Success in the fast-developing world of architectural concrete requires vision, versatility and persistence — challenges Tina Anderson, president of La Mesa, California-based Tri-Co Floors has met time and time again. Anderson's strategy to build her company by providing good customer service, employee training and product research and development has paid off handsomely. Under Anderson's guidance Tri-Co Floors has grown to become an innovative leader in specialty flooring.
Tri-Co Floor's early entry into the architectural concrete business demonstrates Anderson's ability to identify opportunities.
In 1985 while researching ways to lay resilient flooring for a customer plagued with poor concrete slabs, Tri-Co began investigating concrete toppings. Anderson soon realized the research on concrete toppings could also be applied to architectural concrete flooring. Following this line of thought, she increased the research budget and began investigating coloration and sealers.
Later that year Artflor,™ Tri-Co's architectural flooring system, was added to the product line. Since then Tri-Co Floors has never looked back-the company has grown into one of the largest architectural concrete flooring contractors in the country. Intent on expanding even more, earlier this year Tri-Co Flooring began licensing Artflor™ complete with training, product, marketing and technical support.
“The differences in the company since the 1980's are dramatic. While still maintaining the principles of a family run operation — honesty, good customer service and reliability — the business strategy is aimed at creating opportunities that provide long-term growth, diversification and profit,” says Anderson.
While creating new business opportunities Anderson has never lost sight of the basics and is quick to declare good customer service is the foundation the company has built its success upon. “Tri-Co's attitude is do whatever it takes to make the job right. It sounds corny but our reputation truly depends on it,” says Anderson.
A prime example of commitment to customer service is their response to a flooring problem at a 15,000 square-foot entertainment center and restaurant project in Guam. A couple of months after the project was complete Tri-Co received a call that the flooring was not holding up. They immediately sent a team of installers to Guam to investigate. What they discovered was that chairs in the facility had protective glides missing and the exposed screws were damaging the floor. “We had already agreed to make repairs to the owner at no additional cost, so we ate some of the costs, but kept a customer happy. Sometimes those are the sacrifices you have to make,” says Anderson.
Customer service impressed Penny Steward so much, she moved from the competition to join Tri-Co Floors. “I had done business with Tri-Co Floors for several years and knew the company's reputation. They try to do things correct, and they back their employees. I knew this was a company of good, moral people who do a good job the first time round. I think it is easier as a sales and marketing professional to develop long-term customer relationships when surrounded by people who take pride in satisfying customers, so when the opportunity to join the organization presented itself I jumped at it,” says Steward, sales and marketing manager.
Staff training is another key element in Anderson's business strategy. “Well-trained employees are crucial in the success of the company,” says Anderson. New recruits can expect to receive up to two years training and apprenticeship before they are on jobs without supervision. The training covers everything from surface preparation to installation, with public relations and customer service skills thrown in for good measure. But the training doesn't end after the apprenticeship-employees stay current on the new products and techniques by attending regularly scheduled in-house seminars.
These training principles permeate the Artflor™ licensee program. Licensees receive a nine and twelve-week training modules with additional training and product seminars available throughout the year. Anderson is convinced training provided to Artflor™ licensees will help alleviate some of the industry's most serious challenges — a shortage of quality-oriented professionals and the two-day training programs that make a little bit of knowledge a dangerous thing.
“If the artistic concrete industry is going to last, some quality standards need to be developed. I receive between two and ten calls per week regarding repairs to a competitor's floor. How long will end-users, architects and designers continue to want the product if it doesn't stand the test of time? Artflor™ is the largest contribution I can make to the industry by ensuring quality installations. Architectural concrete is an art form and if a sufficient labor pool isn't created to keep up with demand for quality installations, the product will not succeed,” says Anderson.
Another key component of Tri-Co's success is the commitment to ongoing product research and development. Though often criticized for the costs associated with product research, Anderson has proven there is return on investment — the 15 years of product development and research into Artflor™ is paying huge dividends. After studying the performance of several self-leveling concrete formulations, sealers and colorization techniques Artflor™ has evolved into a practical, durable flooring system that architects and designers associate with quality. The company's testimonials include noteworthy Las Vegas landmarks The Mirage, Luxor and Circus Circus.
Tri-Co's research program is currently investigating ways to control color fading in exterior architectural concrete. UV stability has long been a problem for the industry but if Tri-Co's research proves effective vibrant reds, yellows, blues and purples can be guaranteed. According to Anderson the technology is nearing perfection and will be a first for the industry and a windfall for Artflor™ licensees.
Equipped with well-trained, conscientious people and a reliable, dependable product, the final ingredient of Tri-Co's success is an aggressive marketing and promotions strategy. Backed by a national advertising campaign and an impressive portfolio of project photos, brochures and testimonials, Anderson and Steward crisscross the country expounding the virtues of architectural concrete flooring and the Artflor™ system.
Their approach is unique; they don’t use hard selling techniques but prefer to educate. “We inform clients about the benefits and limitations of the product line. It is better to let people know in advance what they are up against rather than after the fact. By educating, it allows them to make an informed decision and increases the likelihood they will be satisfied with the end product,” says Steward who expects to travel several thousand miles and attend most industry trade shows over the next year.
With the right mix of people, product and promotion firmly in place it’s no surprise Tri-Co Floors has excelled in the competitive architectural concrete industry. Add to the mix Anderson’s passion and Steward’s persistence and it seems likely over the next five years that Artflor™ licensees will be signing up throughout the country and Tri-Co Floors will be one step closer to becoming a diversified conglomerate.