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CFI celebrates 20 years of achievements

Annual summit confirms group’s growth, strength

September 2/9 2013; Volume 27/number 10

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 3.00.12 PMBaltimore—As hundreds gathered here recently for the annual convention of the International Certified Flooring Installers Association (CFI), there was no doubt a special feeling in the air. This year’s event was not just another CFI convention featuring educational sessions, hands-on seminars, networking and new products.

This year marked the 20th anniversary of the event and the organization celebrated this milestone in grand style, reminiscing about its humble beginnings and noting its myriad of achievements while looking to the future. The 2013 CFI convention was a testimonial to the organization’s perseverance, growth and strength. And with 50,000 members now certified, it has come a long way.

“Looking back 20 years,” said CFI’s CEO Jim Walker, “who could have imagined where we would be today? In the beginning, everyone was determined that something had to be done and we were going to do our best to promote quality installation. We were ridiculed and told CFI would never last.”

Walker recalled how legendary trade publication editor Howard Olansky told him about his doubts for CFI. “He said, ‘Walker, you will fail. Don’t start this organization. Way too many flooring associations have failed and CFI will do the same.’ I kept telling him and anyone who’d listen that CFI is different; CFI belongs to its members.

“Our motto of P.R.I.D.E., responsibility, integrity, dependability and professionalism says it all,” he noted. “The fact we’ve trained almost 50,000 individuals worldwide is not nearly as important as the one installer who now makes a great living installing floors because he learned how to be a businessperson and became more knowledgeable thanks to his association with CFI.”

CFI’s partners, including the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA), Armstrong and Mohawk, work with the organization in order to reach more installers. “TheirScreen Shot 2013-09-09 at 3.01.02 PM programs are excellent,” Walker said, “but we have all found that by working together and creating programs that complement each group we can accomplish more. The goal is to deliver the best programs and promote the other’s organization. I’m proud to see the Mohawk-CFI Certification, the CCA Global and CFI Certification, and there are more coming.”

CFI’s 20th anniversary celebration said it all: One big family working together to make a difference, he said. “We commend the manufacturers who supported the event and presented seminars in which they shared their expertise about products that help the installers deliver quality work.  The seminars and the workshops this year were some of the best ever.”

Some of the show’s highlights included the presentation of several awards including the association’s Charlie Gress Award for outstanding commitment to quality installation, awarded to Scott Faulknor of Dalton. Baltimore’s own J.R. Harris, who received the second award in memory of former WFCA CEO Chris Davis, was recognized for his support of professional installers. Also honored was The Fishman Co. for financially supporting the CFI Chapters for eight years in memory of former CFI member, Pat Fell and the CFI Team Meeting.

“Everyone who supports CFI has played a role in helping the members bring quality flooring installation to the forefront and to provide the type of installer who truly turns that sale into an enjoyable experience,” Walker said.

Even those like past president, instructor and current CFI executive director Robert Varden, who was not with the organization when it first began, has witnessed how the group affected the industry. “Just a few years after it began, I saw the impact CFI was having on flooring installation, and I wanted to be a part of it. Every installer who has achieved the goal of becoming CFI certified has a feeling of belonging to a group that has and continues to make a difference. CFI installers are committed to being the best and realize that achieving customer satisfaction is our ultimate goal.”

Roland Thompson, member of the CFI executive board and chairman of its marketing committee, recalled the first time CFI came to Baltimore. “I wanted nothing to do with it.  I had seen groups come and go and nothing ever materialized, so why get involved? The late Pat Fell, who was with The Fishman Co. where I purchased supplies, refused to listen to me. Soon I was not only part of this great organization, I was president of its Delmarva chapter.”

CFI trainer Efren Llamas said, “Because of CFI, I have the opportunity to travel the world and talk to installers just like me from all over. They want to be the best in their trade, but until they came to a CFI training event, they never had the opportunity to understand how to make that happen. At our 20th convention, it’s just been one family of friends and the best flooring installers in the nation. Working together, we’ve developed programs that help installers improve their standard of living and allow them to be recognized for their skills.”

Kim Willmore is a CFI installer from Kalispell, Mont., who, with her husband, Curtiss, promotes CFI daily. “When I was able to achieve the advanced levels of certification, I was proud to know that women are active in this trade and can achieve a high level of distinction for the work they perform. CFI has made a difference for Curtiss and myself as we market our qualifications. We are requested to do job startups, repairs and work that require the skills we can deliver because of CFI.”

Said Bob Gillespie, CFI’s first certified member, “We were serious about our journey, but we had no idea where it would take us. We were determined to make a difference. If someone would have told me CFI would have a presence throughout the world, I probably would’ve laughed. But, here we are 20 years later with new programs on the horizon.”

According to Walker, even though CFI has been around for 20 years, its work has only just begun. “In the next few months, announcements will be made impacting a large number of installers as we provide flooring dealers with their greatest asset: installers who strive to satisfy their customers.”

And, once again, CFI will have a significant presence at Surfaces as it presents training and certification for ceramic, laminate and wood flooring installers. “Plan to attend this year and visit CFI to watch how difficult it is to achieve a certification,” he concluded. “This is why installers are so proud of the accomplishment of becoming certified; they know they earned it.