Flooring the trade with positivity

CFJ profiles Shane Moore, owner of Dover-based SM Flooring Solutions, By ADAM BERNSTEIN.

IT’s not often that an individual says that they genuinely love their work, but Shane Moore, owner of Dover-based SM Flooring Solutions, is someone who seems particularly contented. And three years into running his own business, he’s clearly a man on a mission – one that’s backed by his family.

From little acorns…
Like most, Shane wasn’t handed a business on a plate. Instead, he has worked his way up from the bottom to create something he’s proud of. He came into the trade through working with his father: ‘While growing up I went to work with him on school holidays and Saturdays, but the end of my school life came and both my parents said ‘you’ll have to go earn your keep until you find out what you want to do’.’

Shane said the original plan was to go into professional rugby as a player. He says working for his father had a number of perks, one of which was great flexibility when it came to juggling work and training for mid-week rugby games. However, as he points out, ‘I wasn’t quite good enough to get that (rugby) contract I longed for, so my focus changed to flooring as I had a massive head-start after working for my dad.’

Biding his time, Shane explains he worked for his father for some six years then moved onto another firm – in Canterbury – to complete another six years with them.

By 2017 he wanted, as he says, ‘to make my own path’. And so, SM Flooring Solutions started trading. ‘I started as a van and a man and a storage unit for one year, but the landlord needed the land back to extend his own business, so I needed to look for somewhere else.’

Shane asked around to see what was available and came across a shop. He had a baby due at the time, so it was quite a leap of faith, but as he said, ‘I thought let’s give it a go and over the two years the shop has been open trade has been great.’ This is quite a feat considering that, as Shane points out, Dover is a coastal town and so his working radius for business is half that for a firm located inland.

SM Flooring Solutions has now evolved so it fits all types of flooring, with the exception of ceramic as Shane feels that’s another specialism entirely. His business aims high and he sees it ‘as a high-end outfit with a family business’. It’s interesting that his father still works in the sector and does a few jobs for him installing.

But, as Shane notes, ‘his love of golf and his age means he’s looking for the retirement he deserves… but just can’t say no to his son’. And to further ‘keep it in the family’, Shane’s mother also works in the business – she runs the shop for him.

A certain uniqueness
No business can survive unless it’s different from the competition, and Moore’s SM Flooring Solutions is no different and he wanted to make a point. ‘I thought ‘what can I do to stand out from the other guys, get customers to feel confident in me to do their project?’’ The natural solution for him was training so he could ‘work above and beyond what’s needed’.

He contacted the NICF to help with advice, discounted training and discounted tools (Moore confesses that he’s ‘a massive geek and loves a tool’).

‘I went on a few courses at Fita and gained my master fitter status – it’s what I have been wanting to get for a while to make me stand out from the others in my area.’ He now holds master fitter status with the NICF in several fields, and is a Quick-Step master installer, Balterio master installer, and a Luvanto approved installer.

‘I’m always looking to add to the list… proud to show off that I’ve been trained, been assessed while knowing that others haven’t and also knowing that I can work to British standards.’ As Shane is keen to emphasise, it’s about doing the best job possible for his clients and knowing what’s needed to install correctly; he’s not one that subscribes to the ‘that will do attitude’. Far from it and he says that ‘I feel passion for this trade, I genuinely love my job and hopefully customers see that when I’m in their home… I can talk about [flooring] till I’m blue in the face.’ It’s also worth pointing out that Shane is also a British Standard Committee member which helps him market his business and which also gives him ‘a say in British standards.’

Often in life those who shout the loudest are those with the biggest mouths. But they’re not necessarily the best and may not see the technical intricacies that allow a job to be completed - properly. In contrast, Shane likes a challenge: ‘The jobs I love are the ones where the customers say to me ‘we had another guy in who said it can’t be done’ and then I finish the project - and the look on the customer’s faces…’

In fact, Shane’s ethos means he wants to explain what he’s doing, that he works to British standards, and that customers will get a warranty with his products. He adds that all of this helps him sell his business as ‘the trust I get from customers from just walking into their home after 10 minutes is incredible’.

Training matters
As we’ve seen, Shane is hot on the topic of training. For him it’s the only way to better himself. And it’s no wonder that he thinks that apprenticeships ‘have a massive part to play in the trade as I feel that there’s a shortage of good skilled floorlayers’.

He says it’s a challenge to get good flooring apprentices ‘as most people when they leave school want to be a carpenter or electrician… they don’t get asked about flooring.’ For him, training or upskilling is just as important for floorlayers, and he notes that there’s been a change in attitude that’s growing stronger by the day ‘as more people are willing to train and learn the correct way to install’.

Taking the line further, Shane thinks ‘it would be absolutely great to see all floorlayers assessed to make sure they can install so that the end-user gets their flooring done correctly. The NICF along with Fita is a great base for this and I’d like to see government support our trade by making sure floor layers also get what we deserve’.

He highlights the Gas Safe card for gas engineering, which is required by law, and thinks the same should apply to flooring – ‘all fitters should be assessed and if training is needed then they should get the training that’s best for them… there are some great training facilities out there from the likes of Fita and FloorSkills’.

And to practice what he preaches, Shane teamed up with Fita last year to become one of its instructors. He now trains others on LVT, carpets, lino, domestic vinyl, commercial vinyl and laminate and says that ‘it’s a great feeling to give something back to the trade after spending a few years learning having spent money on going on courses myself’. As an aside, Shane says the training centre in Loughborough ‘is a great place to make new friends, and even though I’m teaching it’s great to see guys improve over just a short time’.

In general
It’s telling that Shane reckons the industry is ‘a bit up and down’. He feels ‘there’s a bit of a divide… that as a professional there’s always someone else trying to undercut or bad mouth you trying to get the business’.

He tells of a case where he fell out with a builder with a large project where a distribution company went behind  his back and sold products at a price lower than he can achieve. He adds he’s ‘seeing more and more bad installs from other companies’ which, no doubt, is one of the reasons why he wants shops to get onboard with training and to get their fitters assessed.

As for payments Shane relates that he rarely has any problems as such. He finds that 90% of customers are fine as he asks for a 25% deposit with the balance on completion. And to ease the sale, Shane offers finance in the shop ‘to help our domestic customers get their new project running’. But on the commercial side he finds payment can take far too long – a familiar tale for many.

To finish
Excelling in business should be simple and very boring. And Shane’s philosophy is in step with that view; he thinks that small firms ‘should just aim to be the best, get training and aim to get the perfect install.’ As he puts it, ‘we all know the best form of advertising is word of mouth’.

Those that remember that last comment will surely be around for years to come.