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Installments: Prepare for installation management success

Sept. 16/23 2013; Volume 27/number 11

By Gerry Swift

Screen Shot 2013-09-25 at 3.17.19 PMLet’s face it, no matter how well the sales process goes, if the job blows up in the field, we’re going to be looking for a new client to replace the one we just lost. Our reputation suffers along with the more immediate financial turmoil.

Perhaps a delivery wasn’t made on time, the installation crew wasn’t able to finish promptly, or there was a serious personality clash. A project can spiral out of control over something as simple as the start date of the project. To avoid this, I believe training in installation management is critical. I find it interesting there is no single structure guaranteeing success in terms of sales and support; there are horizontal and vertically structured sales models.

The horizontal structure is where salespeople do it all, “cradle to grave.” They estimate, sell and manage their own projects. Flooring contractors with this structure argue their salesperson inherently knows the project so they can accurately cost it and price it. This person serves as the project or installation manager, particularly in smaller companies.

In the vertical structure, there is an estimator, an administrative coordinator, a project manager and/or an installation manager to run these projects in the field. The idea behind this model is the salesperson can do what he does best: sell! The estimator, coordinators and installation managers do what they do best, as well.

As an executive and a salesperson with large commercial flooring contractors, I’ve found success with both models. It comes down to hiring the right people to fill these rolls. There are certainly pros and cons to each. However, one thing in common with all successful commercial flooring contractors is good installation management. This is the critical role that every successful flooring contractor must fill. Yes, we obviously need good installers on our jobsites, but that’s just one of many things that have to go right for a profitable outcome and to avoid disasters.

Our industry is fortunate to have programs for installers. International Certified Floor Covering Installers (CFI) and the Installation Standards Training Alliance (INSTALL) are two organizations with a primary focus on training and certifying floor covering installers, and they do a wonderful job. Add management training to this and you complete the picture. And one way to enhance company training is through the latest efforts of the Floor Covering Contractors Association (FCICA).

The FCICA now provides industry-specific training topics for installation managers, including how to prepare and verify the labor estimate, planning the job, contractual obligations, scheduling and installation resource assignment, site condition management, on-site change order prep, comparison of budget versus actual cost, and job closeout (each section incorporates additional sub-headings). Similar to a CFI or INSTALL setting, seminars are led by experts that speak from years of experience. It is far better to hear about the mistakes and nightmares of others, and have a chuckle or two, than experience it yourself firsthand. And it’s cheaper, too.

I’ve known many fellow commercial flooring contractors over my 23 years in the business. One thing I enjoy most is benchmarking results with my peers, particularly the ones out of my market. Having an off-the-cuff conversation about furniture management, old flooring that just doesn’t want to come up or client personnel meltdowns can provide valuable “ah-ha!” moments. Often, these conversations provide the most value of all.

I’m proud to be part of an industry association like the FCICA and pleased commercial installation management is now a key focus. Whether you get help from CFI, INSTALL or FCICA, prepare for your success through training.