Architectural Flooring Resource Inc.
Cathy Leidersdorff founded Architectural Flooring Resource Inc. (AFR) in 1993 after working in the flooring industry for six years. “I worked for Armstrong World Industry right out of Cornell University, and then worked for SCS systems,” notes Leidersdorff, CEO of AFR. “I moved from the flooring vendor side of the business to the contractor side.”
With experience in the full scope of flooring, Leidersdorff was ready to set out on her own. She chose New York, N.Y., for AFR’s location, where her and the team offer unusual flooring solutions and systems. However, that is not the only reason AFR is unique.
Leidersdorff’s company is the only legitimately woman-owned and -operated flooring business in New York City. “It isn’t run by a husband and owned by a wife,” she explains. AFR is a certified Minority Business Enterprise and Women Business Enterprise. For reasons outside of the company’s minority status, the team has garnered attention across the country.
“We’ve been highlighted as one of the fastest growing companies for a few years in a row by Inc. Magazine,” explains Leidersdorff. “We’re still a small business, but I’ve hired four new people in 2012 and we are still growing substantially but organically. Instead of huge leaps and bounds, we’re experiencing steady growth.”
Products and Services
The company offers both problem solving products and professional installations to clients across the nation. AFR offers turnkey solutions for carpet, hardwood, tile, polished concrete, vinyl flooring, porcelain and more. Clients turn to ARF for a one-stop solution to all flooring needs. In addition, recycling carpet is always on AFR’s agenda when doing a renovation. AFR recycles all of the ripped up materials and reclaims it, rather than sending the remnants to a land fill. This also allows the company to provide end-users with certificates in reflection of the green practice.
In addition, Leidersdorff has founded two sister companies to complement the installation business. She started up Architectural Flooring Care (AFC) in 2001 to offer cleaning services that both extend the life of products and keep the products looking sharp. While Leidersdorff’s third business, Architectural Tile Restoration (ATR), offers complete tile restoration for old-battered ceramic tile, which makes the tile look new overnight.
As Leidersdorff continues to be a driving force, her companies follow suit. AFR has attracted big clients that rely on the company’s unique approach to define new and old spaces. AFR’s team has worked for IPG, Bank of New York, Apple Inc., Carnegie Hall, J.P. Morgan Chase and TAG Heuer.
“Most flooring contractors are bid houses,” she explains. “They go to the general contractor and bid the work. Here, we work with architects, designers and end users to help them choose products. We coach them through selecting a system that is right for the job and will last as long as their lease. We go for the long-term, repeat business, rather than the one-time job.”
Working nationally, AFR relies on a network of professional local installers for labor. Because 30 percent of AFR’s business is not in New York City, it is important to have a vetted group of installers she can count on in even the smallest towns. According to Leidersdorff, about 90 percent of AFR’s work is union work, and she emphasizes long-term relationships in all of her dealings.
“We’ve been working with the same labor shops for a long time,” Leidersdorff details. “When we say jump, they ask how high. We have a lot of influence, but we don’t beat them up. Managing a long term relationship with our partners is very important to us, from who we do business with to the work we perform.”
Leidersdorff practices positivity, bringing some fun into the office. “We have 15 to 17 employees here and 25 on the cleaning side,” she notes. Leidersdorff, who keeps bees as a hobby, plus brings her 100-pound German shepherd, Baron, and 10-week-old black Labrador retriever, Gea, to the office each day. Baron doesn’t make many sales, but he keeps his coworkers company and does not seem to mind the unusual celebration of making a sale.
“Whenever one of our team members lands a job, they get to hit the gong,” reports Leidersdorff. “You can ring it a certain number of times based on the size of the job.” While the practice is unusual in the flooring business, AFR’s methods are paying off. The business was up 30 percent in 2012, and Leidersdorff says the company is still on the rise.
Even through the recession, AFR was doing well. “During the downturn we expanded our business by taking another floor in the building,” she reports. “If you do something long enough and build good enough relationships with people, it makes tough times easier.” The team completed several complex and unusual projects during the downturn, often sought by repeat customers.
“A lot of our work for IPG is pretty different,” explains Leidersdorff. “We’ve been involved in some pretty creative, and not your typical, corporate office because they are in advertising and the environment demands flash. Another standout client is Carnegie Hall.”
Average project size ranges from $200,000 to $250,000, but she says her team is currently bidding on something major. “We may have a $1 million project in the pipeline,” she mentions. The potential work is not set in stone, but for Leidersdorff the price tag is not too important. “I want us to be the best,” she explains. “Not the biggest, but the best. Our reputation is pretty high right now.”
With employees that are happy to come to work, customers are excited about collaboration and quality products, in addition to working with AFR’s reliable suppliers and subcontractors. Architectural Flooring Resource Inc. is a natural growing leader in the industry.
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