Volume 27/Number 23; March 17/24, 2014
By Louis Iannaco
St. Pete Beach, Fla.—The mood was upbeat as the Flooring Contractors Association (FCICA) gathered here amidst the sun and surf March 2–5 for its 32nd annual convention. A total of 149 attendees—including 29 first timers—met to network and greet old and new friends alike while learning about the latest developments in commercial flooring installation, management techniques, best practices, programs and related products.
From the standing-room-only educational sessions to the manufacturer-sponsored reception and dinner on the beach, the atmosphere was relaxed while the energy level remained high throughout the four-day event. “We’re starting to get the message out about who we are in the industry,” said chairman Gerry Swift of the event’s success. “The good contractors want their key people to be here.”
With 34 associate members showcasing their wares during the three-and-a-half hour tabletop exhibit—the longest such event in the association’s history—Swift had every reason to be bullish about the group and its purpose, which in the last 18 months has featured a concentration on installation management. “It’s great to get the vendors, manufacturers and associate members here, but our association is all about the flooring contractors, and training and educating them.”
As Swift noted during the event’s general session, getting the current and next generation of installers trained is an endeavor that the industry as a whole needs to address. “Certified Floorcovering Installers (CFI) and INSTALL do a wonderful job with this and I look forward to working with these groups. But that is not our goal. The primary focus of FCICA is on the installation manager.”
In addition to the group’s many programs and member benefits, he explained, its “crown jewel” is the recently launched certified installation management program (CIM), an eight-module, comprehensive training program for the industry’s installation managers that will eventually lead to an industry certification. “We may not be able to train all the industry’s installers, but our focus is to train the contractors’ key people—the ones actually charged with running commercial projects—to not only get them educated on technical installations systems, but on management as well.”
Carl Embrey, manager of commercial vinyl and laminate for Apollo Distributing, said Swift brings an energy and focus FCICA needed. “Our membership seems to be thriving with more contractors. I love the increased focus on installation and certification. The fact that Gerry is working with organizations previously considered to be competitors just makes us stronger. And in order to get the attention of Starnet, Spectra and Fuse members, we need to be talking about certification. It’s powerful—something they can use.”
During the course of the event, several educational sessions were videotaped as modules for the CIM program, including “Understanding Contractual Obligations,” presented by attorney Sloan Bailey of Flynn, Riley, Bailey & Pasek, San Rafael, Calif., and “Scheduling and Assigning Resources for Installation,” led by Mike Newberry of Inside Edge Commercial Interior Services, Eagan, Minn.
Following his presentation, Bailey said he wanted the contractors in attendance to understand how important it is to take the time to read the fine print “on any piece of paper that they sign; it’s a mistake to presume that it’s OK to ever sign anything you haven’t read.
“Also,” he explained, “when confronted with a difficult problem on a project, your first response—besides your common sense—ought to be to read the governing contract. Those two things, your own common sense and the governing contract, are the starting point of which you can deal with any problem you encounter.”
For Newberry, the emphasis in his discussion was on installation managers being leaders in their organizations. “They can’t be relegated to being just ‘the installer guy,’” he said. “They need to get involved in their organizations in the sales process and [beyond].”
The “What’s New with Glue? Today’s Adhesive for Resilient Flooring” seminar focused on the advent of spray adhesives. Presenter Christopher Capobianco of Spartan Surfaces still finds many installers afraid of using the fairly new technique. “I thought we did a very good job demonstrating how easy it is to use. We also received several compliments on the whole session regarding the pros and cons we presented. It wasn’t just a commercial for the participants because not every adhesive is right for every application. There are times to use them and times not to use them.”
He also mentioned how the seminar showcased the resurgence of roller-applied adhesives, as well as some newer methods.“Rollers were used in the ’70s when I first got into the industry and they now seem to be coming back. Another method we covered, the tape adhesive systems used for rubber flooring, probably received more questions than any other part of the session because there are many advantages to it and many people have not been exposed to it.”
During the tabletop exhibit portion of the event—which included such companies as AAT, Ceramic Tool Co., H.B. Fuller, Loba-Wakol, Mapei, RFMS, Schönox-HPS, Sponge Cushion, Tarkett/Johnsonite, and USG Corp.— Kevin Phillips of Nora Systems noted one of the things Nora is trying to do is provide solutions to the flooring contractor. “If the contractors complete the floor preparation correctly, we won’t have any problems, and that’s what we’re about—getting rid of problems by providing solutions.”
According to Jacob Wheat, measure training/support specialist for RFMS, the company had a great turnout during the tabletop exhibit. “We’ve had existing users come by who love our product and everything FCICA is doing for them, and we received tons of new leads as well. It’s been really successful all the way around.”
Mike Pigeon, project manager, Floor Connection, Arroyo Grande, Calif., said the convention as a whole had a little bit of everything, including several new vendors, which featured the latest in moisture-resistant offerings. “I like that I’m seeing more of the higher-resistant adhesives,” he noted. “There are better systems being launched, which are making things much easier for the installer. The more suppliers you have at shows like this, the more opportunities and products you have, as well.”
First-time attendee Brian Kilduff, an installer for Liberty Flooring Service in Baltimore, said he enjoyed several aspects of the convention, including the tabletop portion, in which he was able to learn about several new moisture mitigation systems.
“I also learned a lot during the contractual obligations seminar,” he explained. “We’ve had both contactors and building owners sign waivers that we now know are not going to stand up in court. So we thought we were covered there but clearly we’re not. That was quite an eye opener for us.”
Next up for Swift and FCICA is a meeting during the upcoming National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) Expo, taking place April 16-19 in Nashville, Tenn., with other industry leaders such as World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) CEO Scott Humphrey, NWFA CEO Michael Martin and others (see story on page 18).
Swift said the approaching event will serve as a “gathering of industry associations, which will be discussing the formation of a group to identify and address what our industry needs in terms of training and getting things done in a cooperative fashion.”