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WFCA execs discuss installation during FCNews webinar

By Ken Ryan

What do you get when you have three leaders from the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) discussing arguably the most pressing issue in the flooring industry today—installation—during the monthly FCNews Marketing Mastery webinar series? A record turnout of flooring retailers with a 50% increase in attendees from the previous webinar.

Scott Humphrey, CEO of the WFCA; Tom Jennings, vice president, member services, WFCA; and Robert Varden, vice president of WFCA’s CFI division, joined Jim Augustus Armstrong, FCNews Marketing Mastery columnist and marketing/customer service expert, in a full-throated discussion on “Conquering the Installation Crisis.”

Some highlights from the discussion:

  • There are three essential problems with installation today—an overall shortage of people, a paucity of truly skilled mechanics, and the challenge of how and where to recruit the next generation.
  • The shortage of installers today is not a flooring-specific problem, Humphrey pointed out; it is an issue that confounds the entire construction industry. The fact that today’s younger generations, in general, would prefer to use their minds rather than hands in the pursuit of work is another factor.
  • Humphrey and Jennings both agree the industry does not value the installation trade as much as it should and that out of desperation retailers will use installers who may lack the credentials to carry out a difficult job. “We ought to build this trade up and make it a differentiator,” Humphrey said. He wondered how many installers would proudly tell their neighbors they are installers, noting they should be proud of their craft.
  • The recession that started in 2006 produced a double whammy. Many journeyman left the field for good which also meant they were not around to train the next set of apprentices when the economy started turning around. “We lost one generation as well as a generation that would apprentice the next,” Humphrey explained.
  • Jennings noted just as “all politics are local, all problems are local” as well. “Most dealers, both large and small, have been in denial on the impending shortage of installers,” he said. “Many need to look themselves in the mirror. Inspect what you expect. Maybe you don’t expect much. For some reason installation has been a cost savings” rather than deemed a profit center.

Long-term solutions

Varden said there are young people out there who do want to work with their hands, but “we just haven’t done a good job finding them.” The International Certified Flooring Installers’ (CFI) first training school in Forney, Texas, has been a step in the right direction. Classes are offered in “bite-sized” pieces of one to two weeks for cfi adhardwood training and five weeks for carpet instruction. What’s unique about the five-week course is CFI trainers will take inexperienced, raw individuals and turn them into job-ready installers when they graduate.

How it works: A flooring retailer who wants to send an employee to the training school pays $5,000 for the five-week course, plus expenses (hotel, transportation, food, etc.). If a dealer thinks $5,000 to $8,000 is too big of an expense, Humphrey suggests an owner think of it this way: If you were looking to hire a senior-level person, you would pay an executive recruiting firm at least that much money—probably a lot more. Having a trained mechanic on staff gives a retailer the confidence to pursue jobs, knowing the end result will be completed correctly.

So far, the results have been positive. “It’s absolutely amazing to think of the impact this five-week training course had—and will continue to have—on the lives of the two students I sent to the school,” said Lonnie Presson, owner of Lonnie’s Carpet Max in Rockford, Ill. “I could not be more thrilled.”

Of note, the WFCA sponsors a trade scholarship of $500 that is available to its members. It can be applied toward CFI certification and new school installation classes.

Subcontractor vs. employee

Next to the great recession purge, in which upwards of 25% of independent flooring dealers went out of business, the installation issue threatens to wipe out another significant percentage of dealers if it plays out, Humphrey warned. The gravity of this Department of Labor reclassification is not to be taken lightly. Humphrey and WFCA lobbyists have met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill on this issue and while some politicians are sympathetic to the plight of small business on this matter, many more believe there are “crooks” out there looking to take advantage of the subcontractor issue. Now, government agencies are going after the violators. As well, subcontractors are seeking remuneration through class-action lawsuits.

Humphrey said the states that are particularly aggressive on this issue are California, Washington, Oregon, Maryland and Illinois. The interpretations on this measure vary by state as well as agency. In other words, the IRS may view the independent contractor (IC) issue differently than the Department of Labor. To that end, Humphrey encourages dealers to join the WFCA, which works on behalf of flooring retailers.

In his book “Independent Contractor,” WFCA counsel Jeff King included an entrepreneurial test to help retailers ascertain whether their subcontractors are truly ICs or would he be considered employees.

King recently said the government is looking for ways to bring new revenue out of the hides of small businesses and plaintiff lawyers are sniffing around looking for examples where a corporation was guilty of misclassification. “The IC issue can be costly; it is spreading rapidly and it is not going away,” he noted.

Humphrey added, “You better be on the right side of this thing.”

For more information on this issue, visit

A replay of the entire webinar can be found at

Editor’s note: Varden will be the guest expert on the next Marketing Mastery free webinar, “How to Generate Massive Profits with Your Installations,” on Thurs., June 16, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. EST. Visit to register.


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CFI’s accelerated carpet Installation training classes filling up

cfi installersDallas–Retailers and students across the country are contacting and booking seats for the International Certified Floor Covering Installers (CFI) exclusive accelerated carpet installation class, the association announced.

To accommodate demand and access to the class, CFI will be offering two options for the next class which will start on May 16th–one class will be available at the CFI training facility in Forney, Texas, and another will run in the WFCA office building in Anaheim, Calif.

“We hit the ground running with our training facility in Forney, and since March we have been turning out certified graduates ready to begin work immediately,” said Robert Varden, vice president, CFI. “This expansion has been a part of our plan. The facility in Anaheim offers the same level of accredited professional instructors, latest equipment, tools and products that are available at the Texas based school, as well as a vast space for training.”

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CFI graduates first class from new training school

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 9.45.52 AMDallas—On March 4, the CFI (Certified Floorcovering Installers) installation training school in Dorney, Texas, presented its first graduating class. The certified graduates came off of five weeks of intensive training ready to begin work immediately.

“I am amazed and gratified by the craftsmanship and integrity of work I have witnessed from our trailblazing graduates,” said Robert Varden, vice president, CFI Division of the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). “The hands-on training and low student teacher ratio is of paramount importance to the caliber and success of our CFI students. Unlike other training programs, graduates of our highly efficient class had jobs lined up upon graduation.”

Since its opening a number of retailers have contacted the institution with leads on potential students as well as an interest in underwriting scholarships for students who then can go on to work for them with certified installation expertise.

Lonnie Presson, owner of Lonnie’s Carpet Max based in Rockford, Ill., said he was one of the first business owners in line to secure enrollment for two promising students. “Any retailer would be foolish to not take advantage of the training offered by CFI,” he said. “It’s absolutely amazing to think of the impact that this five-week training course had and will continue to have on the lives of the two students I sent to the school.” Presson said he already has contacted the institution about registration for the next round of training.

Interested students do not need any previous installation experience to attend the CFI class. The course offers a comprehensive lineup of all the technical aspects required for basic residential carpet installation. The next accelerated carpet installation class begins at the Forney school on April 4th followed by another offering of the course in Anaheim, Calif., on May 16th. In addition to the accelerated carpet class, the school also offers long and short-term training programs in every flooring product category for students at all levels. For more information or to register for the new carpet installation class or another program visit:

“Our training programs are second-to-none and our graduates deliver on our foundation of raising the level of professionalism and craftsmanship in our industry,” Varden said. The training school is designed as part of an industrywide effort to help resolve the installation crisis. “If our recent graduates are any indication of what the future holds in store, then I know we are all headed in the right direction. I hope you will join our effort and support this vital training and certification program.”

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CCA teams up with WFCA, CFI to tackle installation shortage

cca logoManchester, N.H.—CCA Global Partners has partnered with the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) after its recent purchase of the International Certified Flooring Installers Association (CFI) to help address the shortage of qualified flooring installers. Through this new partnership, members of CCA’s floor covering divisions will be provided with incentives to bring new hires to the industry and the CFI will have them qualified and up-to-speed quickly.

“CFI is well-respected for providing quality installation training,” said Charlie Dilks, chief product officer, CCA Global Partners. “CCA members have been asking for help in recruiting and training more installers and we feel this program will help them meet the challenge.”

Through this new partnership, members of Carpet One Floor & Home, Flooring America/Flooring Canada and International Design Guild will benefit from tuition credits and discounts from both CCA and WFCA.

“It’s exciting to see CCA making a significant investment to help resolve an industry-wide problem,” said Scott Humphrey, CEO of WFCA “We are happy to do our part in encouraging CCA’s members to provide installation training through CFI.”

CCA will provide its members a discount toward the cost of tuition when the installer completes one of CFI’s installation training classes for carpet and hard surface classes.

“This is a huge step helping alleviate some of the challenges our members have faced with the current installer shortage,” Dilks added. “Quality installers are essential to our members’ success.”

The CFI schools introduce installers to many types of flooring and the tools of the trade with an emphasis on efficiency and craftsmanship. Courses cover hands-on installation techniques, customer service training and OSHA and EPA standards training. Graduates would leave a five-week residential carpet class with the skill sets and confidence to go into the field and have the ability to install an average 3 bedroom home. They also receive CFI Certification.

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CFI: Surfaces 2016 training courses were filled to capacity

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 10.21.01 AMLenexa, Kan.—With all of its certification courses filling to capacity throughout The International Surfaces Event (TISE), Robert Varden, vice president, CFI division of the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA), declared another successful year for Certified Floorcovering Installer Association. In addition to its training programs CFI offered live demonstrations on-site in the TISE Installation Showcase. The presentations included the installation of luxury vinyl tile and patterned carpet installs, common issues with floating floors and how to address challenges with laminate.

“We had one of our most successful years to date at TISE this year,” Varden said. “Our booth was jam packed throughout the show and there was a lot of very positive buzz about the surplus of installation work available in our industry. Though still in a very early phase, our efforts to reach people and start chipping away at the installation issue appear to be paying off nicely. We have a very steady stream of training programs and certifications lined up this year and I am very excited about the progress we are making every day.”

Bob Gillespie, a certified CFI trainer from Kansas City, Mo, conducted the CFI hardwood and laminate installation training classes at the show with the assistance of certified installers from across the U.S. including David Garden (Michigan), Efren Llamas (California, Kelly Huddleston (Colorado), Roland Thompson (Maryland), Scott Terryberry (Colorado), Dick Schmidt (Ohio), Jen Zurn (Wisconsin) and Jay Zurn (Wisconsin). During the two-day training, installers learned key installation techniques for installing various types of laminate and hardwood including expansion requirements and plank replacement procedures.

The CFI carpet installation course training was conducted by Jonathan Varden from Dallas. Varden was assisted by CFI certified professionals who came to teach from across the country including Tom Cartmell (Indiana), Leon Harrison (Arizona), Dwayne Pruitt (Kansas), George Johnson, III (Maryland), Chris Sessum (Washington) and Gary Goessl (Wisconsin). Participants learned proper seam sealing, other seaming practices, and power stretching techniques.  Other topics such as stair installation, pattern identification and corrective measures, carpet construction, and different backing materials were also discussed and reviewed during the course.

“We would especially like to thank our supportive partners that made the CFI training events at TISE possible including: Mohawk, Mohawk University, Armorlock, Personna, Traxx, Wagner Meters, Lowe’s, Masland, SawStop, Armstrong, Tarkett, Atlas, and the World Floor Covering Association,” Varden said. “Our partners supply all of the products and materials needed as well as product knowledge and tool demonstrations to the installers throughout the show. We thank them for their continued support.”

CFI installation training and certification is offered throughout the year at the new CFI state-of-the-art training school in Forney, Texas, as well as in roving locations across the U.S. For more information about the school visit To view an upcoming calendar of classes or to schedule one at your location, visit


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CFI installation course registration opens

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 9.58.19 AMDallas—Registration has opened for the International Certified Floorcovering Installers’ (CFI) new proprietary residential carpet installation course at the CFI Training Facility based in Forney, Texas, which will begin training in February.

The class, which is only offered at the CFI school, turns out certified installation graduates ready to begin work immediately after five weeks.

“There is no other training program like this in the world today,” said Scott Humphrey, CEO, World Floor Covering Association (WFCA), parent of CFI. “Together with our partner CFI, we developed this highly efficient course in an effort to help address and resolve the largest issue facing our industry today—the lack of qualified installers. With our new school and second-to-none instructors and programs we are poised to solve the installation shortage crisis once and for all.”

Interested students do not need any previous installation experience to attend the class. For more information or to register visit

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CFI convention: Dawn of a new era for installation association

November 30/December 14; Volume 30/Number 12

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 6.29.46 PMDallas—The 22nd annual International Certified Floorcovering Installers (CFI) convention was held here last month, but to Robert Varden, the new CEO, it might as well have been the first.

“We are in our infancy,” Varden told members and associates. “We are born in an age with so much opportunity. We have so many more resources now with the WFCA [World Floor Covering Association].”

In September the WFCA finalized its acquisition of CFI, which will operate as a separate division. Scott Humphrey, CEO of the WFCA, echoed Varden’s comments, telling attendees, “This is a new day. From this point forward it is about your legacy. You have a platform. You are the solution to the problem. The fact is the industry needs you like never before, and we are here to support you, not tell you what to do.”

Not every CFI member was in favor of the WFCA acquisition. After all, as the flooring industry’s largest advocacy group WFCA exists primarily to ensure the success and profitability of the flooring dealer. “The original objection was that we are a retailer organization and CFI would lose their autonomy,” Humphrey said. “That was never the desire.”

Tom Jennings, vice president of professional development for the WFCA, equated the CFI-WFCA relationship to that of Buick and General Motors. A Buick employee’s checks are signed by Buick but all the resources and benefits come from GM, the parent company.

As to why the WFCA would be interested in acquiring CFI, Humphrey relayed a story of when he was an executive at Shaw Industries and had an opportunity to speak with Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, which owns Shaw. “I asked Warren, ‘Why did you buy Shaw?’ And he said that he looked for companies with great leadership that were undervalued. We see the same thing with CFI. I knew we had a team in which we could hand off the leadership reins to Robert. This is a phenomenal group of talented people. Our goal is not to change this thing except to make your voice louder.”

Varden, Humphrey and Jennings held a Q&A with members during the opening session. No question or subject was off limits.

Humphrey later used stories to illustrate the importance of leadership, making the right choices, and adapting and embracing change. He particularly noted how difficult it is for people to truly change when they are set in their ways. He cited a story in the magazine Fast Company, headlined “Change or Die.” In the article, Dr. Edward Miller, the dean of the medical school and CEO of the hospital at Johns Hopkins University, said studies have shown that 90% of people who undergo coronary artery bypass grafting have not changed their lifestyles two years later—the same lifestyle that created the problem. “And that’s been studied over and over again,” Miller said in the article. “Even though these people know they have a very bad disease and know they should change their lifestyle, for whatever reason, they can’t.”

Humphrey said when he was approached for the WFCA job he was 50 years old, had four children at home and had served 25 years at Shaw. “I understand how difficult it is to change.”

CFI will continue to change. The organization that for more than two decades has certified and trained installers will now also recruit the next generation. CFI opened a new training school in Forney, Texas, on Sept. 29 that is already drawing students from across the globe. The campus will provide long- and short-term training programs on every category of flooring for students at all levels. To start, the school will be offering R1C1 courses in carpet certification, one- and two-week classes in all hard surfaces, and an extensive course on carpet installation designed to turn entry-level individuals into professional residential carpet installers in five weeks. By mid-2016 there will be six CFI-led training schools in the U.S., including three by the end of March.

Varden said the labor shortage crisis opens a window of opportunity for CFI. “We have been a certifying body all these years. We have got to evolve [by] training individuals and recruiting. We have to because we have lost two generations of installers.”

According to CFI’s estimates, close to 60% of installers in the field today have 15-plus years of experience. Five years from now there will be 20% fewer installers than there are today. And in the next 10 years the flooring industry will lose 50% of the current installation force. The message is clear: The industry has to work together on this problem or it will face peril. “It will affect everybody, and if we’re unable to adapt we won’t be able to sustain,” Humphrey said.

This year’s convention included another CFI partner —John McGrath, director of the International Standards and Training Alliance (INSTALL). As a guest of Varden’s, McGrath spoke both at the pre-event reception and opening session.

“We walk the same path as CFI,” he said. “I don’t think there is any concern to continue to work together. Ultimately we are both trying to do the same thing. There are always ways to help each other out when you are trying to do good things.”

INSTALL already has working relationships with Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI), Starnet, Fuse Alliance and the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA). Humphrey wants to see more collaboration. “One of the most frustrating things for me is to see how the industry operates in silos,” he said. “We are not here just to support and promote CFI. There are areas of common interest with INSTALL and then there will be times when we say, ‘John, this is yours,’ and we won’t be involved.”

Varden said CFI has gone through a significant transition over the last year. Gone are founding CEO Jim Walker, a member of the WFCA Hall of Fame, and his wife, Jane Walker, who handled communications functions for the group.

Despite the changes, the closeness among CFI members and associates is evident. “CFI matters,” Humphrey said. “When you see the camaraderie, you see that it matters. CFI also has clout. Our job is to magnify their voice so they can make a difference to this industry.”

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2015 CFI Convention includes exceptional lineup of seminars, training sessions, product intros

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 11.34.50 AMDallas—The 2015 CFI Convention, scheduled for Nov. 12-14 here, will provide information on new products, tools, techniques and training for installers. Some workshops include Heat Welding Commercial Sheet Flooring led by Rick Herr and Tim Provence of Armstrong, Cost Effective Solutions for Moisture Mitigation led by Michael Lassetter of Traxx and Independent Contractor vs. Employee Issue led by Jeff King, counsel for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA).

For more information and a full convention program, visit

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Grand opening of CFI Texas facility to coincide with 2015 convention

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 3.57.41 PMDallas—The International Certified Flooring Installers Association’s (CFI) new training facility in Forney, Texas, will be fully staffed and operational coinciding with the 2015 CFI Convention, scheduled for Nov. 12-14 here. Classes at the facility will commence Sept. 29.

This year’s convention will feature extensive daily installation seminars and hands-on workshops taught by leading industry professionals as well as numerous networking opportunities.

The new CFI Training School will provide long- and short-term training programs in every category of flooring for students at all levels including R1C1 courses in carpet certification and new one-week advanced commercial installation workshops.

“By this time next year I am confident that our industry will be feeling the positive effects of the changes that the teams at CFI and WFCA (World Floor Covering Association) have been carefully orchestrating behind the scenes,” said Scott Humphrey, CEO, WFCA, which recently became the parent company of CFI. “The enhanced CFI Convention and our new training facility are just a few pieces of a larger plan that we will be rolling out to solve a critical issue in our industry.”

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Walker leaves CFI, Varden tapped CEO

Walker_JimJim Walker, a 50-year flooring veteran whose name has become synonymous with installation, has left the International Certified Flooring Installers Association (CFI), where he served as CEO since its founding more than 22 years ago.

The CFI board has named Robert Varden its new CEO. Varden was promoted to executive director of CFI in 2012 and has more than 30 years of installation experience.

Walker, who was elected to the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) Hall of Fame in 2005 as the first installer to be recognized, said he is not retiring. “I am just not with CFI,” he told FCNews. “The board wanted to go in another direction. I am not giving up my membership to CFI. I will help them in any way I can. I am about helping installers. It is a hard fight but I am going to continue to do it.”

Scott Humphrey, CEO of WFCA, whose group has worked closely with CFI on installation training and workshops, called Walker “a living example of what is possible with great effort and noble intentions.”

Humphrey told FCNews, “Jim has worked tirelessly to address an issue that is, according to most data, the most pressing issue in the flooring industry today. Jim was told when he began that it could never work, but he didn’t embrace the effort because it was easy. He embraced it because it was the right thing to do. Just imagine what would be possible in this industry if we all approached our jobs with that mentality. I am thankful for the years of dedication that Jim has offered the industry and the legacy he has created.”

Bill Dearing, president of the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA), which has partnered with CFI, said, “To me, Jim Walker represents the finest in trade education and equally important is his willingness to share experiences with others in our industry. Jim’s expertise is totally unwavering in support of professional installation for every style of floor covering. His contributions to me personally and NALFA are significant.”

Michael Martin, president and CEO of the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), added, “Jim’s passion for installation training is well-known throughout the industry. We’re honored that he views CFI’s training for wood flooring as an entry level into NWFA’s training and look forward to continuing to grow that partnership under Robert’s leadership.”

During Walker’s tenure with the CFI, more than 50,000 installers have completed CFI’s educational training programs worldwide. CFI has chapters and schools in Australia, Japan, Chile, Brazil and South Africa.

In a statement released by the CFI, Walker said, “As CFI enters a new era, it is important to not only thank the members for their support, but also the numerous manufacturers who have always willingly donated products and tools for training, the dealers who proudly display a CFI installer’s credentials in their showr

varden, robert

ooms to promote pride and customer satisfaction, and the numerous friends who were there at the beginning for encouragement and support, many who are members still today.”

Varden said the organization is grateful for the “numerous heartfelt contributions” from Walker and his wife Jane, who served as CFI’s public relations specialist. “Their profound commitment to the advancement of the professional flooring installer and desire to improve the industry has been remarkable. We wish them well going forward.”

According to Varden, CFI is working with industry organizations and manufacturers to build a training school outside of Dallas. It is also actively recruiting new candidates to the industry. “We are looking at various ways to recruit people even if they have never worked with installation tools.” Potential recruiting pools include veterans groups and community colleges as CFI looks to unearth the next generation of talent to an aging trade.

“We did a survey and found that [more than] 60% of installers have been on the floor for over 15 years and some have 20 years or more,” he added. “It didn’t take long to do the math and say, ‘Wow, we have to do something.’ I believe in the last year and a half there is a sense of urgency unlike anything we have seen. I think the industry is at a point to support this installation initiative.”