Best Practices: Using integrity to establish long-term partnerships and customers - June 2018
By Jessica Chevalier
Integrity is the underpinning of operations at California-based BT Mancini Co., a diversified business with three distinct divisions-commercial floorcovering, architectural products and structural products. Second-generation owner Skip Mancini has a commitment to doing things the right way, treating people with integrity and thereby establishing long-term professional partnerships, not only with customers but also with employees.
In close proximity to the exploding high-tech hub of Silicon Valley, BT Mancini has experienced rapid expansion with sales growth of 50% in the last years. That progress required BT Mancini to enlarge its ranks significantly, adding 100 employees over that same time frame, and that undertaking is not necessarily an easy one in the current economic climate, especially in Skip’s neck of the woods. “Going from where we were to where we are, you have to hire and train,” says Skip. “But in this environment of low unemployment, finding and keeping employees is a challenge.” Notably, in March of this year, the unemployment rate for the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California region-of which Milpitas and Silicon Valley are a part-was 2.7%. Nationally, the unemployment rate was 4.1% in March, itself low.
Once new hires are signed on, Skip believes that getting them both up to speed on their jobs and rooted in the company values-service, integrity and responsibility-is critical to making them productive and committed members of the team. Key to this, in Skip’s view, is promoting employee engagement. “We want employees to feel that they are a part of something and to know that they are appreciated,” he says.
BT Mancini’s employee engagement efforts are often fun activities, such as pizza, bowling or bocce nights. For last year’s solar eclipse, BT Mancini held a “Solarbration,” purchasing eclipse glasses for the team, providing breakfast burritos and watching the event as a group outside its Milpitas headquarters. These sorts of activities are important because younger employees in the workforce today often have a more blurred view of work-life balance and appreciate fun, participatory activities that build camaraderie with co-workers and offer validation regarding their value to the company. For BT Mancini-which is competing directly against organizations such as Apple, Google and Facebook for employees-proactively working to build buy-in and loyalty is of even greater importance with the sexiest of contemporary workplaces in close reach.
Additionally, younger generations place a high value on corporate morality, both for the corporations with which they do business and the ones at which they are employed, and Skip believes there is benefit in completing meaningful activities as a group. For a handful of years, the company has partnered with Rise Against Hunger, an international non-profit for hunger relief, to assemble meals for children in third-world countries. Transforming its warehouse into a makeshift assembly line, last year BT Mancini prepared 15,000 meals of rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a micronutrient flavoring mix, containing essential vitamins and minerals, for the charity. These meals are vacuum-sealed and delivered to the charity for disbursement.
These activities also help nurture a feeling of trust, a concept integral to BT Mancini’s business approach, “All good relationships are built on trust and to have trust you have to have integrity,” Skip says.
BT MANCINI’S ORIGINS
Unlike some in the flooring industry, BT Mancini was not a business that started with a singular approach and later diversified. The company was begun by Brooks Mancini Sr., Skip’s father, in 1964 with focuses in metal decking, steel truss joints and commercial floorcoverings. Early on, the company’s flooring focus was mainly resilient tile.
In 1982, the company purchased The Brookman Company, a specialty construction firm that handled a wide variety of architectural products for the local commercial construction market. The company had been owned and operated by Brooks’ father, Joe, since 1946. Today, floorcovering accounts for 35% of BT Mancini’s total work, and the company offers resilient tile and sheet, linoleum and liquid linoleum, broadloom and carpet tile, prefinished hardwood and polished concrete, mainly serving the corporate, healthcare and education sectors.
Skip has a goal of continuing to diversify BT Mancini’s product offering, and the company added polished concrete to its line-up roughly two years ago. Skips reports that the concrete business is “profitable-more profitable than standard floorcoverings, but capital intensive because of machinery that you either must buy or rent.” BT Mancini, which has around 350 workers across its three divisions in the field daily, has developed a specific team of installers to complete its polished concrete work.
The addition of liquid linoleum to its line-up reflects the firm’s commitment to California’s strong drive toward environmental sustainability. Says Skip, “It’s an up-and-coming product, and interest in it has peaked. The material is especially good for education applications and other fast-track construction areas.”
Skip reports that BT Mancini’s diversified approach is unique in its market. “Most of our competitors are specialized in one specific aspect of what we do,” says Skip. He reports that the “whole caboodle” approach can sometimes be beneficial, as a general contractor may appreciate the streamlined approach of getting multiple products and services from a single purveyor, but other GCs are more inclined to spread the business to multiple purveyors. “Sometimes contractors want to share the wealth among multiple firms,” says Skip. “It depends on the specific relationship with the contractor.”
THE BUSINESS OF RELATIONSHIPS
Building business is all about relationships for Skip, and that necessitates face-to-face interaction. “We have a business development employee who is responsible for calling on A&D,” he reports. “We do meet and greets with general contractors, sitting down for a lunch and a little presentation on who we are. We will have one person from each division speak at the events.”
In addition to this, BT Mancini strives to be the kind of firm that can successfully complete jobs that other firms either can’t or won’t. “Our installation crews and level of craftsmanship are one of our greatest strengths,” Skip reports. “We try to differentiate ourselves on service and behave with integrity. We seek to always build relationships for the long term and look out for the best interest of our customers.” When problems do crop up, Skip’s approach is to confront them head on, “We don’t run away from problems but solve them in a responsible way, with integrity.”
As is somewhat common in California, BT Mancini is a union firm, and its installers-company employees, paid hourly-go through apprenticeship training. Skip reports that BT Mancini chooses to employ its installers so that it can, essentially, control its own destiny. According to Skip, it’s not uncommon for customers to request a specific installer for a job, and having staff installers means that the business can accommodate these requests with certainty.
While Skip reports that the U.S. labor shortage is impacting his business, he notes that having installers on staff offers a degree of security-for both the installer and the business-regarding long-term employment. Skip notes that BT Mancini has both legacy installers and second-generation installers on its team. “We see the trade being handed down from father to son,” he reports. “A kid sees their father happy to work for us over the course of their career and wants to do that too.” Though his installers are formally trained through the union, Skip believes there is good value in taking advantage of continuing education opportunities for his crew, such as manufacturer-sponsored events.
While Phillips is committed to the trads is a time in the industry when we need to be looking and listening,” he notes. “And we believe the DIY market is one that we need to pursue.”
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