Leading the Industry by Doing it Old School
All Commercial Floors
Sometimes when a company name seems completely self-explanatory, you take for granted that you can get so much more from the business. This would be the case for Grand Prairie, Texas-based All Commercial Floors (ACF).
When Kevin Jones, President of ACF, started this business in 1999, he admits he did it a bit out of desperation.
“My dad was one of the original founders of Evans and Black Carpet Mills, which is now a division of Shaw. I left the family flooring business in 1994, which surprised my family at the time. But I knew that I wanted to run my own company someday and needed to learn more than I could from our family business,” said Jones. “So, I went to work as a salesperson for a commercial flooring company. As a result, I learned about providing solutions to the healthcare industry, which eventually became the basis for ACF’s start and today’s great success.”
Jones added that the original goals for ACF were modest and straightforward, but the results to date have far surpassed those early goals. “Initially, I was only hoping to make payroll once a week, much less have ten locations nationwide doing the sales we’re doing today.”
Today All Commercial Floors has some 150 employees in locations spread across the country, with revenues in excess of $65 million (as of the first quarter this year). ACF also employs approximately three hundred to five hundred workers at any given time nationwide and is diversified across all types of commercial flooring markets. That wasn’t always the case, however. Until 2012, over ninety percent of ACF’s revenues came from the healthcare industry because of Jones’ specialized expertise in this area.
“Healthcare flooring has its own dynamic,” explained Jones. “Most anybody can typically go out and, say, install carpet. But to establish an installation workforce that truly understands how to install homogenous sheet goods in a healthcare environment with sterile application requirements is a significant challenge. From heat-welded seams to cove-flashed base, to specialized floor prep and moisture mitigation – that takes a special mechanic and is just a totally different mindset. Maintaining a professional core of healthcare installation professionals, who really work hard to learn the needs of this sector, is as incredibly important as the basis of my vision is for growing this company.”
As the company has grown, Jones has extended employment to members of the family business he left in 1994, with eight family members now working in a variety of roles. In addition to family members, ACF has many employees and outside installers who are also “family,” having been with ACF for fifteen to twenty years. Jones attributes this longevity to the fact that there is a balance at work.
“As you’re growing a company and you open new locations, you’re going to have part of the workforce that’s ever-growing and relatively new,” said Jones, “but I think the reason a good base of our employees have stayed is because when we started, I said, ‘We’re going to work hard and put in the hours, but we’re going to play hard too. We’re going to have fun,’ and I’ve stayed true to that.”
Part of ACF’s success is that both the employees and vendor partners do a lot of both work- and non-work-related activities together. For example, ACF holds annual meetings to foster stronger vendor partnerships and help increase the staff’s continuing education of new products and services. Philanthropy is very important to ACF and the spirit of giving back has woven that into ACF’s culture, including donations of time and material to veterans’ and children’s causes and diseases such as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation which is a very sentimental organization to Jones. ACF also encourages participation by its employees and partners in various sporting events, especially where the venue is a customer. Staff, vendor partners, and customers come together and cheer their local professional teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks, Dallas Stars and Texas Rangers.
“If you have an organization where there’s not any way to blow off steam or to create camaraderie, then you’re going to have a revolving door,” said Jones. Additionally, it is very easy to notice the prevalent college theme when you visit the ACF Corporate office in Grand Prairie. Jones is an avid Alabama fan, as is a large base of the local employees.
Many of the vendors which ACF has had a long history of working with are local manufacturers and distribution networks. Building relationships is key to the company’s successful business model. ACF also tries to obtain materials that meet the demand of building more sustainable projects.
“In the healthcare network, we are constantly involved with trying to specify products that meet the prerequisites for LEED projects, in particular LEED BD+C: Healthcare and LEED BD+C: New Construction,” said Jones. “Recently, we hired a twenty-year design veteran from Perkins & Will (a global architecture and design firm), where sustainable design is one of their primary focuses.”
Another recent addition to the company is Wade Pasch, a twenty-plus year flooring industry veteran. Jones has known Mr. Pasch for almost that entire time and feels that this hire was one of his most instrumental moves in the last few years. Pasch is perfectly suited to helping ACF address some of the challenges it faces in the industry, notably making sure the installers and workforce stay up to date with the most recent and dynamic industry best practices, equipment, and installation tools.
“Wade was General Manager of the Source One division of Collins and Aikman (now Tarkett), and at the time he left, he was directly overseeing a little over $75 million dollars in commercial flooring installations nationwide. Having a key executive with this level of experience, aptitude, background and knowledge of larger organizations will be of enormous help to supporting our own growth. Most importantly, Wade knows how to recruit and manage the workforce, which, as we grow, was something that I knew we needed and went after very hard in pursuing him,” said Jones.
Since coming on board, Wade has helped launch a new branch location in Birmingham, Alabama, and assisted in closing the recent acquisition of the Holland Marble Company, a DFW-based natural stone, marble and engineered quartz fabrication, distribution and installation powerhouse.
“I’ve always said that I truly believe that the three most important things in running a successful floor covering solutions business starts with recruiting the best of the best while training them to be better than anyone in the industry, communicate better than anybody in the industry and buy better than anybody in the industry,” said Jones. “If we can do these three things, we will always be able to maintain our clients. If we don’t do those three things, we won’t keep our clients – a very simple concept, really.”
Over the next twenty years, Jones knows that innovations in the industry will occur, but when you ask him what has happened in the twenty years since he started ACF, he thinks that the basics of installing floors have not changed all that much.
There has been a lot of recent focus on automation as a threat to traditional installation techniques in the flooring industry. “We may see a few machines installing floors twenty years from now, but with all of the inconsistencies on job sites, that type of assembly line will never be fully successful,” said Jones. “This business will always need people. The good old installer with his knee pads on, making it ‘right’ is never going to be totally replaced in my opinion. Plus, I’m from El Paso, Texas, and my dad taught me early on that a firm handshake, looking someone straight in the eye and dealing with issues head-on will beat your competitors and – I’d venture to guess – any machine out there.”
For now, Jones is just focused on continuing to grow his business and making plans for the future of the ACF brand to ensure the company’s legacy endures. “As I get older, I certainly have to be thinking about life after floorcovering. My eldest daughter works for ACF, but my two youngest daughters are in college. My college daughters currently have no interest in the floorcovering business, but of course I didn’t at that age either. As they leave the cocoon of school, they might enjoy joining our other family members at ACF… You never know.”
Whether or not more of his children enter the family business, he is not too concerned, as Jones also keeps his focus on the great people around him who feel like family.
“I’m most proud of the terrific, smart and knowledgeable group of people I have around me,” he said. “Early in my career, my dad also said, ‘Son, to be successful, you’ve got to hire people smarter than you.’ When you start an organization with three people out of your garage, grow that into a national business, and that group of individuals stays for the over twenty years we have had together in this organization, I’m very proud of this accomplishment. This tells me that we’ve put together a group of individuals who not only think about themselves, they think about others, and at the end of the day, I feel that’s very important to a company remaining successful.”
So, with the success that Jones has experienced thus far with ACF, one might expect him to be content where he is, but that is not the case.
“This isn’t it,” said Jones. “The five-year plan is to have branches from coast-to-coast and be well suited to support our customers in the Southeast as well. We have our eyes on at least two more locations – one being South Florida and the other in Atlanta, Georgia. The growth projections we expect to see over the next five years have ACF sales in excess of $200 million, and while we’re not quite half the way there, our basic infrastructure is set. I want people to know that ACF is here for the long term, so when a customer needs a commercial flooring solution, we certainly hope ACF is the first thought that comes to mind.”