SFN Dealer Summit: Event provides valuable learning opportunities

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Nampa, Idaho—The Shaw Flooring Network (SFN) is made up of roughly 1,500 flooring retailers across the U.S. and Canada. What binds this influential group is the belief that SFN is at its best when it works together to share ideas and best practices—peer to peer. The SFN advisory council assembled here last month to do just that, at the SFN Dealer Summit, gathering at member Nampa Floors & Interiors’ showroom to tour the operation, discuss business and share information and best practices.

SFN members are all successful flooring retailers but that doesn’t mean they have all the answers or can’t find ways to improve their businesses, even marginally. “Being an advisory council member opens your eyes to how people are doing business a little differently than you are,” said Roger Wilson, co-owner of Nampa Floors & Interiors, who spent eight years on the council and can attest firsthand to the benefits of membership. “We have learned so much from fellow members.

SFN
Kyal Wilson, CEO of Nampa Floors & Interiors, alongside parents Roger and Linda Wilson in front of a restored 1946 Chevy panel truck.

It’s not just learning but also turning these ideas into actionable policies and programs at home. Roger’s son, Kyal Wilson, who now runs Nampa Floors, said that through input from fellow SFN retailers, they implemented CardConnect, a seamless credit card payment integration service that works by sending a pay link to the customer through platforms such as RFMS.

Along the same lines, one best practice implemented by Brent Ziegler, owner of Madison, Wis.-based H & R Carpets, was the use of DocuSign, a digital transaction platform that lets users send, sign and manage legally binding documents securely in the cloud. “We started doing it before COVID-19 but it was especially beneficial during the pandemic,” Ziegler explained. “DocuSign helps with efficiencies but also makes sure consumers are getting accurate information. It simplifies the process for all our salespeople.”

Ziegler said he is still learning new ways to improve his business 15 years after joining SFN. “The best part of being part of this network is being so close to one another, being a sponge, trying out best practices and implementing some of them.”

Doug and Carmen McCool, who operate McCool’s Flooring with three Indiana locations, said they value the independence Shaw provides its SFN members while at the same time forging connections within the group. “It gives us the best of both worlds,” Doug McCool said. “When you think about it, these are some of the best retailers in the nation and to talk to them and share is so valuable. This is 100% independent retailers working together. We’re not competing with one another.”

During his visit to Nampa Floors & Interiors at the SFN Dealer Summit, for example, Doug McCool said he was impressed by the QR codes used on samples. “With all the price increases, it encourages me to implement QR codes,” he said.

Carmen McCool, meanwhile, said one best practice she gleaned from members in the past during an SFN Dealer Summit was allowing customers to pay their invoices online by going to the website, locating the invoice number and paying the bill accurately and securely.

Members attending the advisory council meeting were also quick to impart their knowledge and provide helpful advice as well. A case in point was Jennifer Homemyer, who runs The Design House in Denton, Texas. She was seen showing Sheldon Yoder of Columbus, Ohio-based Budget Carpet & Flooring a tutorial on the QFloors platform. “We made the switch to QFloors—it is our inventory platform, the heart of our business and that’s what I wanted to show him,” Homemyer stated. “Just having this time with other dealers is so valuable; it invigorates the members to have this meeting because otherwise we get stuck in our own vacuum back home with the day-to-day grind of business. Being privy to this opens your mind to new possibilities. It helps me sharpen my axe for when I get back.”

Yoder agreed, adding, “It’s fun to be in a group where you can bounce ideas off people. It’s diverse in terms of size, and you can learn things that you can implement as well as help people find solutions.”

One of his takeaways regarded employee pay structures that members employ for different tiers—namely managers and RSAs. “A lot of these dealers are bigger than I am, so I like to find out, ‘How did you get from this level to that level?’”

Rebecca Tonowski traveled from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, to attend the meeting. A designer for BFC Flooring & Design Centre, she said she left chock full of ideas after attending her second SFN meeting.

“We’re not a big store by any means, so having all these amazing retailers at your disposal is amazing. I’ve picked up a number of things that I plan to implement. For example, I love how Nampa displayed their stocking carpet; it’s so smart and yet easy to do. I also want to know how they handle their subcontractors. For instance, what does a subcontractor agreement look like? How many pages is it? What are the terms and language used? I have picked up so many things here.”

SFN Dealer Summit
Jennifer Homemyer of The Design House shows fellow SFN member Sheldon Yoder the QFloors software platform.

Tara Ecklund, carpet and rug buyer for Cherry Hill, N.J.-based Avalon Flooring, with 17 locations across the Mid-Atlantic, said, “It’s a gift to be able to share ideas and leave with inspiration and feedback that make us all stronger leaders. Shaw has presented us all with a unique opportunity to develop one another and shape the direction of their offerings to truly fit the needs of the dealer and consumer.”

Shaw’s Danny Crutchfield, SFN vice president, said the SFN team is passionate about helping independent specialty retailers. “We all consider it a privilege to work for our members and to collaborate with them. Together, we build SFN services, programs and solutions that make it easier for every member of the net- work to do more business. It’s making a huge difference—for them, for Shaw and for the industry. I’m honored to be a part of it, and each time we get together like this I get even more excited about what’s ahead.”

Dani Brock, director of SFN member engagement and experience, concurred, adding, “We are here to support these independent entrepreneurs. ‘How can we make it easier to do business’ is our mantra.”

Nampa store tour

It can be a daunting experience for a flooring retailer to showcase their store in front of peers during an SFN Dealer Summit. In this case, the peer review was well received as members heaped praise on Nampa Floors & Interiors. Among the things cited were its clean and uncluttered 42,000- square-foot showroom and the culture that had been built there. One such example: The RSA who receives the most Google reviews is rewarded with their own parking spot for the month, with a sign designating the accomplishment.

Saying he was “humbled” by the kind words, Kyal Wilson chalked up the company’s culture to creating an environment where staffers are well compensated and appreciated, while ensuring the proper work/life balance is kept. “We emphasize family values,” he explained. “If, say, one of the employees’ kids has a ball game, we make sure that they get to that game. And we include the staff in events as well. These were ideas that were brought to me by other SFN members, and it has made a difference in our business.”

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