to Distributors

Posted By NAFCD, Friday, November 10, 2017

Mike Croes, Sika USA's Vice President of Sales for Interior Finishing, sees the floor coverings industry as a business of both challenges and opportunities. He has been with Sika since 2005, having previously served as the company's Western District Manager for Interior Finishing. Sika manufactures and sells to distributors flooring installation supplies and accessories -- a real growth area for NAFCD. Croes' segment services the industry with self-leveling underlayments, moisture mitigation products, and wood flooring adhesives.

One of the biggest challenges of the moment that he sees is "fast-paced, design-built construction." Croes explains, "We have large projects with tight time frames. This challenges products to 'set' faster, manufacturers to react faster, and distribution to service faster." Such projects are becoming increasingly plentiful in the larger U.S. cities. For sure, he added, "I see the greatest opportunity in the major cities. They are growing in population and in the volume of homes being built."

With the pace accelerating and the competition intensifying, Croes says this is where a company like Sika USA really tries to set itself apart from the competition. "The Sika approach to the market is focusing on projects and being an extension of the distribution sales team," he said. "Sika manufactures projects for many phases of the building, such as: roofing, window fenestrations, waterproofing, insulation, air barriers, joint sealants, and coatings just to name a few. This level of exposure allows the flooring contractors to use a manufacturer that the general contractors and architects can trust."

From Croes' vantage point, he is able to offer an experienced perspective on the current state of manufacturer-distributor relations. "This needs to be a partnership," he stated. "Distributors want to sell products that fit best into their business model, and we need to align our products to distributors that service the markets where our products are being used or can be used."

He is also able to remark on the benefits and importance of continued innovation in the industry. The real buzzword going around the business now is "efficiency." He commented, "We have launched a new line of self-leveling and prep products this year, and the goal was efficiency. We now have a line of products that allow floor covering to be installed faster, and a movement to take products that are traditionally installed on your hands and knees that can now be installed standing up."

He and Sika also see the value in industry representation, which is why the company became a member of NAFCD in recent years and why Croes will be joining the association's Board of Directors for 2018. Earlier this year, Sika became an NAFCD Education Supporter, which has positioned the company as a supplier willing to help support the education of their customers. "We saw the value," Croes said, "and wanted to support the organization in this way."

Croes is especially eager to start his board service. He concluded, "I am looking forward to understanding what the distributors are looking for in an organization, so we can make that happen and create a stronger industry."

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Taiga Building Products' Sven Johnson on Meeting the Challenges of the Day

Posted By NAFCD, Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Sven Johnson currently serves as General Manager, Flooring Division of Taiga Building Products, providing leadership and responsibility for sales, marketing, and profitability of the division. Taiga services its retail customers with 15 warehouse distribution locations across Canada with two additional locations in Northern California. Taiga is a relatively new NAFCD member company, and flooring is a fairly small part of its product mix. But the Canadian company is looking to grow the division with Johnson's help.

They have the right man, for sure. Johnson has over three decades of experience in the flooring business. As such, he is a great resource to talk to when discussing the industry's current challenges and future opportunities. We sat down with him recently to discuss such matters and more. What follows is our chat:

NAFCD: What do you see as our industry's biggest challenge of the moment?

SVEN JOHNSON: Margin discipline. I say this because the world has become very small making an abundance of product easily accessible and available in the marketplace. The various costs associated with distribution ensuring dependable delivery and services to today’s consumer puts margin discipline as a key factor in running the day-to-day operation of a healthy distribution organization. Today’s flooring industry has some of the best quality, price-valued products ever seen in the industry. The value proposition in providing quality products and dependable services while exceeding customer expectations comes with a cost, though. It will be those distributors who have the right people dedicated to their company’s "secret sauce" of margin discipline, who will be the leaders in their marketplace.

NAFCD: Would you say that improving services to meet today's market demand is also one of today's major challenges?

SJ: Yes, I will speak specifically to hard surface. Using one example, the market buzz is luxury vinyl. Here in Canada, it's certainly a product that has gained popularity and usage in many markets. It's become more and more a part of our interior décor. The most important area of service improvement will be keeping up with product and installation knowledge. When there is such a heavy supply of material, you must remain focused on the basics and make sure the product promotion is correctly specified and properly utilized in the space it is intended for. That is the number one area to improve.

Also, the timing, logistics, and having product arrive safe and sound and delivered on the date specified are becoming more and more important, especially with the advancement of technology. That facet of the business is where a lot of attention will need to be applied. Providing efficient and effective delivery of material to the market and ultimately to the consumer when called upon is key.

NAFCD: What do you consider to be the favorite part of your job?

SJ: The people, both inside the company and externally. I love the business aspect of helping customers, especially when we are called upon in a time of need. My tagline is: "People deal with people." What really got us here today is the relationships with our customers, built on trust over the many years. It becomes a business partnership with some having fostered into lifelong friendships.

NAFCD: How has the business changed since you first got involved?

SJ: The biggest change has been just the amount of product available, the amount of accessible product. As a distributor — call us the "middle man" — we are in this channel where we are obviously trying to improve our value while keeping the channel organized and efficient. Every one of us in that straight and narrow channel to the market has to make a profit. When there is so much product and the channel of distribution gets clouded or broken and becomes scattered, the challenge becomes: "How do you put margin back into every one of those channel providers?" And by channel providers, I'm talking manufacturer to distributor to retailer to end user, the consumer. As a mentor of mine once said, "One may think you can eliminate the distributor, but you cannot eliminate the cost of distribution."

NAFCD: What advice would you have to anyone entering the flooring industry today?

SJ: It is a very exciting business. It's always changing. There are always new challenges. There is emotion attached to it. You get to influence people and environments with color and design. So, always put your best foot forward. This is a very professional industry. Do your best to always stay professional. Integrity is key.

NAFCD: You serve on NAFCD's board. How has the association been of value to you personally and to your company, in general?

SJ: NAFCD's value is second to none. You are surrounded by dedicated and professional people with a wealth of industry knowledge who desire to share business advice and ideas. We are always looking to improve and support one another and the industry. NAFCD and the executive team are so willing to serve and provide the necessary tools to help us grow as business individuals and companies alike. I believe the association will someday become an all-inclusive network of services and knowledge, with an efficient and effective resource base for all distributors to access.

NAFCD: What has you most excited about the fourth quarter of 2017 and the new year ahead?

SJ: The dawn of new products and fashion trends to be ready to go to market for 2018 makes our business exciting, while helping our retail partners become more relevant in their local markets to become profitable for many years to come. The fourth quarter is going to finish strong with our company forecasts, and we are very optimistic for 2018.

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Distributor Marketing Expert, Yuki Conlon, on Google My Business

Posted By NAFCD, Tuesday, October 17, 2017

I Googled My Business and ________ is Wrong! Why Can’t I Fix It?

By: Yuki Conlon, President, JAST Media

It never ceases to amaze me how frequently we hear this - and not just from smaller outfits. If you think this doesn’t affect you or your most profitable partners, think again. Here are just a few situations large multi-location material distribution companies have come to us to solve in the last few months:

“The phone number’s been wrong on there for years.”
“It’s been saying that location is permanently closed for months now. It never closed.”
“I don’t know why it says we do pool supplies there, we’re strictly floors at all our locations.”

Everyone reading this has certainly done a Google Search for a company and have seen that company’s business information neatly displayed by Google on a right-hand panel or in Google Maps with basic business information - phone number, address, hours, products/services offered, hours, and sometimes photos.

Needless to say, having accurate info appear is a no-brainer. I’ve heard countless stories of CSRs getting irate calls because a driver is at the wrong address as shown on Google. And yet the number of companies who have lost control of their Google Business listings, and have allowed inaccurate information to show for lengthy periods of time is absolutely staggering. Today I lay out the steps to recover your account.

Claiming your page links your Google My Business account to your business listing, granting you administrative access to fix wrong information, add products and services offered, and more. 

  1. Navigate to Google.com/Business and login with the Google account you wish to use to manage your business To avoid issues in the future we suggest using a company admin account such as admin@company.com, not your personal account like joe@company.com.
  2. Search for your business and select it from the drop-down list
  3. Once selected, a dialogue box should appear to let you know that your business has already been claimed by someone else.
  4. Click “Request Ownership” and complete the associated form, including details of your professional identity, relation to the business, contact information, why you need managerial access and, lastly, the steps they should take to either add you as a listing manager or transfer ownership over to you entirely.

If the present listing owner fails to respond after 7 days, contact support through your request’s confirmation email and Google will help mediate the matter further. Despite any perceived ego, Google My Business support is surprisingly responsive and available to assist you if you experience trouble completing the request on your own.

Once you have both verified and claimed your company within Google’s business listing, you will be allowed to read and respond to customer feedback, post photos, update contact information, and more. When replying to customer comments and review, always be sure to keep your responses calm, professional, friendly, and thankful, however emotionally-fueled their two cents might be.

And if you’ve tried this and need help - or haven’t tried anything at all and are just overwhelmed don’t hesitate to reach out to JAST. We’re happy to help.

Yuki Conlon is president of JAST Media, a digital marketing agency that specializes in online strategy for distributors and manufacturers. NAFCD members are eligible for discounts on JAST Media's comprehensive web marketing and branding solutions, including website design, branding, direct mailing, trade show materials and video production. Learn more  about NAFCD’s partnership with JAST Media.

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Regional VP Richmond Is Quite the Catch at Fishman Flooring Solutions

Posted By NAFCD, Thursday, September 21, 2017

Shane Richmond currently serves as Regional Vice President of Fishman Flooring Solutions' Mid-Atlantic Region. In that position, he is responsible for managing, directing, and coordinating all sales and branch operations in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania, Northern Virginia, and the District of Columbia, as well as ensuring that the customers throughout the region are pleased with the service they receive from the Fishman team. The regional VP position also means he is heavily involved in long-term strategic planning for the firm overall.

Richmond has been a decision-maker in the flooring industry for more than 25 years. He joined Fishman in 1997 as Assistant Manager of the company’s Raleigh, N.C., location. Since that time, he has held a number of positions with increasing responsibility for the Baltimore-based company. Before being named to his current post, he was the company’s Regional Manager for the Carolinas. Prior to that, he served for over a decade as Territory Business Manager for Fishman’s Charlotte, N.C., branch.

We sat down with Richmond recently to discuss what makes Fishman such a respected player in our industry, as well as to discuss where he sees the business headed. What follows is our chat:

NAFCD: What makes your company stand out in the marketplace? What makes it a special place to serve and work at?

SHANE RICHMOND: One thing that makes Fishman Flooring Solutions special is the fact that it is 100-percent employee-owned. So, our customers know that when they are working with a Fishman employee, they are working directly with an owner of the firm. At Fishman, our stated promise is to delight our customers with every product, service, and solution that we provide. We take this promise very seriously. We’re focused on our customers every day and believe that the better we understand their needs, the better we can recommend the right solutions to them. It’s that customer focus that I think also makes Fishman special.

NAFCD: What do you think are our industry’s one or two biggest challenges at the moment?

SR: I think that, by and large, floor covering distributors face challenges similar to many other industries. Recruiting and retaining excellent employees is key to maintaining service levels with customers. With low unemployment across many parts of the country, recruiting presents a particular challenge.

I’d say a second challenge is how to stay abreast of the many new technologies and cutting-edge products that are continually introduced into our marketplace. The best flooring distributors are those who invest time and dollars in understanding these new technologies and products, so they can knowledgeably advise their customers about them.

NAFCD: What is your assessment of the current state of distributor-manufacturer relations?

SR: Distributor-manufacturer relations are constantly evolving. In the past, manufacturers mostly relied on distributors to get their products to the floor covering dealer. Distributors committed local inventory and delivery to accomplish this.

Today, manufacturers are looking to their distributors to bring value to their brand. Distributors are challenged to do more than inventory products and ship them to customers. We are expected to be experts on the products that we carry. We help floor covering dealers find solutions to their project needs. This often means providing installers with technical details about products and where they can and should be used. It also means that we’re tasked with working with architecture and design firms and facility managers to help get products specified on projects.

NAFCD: Have you implemented any new technology that is driving efficiency?

SR: At Fishman, we are constantly looking at ways to make our team more efficient. Whether it’s a new transportation management system or better phones at our 35 locations, we’re continuously updating our technology to better serve our customers.

NAFCD: Finally, how has NAFCD been of value to your firm and to you personally?

SR: NAFCD provides a unique opportunity for distributors and manufacturers to interact outside our everyday business environment. Association events allow us to surround ourselves with peers from across the country to discuss the challenges and opportunities that affect all of us. At Fishman, NAFCD events are very much about learning and sharing. We send team members to these events every year.

Learning and sharing also apply to me personally. I have attended both Distribution Management University and the University for Innovative Distribution. These experiences provided me with valuable knowledge specific to the wholesale distribution industry. And I always look forward to the information sharing that takes place when I participate in NAFCD board activities or other NAFCD events.

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Distributor Marketing Expert, Yuki Conlon, on Omni- and Multi-Channel Marketing

Posted By NAFCD, Thursday, September 14, 2017

Brand New Buzzwords, Same Old Problems, and Real Actionables

By: Yuki Conlon, President, JAST Media

Omni channel. Multi channel. Cross channel. Marketers love hot new buzzwords. Buzzwords make consumers feel pampered, call retailers to action, and put brands under immense pressure to pivot their marketing strategies just as fast as new trendy buzzwords roll in. In fact the only thing we marketers love more than new buzzwords … is two.

Anyone who is responsible for driving sales at any stage of the supply chain should be asking themselves these two questions when they hear new marketing buzzwords: 

  • What does it mean?
  • Is it actionable for me?

Multi Channel Marketing is using a healthy mix of different distribution and promotional channels to market and sell to a consumer. For example, a brand may have products available to view and purchase in retail displays, on their website, from a product catalogue, and from an e-tailer like Amazon. The goal of multi-channel marketing is simply to make it easy for a consumer to buy the brand’s products wherever or however they prefer to shop. In fact if you’re reading this, whether you’re a manufacturer or distributor, you are probably already supporting some level of Multi Channel Marketing. See? Just a new buzzword, not actually a new trend!

Omni Channel Marketing is taking all of those avenues to market and sell to a consumer and overlapping them to immerse buyers in your brand’s storytelling before, during, and even after the buying process. For example, a buyer looking at your brand of tile in a big box store may use the text codes provided on the display rack to text themselves color swatches, then search for your brand on their phone, compare prices and reviews on e-tailers. After leaving the store they may see ads for your brand follow them around the web on their home and office computers and on their cell phones, and will find an attractive cross-selling offer in their inbox, with ongoing messaging ultimately steering them to make their purchase at the online/retail store/clearance warehouse of their preference.

Now if you’re shaking your head because this isn’t actionable for you at the manufacturer/distributor level, you’re not necessarily wrong. But to assume there’s nothing actionable here for you is entirely wrong. 

The daily fight for consumers’ attention is a bloodbath and retailers stand on the frontlines daily. Meanwhile manufacturers and distributors have had the luxury of slow or sometimes no response to the rapidly shifting demands of their end consumers. In order for retailers and B2C businesses to market themselves to consumers and trade professionals effectively, they need collateral that not only represents your products, but builds confidence and affinity in your brand.

A handful of major brands support the marketing and sales activities that drive sales to buyers and industry professionals exceptionally well with media vaults and asset libraries filled with room scenes, product photos, sell sheets, on-trend installation inspiration, and more. But the vast majority of building materials brands have little to no collateral that can be used for even the simplest of marketing initiatives.

Whether they're working on multi-channel or omni-channel marketing strategies, or even simple traditional campaigns, retailers trying to keep up with the frantic pace of consumer marketing will use what they have available to them - usually a limited set of collateral from a shortlist of major brands.

Ask yourself when was the last time you (or the some of the brands you represent) sent a fresh batch of current, on-trend room scene graphics for use on retailer websites or social media pages? Updated tech docs with aspirational installation photos or renderings? If a homeowner walked in to a retailer today and was interested in learning more about your private label lines or wanted to make sure they could easily find warranty or maintenance & care info prior to committing, what would they see when they Googled your brand name?

Even though you sit at or near the top of the supply chain, if you’re not actively supporting the marketing and sales activities that are happening at the bottom that are driving sales to homeowners, businesses, and industry professionals, you’re leaving room for your competitors to do a better job, giving them the space to drive more pull-through demand and ultimately scoop up your market share.

 

Yuki Conlon is president of JAST Media, a digital marketing agency that specializes in online strategy for distributors and manufacturers. NAFCD members are eligible for discounts on JAST Media's comprehensive web marketing and branding solutions, including website design, branding, direct mailing, trade show materials and video production. Learn more about NAFCD’s partnership with JAST Media.

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Spartan Surfaces' Jablon on His Company's Non-Traditional Approach to Flooring

Posted By NAFCD, Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Kevin Jablon is the owner of Spartan Surfaces, a specialty flooring distributor headquartered in Bel Air, Md. The company was founded in 2007 with an emphasis on specifying products through the A&D community. Jablon recently sat down with us to discuss Spartan's non-traditional approach and where he sees the business headed. What follows is our chat:

NAFCD: Spartan has succeeded by promoting the brands of your sales consultants at the same level as those of your suppliers. What went into setting this strategy and how has your approach to the business changed over the past decade?

KEVIN JABLON: We formed our company in 2007 as a commercial flooring rep group. We had limited resources and did not represent the most well-known brands in the marketplace. To separate ourselves, we made it a point to hire high-profile reps that had great relationships with architects and designers. It was my responsibility to make sure I put them in a place to be the most successful.

NAFCD: For those NAFCD members reading this who would like to become more design-oriented, what advice would you have for them?

KJ:We prioritize the design community the same way most distributors prioritize their contractors and retailers. The contract community is extremely important to us, but everything starts at the specification level at Spartan.

NAFCD: Are you seeing any trends in the various markets your company is servicing?

KJ: The multi-family market segment is a big focus of our company. We call on developers, property managers and specifiers throughout the segment. We are seeing a trend shifting from new construction multi-family towards renovation work. We feel that the renovation market will be robust for a long period of time.

NAFCD: Spartan has morphed into a stocking distributor over the past few years. Can you elaborate?

KJ: We realized we had pretty good market penetration in the Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., marketplace. We had solid relationships with the dealer community, but we couldn’t service them properly without local inventory for fast track products. We invested in trucks, a new software system, and an internal distribution team to best serve our customers. We now stock and deliver daily the following products: Johnsonite, Tarkett, AzRock, Schonox, Ecore, ProtectAll, and XL Adhesives.

NAFCD: Was there some advice given to you early on in your flooring career that has stuck with you?

KJ: You may not always be the smartest person in the room, but don’t let anyone outwork you. Take business seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.

NAFCD: How important is it to have a fun and creative work environment, and what are some of the ways leadership can foster that?

KJ: Extremely important. We believe that culture trumps strategy. We want to attract the best talent and, in order to do so, you must have a great working environment.

NAFCD: How has being involved with the NAFCD been of benefit to you personally and your company, in general?

KJ: Last year was our first year as a member of the association. We look forward to getting more involved in the upcoming year. Any opportunity that I have to sit down and discuss best practices with other distributors, I am all about it.

NAFCD: Lastly, what has you most excited about the remainder of 2017 and beyond?

KJ: We are constantly looking at new ways to reinvent ourselves as a company. On a business level, the rest of 2017 looks to be pretty strong. On a personal level, I feel very fortunate that I get to do something that I love every day.

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11/6/2018 » 11/8/2018
2018 NAFCD Annual Convention