If you are a whiz at installing floors that are picture perfect, you have an incredibly marketable skill. Flooring is one of those home improvements that works out better when a professional does it, especially in terms of efficiency and quality. Homeowners might try their hand at floor installation once or twice but often with lackluster results. Starting your own flooring business is the perfect way to make a living doing something at which you are successful while bringing satisfaction to customers.
One of the great things about starting a flooring business is the relatively low startup and overhead cost associated with it. Depending on the type of flooring on which you initially want to focus, you don't need expensive equipment. In fact, your technique and attention to detail is more important than the tools you use, even though the quality of the flooring materials themselves will certainly make a difference in the floor's overall longevity and performance.
Deciding on a Specialty for Your Flooring Business
Perhaps the most important factor to think about in the beginning stages of starting a flooring business is your specialty. You probably have experience installing a variety of different types of floors, but which is the one about which you feel most confident in terms of your ability to provide an excellent finished product? For example, you might feel like you could lay tight, seamless carpet in your sleep but that your tiling ability is a little hit or miss.
Maybe you feel comfortable installing any type of floor. In that case, think about which materials are most popular among homeowners and could earn you the quickest clients. Do you feel capable of doing commercial-scale projects? Do you envision yourself selling flooring materials from a retail space?
In short, you need to narrow down your focus so you know the types of flooring in which you want to specialize, the type of client you want (residential, commercial or institutional) and supplemental services that you are comfortable providing, like patching and repair. The danger of spreading yourself thin and doing everything under the sun is that you will struggle to target your marketing efforts to the right people. You can set up a strong and focused campaign or a weak and broad campaign. You can always expand the scope of your flooring business as your reputation and revenue increase, but service industries like flooring can greatly benefit from choosing a niche market.
Facility and Equipment Requirements
Next, you need to think about what kind of a facility you might need as well as any specialty equipment for which you may have to budget. For example, imagine that your flooring business is running at full capacity: Where are you storing the rolls of carpet and pallets of tile for this week's installations? Do you need a forklift, a flatbed trailer or any other type of equipment to efficiently and safely move materials? If concrete is your specialty, then you know you will need to invest in a mixing facility and a fleet of concrete trucks, so you will certainly need a larger startup budget.
Before you assume you'll need an office, be aware of the impact technology has had on service industries and record keeping. In this day and age, you can use mobile apps and software to store client information, create contracts, bid on projects, schedule calls, track your employees' time and even handle your bookkeeping. You can also hire a virtual assistant to answer the phone for you. An office represents a significant overhead cost that you might not need when you travel to your clients.
However, there are some perks to having an office, such as giving you a dedicated space to take care of the more mundane tasks involved in running a business while maintaining a clear boundary between work and home, unlike with a home office. An office also allows you to hold meetings when you are trying to win a bid or to invite the general public to meet you in person and ask questions. It is also a space where you can display flooring samples and earn money as both a distributor and an installer. There is no right or wrong answer, but you do need to spend time thinking about what works for your vision and your budget.
Become a Certified Installer or Distributor
You can always improve your technique and so can your employees. A certification gives you educational opportunities and also helps you convince prospective clients that you know what you are doing, which is especially helpful in the beginning when you don't have many reviews to bolster your reputation.
Check out the International Certified Flooring Installers Association for some sample certifications and training courses. You can also become a certified installer for specific brands of flooring products, such as the Mondo line of rubber flooring.
Does your vision for your flooring business include showcasing flooring samples in a showroom? If so, you'll want to also become an official distributor for quality brands. These brands might require or recommend their own installer certification program, of which you should consider taking advantage in order to boost your credentials and give you an additional selling point when talking to customers.
Become a Subcontractor
As you start your flooring business, you might feel frustrated that the phone doesn't ring more often. The thing is that no one knows about your flooring business until you make sure they know about it. That is why actively seeking out jobs as a subcontractor for construction projects is a great way to get some work and build your reputation while you launch your marketing campaign toward your target audience.
Numerous bidding sites exist to connect construction companies with subcontractors. Use these to stay informed about local opportunities and don't be afraid of old-fashioned networking or cold calling either. Get your name out there.
Marketing and Advertising Your Business
Finally, you need to understand the process that your customers go through before they choose a flooring installer. Institutional and commercial customers often put out requests for proposals, so if those are the kinds of jobs you want, be prepared to spend your time looking at bids. You may feel like you don't need to invest in a website if all you are doing is bidding, but think of your website as a supplemental resume that proves you have what it takes to do the job well. Therefore, make sure your website showcases the same attention to detail and aesthetic that you deliver with your flooring.
If your target customers are homeowners, a website is an essential part of your marketing plan and should accomplish the same things. However, homeowners won't arrive on your website after looking at your company's bid. Instead, they will usually land on your website after conducting a web search. That's why your marketing efforts should focus on search engine optimization.
In addition, online paid advertisements, billboards and magazine or newspaper advertisements can work well for flooring businesses. Don't feel like you have to find time to do all this marketing yourself. Carve out some space in your budget to hire a marketing agency and free up your own time to focus on delivering stellar results to your own clients.
- Treat your customers right, and don't overcharge them. They can get taken for a ride by unscrupulous competitors. They need a better option with a better price; give it to them. They will be customers for life.
- Get your payment up front before processing any order or allowing it to be shipped. It is too hard to collect on flooring products after they have left the manufacturer and are on the shipping trucks headed for the customer.
Cathy Habas specializes in marketing, customer experiences, and behind-the-scenes management. Cathy has contributed to sites like Business and Finance, Business 2 Community, and Inside Small Business. She served as the managing editor for a small content marketing agency before continuing with her writing career.