Best Practices: ICC Floors maintains a customer-centric approach - Mar 2019
By Jessica Chevalier
After graduating from Indiana University in 1997, college roommates Cameron Haughey and Nate Roberts pooled their money and launched Indianapolis Custom Carpentry-a business focused on framing houses and installing hardwood floors-the very next year. Only two decades later, ICC is a $33 million diversified flooring company dedicated to building a culture that attracts young job seekers, encourages them to make a career in retail flooring, and wins business via this contented and committed workforce.
ICC IS BORN
In 2002, only four years into their Indianapolis Custom Carpentry venture, Haughey and Roberts turned their focus solely to flooring and opened a small retail store, called ICC Floors. With its roots in hardwood installation, the new showroom focused mainly on that category but also carried a few displays of Shaw broadloom and a little ceramic from Daltile.
At the same time, Haughey and Roberts decided to pursue custom builder work. Roberts had a short stint at Pulte prior to starting ICC, so the pair had some insight into the builder business and began chasing it aggressively. They won a few local builder hardwood accounts and then some with carpet and tile as well.
In the third year of this endeavor, 2005, ICC landed a Pulte account and went from $1 million to $3 million in sales overnight. “This was our big break into the national production scene,” recalls Haughey, “and it gave us a lot of validity. We moved into a different category for purchasing power, and it caught the attention of a lot more vendors.”
In addition, the company moved into a larger space. Over time, it kept expanding in that space, leasing more square footage, and last year, it purchased that location. Today, the company’s main showroom-which accounts for 98% of company flooring sales-has separate zones for each product category. Each zone has a separate entrance.
ICC entered the paint business in 2008. Haughey says, “Benjamin Moore formed a really nice marketing partnership with us and helped us open the additional locations [in Westfield and Carmel], as it was underrepresented in those markets. This enabled us to get those stores open and the brand name out. In Westfield, the last paint location we opened, we have a decent-sized flooring retail operation we’re trying to develop. Demographically, Westfield is a good fit for us. It’s an up and coming area and a little too far to expect customers to travel to our main location.”
The company’s expansion into cabinets was a bit more of a surprise. “We had talked about entering the cabinet business,” says Jason Wagner, vice president of sales for ICC. “Two years ago, we had a fairly large commercial contract with a builder for flooring. That builder had a cabinet contract with a company that went out of business. The builder came to us, and we got into the cabinet business in 24 hours. We got the job done successfully and even made a little money from it.” For a while, the company had only a few cabinet displays in their Indianapolis showroom, but after a couple of good years of selling big jobs, it decided to go all-in. The business is currently in the process of completing a full cabinet showroom in Indianapolis with multiples lines, displays and two cabinet designers. The location also offers Benjamin Moore products. Westfield currently offers flooring, cabinets and paint, while Carmel is a Benjamin Moore-only location.
Today, ICC’s revenue breakdown is as follows: 45% production builder, 15% custom builder, 20% commercial, and 20% residential replacement. The company sells all flooring product categories, with WPC representing the largest portion today, followed by hardwood and ceramic.
ATTITUDE IS ALTITUDE
Haughey and Roberts are having fun. That is immediately evident in how they interact and discuss the business. They don’t take themselves too seriously. They don’t take their business too seriously.
That’s not to say, of course, that they don’t strive for perfection. But they work from the understanding that you can get a job done with a smile on your face or a frown. One approach builds community, attracting the sort of good-vibes job seekers who welcome customers and sell based on relationships rather than desperation. The other pulls in folks who are there because they need to be, not because they want to be.
To that end, ICC hires for attitude, not experience. “Probably 90% of the hires we’ve had over the last four years have been green,” Wagner explains. “We train from zero. We will pay for it in the short term but see the benefits in the long term. We use an Indianapolis-based software company for training, developing our own modules, which allows us to train consistently. There are certain lessons specific to a position and others that everyone gets, such as learning about how the business was started. It really enables new hires to buy into our story and culture.”
Haughey adds, “We are protective of making sure people fit into our culture. A lot of people are envious of our workplace-we work hard but have fun. We have created a culture of people who are likeminded. We also believe in the importance of home life. This is a family environment.” Another attribute that ICC believes all its sales team members should have: an interest in sales and design.
The company reports that, in spite of the youthful age of its team, it hasn’t had a problem with retention. The company uses testing to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a new hire, so that there aren’t any surprises and in order to help the employee address challenges up front, using training modules to address specific needs. This also enables them to achieve correct placement for individuals within the organization.
And, of course, having a happy team pays off in a number of ways. “Once you get a solid core of people who want to make this their career,” says Haughey, “they set good examples of how you can gain enjoyment and financial gain in the job, and that attracts people. That’s the honey. We had a few individuals who started about five years ago. They are doing well, and now their friends want jobs with us. We are getting a lot of sales staff through attraction.”
ICC began using Podium, a customer interaction software, about two years ago when it was presented to NFA members at a conference. The software offers multiple points of contact. Through the software, ICC confirms appointments and ensures that every customer gets a follow-up call or text.
In addition, the software powers the chat feature on the ICC website, channeling the questions that come in to the right individuals. It also enables oversight. The sales manager is able to track each employee’s response and response time and, through the system, can assign follow-up. Podium has also been an important tool in helping ICC raise its online review count.
HAPPY STAFF, CONTENTED CUSTOMERS
This culture rolls directly over into interactions with customers. After all, what better selling tools are there than contentment and true enthusiasm?
“We want people to sell with their individuality, their personality,” explains Haughey. “Sales should be an easy thing. The process on the floor should create a warm, comfortable environment. We don’t want robots.”
Similarly, ICC would rather its team earn long-term relationship-based business than one-off sales. “If this is your career,” Haughey continues, “you’re less worried about the quick-hit sale. You sell with confidence. You sell by helping, not just grabbing at one little sale. We don’t want our employees to be slick closers. We remind them that customers are here because they have a need. The staff’s job is extracting information from the customer about their needs and showing them the product that fits.”
GOOD SERVICE IS MARKETING
This relationship-based approach to business extends from the sales floor to ICC’s financial strategy as well. “We blend our marketing and back-end budgets, spending money so that we have extra supervision in the field to make sure that customers end their exchange with a good opinion of us,” notes Haughey. “We look at that service aspect as a marketing opportunity. Eighty-five percent of future sales will come from the existing customer base or referral. We take that to heart and try to leverage our customer base. It’s the best way to organically grow.”
Like many other flooring companies, ICC has been dealing with the installer pinch. The business, which has 30 to 40 subcontractor crews in the field daily, believes that the solution isn’t just throwing more money per job at installers but facilitating smooth work-site operations for its installation team. “We try to make sure jobs and materials are ready,” says Haughey. “Our field managers are checking jobs, calling customers, double checking materials-anything we can do to make sure a job is ready to go when the installer is.” This, of course, enables an installer to do their work efficiently and move on to the next paying venture, thereby ultimately earning more for both themselves and the business.
Copyright 2019 Floor Focus