Focus on Leadership - February 2013
Interview by Kemp Harr
David Meberg is president and CEO of Consolidated Carpet, a third generation commercial flooring contractor based in New York City. Founded as a workroom in 1943, Consolidated, a Starnet member, is now one of the largest full-service floorcovering contractors in the industry. Meberg is also president of the Greater New York Floor Coverers Association and co-chairman of INSTALL (International Standards and Training Alliance); he is a leader in the movement to create a certification program for flooring installers. In addition, because Consolidated services the New York and New Jersey markets, Meberg has an insider perspective on Hurricane Sandy’s impact on the flooring business.
Q: Tell us a little about your business. You’re a family-owned company, right?
A: Yes, we are a third generation, family-owned business. This coming November, we will celebrate our 70th anniversary. That being said, we wouldn’t be where we are without the tireless effort and quality work provided by all our associates, family and non-family alike. We also have non-family members in our senior management team, which I feel is integral to our success and future growth.
Q: Is your father, Arne, still involved in Consolidated Carpet? Which other family members are actively involved?
A: Arne still likes to pop his head in and offer his input whenever he is up north visiting. Most of his time, however, he spends in his new home in Florida, enjoying the warmth. His younger brother Thomas, my uncle, remains in the business, as well as a number of cousins, including my partners Paul and Christopher.
Q: What is the business climate in the Tri-State region? In what commercial sectors are you seeing the most activity? Which ones are lagging behind?
A: Like most regions, we saw an uptick last year in business opportunities; however margins remain squeezed, requiring us to more strategically approach the projects we do, and don’t, want to be involved with. We see a lot of opportunity developing in the healthcare and institutional segments, as well as a current boom in residential high-rise locally. Corporate remains stagnant, which obviously holds back a market like New York City.
Q: How did Hurricane Sandy impact the regions you serve? Was Consolidated Carpet itself affected by the storm?
A: Obviously the devastation was well documented. A few of our associates who live in low-lying coastal areas suffered significant losses. The business, however, just had to deal with power and connectivity outages, but we were up and operational in the field within 48 hours. Our offices and warehouse re-opened as soon as our services were fully restored, about a week after the storm.
Q: To what extent will the rebuilding following the hurricane impact the vitality of the region and of businesses like yours?
A: It’s almost too soon to tell. We are a union, commercial flooring contractor. We don’t anticipate much of a bump by way of the residential rebuilding; however, we do hope for some opportunity in the school and institutional markets affected by the storm. In New York City, the commercial damage was mostly at or below street level, so most of the work has been for relocation or swing space requirements caused by entire buildings being out of service.
Q: You’ve always been a leader in installation certification. Are you satisfied with the progress the industry has made? What else would you like to see?
A: No, I’m not satisfied. However, while there is always room for improvement, I believe that the certification programs in the market today are better than they have ever been, whether we are talking INSTALL, CFI, or select manufacturer sponsored programs. However, until the industry as a whole gets behind them—and links warranties to certified installation—we will not be where we need to be.
Too many manufacturers are more concerned about just selling units than the finished product on the consumer’s floor. I’ve heard some say that the ANSI S600 Installation Standards review is the first step in that direction. Unfortunately, I’ve been involved in a number of “first steps” over the past 20 years, so I remain skeptical but optimistic. The certification program I am most involved with, INSTALL, will work tirelessly to win both the manufacturer’s confidence and that of the end user, so they are assured a quality finished product on the floor.
Q: The installation of modular carpet and some of the new floating hard surface products requires different skill sets that some might say are easier to learn. How do you think these product evolutions will change the role of the commercial flooring contractor?
A: For every new product manufactured that some say is easier to install, there is always a new product or backing system or subfloor condition that makes things just as, or more, difficult. It is incumbent on all successful flooring contractors to stay ahead of the learning curve.
The flooring contractor is a vital link in the supply chain to the marketplace. Some may forget that, or want to discount that, but until they invent a product that installs itself, our services are vital to customer satisfaction and retention.
Q: How long have you been a Starnet member? What do you consider the most important advantages to being a Starnet member?
A: We’ve been Starnet member/owners for a dozen years now. It is a vibrant, vital group of flooring contractors, and we are proud to be part of it. Starnet offers many services and great educational opportunities never provided to our market segment before. Depending on the size of your company, you can utilize as many or as few services as you desire.
To Consolidated, the biggest advantage has been utilizing a network of partners across the country to service our national accounts. Personally, I feel our membership in Starnet provides us the opportunity to be involved in the more important conversations about the industry and where it is headed.
Q: How does Consolidated Carpet engage in sustainability? Tell us about the Con-Serve Reclamation Program.
A: As a workroom in the late eighties and early nineties, we were a material collection point for some of the earliest pilot recycling programs, so I can honestly say that we’ve been invested in industry sustainability since the movement began. We do our best through Con-Serve to ensure that no materials we remove from jobsites finds their way to a landfill, and the proof is in the numbers: over one million pounds per year diverted over the past four years now.
Besides our internal initiatives to cut down waste, we invested one million dollars last year in a solar panel array and new roofing system at our warehouse. It’s cut down our energy costs by over 90%, and we will see an ROI in six years. We are all in.
Q: What changes would you like to see within the industry?
A: This industry has been very good to me, my family, and all of our associates for many years. Sometimes, in the heat of battle, we lose sight of that. But since you’ve asked, I would certainly like to see a more defined approach to the commercial marketplace put in place by manufacturers and contractors, and I would like to see the value placed on installation that it truly deserves. Our company was built on the back of installers and continues to thrive because of them. Flooring is an installed product. Without quality installers, we don’t have quality products.
Q: As a leader of Consolidated Carpet, what would you like to be your legacy? Where do you want to take the company in the years ahead?
A: We’ve undertaken a significant amount of change over the past 20 years. We’ve turned our business from an installation-only workroom to a full-service flooring contractor. We’ve grown our business substantially. The years ahead will certainly see more change and, we hope, measured, incremental growth. At the end, however, I simply hope we can provide the next generation of Mebergs the same opportunity I was provided: to take over leadership of a vibrant, healthy business enterprise, filled with driven people who want to succeed.
Copyright 2013 Floor Focus