Roughly 140 members gathered in the world capital of flooring for networking and best practice sharing at Starnet’s annual Fall Membership Meeting held this year at Atlanta’s Loews Hotel. Now in its 25th year, the commercial flooring partnership remains a valuable resource tailored to help members meet the complex demands of operating a full-service commercial flooring contractor business.

“We feel that our role with our members is to support them through education and best practice sharing,” said Jeanne Matson, president and CEO of Starnet. “Speaking for the staff, what we try to do is look at every program that we offer members and make sure it’s valuable and that the cost of the program makes sense, and then we come up with other ideas that we can continue to share.”

Rather than separating the group for smaller breakout sessions, attendees benefitted from several topics being covered during the general session held on the meeting’s opening day. With a particular focus on education and issues currently affecting the industry, topics covered during the session included building profitable and sustainable business relationships, OSHA silica compliance, ransomware and financial best practices.

“We thought about topics to bring to this meeting that would be beneficial for business growth and development,” said Leah Ledoux, Starnet’s director of strategic accounts.

Mostly facilitated by member-led panel discussions, attendees walked away from the comprehensive session with several nuggets, including suggested ways to protect their personal data from malicious software; get out of their comfort zones to better meet customers where they are; leverage dealer/partner relationships; increase efficiency to ultimately increase profit. Having the discussions led by fellow Starnet members that represented commercial flooring businesses of various shapes and sizes spoke to Starnet’s on going effort to meet the various needs of its assorted membership.

“The challenge we have is that we have 174 members and 174 slightly different businesses,” said Matson. “They are all in commercial flooring, but they all do things slightly different. So how do we provide value to all shapes and sizes of members? That’s where a range of programs which offer value to members at whatever level they are revenue-wise is our goal.”

As Starnet pushes to reach 200 members by 2020, it has not lost sight of the importance of maintaining and strengthening its relationship with its current members. This year in a continued effort to connect with its membership, Starnet has resurrected an old practice of directly calling members to check in with them.

“We are talking to them about their priorities,” Matson said. “We are talking to them about some of the issues we are worried about; finding out how they are doing and how they are feeling about things. It’s time consuming, but it’s something that’s easy to do and really valuable for both sides.”

Concluding the meeting’s first day, a taste of Atlanta-themed reception officially welcomed attendees to the Peach State. From BBQ favorites to pecan pie, the group enjoyed southern fare and Georgia-themed decor, while mixing and mingling, reconnecting and networking.

Putting a welcomed, seasonally-appropriate twist on the usual vendor tabletop, attendees and preferred vendors proudly sported the logos and colors of their alma maters and/or favorite colleges and universities, as several college football games aired on big screens in the background at the meeting’s tailgate-themed tabletop session held on the second and final day of the meeting. Creating a fun, competitive and spirited atmosphere, attendees were able to meet with vendors all while catching the games and enjoying a few tailgate finger foods and drinks.

Looking to the Future

Introduced this year, Matson looks forward to the continuation of Starnet’s new organic growth project in 2018. “We have created some programs that we think go directly to the people in the member companies that really can make a difference; the estimators, the sales people, the project managers and we are pairing them with the reps at our various vendor partners. We call it the organic growth project.”

Also on the horizon for 2018 is the growth of the newly developed task force Starnet recently formed with Fuse Commercial Flooring Alliance in an effort to collaboratively solve problems facing the commercial flooring industry.

“We’ve always had a very open communication with Fuse,” said Matson. “Their members are very similar to our members; they face similar issues, etc. Our board met with their board back in September in Chicago, and we went into it wanting to understand better how we can work together. We felt that where we landed was the right place to be: we will have a task force between the two groups.”

Together, Starnet and Fuse will combine their resources to stay abreast of and find common ground on things like changing technologies, silica compliance, installation methods and moisture mitigation systems.

With the partnership’s revenue and backlog up since last year, Starnet’s future looks bright, and a good carryover into 2018 is anticipated. “It’s been another successful year for us, and I think that we are poised for some good growth over the next few years,” said Paul White, a member of Starnet’s board of directors.