Architects, Designers and the Commercial Floor Covering Contractor

When two groups who work together don’t communicate it is no wonder they aren’t aware of what they could be doing to help each other. This became evident during a panel discussion between leaders from the Architecture and Design Community and Flooring Contractors at the ReSource Commercial Flooring Network’s Annual Conference.

The distinguished panel from the A&D community, Jana Gunsul of DES Architects, Ruth Cline of Little Diversified Architectural and Annette Wiley of Perkins Will came to engage the ReSource Commercial Network’s members to share with them in a panel discussion. This was an open discussion where both sides shared what they could do to help each other and deliver better services to their clients.

Kemp Harr from shared that their studies reveal commercial designers depend on the manufacturer’s representatives as their primary source for floor covering specification information and the panelists agreed. Then they asked if this was the best way to do business, and the discussion revealed some surprises for the design community and encouragement for the flooring contractors.

In regards to depending on the manufacturer’s reps, Jana Gunsul shared, and the panelists agreed that there were also many less experienced designers coming into their industry who were depending heavily on the manufacturer’s reps for specification information. Annette told the group she hadn’t been called on by a flooring contractor in 10 years. Jana mentioned she was invited to the conference by a flooring contractor that she has an 18 year relationship with as a trusted floor covering resource, but had never met them face-to-face until the conference…18  years, really! Another flooring contractor shared they no longer called on designers of design firms while others said designers were vital to their business.

The discussion then turned to the realities that the designer’s deal with in specifying floor covering.  Jana said, “The first concern is that we are dealing with contractors who can understand our design intentions and help deliver the finished project successfully.” The panelists then agreed that accurate installed pricing, installation issues, after installation performance and maintenance topped the list. The other hot topics at this time were LEED, sustainability and moisture issues. The flooring contractors eagerly shared their expertise in these areas.  This was the beginning of the panelists revelation and they agreed they needed to make relationships with flooring contractors.  Jana said, “We have a valuable untapped resource and partnership that we all need to take advantage of.”

The key question the flooring contractors wanted answered was, “How do we call on you, the designer, and become your resource and build a relationship. Ruth Cline explained that the designers needed and wanted education.  In fact, she reminded the flooring contractors that the designers didn’t get any practical flooring education in design school.  Installation, performance, moisture, maintenance and anything that can keep them out of trouble and increase their customer’s satisfaction would be helpful. Ruth, Jana and Annette agreed the flooring contractors needed to package education on all these topics.  Annette suggested, “Floor covering contractors should take the initiative and craft a compelling educational program and present it to design principals.” She believed they would get very positive response if they did. Courtney Karlin, ReSource San Diego, shared that they have been doing sustainability education and training for designers in their market with good success. Annette added, “I learned, and it surprised me, how beneficial to the designer it would be to get advice and counsel from an experienced flooring contractor as part of the early selection process and utilizing their knowledge base to really explore appropriate products for the project application.” These are the comments from Design Industry leaders with years of experience, so imagine the response from less experienced designers.

Ruth Cline wrapped up her thoughts about the discussion by saying, “It’s now clear that there is a great opportunity for us to work together to increase each other’s awareness and knowledge of the issues we face on both the design side and the installation side. If we can find a way to develop trusting relationships and capitalize on the opportunity, we will see positive results for our projects and clients and we all ultimately win.”

I’ve found that during the construction boom everyone involved was so busy they often didn’t take time to communicate, learn and make the relationships that could best serve them.  It became easier to find the fastest way to get the job done even when it might not have been the best way. In this ‘new economy’ with all of the cost cutting measures, people are still busy and often overloaded so they continue with the fastest way to get things done. This was again exposed in the discussions by both the panelists and flooring contractors.

In training and coaching businesses for 30 years, it is normal that people need reminding that the best way to do business isn’t usually the easy way. Salespeople stop talking to the best potential clients because they are hard to get to or the return seems slow. This was exposed during the discussion as Jana shared about Rosie, her companies’ gate keeper, and how she guards her firm from those calling on them. One of the ReSource members asked how to get around Rosie and we discussed the need to start the relationship with Rosie. Another Resource member said, “Rosie isn’t the decision maker.” After some discussion the majority agreed she is the first decision maker. It is however, more common than we want to admit that salespeople are trying to figure out how to get around the gate keeper instead of starting the relationship with them. Everyone agrees that business is about relationships but most salespeople are more intent on making sales, than the relationship that will create more business and increase sales. This was again evident during the panel discussions.

The good news coming from the discussions was that commercial floor covering contractors have plenty of knowledge, information and services to help the A&D community and they want and need them. The flooring contractor needs an organized education program to offer designers and real partnerships with their manufacturer’s representatives to begin making relationships that will serve everyone involved.

By Mike Moore

  1. Ron Lee says:


    Great review of the sessions and what can come out of direct, sincere communication that is not self serving.

    Thank HYou,


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