If you look for the word “change” in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, you will see a variety of definitions.
- To make different
- To replace
- To undergo transformation, transition, or substitution
We have seen a tremendous amount of evolution in the flooring industry over the last ten years. Going into and coming out of the recession of 2008, the landscape of many industries completely changed. Ours was no different and in the past decade it has continued to move in new directions. Quite frankly, that is because our world is evolving and, as a result, we need to change with it.
Enter the world of hardwood flooring products, where we have seen an enormous amount of change. Gone is the time where unfinished hardwood flooring dominated what was sold and installed. Most hardwood floor installations are now prefinished. This change has happened for a variety of reasons, but the most pressing reason is that today’s customers expect fast service. Life moves fast. That is also true for today’s consumers who are always on the go. Prefinished hardwoods provide speed, convenience, and a number of other benefits that are attractive to the fast moving culture and consumer.
Enter the world of prefinished flooring
Our business at Horizon Forest Products was built on unfinished flooring. In our history, we have sold millions of square feet of unfinished flooring and it has been an excellent product for thousands of homes. We still sell truckloads of unfinished flooring each month, but consumer wants and needs dictate the demand.
About 15 years ago, by taking the time to monitor the industry and consumer behaviors, we saw that trends were starting to change. Our organization began to invest in the prefinished flooring products that you see today. Of course, if you do the math, you’ll see that all of this happened before 2008, when the face of our global economy changed forever. In September of 2008, we all know that our nation fell into a major recession. If we had failed to anticipate the coming change in consumer expectations, our business may have collapsed when the market went south. By embracing the change and staying aligned with our customers’ needs, we were ready and able to weather the economic storm. Not only did we survive… we’ve continued to grow.
Mindsets need to change too
We learned a lot along the way, including this idea: change in the industry doesn’t just impact or demand a financial investment. It also requires a change in the mindset – in one’s attitude and how they prepare themselves to move forward in the new environment. Our attitude about selling something different, something we really hadn’t sold before, had to change. We had to look at these new products as a new and exciting opportunity.
Personally, I have always viewed change and evolution as an exciting opportunity. I love to have new opportunities in business, and I love to evolve the business model based on the needs and demands of the customers. In fact, the chance to embrace change and the challenges it brings is one of the very reasons that I love to get up and go to work every day. I love the opportunity to learn about and to sell new products. I love the challenge of finding the answer to a question and going through the process of building my expertise about every product that we sell. This is what the opportunity to sell new products to new customers represents to me.
I’d like to share a story about one of our customers who also experienced the transformation from unfinished to prefinished flooring. He had always been an unfinished wood flooring customer. He just wasn’t interested in looking at or talking about prefinished flooring. He definitely didn’t want to sell it. However, after his own business experienced the ramifications of the economic downturn, he realized that he too needed to make a change. So, he decided to give prefinished wood flooring “a try.” And try, he did. He took a couple of displays, opened a small showroom, and changed his attitude about the new flooring.
I cannot tell you how much impact this transformation has made in his business. Yes, he still does sell unfinished flooring and probably always will. (There will always be some market for unfinished flooring.) But now, he sells as much prefinished hardwood flooring as he sells unfinished. I spoke to him recently and he told me that he is very busy. His business is growing, and (here’s the best part) he is more profitable than ever! This is a huge win for him, and a great example of how we all need to embrace change with an open mind.
Hardwood floors are our passion – but even more so is getting customers what they desire
Selling hardwood flooring is what all of us have a passion for. We love this business. And we absolutely must open our minds to what else we can do to make our businesses more profitable. Expanding our offerings is just one way to do that.
One final thought, as we move into the next era of change in our industry: people still love hardwood floors. I hear it all the time. Consumers want hardwood flooring in their home. With the influx of vinyl flooring that “looks like hardwood,” we are battling every day to keep our businesses at the top of not only our customer’s minds but also the consumers. We need to show customers the benefits and value hardwood floors can bring to their home, not only in appearance but also in versatility and overall value. Since people really do desire hardwood floors in their home, we need to make sure we continue to talk about their features and benefits. We need to offer all of the options that will help customers get the best possible flooring in their homes.
Remember that change comes before opportunity. Find ways to offer all of the hardwood flooring options to your customers, and you will find your business growing far more than it ever has. And your customers will thank you for your efforts.
Written by David Williams is Vice President of Horizon Forest Products.