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Installments: The installation VIP

October 13/20, 2014; Volume 28/Number 9

By David Stafford

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 3.28.48 PMThere is often that moment during projects when the wrong call can spell disaster, or when a cunning, astute decision pulls a win from certain defeat. Frequently, that very important person is the installation manager.

I once had a multi-story floor replacement project that was going down the tubes. It was July, the HVAC wasn’t working properly, there were other trades in the way, and the client was screaming at me.

So I went to my VIP, an installation manager with over 20 years of experience, to the site. “If we can’t find a way to fix this, it will cost us this job and our reputation,” I said. “That job is worth $300k and there are others coming.”

His novel solution was to temporarily pull in two other crews and assign our best field inspector as an on-site traffic manager to run interference. He was able to calm my client down, keep the crew from fighting with other trades and deliver the job on time.

It was not just my VIP’s knowledge and experience; it was also his calm demeanor in the face of absolute chaos and a screaming client.

“Yes, I know you’re upset, and we are behind schedule,” he said. “I know this is important, so let me tell you what we can do: If you reassign your other trades so we can get a clean area, we’ll have an extra crew here on Thursday to make sure we get back on schedule. Fair enough?” Presented with a solution, the client agreed, stopped yelling and made the necessary adjustments.

In another situation, my VIP’s task was to keep an installer, Jason, in the right frame of mind by listening to his feedback and giving positive reinforcement. Jason was exceptionally skilled at intricate pattern installation and certified on several types of flooring. However, he was high maintenance.

“Yes, Jason, I know the floor prep is taking more time,” my VIP admitted, “but we cannot kick everyone out of the area. What you’ve done so far looks great and the client is ecstatic. I’ll see if I can get you a little something extra, OK?” It really wasn’t the job or site conditions, or even a little extra money; Jason just needed to hear that someone appreciated the quality he was delivering, and my VIP knew that.

Conversely, an installation manager of whom we had high expectations ended up being a complete flop. Paul was an excellent former installer with a 25-year career. He spoke well, understood floor plans and related with the crew chiefs. However, he could never quite make the transition to that of a manager; he became their “change order advocate” rather than dealing with frivolous requests.

The final straw was when he got into a screaming match with a frustrated client rather than offering a solution. After that debacle, we agreed to part ways. He had loads of experience and charm, but he was not a manager. He simply lacked the emotional maturity that the position requires.

A great installation VIP must have industry experience, be emotionally stable, an insightful manager and a customer service pro. An integral part of his success will be how well he is trained in his position. The FCICA is now offering its Certified Installation Manager (CIM) program. This program was created by flooring experts from their years of experience and features various knowledge modules and testing. There is also valuable information for project managers, field supervisors and project coordinators, even for those not running crew labor. This would be an excellent requirement for your own VIP. Check it out at fcica.com.

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Installments: The amateur and the pro

Volume 28/Number 6; September 1/8, 2014

By David Stafford

Stafford,-DavecolorThere is a difference between the amateur and the pro, whether it’s selling or installing flooring. You get what you pay for and will pay for what you get, one way or the other.

The sales pro will listen and then offer multiple solutions to fix problems; the amateur will always have a solution, but it may not address the client’s needs (or her pocketbook).

There is often great frustration for the client when the amateur has his own agenda and is not listening. “We cannot use your in-stock color beige; I don’t care how quickly you can deliver or how good the pricing.” A pro will invest the time to ask a litany of questions, find out what is really important, and then offer suggestions. “What is your move-in date? What if I could offer a multi-level surface texture or something in a soft gray?” The smaller change can often make a huge difference in client perception.

The one area where you can count on the amateur for problems and mistakes is in jobsite analysis. This does not mean a cursory walk-through that an amateur would complete, just taking measurements. Rather, you should be looking for building access points for loading and unloading, obstacles to be avoided, debris on site, type of take up and disposal alternatives, substrate condition, moisture testing, method of installation specified or preferred, and furniture movement and replacement.

What is outlined (and priced) as a one-day job can turn into a three-day nightmare. By the time a troublesome job is done, the client, salesperson and the installer never want to see each other again and the client may short-pay the invoice because of the disruption. All can be avoided with a realistic site inspection.

Once an order is placed, shipped, received and admitted into inventory, it should be promptly and carefully inspected. Have you ever had blue carpet show up to be installed when brown had been specified? Or worse, were there streaks or tufting defects throughout the carpet roll? Even a new product that is off shade is subject to rejection, let alone glaring defects whether visual or technical. The pro knows skipping any steps in inspection after receiving can result in big problems. The amateur tries to deal with this at the client’s location and make amends; the pro handles it beforehand and the client may never know there even was a problem.

With flooring, most products must be delivered and installed to receive full value. You may visualize the amateur with a roll of carpet tied down to the top of his car or pickup truck versus the pro, who shows up with an extended cab van. And it’s not just delivery, but also the prep work on the site itself. Floors are patched, repaired, sanded down and swept/vacuumed before adhesive or padding is applied. When presented with a suspicious lump in the middle of a living room full of carpet, the amateur fixes it with a hammer. To get a tight stretch on carpet over pad, the amateur “kicks harder” while the pro uses a power stretcher. Several years ago, when having a house of carpet installed for a relative, I stopped the job because a power stretcher was not being used. You would have thought I suggested burning the Holy Bible!

It’s worth it for everyone involved to spend a few extra bucks and go pro.

 

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Installments: The 13 mental lapses

June 9/16, 2014; Volume 27/Number 29

By David Stafford

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 11.44.18 AMBoth independent installers and employees of flooring contractors risk losing a job because of personal conduct rather than technical expertise (or lack therof). Here are 13 examples from my own experience:

Walking off the job without telling anyone when job conditions are different than you expected. “This was supposed to be with moderate furniture and now I see we also have rubber-backed take-up in about half the area. Let’s just go have a beer.”

Being late. “Yeah, I know the job was scheduled to begin at 8 a.m., but I needed to have breakfast first and then make a pit stop. Besides, I can still get the job finished by the end of the day.”

Whining about job conditions or the product to be installed. “Why aren’t you giving me an empty glue down job instead of this strip and pad? You know I don’t like these, and besides, this carpet is awfully stiff and would be hard to stretch. I’ll probably have to get that power stretcher back from my cousin to do the job.

Repeated failure to show up for work, citing personal or family problems. “Well, I had to go to my grandmother’s funeral this past Saturday … No, that was my mother-in-law’s grandmother’s funeral last month.”

Using profane language to explain to the client why a job was not finished on schedule. “That @#%!@# manager, Joe, didn’t show up to let us in early, and other trades were in the way.”

Lapses in personal hygiene and appearance. “Well, since this was an unoccupied building, I didn’t take time to shave or take a shower and just wore shorts.” Unfortunately, the architect, project manager, owner and flooring company president were all walking the space in preparation for final acceptance of the job.

Smoking in occupied areas in a smoke-free building. “It was too much trouble to go outside for a Marlboro … No, I didn’t realize those fire alarms could be set off so easily.”

Failure to wear safety items such as hard hats and safety shoes on certain construction projects. “These shoes are uncomfortable and there’s no one around, so I’ll just switch to my Nikes.”

Failure to follow installation standards, such as seam sealer at all carpet seams. “That must be some really alkaline concrete to eat up all my seal sealer that quickly. That was cheap carpet anyway, and it’ll probably fall apart before you have trouble with my seams.”

Taking “shots” at getting extra money for work that was not done or exaggerating the amount of work that was necessary. “When we took the carpet up we had to spend eight hours patching.” (However, only three bags of patching compound were used on the job.)

Delays in providing pertinent job information. “I’ll just turn this next week when I get back from the beach.”

Using drugs while on the job. “It makes the day more harmonious, and since I’m relaxed I can make seams and kick carpet more quickly.”

Fighting with team members while on the job. “Yeah, I needed 30 stitches to close up that cut on my jaw. Tim called me an S.O.B. and I took a swipe at him with my carpet knife. I guess I forgot to duck.”

Lapses in judgment will happen and most clients (and employers) will understand as long as a pattern of behavior does not emerge. Real professionals don’t necessarily have the most technical skill or the lowest price; rather, they have a high standard of personal conduct and make fewer mental mistakes.

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Installments: Going the extra mile is rewarded with success

Volume 27/Number 23; March 17/24, 2014

Stafford,-DavecolorBy David Stafford

Luck is all about taking the right steps when you get an opportunity to make a sale. This is particularly true in selling a commercial package of products.

You receive a call from Steve, a property management client you’ve pursued for over a year. “I need some help,” he says. “I’ve got a chance to land a new tenant, Magellan, for my Ascot Building property.” Ascot is a Class A property. Steve continues, “They’ll take my prime space but are really pushing me for ‘extras’, and the last area I have to wow them with is flooring. Can you put together some products and ideas for me to do a presentation on Friday?” Continue reading Installments: Going the extra mile is rewarded with success

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Installments: Twisting in the wind

Oct. 7/14 2013; Volume 27/number 12

By David Stafford

Stafford,-Davecolor
David Stafford

This is exactly how I felt while awaiting the arrival of a service technician: No longer was I the master of my day. I could not take care of other pressing matters since I had to “be available” whenever it struck his fancy to show up. Continue reading Installments: Twisting in the wind

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Find the perfect installer

by David Stafford

Be on the lookout for that perfect installer to make you and your client’s vision a reality. The ideal installer is 21 years old with 30 years experience, fluent in English and Spanish, with the mind of Einstein, the patience of Job, and willing to work for whatever your pay rate might be. In addition, have a crew that can be expanded from two to 20 at will, and able to go to work tomorrow.

The only trouble is, that’s not reality. Drawing upon my experience and misadventures, here are some questions for your quest:

Does he have the experience to quickly evaluate floor plans and job site information to know exactly what he’s supposed to do? Is your schedule reasonable given the described site conditions? Continue reading Find the perfect installer

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Mistakes that cost money

by David Stafford

Sometimes, the worst thing that can happen is to win a bid. Here are a few examples:

Scope of work changes. A job was described as a direct glued over concrete installation, and “the owner will remove all existing carpet and VAT.” The only mention of floor prep, was “flooring contractor will be responsible for minor floor prep.” Continue reading Mistakes that cost money