Q&A — For Spectra Dallas President Phillip Chambers, it’s all about relationships
When Phillip Chambers discovered just how popular he is among Spectra clients, his jaw dropped.
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
It’s no joke — and that humility is at the foundation of his success as President of Spectra’s Dallas division, where he’s overseen operations for nearly a decade. He’s triumphed in earning the trust of key local and national companies, including ExxonMobil and American Airlines.
Overseeing operations is hard work that requires knowing the whats, wheres and whens of every single project in his care. That’s why, to Phillip, everything hinges on relationships.
Q: As president of Spectra’s Dallas location, you describe yourself first and foremost as a “relationship developer.” Why frame your role in that way?
A: That is my role with our customers: connecting. Being relationship-driven sets that tone for our entire organization.
Nine years ago, we were in the midst of a large, difficult hospital project. The project executive for the contractor started blowing my phone up all the time, even Saturdays and Sundays. I end up going down to the job, two hours away, and meeting him with my salesperson. It was a heated meeting.
But then we worked through that, and he’s been a friend and a client for nine years. We still do work for them today. If he needs something information-wise, he reaches out to me. That’s the perfect example of relationship development, and it’s a good story. We both look back on it and laugh.
I’m not afraid of difficult situations. Some of my best relationships have come from really adverse situations. I work really hard to say what I’m going to do and then do what I’ve said.
Q: Saying what you’ll do and actually doing it is even promised on your LinkedIn profile. How has that philosophy shaped Spectra?
A: When we tell customers we’re going to do something, we need to do it. We need to run through the wall to make that happen. And if we can’t, we need to tell them why and what we’re going to do in lieu of that.
When I first came here, we were probably a $20 million business. We’re well north of that now. In paying attention to the details, we had our customers’ trust. I communicated that we were investing in people and staff and training, and we were going to do it well. By saying that and then demonstrating it, we have grown.
Q: Let’s shift gears. What’s the most memorable flooring job you’ve ever participated in?
A: The World Headquarters here in Dallas for ExxonMobil. It was several months of tile and carpeting. It wasn’t an overly complex project but managing it was extremely complex. It was very challenging, but it was rewarding to meet the most stringent guidelines of when and how we were going to work. Safety was paramount. We were able to do all of it — maintain schedule, maintain budget and meet the needs of the customer.
Q: That was quite an undertaking. Your contact on that job was JE Dunn Vice President Chris Paris, who’s quite a big fan of yours.
A: He chewed my ass out at a meeting at that job.
Q: But he also said it was how you responded that earned his respect and loyalty.
A: That’s awesome!
Q: If someone wants to work with you specifically, what should they know?
A: I’m happy to talk to any prospective customer. I’m willing to try to work with anyone regardless of their size and scale. We have some clients that may do $10,000 within a year, and we may have some that do $2 million in a year. Some started as $10,000 clients, and they’re now $500,000 clients.
A majority of our clients are general contractors, and the dollar is always important to them, but I feel like we need to make them think about the service they’re getting versus always going with a low bid and getting crappy service for them and their customer. We like customers that are looking for a partner, not just a dollar value.
We like challenges. We like obstacles. We like overcoming them. We don’t like creating them, but when we do, we’re going to deal with them. I don’t mind being challenged. As a matter of fact, I like that.
I want a business that values a relationship. I don’t want to just be a price commodity. I want somebody that I can truly build a relationship with, provide value to them, meet and hopefully exceed their expectations.
Related reading: Why you need a flooring partner who thinks like an owner.
Q: What are your favorite types of projects?
A: I like projects that are maybe pushing the edge on design and using new products, not old products. We did a project for American Airlines a few years ago in their new Integrated Operations Center (IOC). And they were doing things with tile in terms of the cutting and shapes and sizes that was really challenging — and to do it, to meet the architect and our customer’s expectations, that was fun.
They also used a carpeting product that was relatively new at the time. It was a hexagon shape or either a hexagon or octagon, but with multi-colors, multi-pattern. And the architect, of course, wanted their pattern layout to be a certain specific way. And it was not easy. Nobody was quite sure how to get the dimensions drawn out and exactly how they wanted their patterns. But we, the many people on our team, worked through all of that. The end result was spectacular. I mean, it looked really good. We even got a few accolades for it.
Q: What’s your favorite flooring material?
A: Carpet. I started as a carpet guy working with Shaw before LVT was even a word.
I just think it’s an innovative product. The world is consumed by carpet tile now, not so much carpet rolls anymore. When carpet tile first began, it was a very industrial square. Now you’ve got all kinds of pattern, texture, color. It sets the tone in a building more than any other product.
With the different colors, you can interact with the shapes and sizes that tiles are available in now, whether it’s squares or hexagons or planks of different widths and different lengths. It can just impact design so much more, which transforms spaces. There’s more bang for your buck with carpet. I like seeing the stuff.
And I like architect folders because there’s so many different types. There’s a lot of different ways they can be installed, and there’s ways they shouldn’t be installed. I like the fact that they have a lot of pictures showing how they should be installed and what they should look like because it helps keep us and our customer out of trouble.
Related reading: A buyer’s guide to broadloom and carpet tile.
Q: Spectra is expanding. What excites you about the new venture with Diverzify?
A: Diverzify gives us more reach. We have a truly national footprint now. If a customer has retail stores or some type of operation all over the country, we can provide a much more consistent, clean business for that client, do it economically and we can give it scale. It allows us to set a price that’s not going to change dramatically from one part of the country to the other. It’s going to allow customers to manage their capital for other expenses.
That all ties back to a group within our business called CTS: Collaborative Turnkey Solutions. We do everything from beginning to end for a national client so that they have a standardized process, and we’ll have an understanding of their business and how a job needs to work. We’re not going to impede their ability to continue to generate revenue.
Q: What are you hearing from customers about the expansion?
A: There’s not been a lot of upheaval. I called key customers just to see if they had any concerns, tell them what was going on, what I thought would be positive about it — and they were fine.
Q: How does all this opportunity make you feel?
A: I love to grow. There’s nothing better than growing. That’s how you’re winning in business. Growth is good.
And there’s people that have come into the company through the Diverzify merger who already do some of these things, so we’ve got institutional knowledge to draw from.
Q: What’s something you wish customers would ask more often?
A: Lead times for products they’re looking at, especially given the last two years with all the supply chain issues. We have projects with people who’ll say, “Fast track.”
But then their architect or somebody specifies a product from Italy or Spain that’s going to be on a boat for 14 weeks. That doesn’t really equate to a fast project. I want them to ask about lead times so I can help manage, and hopefully meet, their expectations.
Related reading: 4 supply chain issues in commercial flooring.
Q: Maybe this is corny, but do you have any deeper thoughts about the role flooring plays in our lives?
A: Oh wow. Deep thoughts by Phil.
I’m not being funny here: I think it’s great. Flooring is, to me, it’s cool. It is truly the foundation of most of the spaces we’re living in and working in.
I don’t take myself too seriously — we’re not saving lives — but I’m proud of the industry I work in. And I think we do great things. We make more impact in a space than just about any other finish.
And as a business, I tell people all the time, “I feel like we’re the crown jewel of hidden opportunities for people to make a really good living.” The whole world is in love with pharmaceutical sales or medical sales or software sales. I think there’s great opportunity that people just don’t know about. We need to do a better job of self-promoting.
I’ve been blessed with a great career. I have a lot of people that work with me that are living a great life, and they work hard, but there’s great opportunity in this business to do really well in life. And I could ask 500 people, and I’d be surprised if two of them said, “Oh yeah, I would like to do flooring sales.”
I walk around looking down. My wife takes her index finger and points at her eyes, telling me, “Hey, I’m up here.” And she’s not talking about what that usually means. She’s talking about the floors.
Some people will laugh at me about my passion for what we do, but it is great to transform a space. I love doing that. Seeing something that’s not really nice looking, and then we take our products, our services, and completely transform it. We give people a better environment. It’s a buzz for me.
Get the Phillip Chambers experience on your next flooring job
When you work with Spectra Contract Flooring, you can always count on a collaborative, solutions-based approach delivered with professionalism and transparency.
And thanks to our recent Diverzify partnership, all customers have access to the resources of the largest commercial flooring contractor in the United States. This means 52 locations from coast to coast, a powerful end-to-end logistics network and 400,000+ diverse installations in our portfolio.