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FCLC commissions research initiative on installation crisis

LaGrange, Ga.—The Floor Covering Leadership Council (FCLC) has commissioned a strategic research initiative to lead the industry through the next phase of resolving the flooring installation crisis.

In September, members of FCLC worked with an industry consultant to develop a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the research project. Four research firms were selected and made proposals for the program. In December, coalition members within FCLC met with the contenders and decided to move forward with Chicago-based firm, The Blackstone Group.

The Blackstone Group brings 30 years of expertise in delivering custom marketing research and consulting solutions. According to council members, Blackstone stood out from the other firms as they offer a full-spectrum of resources for multi-dimensional, multi-phase research engagements, and they employ advanced analysis tools and out-of-the-box approaches. FCLC members concluded The Blackstone Group will provide crucial insight and expertise as the flooring industry continues its resolution of installation challenges.

Key research objectives of the FCLC commissioned study include an examination of the evidence for gaps between the supply of and demand for floor covering installers, including an estimation of the size of this gap now and over the next five to 10 years. The study will also seek to quantify the financial consequences of the installation crisis on industry participants and lay out a stakeholder-driven determination of barriers and potential solutions.

The coalition is now working to gain industry support to fund the approximate $150,000 required for the research project. FCLC members committed approximately $50,000 to kick off the funding. Research sponsorships are available as follows: Platinum $20,000+; Gold $10,000+; Silver $5,000+ and Bronze $2,500+.

For more information, contact FCLC member Phil Zolan at pzolan@wfca.org or call 229-220-4974.

 

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FCLC tackles installation crisis head on

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 9.38.20 AMOrlando—The Floor Covering Leadership Council (FCLC), a coalition of 11 flooring industry trade associations, convened its annual fall meeting to address installation—the most vexing issue facing the flooring industry today.

The meeting, which coincided with its second annual installation summit, prioritized objectives and confirmed a plan of action for the coming year.

The industry leaders acknowledge they cannot solve the challenge of installation until the scope of the problem has been formally quantified and analyzed. Their objective is to fully assess the scope and severity of the lack of installation professionals on industry sustainability and growth.

Industry executives say there are three facets to the installation challenge: The dearth of installers today in an aging industry; the declining skill level of existing installers; and the need to recruit the next generation of installers. At a recent Certified Flooring Installation (CFI) conference, it was noted that the averaging flooring installer working today is 56 years old.

The FCLC announced the member associations would fund a comprehensive research project in order to give a clearer picture of the severity of the growing installation challenge and the level of resources it would need to ensure long-term industry growth.

An experienced research firm will be engaged to conduct the work. An FCLC-member task force will recommend the appropriate research firm. The project is expected to be completed in early 2018.

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FCLC holds strategic planning meeting, funds installation research

Screen Shot 2017-08-29 at 3.21.11 PMOrlando, Fla.—The Floor Covering Leadership Council (FCLC) held its annual fall meeting Aug. 16, here, in conjunction with the Second Annual Installation Summit. The primary focus of the FCLC meeting was to hold a facilitated strategic planning session designed to prioritize objectives and confirm a plan of action for the coming year. Volunteer leaders and executive staff from 11 flooring associations participated in the meeting.

The FCLC noted it cannot solve the challenge of installation until the scope of the problem has been formally quantified and analyzed. The council has identified its current mission as follows: Quantify the scope and severity of the lack of installation professionals on industry sustainability and growth.

A comprehensive research project will be funded by the member associations of the FCLC designed to give a clear picture of the severity of the growing installation challenge and the level of resources ultimately needed to ensure long-term industry growth. An experienced research firm will be engaged to conduct the work. A task force comprised of FCLC member volunteers was appointed to develop the request for proposal and recommend the research firm. The research project will be completed in early 2018.

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FCLC to hold second Installation Summit

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 9.35.06 AMOrlando, Fla.—Leaders from across the flooring industry will convene at the second Installation Summit next month here, according to Robert Blochinger, president, National Institute of Certified Floorcovering Inspectors, and chairman of the Floor Covering Leadership Council (FCLC).

Retail owners, executives and other key personnel will meet on August 16 to discuss the installation crisis affecting the industry, progress made since leaders began addressing the problem and methods for furthering that progress. The meeting will take place at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando just prior to the 2017 CFI Convention. The Installation Summit, presented by Informa, will include an esteemed panel of industry members and experts who have been leading the campaign to manage and overcome the installation crisis.

“The FCLC, together with organizations including Certified Floorcovering Installers Association, have made great strides over the past two years in our efforts to resolve the installation crisis that touches everyone in our industry both domestically as well as internationally,” said Blochinger. “When we formed FCLC we worked together with leaders from all sectors of the business to identify the hurdles that are preventing growth and success in our industry. Installation shortage was the leader of the pack.”

For more information visit tinyurl.com/installationsummit or contact Blochinger at 954-830-4426 or bob@blochinger.net.

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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 wfca-pro.org.

A replay of the entire webinar can be found at http://marketingmasterywebinar.com/replay.

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 fcnews.net to register.