Jessup, Ma.–based Allstate Floors serves the D.C. metropolitan area, which is a market currently crowded with flooring contractors. Daniel Ortiz, Allstate’s director of operations, talks about how the company is setting itself apart from the the influx of contractors in the market through service, quality and execution. Though the market and industry as a whole have changed throughout the 11 years he’s been in the flooring business, Ortiz says he can’t see himself doing anything else.

Q: How did you get started in the flooring industry?

Much like many people in the industry, I was recruited by a family member. At first, I was extremely hesitant as I was not sure what to expect. As you may or may not know, being a flooring installer is not the most appealing line of work for a young adult. It wasn’t long until I realized how much I enjoyed it. Being a person who likes to see the fruits of my labor, the flooring business has proven to be extremely fulfilling. Nothing is more satisfying than putting the finishing touches on a project that you have put hours of hard work into.

Q: What is your favorite thing about the flooring industry?

The ability to create, plan and execute. Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing a building develop from a drawing on a piece of paper to a physical structure. Taking part in all aspects—from estimating, bidding, scheduling and executing the project—creates a sense of ownership and pride when it is completed successfully. Experiencing the hardships and successes along the way adds to the satisfaction.

Q: How’s business? What opportunities and challenges are you seeing?

Here in the D.C. Metropolitan area, there is a crowded market of flooring contractors. This excessive presence of flooring contractors creates an over-competitive market that is not sustainable. A surplus of smaller sized companies with low overhead allows for hyper-competitive bidding rates, which as a result, artificially lower the value of flooring services. This creates a merry-go-round of small, unsuccessful, high-risk flooring contractors pulling volume from larger flooring contractors who can sustain a higher volume of work. Using an analogy, when astronaut Alan Shepard was asked what he was thinking as he sat atop the Redstone Rocket waiting for liftoff, he responded, “the fact that every part of this ship was built by the lowest bidder.”

This is the environment created within the flooring industry by those general contractors whose main focus is the bottom line price and not the contractor’s ability to successfully complete a project. I see this trend as a great opportunity to educate general contractors in the necessity for diligent vetting of subcontractors, as well as the opportunity for flooring contractors to set themselves apart through service, quality and execution.

Q: How do you see the state of the industry right now?

Right now, the industry is in a very peculiar state. We are dealing with a mass exodus of skilled labor without a new generation to fill the void. My experience is that these skilled installers who are exiting the workforce have not passed down their skills efficiently. This could largely be based on a lack of interest among younger generations in entering the trade, as well as a communication breakdown between the generations, which is common.

Simultaneously, in the D.C. Metro area, buildings are being constructed at a relentless pace. It is not uncommon to drive through D.C. and lose count of how many cranes you see throughout the skyline. What this leaves us with is the opportunity of high-volume work, but a lack of workforce. I’m not sure which way this trend is leading the industry, but I do know that it’s in the best interests of every company to invest deeply in their current workforce. This includes both mentoring and training, particularly with apprenticeship programs. Some jurisdictions will even provide funding to assist in implementing these programs. It is crucial that we engage our workforce and create a sense of leadership and ownership amongst our veteran installers. This will open communication lines and allow for the skillset to endure through generations. 

Q: How did you become involved with FCICA and what benefits does the group offer?

The owner of my company got involved in the organization around 15 years ago. He saw great value in both education and industry relations. Somewhere around seven years ago, he asked me to join him at one of the events, and I was instantly hooked. The amount of industry knowledge that is immediately made available to you is game changing. At the time, I was at an early stage in my flooring career and was directly connected with flooring experts who were all eager to share their experiences with me. The connections I was able to make with fellow contractors as well as manufacturers has proven to be helpful in more ways than I could mention. I can sincerely say that joining this organization has been a key factor in my professional development and success in the flooring industry.