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My take: Issues and answers from the Fuse Alliance conference

April 15/22, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 23

By Steven Feldman

 

Last month I had the opportunity to attend the Fuse convention in Orlando. This group of commercial flooring contractors, under the auspices of executive director Geoff Gordon, continues to grow and become more professional and profitable by the day. One of the highlights at general session was a segment that Gordon had initiated where members were asked about some of their pain points—the responses to which could have been the same for many factions of our industry.

When asked about their biggest challenge today, five topics were most cited:

1. A shrinking and aging labor force. On the union side there is INSTALL, which is a proactive group. Gordon said they may fallen a little short on the recruiting side but their training is excellent. On the non-union side there is CFI, which has partnered with Fuse on an initiative to bring younger generations into the industry.

2. Cash flowwithout it a business simply won’t survive. Thus, Gordon told members they must be all over their receivables.

3. Moisture. The consensus is vendors are rolling out solutions that some members don’t consider to be reliable.

4. Reclamation. It is becoming harder to completely recycle all carpet materials, multiple members said. Broadloom is more difficult than it was 10 years ago, mainly attributed to PET taking so much share from nylon. A lot of recyclers are gone. And it is also less expensive to make new material than to recycle.

5. Pollution control, with mold fungus being the No. 1 culprit.

Members were also asked what they were doing to engage younger people. Among the responses:

1. With Generation Z, 24-26 months is typical retention. The idea is to ensure they have a path. They want a plan. Outline it for them. Give them some skin in the game and an opportunity to earn more.

2. With labor, many subs have a hard time bringing people on because they don’t offer benefits or a 401K. One member said he hires his own installers, trains them and makes sure they have a buddy. This company also has an annual retreat for everyone in the office. Last time the retreat included installers. The result: Installers came out of their shells.

3. Another member said he maps a path for millennials. “We keep them engaged in the culture. You want a culture that is dynamic but it takes work. Create a culture that people want to be a part of, something greater than themselves. Try to create a family.”

4. One member said he goes to the local community college to look for people involved in construction trades. If they have interest in what they are going to school for and thinking long term, he will bring these individuals on board. He will also get them involved in committees within the company, like safety.

5. One member said he simultaneously uses hourly installers and subcontractors. But he puts his core values out there. “Imparting those beliefs in our 1099 installers has returned dividends,” he said. “We try to involve them in the company. They may not be employees, but we can instill that culture in them.”

Sensitive topic: Do you see claims going up or down? Just about everyone said claims are up. Why?

1. Value engineering. “Manufacturers are taking shortcuts,” one member said. “Lightweight carpet tiles are as thin as Kleenex.”

2. Instability in vinyl flooring. “That is a product defect, not an installation issue,” said Lew Migliore, claims resolution guru, who was in attendance. “We are inundated with issues related to LVT/LVP every single day. It’s an epidemic. There is a lot of overselling. There are fewer technical people who know anything about it. In the last two years, anything I’ve looked at is not installation related. People tell you the building is expanding and contracting. It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

3. The new moisture-resistant adhesives. “They do nothing to stop moisture. You will get blamed. Words don’t change the laws of physics.”

4. Recycled content. “No one knows what’s in that material. Instability is happening on the greener products. We are finding better results with virgin material.”

5. Jobsite conditions. “We encounter condensed schedules for installers, which is unfair. We are the last trade going in.”