Gary Johnson thinks he has figured out the formula to a successful business model which also counters the construction industry-wide crisis of labor shortage. But it’s not just conjecture. Johnson’s INSTALL company, American Flooring & Interiors, a Toledo-based floorcovering and painting business with 40+ employees, counts a running list of noteworthy business achievements. For starters, American Flooring & Interiors has grown 500%+ in the last five years. Numbers like that have gained national attention.
A Look at the Numbers
The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) is a nonprofit research and strategy organization and the leading authority on U.S. inner city economies and the businesses that thrive there. Founded in 1994 through Harvard Business School, ICIC strengthens inner city economies by providing businesses, governments and investors with the most comprehensive and actionable information in the field about urban market opportunities.
Every year, with the support of partners Staples, Inc. and Chevron, ICIC identifies and supports the 100 fastest growing inner city companies. These firms represent the kind of innovative and diverse organizations that create significant economic growth in inner cities. Although based in the inner city, these companies derive more than half their revenues from regional, national and international sales. The Inner City 100 Companies produce jobs in their local communities, competitive advantage for their business partners and profits for their investors. Across all sectors, Inner City 100 firms are more productive than sector peers throughout the U.S., according to U.S. Census data.
In 2014, the study ranked American Flooring & Interiors #1 in the Construction industry for The Inner City’s Fastest-Growing Companies. The same study also ranked American Flooring & Interiors #11 overall for The Inner City’s Fastest Growing Companies.
So what is Johnson’s secret? Simply put, he invests in the right people and then provides them with the right training and certification. When hiring installers, Johnson identifies core personality characteristics that he believes distinguishes the kind of person that will succeed: integrity, outstanding work ethic and a sense of loyalty. When he finds people with these invaluable characteristics, he then invests in their future knowing that it is in turn an investment in his company. He does so through providing the employee with access to the most superior training and certification program in the industry — INSTALL.
INSTALL, the International Standards and Training Alliance, joins together major flooring manufacturers, contractors and professional installers across the U.S. and Canada. Its comprehensive training and certification program is based on the direction and continued review of floorcovering mills and manufactures making it the most endorsed and recommended training programs in the industry.
“Our business philosophy is that nobody is more important than the next person. Whether you’re the person delivering the materials to the job site to the person installing the flooring, if one person fails, we all fail,” says Johnson. “It’s very important to me that everyone who works for me is on board with that mission. By partnering with INSTALL for training, I have people at my disposal who are already on board with that philosophy. There’s a built-in trust in the people I’m getting.”
The personal and professional development that employees at American Flooring & Interiors receive through INSTALL is just one of the benefits Johnson sees to his business. He recognizes a significant advantage in his ability to handle larger contracts by gaining access to a pool of experienced, certified installers from across the country that he can pull in as needed to support any size contract or bid. Other firms without this access to labor can experience the full brunt of the industry-wide shortage of skilled labor when they have business opportunities but don’t have the people to complete the work.
Johnson often relies on INSTALL’s bank of trained professionals to support his team when they’re bidding on a large scale project. This allows his relatively small company to be equipped to handle large multi-million dollar projects.
Johnson’s business model of starting the right person and then building them up with the right training is a direct method for pulling new blood into the skilled labor force. Said Johnson, “If more floorcovering businesses adopted this model, using INSTALL as a key tool in developing new workers, the country would be on a better path to combatting this and any future skilled labor crises.”