It's About Customer Service

Posted by Pete Gilfillan and Nat Truitt on May 27, 2021 1:03:00 PM

To kick off our first episode of 2021, Nat and Pete talk with Mark Titcomb of Floor Coverings International.

Not only do they discuss what makes the company special in a crowded marketplace, but the guys pick Mark's brain for advice for aspiring franchisees and current business owners.


Pete:                Well, top of the morning to you, Nat.


Nat:                  Happy Friday, Pete, almost Monday.


Pete:                Almost Monday, right? Well, welcome to the New Year.


Nat:                  Thank you.


Pete:                Yes, right. So we're very excited to get out of 2020.


Nat:                  Yes. I was looking forward to getting that in the rearview mirror.


Pete:                I think a lot of people are from that standpoint. So I'm sure you got your list of goals, your new year's resolution in front of you, you're ready to go?


Nat:                  I'm already kicking butt on that.


Pete:                All right, awesome. We got off to a fast start. I'm still working my way into them, right? I don't want to rush into all those great improvements we're going to make. We have a very special guest today, and I'm really excited. I've known him for years; we have Mark Titcomb today. And you know Mark for a long time too, correct?


Nat:                  Yes, one of my favorite guys.


Pete:                Yes. One of your favorite guys. So why don't we bring Mark in and let's have a nice chat with him? Well Mark, welcome. Mark Titcomb, you're senior vice president at floor coverings international, is that right?


Mark T.:           That's right, that's right, Pete.


Pete:                Yes, and we've known each other for years. I got to start, but we're going to spend time getting to know you and talking about floor coverings international. But I got to tell you; I'm a raving fan of floor coverings international.

I'm a customer; I use floor coverings international two months ago. You guys put in some great carpet, and I never knew there was so much technology with carpet.


Mark T.:           Yes, it's incredible actually, you know that's the world today, right? I mean, you need that technology to create that edge and enhance the experience.


Pete:                Yes. Well, I meant just the carpet, so I got teenage kids, and we put it in a room where they're always at. I found out that this new carpet that we bought, you can spill wine on it, and it won't stain the carpet. And I thought to myself, that's really good carpet.


Nat:                  Was that for the kids, Pete, or was that for the adults?


Pete:                Well, I'm not suggesting my kids are drinking wine, but all right, that may be just for me too, right? So anyways.


Nat:                  We know who spills the most in your house.


Pete:                Fair enough. Well, Mark, you have been in franchising for a long time, and I know you've worked for multiple companies. But floor coverings international we want to focus on today, floor coverings international has been around a long time, hasn't it?


Mark T.:           It has Pete. And by the way, just quickly, I love this, that product you have in your home, I have in my home as well, it's aquaphobic technology. It's incredible, so you're absolutely right; technology is amazing with flooring today.

Yes, so I've sort of fit this mold to Pete. I've been within first service brands now for 27 years. And at floor coverings international, we've been here 32 years. So there's been these 32 years of process improvement.


Pete:                Wow, 32 years, so did you start when you were 10?


Mark T.:           I did actually, yes.


Pete:                All right, thank you. So we got a lot of stuff to cover today. So one of the things we always like to learn is that when we talk about floor coverings international, there's a lot of people that play in the flooring industry, right? So my first question is that what's one thing that kind of separates floor companies international for anybody else that plays in the space?


Mark T.:           Yes, good question, Pete. It's definitely an industry that's been there a long time, steady eddy growth, right at a millionaire next door, right? It's that dull normal operating system or business vertical. And just being here 32 years with process improvement over that time.

                        We've been able to lean in and stay hungry, even as we've developed that maturity. And with that, we've made a lot of investments, and we continue to invest, which you and I will talk more about.


Pete:                Yes. So 32 years, and you continue to refine the business model. I've heard about your annual conferences, right? I think you guys, prior to COVID-19, would go to Cancun. I heard you guys are all about business, right? It's not about sitting on the beach, it's about you're in meetings and improving and stuff.

So I like that passion, that that energy of continuing to want to get better. So one is you guys have just been doing this for a very long time; you continue to improve. All right, what's the second thing that kind of separates floor coverings international from the competition?


Mark T.:           Yes. Pete, we don't like to complicate simple things. And we know that the consumer and our consumer tends to be female because it is inside the home service, she's never going to forget how we made her feel. And we're in FS brands, first service brands which is publicly traded, by the way.

So we just really focus on the experience. And yes, there's a lot of cool technology and a lot of training for our franchise owners and staff. Yet, it's all about remembering she's going to remember the experience we created with her, yes, and that's really the most disruptive thing, honestly.


Pete:                Yes. Well, my wife was so pleased, because you guys came to our house, the local franchisee. Came to the house, brought the samples, and then spent some time helping my wife figure out what color, what kind of carpet should we buy. I was not part of the process; I was just happy to have her happy and stuff like that.


Mark T.:           Absolutely.


Pete:                Right? So it's all good. All right, so it's the experience. You guys put a lot of energy into making the experience one that's memorable and is superior to others. Okay, what's another thing that separates floor coverings international?


Mark T.:           And thank you, Pete, because there are so many things. I think right at the edge, as we have made it all about the consumer and her experience. It led us just before the great recession to realize sort of what we call today the amazon effect, right? She wants to have that experience where and when she wants to have it.

She doesn't want big retail saying, hey, come here to our warehouse showroom so we can ignore you; she doesn't want that experience. So by bringing the store to her door. Now in today's times, the clean store to her door, that's been very appealing. To give you an idea in a measurable statistic, we have a net promoter score at eighty percent.


Pete:                Holy cow. I mean, I think that's higher in Nordstrom's, isn't it?


Mark T.:           Yes, it's incredible. Apple, some of these other great brands, hover in the 70s, which is incredible. So her response has been very validating around yes, I want the store brought to my door.


Pete:                Okay, that's good. I know you guys put a lot of money into the franchise system, right? Technology and people. So tell me a little bit about that real quick.


Mark T.:           Yes. Pete, that honestly for our franchise owner, this has probably been the biggest news. We just had a huge sales force roll out. To give you an idea of what that franchisee response was, it only took us three months to have 174 business owners convert, right? Over to this sales force launch.


Pete:                Wow, that's pretty incredible. I know you guys had support staff, supporting the franchisees and stuff like that. All right, so you guys are doing a lot of things, and it's an industry that continues to grow, right?

There's a lot of technology there. It is Pete; I mean, this is an industry that'll grow two and a half three percent every year. We are the fastest-growing, most referred, right? Those go together, and let's just say our growth is much higher than that two to three percent the industry's growing.


Pete:                Right. But it's like a 100 plus billion-dollar industry, isn't it?


Mark T.:           118 billion.


Pete:                Wow, that's amazing. So in a growing industry, you're going faster than everybody else.


Mark T.:           And it's those referrals, right? It's keeping it about her and her experience. Like the Starbucks tipping point, we get those referrals, and that drives everything.


Pete:                All right. So you guys have been around for 32 years, passionate about getting better. You are putting more time and energy into making it a great experience for the customers, which drives a high promoter score. And you also have this idea that you want to continue to grow, be passionate in the growing industry, be the very best, that's very cool.


Mark T.:           100%. It's consistent with California closets, CertaPro painters, our sister companies, we're just doing it again here, same thing.


Pete:                Well, that's awesome. So we're going to draw upon you've been in the franchising for a very long time, and so we're going to kind of get into drawing all that knowledge of how we can help people, right?

So first, I think you're one of the coolest people I know. You actually took, if I remember correctly, a one-year sabbatical, right? With your family, you just traveled for a year?


Mark T.:           Yes.


Pete:                That is so cool.


Mark T.:           Well, Pete, I think, and the three of us represent this on the call today. I think in order to really have that empathy and relate to those that are looking to make this big jump, we need to have done it ourselves and then lived the dream that comes with it, right? And that was certainly a dream for Karen and I, my wife and I.


Pete:                Oh, that's awesome. All right, so you've been in this for a long time. So let me ask you this, what would be one piece of advice you would give to somebody that is looking to become a franchisee. What would be the one piece of advice you'd give them?


Mark T.:           And Pete, that's a great question, because I think this is also true as they become that entrepreneur they've always dreamed they'd be, my best piece of advice that I've taken myself and it stems from a quote by Henry Ford, you know whether you think you can or whether you think you can't, you're right.

So just lean in. The millionaire next door states you're five times more likely to be wealthy than working for yourself than someone else, yet we all know about two percent of people who get started invest in a business of their own. There's a disconnect there, and it's fear.

So lean in, look for opportunity, do your due diligence, lean on folks like you, Nat, and you Pete, to guide through that process yet. Lean in, look for opportunity, and ultimately the only thing you really have to fear is fear itself.


Pete:                Yes.


Nat:                  That's awesome. What do you think is really important for guys that own their own businesses that are kind of in the day-to-day trying to be successful? What kind of advice would you give those guys?


Mark T.:           Nat, if you don't mind, I have two things, real quick. Because my wife and I are in business ourselves, and I'm surrounded by business owners. I've found, and I do quote a lot because I keep these thoughts in my head.

Steve Jobs had said stay hungry, stay foolish. It's easy to get in your ruts and lean on good when you could be great, and we found this with an FS brand. So that's number one. The second is never eat lunch alone, it's simple, right?

We also get stuck in our offices or those ruts or staying busy, and we forget there's a difference between being effective and being efficient. So being effective is getting out there, meeting people and making new friends, always in business.


Nat:                  Yes. It's like that iron sharpens iron, right? I know I always feel more energized having lunch or talking about business trends, and it's like cross-pollination, it's awesome.


Mark T.:           Yes. And you give, and you get, right? It's both, absolutely.


Nat:                  So, do you have a favorite book? I know you showed us the millionaire next door. Is that your all-time?


Mark T.:           Nat, I think I can speak for all three of us, there's a few, right? It's kind of like when we traveled the world for a year, Pete, the most common question we get asked, can you guess what it is?


Nat:                  Do you have McDonald's? Or is there McDonald's everywhere?


Mark T.:           Right. And we did eat that a few times because we craved American food right at some points. But what was your favorite spot, right? It's like, oh, are you kidding me? Right? So this is a tough question. If I were forced to pick one, it's a book that was written almost 100 years ago by Napoleon Hill, and it's think and grow rich, right?

I read it almost every year; my memory is not that bad yet. But I read it almost every year because it reminds us that without boundary, there's bounty in this world. And if you can go for it, put your hands on the wheel, right? And get control your life, because most of us are in the back seat right now as passengers for our life, work, trying to live.

Well, how about planning to live and working around that, right? That's what we do as entrepreneurs Pete. Nat, you guys, take vacations, lots, right? I do as well. So it's that Napoleon Hill concept of bounty and plentifulness and putting yourself a position where you can reap that.


Pete:                That's a great book.


Nat:                  I know it's a game-changer to have that abundance mentality versus scarcity mentality; your entire world will open up to you.


Mark T.:           Yes. And then get busy making friends, right? Get into the community, get networked and help them help you, help each other.


Nat:                  Over the years, what's some of the best advice somebody gave you?


Mark T.:           Well, Nat, Pete, there's very few original thoughts at this point, right? So honestly, a lot of the things I've shared are things that I've heard from others. I'll add Nat that one of the things I was told in my 20s when I was a very young entrepreneur was Mark be very intentional about who you surround yourself with.

Because life is about who you're doing it with, life's about showing it up, showing up, that's Benjamin Franklin, right? Life's about showing up and then being intentional about who your mentors are, who your other relationships are because they'll either challenge you and help you get better. Or maybe a little underwhelming, and not be that iron against iron that you need.


Nat:                  Well, we all have kids, and I know I'm pretty intentional with my boys with who they're hanging out. And you're like the average of your five friends or whatever that old saying is.


Mark T.:           Yes, 100%.


Nat:                  Don't hang out with the weak guys; hang out with the guys that are in the weight room, and they're going to challenge you, right?


Mark T.:           Right. That Jim Collins good to great, put people around you that excel in areas you don't, and I think that was great advice.


Nat:                  That's why I like hanging out with Pete.


Mark T.:           Exactly.


Nat:                  Pete brings me to that level.


Mark T.:           Touché.


Pete:                I see how this is going today, all right. So well, Mark, it's hard to get me speechless, but Nat seemed to have done that. So hey Mark, congratulations on all the success with floor coverings international, very cool what you guys are doing and creating opportunities for people.

To go out there and make an impact in the community. Creating jobs and satisfied customers all kind of stuff. And we're so thankful for the advice you've shared, for people that are thinking about investing in franchise or just a business owner. So thank you so much for taking time to be with us today.


Mark T.:           Pete, Nat, Sean, thank you very much, guys. Enjoy the opportunity, great jamming with you.


Nat:                  Excellent.


Pete:                All right.


Nat:                  See you later, Mark.


Pete:                Let's rock and roll.

Topics: Franchise, How To Build Wealth, entrepreneurship, becoming a franchisee, Podcast

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