Best Practices - Aug/Sep 2013
By Sonya Jennings
Corporate Floors is a commercial flooring company specializing in maintenance, product and installation for commercial segments including corporate headquarters, healthcare, hospitality and public space.
During the economic downturn that began in 2008, Corporate Floors never had less than double-digit growth. When considering how rare it was for a small business at that time, Thomas Holland, whose title is chief solutionist, points to several factors. First, the economic climate in Texas and the entire South helped some businesses weather the economic storm of the last five years. He says, “We are in a very business-friendly state. We saw the local markets turn down about a year after the East Coast did, but they never fell as low or for as long. Not that it was a walk in the park for any business.”
Second, part of the company’s impressive growth came from purchasing other companies that were not weathering the economic downturn. The company’s recent acquisitions include an existing Millicare franchise in San Antonio in 2006, Wilson Flooring Group in Dallas in 2012, and Resource Flooring Group Dallas in 2010, which added a Saniglaze franchise for tile and grout restoration. In addition, the company began a new Millicare franchise in Houston in 2007. Oftentimes, the impetus for growth is the need of a specific corporate client in a location where Corporate Floors doesn’t presently have an office.
The secret to success at Corporate Floors is its people and the process through which those people are hired. Holland comments, “Luckily, I had sort of an ‘aha’ moment early on in my company where I came to understand that having likable people was the key to a successful business.” Over the years, the company has gotten more diligent with its hiring process and learned to follow the maxim, “Hire slow, fire fast.” The interview process is long and measured, with the candidate meeting multiple people in the company as well as participating in ride-alongs to become familiar with the different services Corporate Floors offers. In addition, two types of personality tests are given to determine if the candidate has a good head on their shoulders. Finally, the last interview in the process is a cross-sectional team interview.
Ultimately, the team decides whether or not the person is the right fit. In the past, Holland admits not listening to the team’s recommendation, and the decision created a drag on morale. Now he is committed to strictly adhering to the process. According to Holland, “The last year of business has been one of the best ever as far as the team dynamic goes.”
The employee training process involves an orientation by the human resources manager and lots of hands-on training. Holland comments, “Training is so critical, yet we find ourselves in a rush to get the new person the job. Sometimes we don’t spend the time we need to on this—we get better with each hire, however.” Generally, if someone is not working out, assuming he or she has the right attitude and aptitude, the company looks to the training process and gives additional instruction where necessary. Also, a consultant is hired twice a year to hold company-wide communication and business training. The team mentality is critical, and every employee is seen as an equal to every other employee. Company business cards do not have specific titles; instead, every employee’s title is the same: solutionist.
Corporate Floors consists of two main divisions: flooring maintenance and product/installation. On the flooring maintenance side, the company offers commercial carpet cleaning (Millicare), tile and grout restoration (Saniglaze), polyurethane floor finishes for resilient flooring (Dr. Schutz), and a stone refinishing service for stone and tile floors. The maintenance side of the business is the bread and butter of Corporate Floors. According to Holland, “We consider ourselves a service company at the core.” The maintenance division is end-user focused, and new clients are won through affiliations with organizations such as the International Facility Managers Association and the Building Owners and Managers Association. Also, once the company installs a product, maintenance is offered and an ongoing relationship is, hopefully, established.
The other division of the company sells flooring products and installation services. New business comes from relationships with general contractors and new projects from existing maintenance clients. Once trust is built over time on the maintenance/service side, it is a natural fit for the client to ask Corporate Floors to handle any new flooring projects. Many of the company’s projects are specified, but if not, the company has interior designers on staff to help clients choose products. Corporate Floors is a member of Starnet and offers products from manufacturers associated with Starnet as well as Shaw and Interface. Installation crews are sub-contracted for all of Corporate Floors’ installation work. The company’s lead installation crew has been working alongside Corporate Floors since 1999, and most of the crews have a long-term relationship with the company.
Corporate Floors was founded by Holland in 1993 as a small commercial carpet cleaning division of his mother’s office furniture business in El Paso, Texas. In 1997, Holland set off on his own under the name Clean Team in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and the business became a Millicare franchise. At that time, the company was very small, with one employee.
In 1999, a name change to Corporate Floors and an opportunity to install flooring for Milliken launched the small company into a phase of rapid growth. When installing products for Milliken, the company often obtained service and maintenance business from the corporate clients it served, which is how new business is still won today. For ten years, maintenance and installation accounted for all of the company’s business, but in 2007 Corporate Floors began selling product as well and became a Starnet member, as mill direct business was slowing. Today, the company sells products, installs and provides maintenance for commercial clients. The maintenance side of the company is still Corporate Floors’ specialty, and this part of the business provides more gross profit than any other.
A SISTER BUSINESS IN RECYCLING
In 2006, Holland founded the company Texas Carpet Recycling (TCR), which operates independently from Corporate Floors. TCR is the first and only full-service carpet landfill diversion company in the state of Texas. It offers dealers, contractors, end users and carpet mills a financially viable alternative to throwing away carpet. The company will remove old carpet on any job and then haul it away to be recycled, provide a trailer for a contractor to dump old carpet into, or parties can dump old carpet at TCR recycling facility in Grapevine, Texas. Corporate Floors has recycled all of its old carpet through TCR since the company's founding in 2006, yet it is treated as just another customer and pays the same fees as any other recycler. TCR supports the mission of Carpet America Recovery Effort, which is to "find market driven solutions to divert post-consumer carpet from landfills."
Commercial carpet is one of the more difficult products to divert from the landfill. According to Holland, "It's important to realie that not all carpet is recycled, but all can be diverted from landfills." When TCR receives carpet, the product is first separated by fiber type using a special fiber analyzer. Carpet is separated by backing if it's carpet tile and by fiber type for rolled goods. TCR then shreds the carpet, if necessary, and bales it so that it can then be sent to the correct processor. The firm also recycles VCT and ceiling tiles.
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