Where Are Those Flooring Installers?

By Jim Walker

The flooring business is one of the best industries in America and we do little to promote it.
The flooring business is one of the best industries in America and we do little to promote it.

It’s here: 2015! Will it be a rewarding year for flooring installation? Are you motivated?

There’s a saying, “If you fail to plan; you have planned to fail.” Did you plan? It’s not too late!

Let’s start with the words that I so strongly believe in…one price does not fit all installations! You cannot be successful if you do not include time in your planning. Installers sell two things: time and talent. The industry loses when we do not recognize the value of these two items.

You have heard it many times, but it’s a new year and let’s emphasize it again. If you are the most qualified installer available, what type of work do you generally receive? Does the price you receive justify the increased time the work requires? This means installing the flooring in the highest professional manner; using the best supplies and achieving the ultimate goal of customer satisfaction.

Most installers definitely enjoy their work; it gives us a tremendous amount of satisfaction at the end of the day to look at what we have created. We made a difference in the appearance of the surroundings and the enjoyment of the occupants. Flooring installers who care achieve customer satisfaction and should be properly compensated.

I have spent my entire career focused on enhancing the value of quality flooring installation for installers worldwide. And yes, we have met many installers who understand their value. And yes, there are more and more retailers who now pay for installations according to the time and talent required for the specific job. However, there are not enough installers in our industry.  There would be no shortage of flooring installers if the installation segment was treated as a vital part of achieving the highest customer satisfaction. Why? Because it would be financially rewarding for all parties.

Being trained or certified by organizations that focus on skills and knowledge adds value to the installation package. Both dealers and installers must sell this.

Consider these questions: Does everyone you do business with know about you? Dealers, does the customer really understand what they are receiving with their purchase? Are certificates and photos proudly displayed for the customer to view the emphasis that is placed on quality installation? They probably are not at the next store, so display the pride that everyone should feel.

Need Help Setting Your Prices?

A very simple form is available on the CFI website to help you to understand how much time is spent on individual tasks that are necessary to complete an installation. It can be easily adapted to any type of flooring. It helps place a dollar value on your time. Not every job can be installed for the same price.

CFI training sponsors, such as Wheat’s Carpet One, have created “A Wall of Pride” following certification events. This tells a story. Not only does it make the flooring installers feel the pride of being important to the operation, but it also assists the sales representatives to talk about quality installation.

Installers, you also have a major role to play. You cannot be passive; you must be proactive. Sell yourself! How will dealers know about you if you don’t tell them? Explain the difference you can bring to the success of their business. Describe the reasons for your pricing. Discuss the importance of customer satisfaction that you strive to achieve every time. And, always deliver what you sell. Dealers who are genuinely concerned about customer satisfaction and increasing business will understand the importance of what you bring to the table. It’s very important to target your market. You cannot afford to work for everyone!

Recognition of value turns into profits

Today, potential flooring installers stay away because it is difficult work and the earnings after expenses and taxes are very low. They come into the industry because someone said, “Will you help me today?” There are other occupations (trades) that continually draw young people because it is obvious they will be able to support families.

Why do dealers make the following comment? “My installers (really independent contractors) make more than my sales force. Even, publications print this. It would not be so incorrect if they published the amount installers earned after expenses (not including taxes), which could be compared more fairly with the sales personnel. Yes, they may take home more, but once the cost of an assistant, the vehicle expenses and insurance are deducted, then their income would be substantially less. The industry knows this, but refuses to admit it.

Dealers and manufacturers can make the difference in this partnership!

Manufacturers who sincerely care about those beautiful products must insist on “qualified, certified, professionally trained” individuals to install them and hold dealers accountable who do not follow those guidelines. Wording on the samples in bold type would assist customers in asking questions about the qualifications of those installing their flooring. This makes a statement that there is a difference and they should be concerned.

Dealers must genuinely care about the customer and refuse to send an unqualified installer to perform the work. When they adhere to this guideline, I guarantee there will be no shortage of flooring installers. We are still running in circles and what we have talked about as long as I have been in this trade will continue to be the subject of tomorrow’s conversation.

I see a simple remedy to the shortage of flooring installers. Join me in voicing your opinion and explaining how easy it is to change what would bring instant results to the present situation. When the manufacturers believe it, when the dealer sells it and when the customer is aware at the time of the sale of the value of installation, then everyone wins.

Why do so many leave the trade and this labor shortage continues to exist? The answer is simple: One price does not fit all installations. So, what is the future for installers and dealers? Hopefully, you made plans for 2015 that include change. Hopefully, there will plenty of installers to perform the installations. The partnership that the industry should encourage leads to more profits for dealers and installers.

Being a knowledgeable business person is just as important as the skills you possess. If flooring installers were financially successful and they voiced how much they enjoyed their work because they were able to earn income based on time and talent; then this type of contagious atmosphere would generate new installers to the trade.

Moreover, CFI, NWFA, NALFA, INSTALL and other groups who place a strong emphasis on training would not be able to meet the demand for it because of installer’s attitudes, “I must learn more to earn more!” That would become prevalent in the industry. The entire industry must want change and when they do, there will be no shortage of flooring installers.

Further, CFI has proven short-term regional programs to professionally train new people to become a part of this trade. Regionally, dealers join together to provide 10 to 16 students who participate in a rigorous hands-on skills and knowledge program. Those who successfully complete the program will work with other installers to understand the day-to-day requirements of the work.  This eventually leads to another crew and then another, creating more qualified individuals. It works. Everyone wants to succeed and competition creates the workforce that is necessary. Once installers are paid according to what they accomplish, the hunger develops to be best; to advance and to become a contributing member of the flooring installation trade. What an impact this can make!

Coming in 2015, the first CFI Flooring University will open in Dallas, TX. This will be a collaboration of several trade associations (which ones?) to offer training in all flooring surfaces. It will include all associated tasks; substrate preparation; estimating and measuring, professionalism, business courses and much more in a hands-on environment taught by knowledgeable persons who will prepare new installers to immediately enter the workforce. Recruiting and placement programs will be offered also.

A school to train installers to enter the workforce as qualified individuals becomes highly successful when large groups support it and offer compensation upon completion that is based on time and talent. Participating in training, but not following through with adequate compensation will not achieve the results that the industry expects.

Will training institutions offer education that brings value for the students? Will they spend time learning to be the assistant to a lead installer? Will they return to an atmosphere where the income is far less than is available from many types of businesses that also offer benefits and are far less damaging to their bodies? Is this the solution? Installation is competing today with many employment opportunities that offer more. However, until we realize the value of professional flooring installers, nothing will change and those searching for employment in the future will not include the installation trade.

The flooring business is one of the best industries in America and we do little to promote it. Customers run away from us because of that last flooring experience. Just think about the additional flooring that would be sold if all parties worked together to sell the product and install it professionally. We need everyone involved to increase business!

During your planning for 2015, the most important thing to understand is value. Flooring installers, remember your regard for time and talent makes you successful. Dealers understand that compensation based on these two important items draws installers to them and adds to the success of their business.

Most importantly, manufacturers, you can make the huge difference that changes this industry into a growing and exciting increased revenue source and brings customers running. Put these words on flooring samples: “This flooring must be installed by a trained, certified, professional” or words that are similar you decide to use. Then, hold the dealers feet to the fire that cannot prove these requirements when a claim is submitted. Yes, it will take time. But, offering one to two  years to comply with this rule gives everyone time to be trained professionally. It becomes a profitable circle when dealers do their job, installers do theirs and manufacturers require professionalism. This is how to address the constant cry for more flooring installers.

Here’s to a successful year ‒ be someone who is contributing to the success of the flooring industry. Attitude is everything. Installers, be sure everyone knows your commitment to successful work and if you are working for dealers who are also part of the future success of this industry, let others know. They will be turning away flooring installers! And the installer shortage will be solved.

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