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Installments: Proper subfloor prep requires the right tools

May 14/21, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 24

By David Stowell

When it comes to a challenging subfloor, you don’t just need the right team for the job; you also need the right materials and tools. Incorporating the right tools and equipment can make a monumental difference in job productivity, application ease and, ultimately, subfloor quality.

Choosing the best tools can be tricky. Luckily, there are some tried-and-true recommendations from flooring industry experts.

Stainless steel smoother. The Smoother’s 24-inch blade allows for clean, even coverage of material. This stainless-steel blade smooths underlayments for a seamless, flush finish. A sturdy laminated wood mounting can also be used to apply and spread material, ideally self-leveling material. An aluminum bracket can be easily attached to the Smoother using the included hardware. This bracket fits onto any standard broom handle making it an extremely practical tool.

Gauge rake. The 24-inch gauge rake allows for an even distribution of materials, such as self-levelers. This rake is designed to be durable yet lightweight. It’s the ideal instrument for long hours of spreading. The two adjustable steel T-Skates attach directly to the rake and can be moved according to the desired depth of underlayment. This easy-to-assemble rake includes all of the necessary hardware upon purchasing. Its aluminum bracket is also designed to fit a standard broom handle.

Standard spike roller. The spike roller is used to easily achieve even surfaces in the self-leveling underlayment process. This particular rolling method breaks the tension in the material, allowing the smoothing agents to self-level. Each spike pierces the surface underlayment with a depth of 1¼ inches.

Gunite shoes. Wearing a flexible spiked shoe allows you to work on gunite, epoxy and sealers with ease of movement. The shoe protects the fresh surface from footprints and gaps while forcing air bubbles out of the application. Thirteen firmly attached ¾-inch (overall length) steel spikes cover the bottom of the shoe. Two adjustable nylon straps hold the gunite shoe in place. These shoes are multipurpose as they can also be used for aerating lawns.

Foam tape. This is essentially the ultimate barrier to stop product overflow. It acts as a dam in transition areas such as doorways. When working with Portland self-leveling underlayments (SLUs) or synthetic gypsums, contact to vertical structures can be avoided by installing a foam tape. It is important to prevent direct contact with metallic constructions, such as heating pipes, which can lead to corrosion.

Self-leveling kit. This all-inclusive kit holds every necessary element for a self-leveling installation: measuring and mixing utensils, gunite spiked shoes, a gauge rake, a stainless steel smoother and a standard broom thread handle. A self-leveling kit is an excellent asset when first establishing your tool assembly.

As you can see, many of these tools are practical and yet essential to the overall project plan. Incorporating the right tools and materials can directly affect the extent of physical labor and project timeline. Many of these items are available for purchase through distributors, manufacturers and supply outlets. For the best advice and tool recommendation for specific substrate material, contact your local company rep. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be for a seamless job well done.

David Stowell is the technical director at Schönox, HPS North America. He has 30 years of industry experience, beginning as an installer in 1988. Over the course of his career, he has worked for several manufacturers, including Pergo. For more information, contact Stowell via e-mail: dstowell@hpsubfloors.com.

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Installments: Vetting a certified floor covering inspector

By Paul Pleshek

 

“We are sending an inspector,” are not always the most comforting words an installer or retailer hears. Some are concerned the inspector has a bias for the manufacturer, others don’t have high regard for certain inspectors in their area. Whatever the concern, how can a materially invested party know the inspector will handle the claim in a fair, thorough and neutral way?

A commonly expressed concern about inspectors is whether they are intentionally biased for the party that is paying; however, that is the least likely cause of bias. It is the prejudice that comes from past experiences as an installer, retailer, manufacturer or cleaner that undermines an otherwise well-intentioned inspector. This is called confirmation or my-side bias. It is the tendency to search for, interpret and recall information in a way that confirms one’s hypotheses while giving less consideration to alternative possibilities. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. This type of bias affects every party involved in a claim, even the inspector.

A qualified inspector avoids bias thorough application of the scientific method employed to make observations, develop related questions, formulate a hypothesis, test the hypothesis and conclude or refine the hypothesis until it is consistent with most/all of available data. Proper application of the scientific method requires an in-depth understanding of the entire flooring industry including manufacturing, specification, installation, maintenance and environmental conditions. The qualified inspector has a network of connections in each of the inter-related industries and attends educational events from a wide variety of sources to avoid communal bias which comes from only interacting with people of the same opinion.

Second, when looking for a qualified inspector, it is important to know his experience, certification and continuing education. Inspector certification can come from private companies or industry associations like the IICRC, NWFA or CFI. Ultimately, the certification is simply proof of the minimal training and understanding required for the inspection process and report writing. For that reason, the most important factor in becoming a professional inspector is continuing education. The flooring industry changes constantly and keeping up with new developments is imperative. Most certifications require two credits per year, which translates to about 12-16 hours of classroom time. That amount of training is insufficient to stay abreast of industry advances and changing inspection techniques. In addition, the greater the number of inspector certifications means more education is required. Therefore, the highly qualified inspector attends training frequently throughout each year and varies that training from different associations, manufacturers and professional organizations.

Ultimately, personal interaction with the inspector is the best way to determine his qualifications, knowledge base, problem-solving abilities and possible bias. Get to know the inspectors in your area. Conduct an interview, debate issues and try to determine the inspector’s ability to reason and explain complicated concepts. See if he or she possesses an understanding of all segments of the flooring industry and how each can affect the other. Are they certified for substrates, maintenance, repair/installation or do they just have a few days’ training for several complicated floor coverings?

When investigating the qualifications of an inspector, commissioning parties should look for how long the inspector has been certified, what type of continuing education has been attended each year, how many hours of continuing education, what associations and committees the inspector participates in and whether the inspector is advancing their industry through education with written articles, convention presentations or as a certification instructor. Proper vetting of the inspector’s qualifications will give a materially invested party piece of mind knowing the inspection will offer resolution to a claim, not further complicate matters.

 

 

Paul Pleshek is the president of the National Academy of Floor Coverings Training (NAFCT) and the owner/president of Floor Claim Solutions Inc. Paul has been in the floor coverings industry since 1990 and was first certified by the IICRC as a senior carpet inspector in 1995.

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Installments: Moisture mitigation

November 20/27, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 12

By Elliot Gordon

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 1.38.09 PMContractors are under pressure to complete projects on ever-shorter schedules with ever-tighter budgets. The imperative to get the job done quickly and efficiently may overshadow the need to fully test concrete slabs to determine whether moisture remediation is required. However, if moisture testing is not conducted and moisture content sneaks up on you in the middle of a project, it can be extremely disruptive to schedules and it can be costly.

So, how do you overcome the tricky balance of scheduling around unforeseen moisture in a flooring project? Consider the following four best practices:

Test early and test again. Excess moisture in concrete slabs is a common issue. One of the biggest mistakes flooring contractors make is to not plan for the possibility of moisture at the time of sale. Get a moisture test done well in advance of installing flooring by a certified professional. Anywhere from a year to a month beforehand is ideal for conducting initial moisture testing to start planning for the “what ifs.” This early testing will give you the big picture of what you are dealing with; if moisture levels are low, you know you will not need to allocate resources for moisture mitigation and you can free them up for other projects. For higher levels, continue monitoring moisture levels closer to installation time to make a final decision on the best moisture mitigation strategy. If you leave the first moisture testing to days before installation, and there is a moisture issue, you will have to delay the project to submit change orders and adjust schedules.

By testing early you can plan for what products are needed and schedule the right pros on the job at the right time. If you find there’s a moisture problem, you can order the right materials and submit a change order.

Select products to speed up timeline. The traditional approach to moisture mitigation is the use of a two-part epoxy to seal the slab surface, providing a dry substrate for the floor. While effective, this method requires multiple coats and a long cure time, potentially delaying the project schedule.

Newer technologies can help expedite the timeline when mitigation is required, freeing up labor for the next project. These innovations also help flooring contractors feel more comfortable maximizing their number of projects while still meeting customers’ timelines.

A proven moisture mitigation strategy is to apply a moisture barrier prior to installing the finished flooring. (Moisture barriers are sheet membranes designed to be laid down above the concrete slab but underneath floor coverings.) When working on a renovation, moisture barriers can also be placed over intact existing flooring to avoid demolishing the old flooring. The latest sheet membranes for floor protection are designed to offer significant advantages over liquid epoxy. Contractors and building owners can enjoy reduced installation time and easy application, saving time and labor.

Training. It is vital to spend the time and money to make sure your team is educated properly. Remember: A well-trained team works efficiently and avoids costly mistakes that can cause time-consuming delays.

Communication. Another important element to keep a project running smoothly and on time is daily or at least weekly communication between the general contractor and the flooring contractor, even before the flooring installation begins. Be sure to document all communication as well.

 

Elliot Gordon is product marketing manager, flooring, at GCP Applied Technologies, where he leads all product development and marketing initiatives for GCP’s flooring underlayment, tapes and tools product lines.

 

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Installments: Getting a better handle on large format tiles

November 6/13, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 11

By Dean Cunningham

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 10.41.07 AMLarge format tiles allow consumers to unleash a world of design possibilities and achieve a flawless, minimalist appearance to any residential or commercial space. As the contemporary, modern design trend continues to be a favorite among the consumer as well as installation professionals, large format tiles are creating major advantages in the marketplace.

When large format tiles were first introduced to the flooring industry, the tiles typically measured 1 or 2 feet in width and length. Now, after nearly a decade of development from tile flooring manufacturers, large format tiles can be as large as 10 feet x 5 feet or even larger in some custom flooring applications.

As large format tiles made of porcelain began building momentum with designers, the term “thin porcelain tile” was coined. Due to its increased popularity, manufacturers began producing larger sizes in different materials such as ceramic, glass and stone. Thin porcelain tiles have since been designed to be half the thickness and weight of conventional tile, making them lighter to carry on the jobsite and easier to work with than actual stone slabs. Because of their versatile style and manageability, large format tiles are often chosen by designers and installers alike to be featured on floors, countertops and walls, and they are continuously utilized in innovative ways. For example, with open floor plan layouts currently on trend, large format tiles are the ideal choice when needing to seamlessly integrate indoor and outdoor spaces such as the kitchen to the patio.

Large format tiles also often alter room size perception, tricking the eye into thinking the space is actually much larger than it appears. Additionally, tiles of this size mean far fewer grout lines and thinner grout joint widths, resulting in an easy-to-clean, uninterrupted finish.

New considerations
In recent years, these materials have presented new installation requirements and challenges. To completely benefit from the aesthetically pleasing nature of these finish types, there are several considerations to keep in mind when installing large format tiles.

To avoid lippage, proper substrate preparation is critical to achieving a flat, even finish and achieving the required coverage. When using self-leveling products, it is important installers also address moving joints and cracks in the substrate. If not addressed and repaired, moving joints and cracks can transfer up and cause cracks in the finish.

Other issues: Lack of proper adhesive mortar coverage can lead to cracked tile and grout and potentially loss of bond to the large format tiles. Since the panels are often very thin, it is also important for installers to pay extra attention to cleaning out any leftover adhesive mortar in the joints to ensure enough grout fills the grout joint.

Because of their size, large format tiles often require a longer cure time than standard tiles, especially when using a dense, porcelain-bodied product. To be proactive in meeting industry needs, manufacturers are required to stay on the cutting edge of technology and produce products that allow for a faster return to service.

 

Dean Cunningham is technical services manager for Laticrete. In his current capacity, he is responsible for a team that provides technical assistance to specifiers and construction professionals.

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Installments: Uses and applications of profiled wall base

August 14/21: Volume 32, Issue 5

By Mike Pigeon

 

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 4.04.14 PMThe flooring industry over the last few years has seen a large demand for a wider variety of wall base options in certain marketplaces. With the growing selection of resilient, carpet, wood and tile offerings, architects and designers are requiring a more appealing finish to a completed flooring installation. The institutionalized look of the standard 4-inch rubber or vinyl base was just not cutting it. So what did the flooring industry do? We acknowledged and embraced the challenge with the introduction of profiled bases.

Now this is not a new product category by any means as it has been available for some years now. However, the popularity of wall base is increasing exponentially, especially in healthcare, hospitality, senior living and corporate buildings. The wide variety of profiles adds a special touch and finish to complete and even accent the floors. Advancement in manufacturing technology opened the door for the production of some really unique interior finishes, including unique options to transition from the floors to the walls.

One of the best places to see this trend is in the hotel industry, where taller bases with creative profiles options are being paired to match popular wood looks. With wood being susceptible to denting and scratching, the need for repainting has really changed the mindset of the A&D community when it comes to a more resilient option. Most of these products are made in the U.S.A. and meet FloorScore, NSF 332 Gold and CHPS criteria. Some manufacturers have options for PVC-free, Phthalate-free and even Red list chemical-free products to increase the appeal to the design community.

The options for profiles are numerous. Some just need a simple profile at 3 inches, whereas the more elaborate designs can be as high as 8 inches. I’ve seen even higher profiles at hotels in Las Vegas that look like they were closer to the 10-inch mark with a very attractive profiled face. Some options will even come with a matching color chair rail and corner guards for protection from the service carts. Again, most of these products are co-extruded.

Some of the other benefits of purchasing profiled bases through flooring manufactures are the color options. The wide variety of color palettes is a huge benefit when looking for accent colors to match the flooring product. The options normally include the ability for a custom color to match other interior finishes if needed. Send in a paint chip or a piece of fabric and suppliers can often make it work. The options truly are endless.

Coming from an installation background, I want to address a few items on this topic that are very important, especially after the material has been specified and is ready to install.

Installation is not for the average base installer. The mindset of the technician needs to be more of a finish carpenter’s frame of mind. Production is going to be slower than with regular base, although it does pick up as the installation proceeds. In addition, tools and equipment are going to be completely different. All of this needs to be discussed before the installers are sent to the jobsite. A conversation with the general contractor ahead of time to set expectations for wall conditions usually saves hassles in the long run. The more proactive the installer and flooring contractor are on the front side, the better the installation ends up on the back side. Punch lists and callbacks always affect the bottom line along with reputations.

 

Mike Pigeon, CIM, is a technical installation specialist with Roppe Holding Co. He has extensive background in flooring installation and currently serves on the Certified Installation Manager Task Force.

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Installments: Offset labor shortage by seizing opportunities

March 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 20

By Graham Capobianco

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 12.03.36 PMPresident John F. Kennedy once said, “In crisis, be aware of the danger but recognize the opportunity.” This memorable quote is still relevant today, particularly as it pertains to the flooring industry’s well-documented labor shortage (the challenge) vs. the growth of the overall construction market (the opportunity).

The construction industry has been one of the fastest growing sectors in the U.S. over the past decade, due in large part to the recovery of the overall economy. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the construction industry will add 700,000 jobs over the next seven years, making it the largest growing industry by 2024. In fact, 89% of construction firms expect to hire additional workers in the coming year alone. Another plus: The median annual wage for construction positions is 16% above average and is expected to continue to rise. Furthermore, 56% of construction firms expect to increase base pay rates over the next few years in order to retain employees.

While this may seem encouraging, the continued demand for labor is being stymied by two underlying issues: attrition and shortages. Research shows that from 2005 to 2012, the construction industry lost more than 1.4 million workers. Worse, most workers who lost their jobs during the recession never returned; many simply retired. Statistics show skilled laborers in general are twice as likely to retire at age 65 than all other industries.

While projections show the worst may be yet to come, most construction firms are already feeling the impact of labor shortages. A 2015 study conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America found 86% of construction firms are reporting difficulty filling both hourly and salary positions. Due to increased demand, 36% of construction firms reported losing laborers to other construction firms more willing to pay higher wages. Whether caused by a shift in public education toward college education or by the erroneously poor perception of skilled trades, the result remains the same: If the construction industry does not make a more concerted effort to leverage economic gains to increase training and recruitment, extend youth outreach and improve the perception of the trades, the economic potential created by the construction market will be stunted by increasing labor shortages.

Thankfully, there are some states and organizations working to address these issues. The International Standards and Training Alliance (INSTALL) provides valuable instruction and education in states or regions experiencing high rates of growth in construction in order to counterbalance labor shortages. Then there’s Run, Hope, Work, which conducts youth outreach via a holistic approach and construction-specific training. There is also the Ohio Strong Award, which specifically recognizes skilled trades and laborers in order to encourage young adults to pursue trade schools and vocational education programs.

If we are to continue to succeed as an industry, it is critical that we seize the opportunity to expand training, increase outreach and improve recognition within our industry.

 

Graham Capobianco, ICRI, LEED GA, is a fifth-generation floor covering professional with experience in commercial flooring sales and technical support. He is currently technical application specialist at Roppe.

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Installments: Tips for selecting stair treads

January 16/23, 2017: Volume 31, Number 16

By Mike Pigeon

Quite a bit of thought is needed when it comes to stair tread selection. One word to keep in mind during this process is “application.” This is a very important concept when it comes to any type of flooring because installing flooring in the wrong application will end up in a failure. The same is true for stair tread applications.

The first question you need to ask when specifying or recommending a proper tread is, “What is the application?” Application has a lot to do with selection. Where is the product going to be installed? Are visually impaired treads needed? What about slip resistance, maintenance schedules, etc.? Healthcare, military, grade school, senior living facility, all play a big part for the proper tread selection.

Application also dictates the adhesive selection. If the area is subject to uncontrolled climate swings—a sunlight exposed stairwell, a non-acclimated stairwell, aggressive cleaning methods—both the application of the proper tread and adhesive together will give the most successful installation and overall result for both the flooring contractor and, more importantly, the end user over the life of the product.

Let’s take a look at the details.

First is the actual stair profile. Whether you are making a personal selection or specifying the job as an architect, the proper tread must fit the stair profile. If you are working off a set of plans from new construction and have a detail section with a step profile then you are ahead of the game. However, if you are doing a remodel without any details, then you have your work cut out for you.

Regardless of the situation you will always need verification. If there is any discrepancy prior to the bid then send in an RFI (request for information) for more details. Once the job has been secured—and before ordering material—walk the job and verify the actual step profile. Make sure what you have bid is truly going to fit. When specifying the proper treads consult with your local rep and ask for a chain set of samples to verify all options.

Second is application. If you have ever specified or tried to order treads then you know the options are endless. Rubber or vinyl, with a variety of profiles, visually impaired inserts, glow-in-the dark inserts, the list goes on. This is where the application comes into play. What is the facility? What are the traffic patterns. Who will be walking on them?

Slip resistance becomes a big concern in some applications when it comes to egress, possible exposure to wetness, assisted living situations, etc. A popular misconception is that a raised circular profile has better grip than a flat surface profile. For the most part that is true if you have a soft-soled shoe capable of forming to the contour of the profile. However, if the sole is hard then the actual contact surface will be less. Rubber has great natural slip-resistant properties, even when wet, compared to vinyl. It is small things like this that make doing your homework, asking the questions and getting the experts involved important when choosing the proper product.

Third is the adhesive. When installing treads there are tapes, acrylics, urethanes and epoxies. The proper adhesive selection will have a direct effect on the longevity of the installation. Cleaning methods, temperature swings, light exposure, traffic volume and patterns will all play a part for the correct selection of products.

 

Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 12.37.49 PMMike Pigeon utilizes his extensive background in flooring installation in his present role for Roppe Holding as a technical installation specialist. He currently serves on the FCICA Industry Relations Committee.

 

 

 

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Installments: Entryway systems have both form and function

November 7/14, 2016: Volume 31, Number 11

By Renee Hite

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-4-55-45-pmIn high-traffic commercial structures, flooring is one of the most critical components of an installation, but it’s usually the first thing that is compromised. An entryway is the first line of defense—the ideal starting point for trapping dirt and water.

Quick fixes using carpet tiles are often preferred, but they might not be the best, most cost-efficient approach. Too often, less-expensive alternatives only add to the problem but are often chosen over a permanent entrance flooring system due to short-term benefits like low initial cost. Carpet tiles installed at the entrance in lieu of a permanent entrance flooring system are subjected to oversaturation, unsightly stains and wear patterns, and may become the source of unpleasant odors. In addition, they typically need to be replaced frequently to keep up with the demands of a busy facility.

The significant role flooring systems play in ensuring entryways are kept clean and safe for building users and maintenance staff cannot be overstated. Entrance flooring systems are most efficient when installed and maintained according to the manufacturer’s specifications. It is important to work with a supplier and product that is proven to be ADA compliant with recessed or surface mounted frames and insert options that tackle common pain points.

Entrance flooring systems play an integral part by helping to keep the entrance safe from slip, trips and falls while providing defense against dirt and water entering your building in a variety of weather and geographical conditions. When dirt and water are introduced to carpet tiles, significant wear begins to occur, usually requiring frequent replacement and becoming costly after time. The purpose of all entrance flooring systems is to allow dirt and water to fall through the system, trapping debris underneath the system while keeping the top surface clean and cutting down on contaminants that are tracked throughout the building. These systems partner well with many types of conditions, depths and flooring products such as pre-existing carpet and tiled surfaces. Employing an entrance flooring system in a recessed application allows for a smooth transition from one top surface to another and are also available for surface mounted applications, using specific ADA-compliant frame options, for those entrances that have existing VCT or terrazzo.

Entrance flooring systems combine design and functionality with an array of insert and logo options. Though most models are designed to withstand a great deal of weight, be sure the demands are reflected in the rolling load capacity for the chosen entrance flooring system. If not, breakage can occur, leaving the facility liable. Rolling load testing is the best way to ensure your real-time environment will stand up to excessive rolling loads from wheel chairs, electric carts, various deliveries and maintenance equipment.

Providing an effective, permanent entrance flooring system in your new facility or existing project will go a long way in maintaining and preserving other flooring materials further inside the building. It will require an investment, but the benefits will pay big dividends.

 

Renee Hite is owner/development manager for Construction Specialties. She has 30 years experience in the customer service and management field with a strong track record of providing innovative, long-term solutions for property owners, facility managers, architects and contractors. She may be reached rhite@c-sgroup.com or 800.233.8493.

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Installments: The benefits of joining an industry association

October 10/17, 2016: Volume 31, Number 9

By Sarah Bays

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-11-22-25-amIn 2010, the IRS recognized 92,331 trade and professional associations and 1,280,739 charitable and philanthropic organizations. With so many active associations within the U.S. alone, it is not surprising that you may have recently been solicited to join an association that aligns with your profession, trade or outside interest.

Associations offer a wide range of benefits for both individuals and companies providing an avenue for professional growth and brand recognition. Here are seven benefits that professional associations provide:

  1. Information exchange. Associations offer members the opportunity to raise their level of awareness and gain valuable knowledge from other’s experiences. As a member you have access to valuable information. Whether it is the newest trend, a cutting-edge product/service or a tried-and-true practice, this shared information is an invaluable resource.
  2. Access to certification programs. Many associations provide industry-specific certification to help you separate yourself from your competitors. By becoming certified in your field of expertise and continuing your education year after year you show your employer and customers you have met standards established by a reputable program. It also shows you are committed to quality work and growing your expertise.
  3. Network for problem solving. Having access to a network of trusted peers is important. As a business, it is essential to align yourself with like-minded professionals who can share tips of the trade or work/life experiences.
  4. Educational and training opportunities. One of the best resources an association can provide is a venue for education and training for its members. “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest,” said Benjamin Franklin. Having access to educational programs also lends itself to retaining and attracting employees because it shows you are willing to invest in their professional growth.
  5. Strengthen your competitive advantage. Take advantage of member resources including educational and networking opportunities to build a greater understanding of customer needs, gain referrals and brand recognition. By investing in an association you are investing in your company and this sets you above non-member competitors.
  6. Boost your network. When you join an association, you instantly gain a network of business associates that have similar goals and accomplishments. However, it is important to be an active member as this will significantly increase membership benefits. To that end, be sure to attend conferences and participate in industry events or join various committees within the association to get the most value.
  7. Gain elevated recognition and visibility within your industry. Associations exist to promote their members and the livelihood of the represented trade, profession or group interest. Assimilating with an association lends credibility to employees and the company, and contributes to your competitive edge over non-members.

FCICAlogo -1Associations pride themselves on the ability to bring like-minded individuals together for the greater good. By aligning yourself and company with a reputable organization, you are not only contributing your expertise but you are also gaining valuable connections, access to resources and the experience of your peers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Installments: The benefits of joining an association

By Sarah Bays

photo1According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 the IRS recognized 92,331 trade and professional associations and 1,280,739 charitable and philanthropic organizations. With so many active associations within the U.S. alone, it is not surprising that you may have recently been solicited to join an association that aligns with your profession, trade or outside interest.

Associations offer a wide range of benefits for both individuals and companies providing an avenue for professional growth and brand recognition. Here are 7 benefits, in no particular order, which associations provide:

  1. Information exchange. Associations offer you the opportunity to raise your level of awareness and gain valuable knowledge from other’s experiences. As a member you are at the forefront of information. Whether it is the newest trend, cutting edge product/service or a tried and true practice, this shared information is an invaluable resource.
  2. Access to certification programs. Many associations provide industry specific certification to separate yourself from your competitors. By becoming certified in your field of expertise and continuing your education year after year you show your employer and customers that you have met standards established by a reputable program, and you are committed to quality work and growing your expertise.
  3. Network for problem solving. Having access to a network of trusted peers is important. As a business, it is essential to align yourself with like-minded professionals and build relationships in which you can learn from, seek advice from and bounce ideas around with one another.
  4. Educational and training opportunities. One of the best resources an association can provide is a venue for education and training for its members. “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest,” said Benjamin Franklin. Having access to educational programs also lends itself to retaining and attracting employees because it shows that you are willing to invest in their professional growth.
  5. Strengthen your competitive advantage. Take advantage of member resources including educational and networking opportunities to build a greater understanding of customer needs, gain referrals and brand recognition. By investing in an association you are investing in your company and this inevitably sets you above non-member competitors.
    6. Boost your network. When you join an association, you instantly gain a network of business associates that have similar goals and accomplishments. However, it is important to be an active member as this will significantly increase membership benefits. When available, make sure you attend association events, join committees and seek leadership roles. Associations provide you the ability to voice your opinions and share your knowledge and expertise; so make sure you don’t squander this opportunity.
  6. Gain elevated recognition and visibility within your industry. Associations exist to promote their members and the livelihood of the represented trade, profession or group interest. Assimilating with an association lends credibility to employees and the company, and contributes to your competitive edge over non-members.

Associations pride themselves on the ability to bring like-minded individuals together for the greater good. By aligning yourself and company with a reputable association, you are not only contributing your knowledge and expertise but gaining valuable connections, access to resources and experience of peer companies.

 

Sarah Bays is the membership & website coordinator for FCICA.