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Start Your Business Success Stories

How an Unexpected Interruption and Two Key Principles Changed the Flooring Industry

Tom Wood of Floor Coverings International
Credit: Tom Wood

Floor Coverings International has grown to become the No. 1 Flooring Franchise in North America. Entertaining the possibility that we'd achieve that designation when I joined the company 13 years ago was akin to predicting that an unheralded sixth round draft pick from the University of Michigan would become the winningest quarterback in NFL history.

Suffice it to say there weren't many people who thought it was even a possibility. That reality became crystal clear to me during my very first meeting with our franchise owners.

Like most visionary leaders, I had a plan that I was convinced would lead our company to excel. I knew there would be pivots along the way, but I had a vision for what we should do and was excited to share that vision with our franchisees and teammates – until a franchisee interrupted me during my very first presentation.

He was respectful, but his message stung. In front of the entire group he said, "Tom, how do we even know you'll be here next year to lead us? You're the seventh president in the last seven years and everyone says the same thing."

That interaction, albeit somewhat deflating, served to solidify the foundation for the success our company has achieved over the last 13 years. It taught me – or perhaps reminded me – of two fundamental principles we often reference but undervalue: trust and success.

The plan I was presenting to the franchisees that day was solid. It involved our network, and it involved our customers. For the most part, it's the plan that's driven our success. But, regardless of how good it might have been, it was irrelevant to our franchise owners in the absence of trust.

From that moment forward, my team and I have never lost sight of the fact that building a culture of trust is perhaps the most critical ingredient to our success. We work hard to earn and grow the trust of our franchisees through transparently communicating what's happening with the brand – good, bad and ugly – as well as listening to their concerns and ideas about what we can do better.

The culture of trust has also organically filtered its way down to our end customers – the people who hire us to install carpet, hardwood, and tile in their home. It's the primary reason why we have the top customer satisfaction rate in the flooring industry. Our customers trust us to do what we say. The beauty and quality of the carpet or hardwood – much like my original strategic plan – don't matter if there's not trust that we'll deliver on the promises we make.

I promised our franchisees that day that I would be back for many more franchisee meetings. And, I'm happy to say, that's been the case. As a matter of fact, I just wrapped up my 14th annual meeting. 

At some point in the early stages of those 14 annual meetings, our focus broadened to include success as well as trust. I'm a 30-year veteran of franchising, so I understand that the success of our company depends on the success of our individual franchisees. You simply can't build a successful franchise without successful franchisees.

My instinct, like many leaders, was to dig in and develop a plan to make our franchisees more successful. But the culture of trust we had built exposed a different and better opportunity – listening. The culture of trust we'd created opened the door for candid dialogue. Franchisees didn't hesitate to tell me and our corporate team what they needed to be successful, and my team and I didn't hesitate to disagree. The result was almost always a great partnership that drove better bottom line results for our franchisees.

Even though our franchisees are today more successful than ever, we still work together to figure out how to make them even more successful. Like the culture of trust, this focus on success has organically filtered its way to our customers as well. Our unique in-home design process and careful product selection is designed to ensure the customer gets the result they want. That means we don't simply sell them what they'll buy. We listen closely to hear their goals and recommend the right products for them to achieve success.

To me, that's what real service is all about – helping people achieve their goals. That "success-driven" approach as separated us in an industry not known for great service.

Today, our franchise has 142 locations in North American and is growing six times faster than the floor industry as a whole. And, while lots of people might think that's because of the strategic plan I presented 14 years ago, I know better. Our success can be traced back to a franchisee interrupting me in the middle of that presentation and reminding me of two common sense principles at the foundation of any successful venture.

About the author: Tom Wood is the president and CEO of Floor Coverings International. For more information on the opportunity we provide franchise owners, please visit  www.flooring-franchise.com and to find your closest location, www.floorcoveringsinternational.com