I’ve noticed a lot of animosity betweenretailers, installers and manufacturers with my time spent in the online groups for flooring. There is an us-verses-them mentality. That mentality is poisonous and is not generating an industry that helps lift itself up to succeed. The installer community feel that everything falls on them—from rushed timelines, to not doing the work to spec, to accepting low wages. Retailers feel they have to babysit installers, they make their business more difficult and they may pay too much. I want to focus on this retailer/subcontractor relationship.
It seems to be that installers and retailers look at everything very transactionally. The retailer sells an installation for a cost, is willing to part with some of that money for the installers to complete the project and the installer gets a chunk of money at the end. This works in theory when everyone is happy. When sides are disgruntled, however, shoddy work can be done, pay is taken back for alleged mistakes, etc.
What if installers were to take the time to learn about the retailer and their business and, on the opposite side, the retailer took the time to understand their installers and their businesses? How much more can be accomplished when we each know eachother’s goals and what we are looking for in a relationship. When there is communication regarding where we want to go and how we want to grow, we can start looking for ways to assist each other and become more successful in our areas of business.
In practice this could play out in many different ways. For installers, stop walking into the store and asking what they pay. As a subcontractor, you are running a business and should know how much you want to make. The first question I would ask a store owner is what’s their biggest complaint with installers? How can you make sure you solve those problems for them? What sets you apart from other crews? How can you use these solutions to help sell yourself and your rates — because your rates may be higher. You need to find a unique way to convey how you will improve the retailer’s business.
As for the retailer, why does partnering with you help an installation company? What are they getting out of the relationship? Will they have consistent work? Will they have fair rates based on ability and difficulty of task or is it only based on the going square footage rate? Are you willing to discuss what it looks like to make money together? Can the installer borrow samples and sell material and get a good deal from you? If they send someone into your store who signs a contract, do they get a kickback or bonus for that project? How can you incentivize an installation crew who wants to be your partner long term?
Here’s the bottom line: By working together you will build a more cohesive experience for the end user, everyone will feel better about what they are getting out of the relationship and all parties will feel propelled forward. The conversation needs to change from a one-sided approach to discussing how the relationship will benefit all parties involved. But someone has to open the door first.
When you come together as business owners instead of retailer vs. installer, something magical will happen.
Kyle Hedin is a licensed contractor, owner of Illustrious Hardwoods and a certified flooring installer in the state of Arizona. He is also the host of the Floor Academy Podcast, a weekly program designed to help educate flooring businesses.