March 16/23, 2015; Volume 28/Number 19
By Ken Ryan
San Diego—Having worked for a multimillion dollar flooring contractor, Gerry Swift, current chairman of the Flooring Contractors Association (FCICA), understands the critical importance a well-versed installation manager has in the business—not merely from a technical standpoint but with operations and management as well.
“We would bring in flooring installers and hope and pray they could take on a management role that included learning contractual obligations, installation requirements, scheduling, changing orders—everything that goes with project management,” Swift said.
During his four years as chairman, Swift, the FCICA board and executive directors have changed the direction of the group to focus on the installation/project manager. To further that push they created the Certified Installation Manager (CIM) program to arm these individuals with the knowledge and expertise needed to succeed in the marketplace.
Financial Management and Closing Out the Job—the final two modules in the eight-module CIM program—were introduced at the 2015 convention, held here at the Kona Kai Resort. This initiative is in keeping with the organization’s goal to train and certify flooring contractors’ key people (those charged with running commercial projects) to gain expertise on matters ranging from technical installation systems to financial management.
FCICA encourages its members to complete the program, which is entirely web-based and allows candidates to work at their own pace—from their office or home computers.
Swift, whose term ends June 30, said the organization’s change of focus was a “pie in the sky idea.” Fortunately, he added, the majority of the board “agreed to narrow our focus on that segment of the business, and the results speak for themselves. We needed this. Rather than being another flooring association we decided to focus on people who can make or break our jobs. As much as I’d like to take credit, there was a lot of hard work from Kim [Oderkirk, executive vice president] and Kelly [Fuller, director of education] and others to put this together.”
According to Swift, the CIM program has “identified” FCICA in the industry, and as a result flooring contractors want their installation managers trained. “This is pretty extensive training, and it also creates a career path for those installers who have been on their knees for 30 years; now they have an opportunity to move up in their respective businesses.”
Incoming FCICA chairman Mike Newberry, vice president of labor relations at Inside Edge Commercial Interior Services, a flooring contractor based in Eagan, Minn., said so far 41 contractors have signed up for FCICA’s program. “We’re just getting started here. This has to be a viable program that gets written into spec, that is part of the installation requirements.”
Sponsors for the CIM program include Schönox for the Master level; Ardex Americos, BFC, Flexco, Flooring Services, Johnsonite, Master Craft Carpets, RFMS, Roppe, Royal Adhesives & Sealants and Wagner Meters at the Fellowship level, and Advanced Adhesives Technologies and Allied Construction Technologies for the Apprentice level.
Making strides, growing stronger
The 33rd FCICA convention featured a record turnout of 168 attendees, including 47 first-timers. Various committee chairs delivered reports on the organization’s health: The annual budget of $300,000 is nearly double what it was five years ago and 29 new members have joined FCICA, which boasts a retention rate of 94%.
Some veteran FCICA members said the organization is stronger and more diversified in its membership than perhaps ever before. In the late 1990s FCICA went dormant for a couple of years, and even as little as five years ago—during the recession—there were financial challenges.
Christopher Capobianco of Ecore International, who is leaving the board after a record 12 years of service, said the group has succeeded because it continues to bring in fresh blood with new ideas. “This is not a ‘good old boys’ club. It is a very unselfish group that is willing to help.”
Mike Roberts, vice president at Bonitz Flooring Group, which has multiple locations in the Southeast and is the industry’s largest contractor, said the development and implementation of the CIM program has changed the trajectory of the FCICA. “We are providing information and training that is relevant and needed and appears to be fairly popular, so I think we are definitely on the right track. Attendance is gaining, and the economy is better, too. We are getting more representation from all the different categories, contractors and associates. The FCICA went through some hard years, as did other associations. When the economy is tough it can be difficult. There were a lot of starts and stops and rejiggering of the organization, but I am pleased with where we are. Hopefully we can get enough certified installer candidates in the field to make a difference for everybody.”
Swift said the percentage of contractors has steadily increased and represents many different interests. “Today we have Starnet members here, Fuse members, Spectra members; we don’t discriminate. All of these associations have recognized what we are doing. I always thought we were very unique.”
Newberry said a continuing goal is to attract new members, encouraging them to attend the conventions and get involved in the organization. “Joining the committees has been huge for me; it has allowed me to learn the inner workings of the group. So my message is join, get involved. You have to play to win and you have to really be here and be part of this. The years of experience we have here from people who want to impart their knowledge is great. Christopher and Gerry’s leadership style has helped us get to where we are today, and I want to maintain that consistency.”
Several vendors who took part in the tabletop segment of the convention said they enjoyed the intimacy of the conference, which afforded them the opportunity to converse with decision makers. “Anytime I can interact with the installation managers one-to-one, like I can do here, it is a good thing for our business,” said Tony Dominguez, technical services manager for Halex, marketers of VersaShield. “This is my new favorite show.”