I think of myself as an odd man out in this industry. I chose to be in the floor covering industry when I was in my early 30’s after needing to find a new career. My natural curiosity and inquisitiveness had me looking for ways to learn more, improve my skills and find better tools. I found a wide variety of groups on Facebook and joined many. I quickly found that not all groups are created equal or run equal, and some are far better time investments than others. All of these things are great, and I love my online groups (my podcast came about because of these groups), but I realized I was not engaging my local community.
What kind of difference am I really making if I am not helping my local market succeed? My best guesstimate is that the online groups I see on Facebook represent no more than 1-5% of the total installer population and the 5% side is probably being very generous. That means there are thousands of people every day being left out of a conversation they don’t even know exists. How do we change all of this?
Since July 2021 I have been holding monthly get togethers at different retailers throughout the Phoenix area. I organized the events through my Facebook group called Arizona Flooring Installers. I ask a retailer to host the night and provide food and drinks. We have been averaging about 8-10 people per event, and there are some regulars but life happens and not everyone makes every meeting. In fact, I am the only one and that is okay. Installers, retailers and manufacturer reps gather once a month just to get together and have a good time. Sure, we talk business, and I, of course, push education and higher rates and knowing your worth. We also talk life and build friendships that go beyond an exchange of money.
This group has so much potential. What happens when I forget a tool at home or don’t own one? I have a vast network I can reach out to and see if I can borrow something or rent something instead of having to buy it. Maybe someone doing tile is short on some material and a guy a few miles away has extra. Crisis averted.
The group, as it grows, will continue to involve manufacturer reps who will demo products. This encourages continuing education and lets people experience new products without having to go out-of-pocket for them. I have seen the products on the market change drastically in my time as an installer, so I can only imagine what some people may not know is out there. I am huge advocate for getting installers paid well but when they are paid well, they can afford premium products which give better results and make work easier. It’s a win for everyone in my book.
The retailers hosting these events are getting to meet manufacturer reps they may have never met and learn about products they didn’t know existed. The retailers are also getting to meet quality contractors looking to do better in their market and compete at a high level. If I was looking for subcontractors to do my installs, I would instantly involve myself in a group like this. Anyone who is passionate enough to put in time after-hours is someone I want to know.
The installers are benefitting from getting to know people outside of their area. I am able to refer tile and carpet projects to people I have met, and I have been referred projects by installers that live on the opposite side of town and don’t want to drive to do the project. We are talking rates and what it costs to run our businesses. We are talking with at least one retailer that attends and wants to pay top dollar and wants to know what it will cost them to get it. Key conversations are being had all around amongst many people and relationships are being built. The Phoenix market will only continue to improve because of this, and I know the group will too.
I have installers from Tucson, Arizona in my group who have asked me to host a meeting there. It is an hour and a half from Phoenix—not hard to accomplish but a long day for sure after an install. I will accommodate them and make it happen. I hope some Phoenix folks come along. However, I want to see someone step up and take the lead in the Tucson market. I want to see groups on the west side of Phoenix and to the north. I want to see you start a group in your area doing all of this.
Building a community will grow an abundance mindset where everyone knows there is enough for them and that everyone is not their competition. When everyone works together to succeed instead of trying to undercut the next guy because you are worried about working, everyone will win.
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