March 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 20
By Ken Ryan
San Antonio—FCICA, the flooring contractors association, commemorated its 35th annual convention here by refocusing on its principal values: education, training and enhancing the skill sets of its core constituency—the professional installation manager.
“From what I have seen over the last six years, I think this group is as healthy as it has ever been—not just financially but in terms of great member retention,” Mike Newberry, chairman of the FCICA, told FCNews. “There is a renewed commitment and energy here, and we have a laser focus.”
The FCICA’s flagship program, what Newberry calls the group’s “cornerstone,” is the Certified Installation Manager (CIM) program. This eight-module curriculum provides training tools and assessment for qualified professionals within the commercial flooring space. To date, 29 have successfully completed CIM and there are 102 currently enrolled in the program. In addition to technical issues, installation managers learn “soft skills” such as how to professionally handle irate customers and deal with other issues that require strong interpersonal skills.
James Bissler of Texan Floor Service, Houston, said he became CIM certified because he wanted to separate himself and his company from the competition. “I have certified installers so it made sense to take the next step.”
Newberry said there is strong momentum for the CIM program, which is in its third year. “Being a member is great, but when you have non-members who want to participate in the training program it says a lot about its value. Internally we feel CIM is the only program of its kind in flooring that is training the project/ installation manager, which is a term we use interchangeably.”
Kelly Fuller, director of education, said the CIM program has information installation managers cannot find anywhere else. Best of all, it is all accessible online. “It is a program that is constantly evolving.”
The CIM emphasis comes at a time when the installation trade is being challenged on all fronts—from a dearth of qualified installers to the question of where and how to recruit the next generation of an aging workforce. Larry Chandler, commercial sales director for William M. Bird, a top 20 distributor, is chairman of the FCICA’s Member Benefits committee. He told members that educational opportunities like CIM are imperative. “Margins are getting squeezed all the time that it is almost impossible to go back out on a job site for a second time [without losing money on the project]. The job needs to be done right the first time.”
The focus on continuing education carried over to the vendor trade program where product demonstrations were included during and after the four-hour trade show that featured 48 vendors. “Any organization willing to promote more training, the better off we all are—and FCICA is big in this area,” said Daniel Tallman, strategic business manager for Schönox, who conducted a product demonstration of the company’s newest synthetic gypsum self-leveling product. “We are a big proponent of getting the proper knowledge in the hands of the people who are going to be handling our material.”
Cathy McVey, customer service manager for Ceramic Tool Flooring Transitions, said she appreciated the interaction with the flooring contractors. “They made a point to come by and visit with us. All you want is a little traffic, and we had plenty of that.”
On the rise
This year’s convention featured 42 first-time attendees and eight new associate members. FCICA now has 201 members—108 contractors and 73 associate members (mostly suppliers).
One first-time attendee, Greg Epperson, technical services manager for Chilewich, which supplies carpet tile, broadloom and carpet mats to the commercial trade, noted, “I have been to some shows where the contractors come around and barely show interest in you. Here the contractors have genuinely been interested in our products and their uses.”
Of the 154 people in attendance in San Antonio 24 were considered “successors,” those less than 40 years old. Graham Capobianco, chairman of the Successors Committee, said his group plans to hold successor-specific programs to spur membership and promote greater involvement within the organization. “We are trending upward with successor involvement,” he told members. “We want to grow with existing members first.”