CHARLESTON, S.C.—Having started out almost three decades ago as an organization with an emphasis on teaching contractors how to install floor covering, the Flooring Contractors Association (FCICA), now 149 members strong, has expanded into all different aspects of running a commercial floor covering business, noted Christopher Capobianco, chairman.
With “The Place to Be” as the theme for its 28th annual convention, it proved to be just that as the Francis Marion hotel here served as the backdrop to the organization’s showcase of educational seminars, a tabletop exhibit of new products, plenty of networking and social events.
Running the gamut of educational opportunities from “Technology Tools & Tips—How to Save Time and Money Now” by Pam Bowe of The Bowe Co. and Gerry Swift of Potomac Floor Covering, to “Commercial Claims” by inspector and FCNews columnist Lew Migliore, to a lively discussion on “Moisture Mitigation Systems,” FCICA had all the bases covered.
And it seemed to be an emphasis on technology that led the way as the show welcomed three new software companies to its family—RFMS, Pacific Solutions and Safe Harbor—all of which showed its wares. “The new thing here was all the software people,” Capobianco said. “The educational session on technology was very well attended.”
According to Marleen Stookey, director of sales for All State Floors & Construction in Baltimore, networking and technology are the main reasons she was excited about the meeting. “We’re using a lot of different technology in our business. Right now, we store all our files electronically. We hardly have any paperwork anymore. We’re not using any of the B2B, but I’m interested in going that way.”
Stookey noted that the estimating software she uses saves an “incredible” amount of time. “We actually have the ability to link our estimating software with our proposal software, but we haven’t set that up yet. It will save us a lot of time and money. We use Outlook and share our calendars, but we’re not using any scheduling software, so we’re definitely interested in that.”
According to Bowe, who owns a software consulting firm in Seattle, the show itself was very telling in that the people who attended did so because they feel investing their time and resources are important. “And they come with open minds. Their thinking is ‘Let me take back a couple things with me,’ or else they wouldn’t be here.”
Bowe acknowledged the member participation at the technology seminar she conducted. “Technology isn’t the sexiest, most fun topic. It can be annoying but they were engaged and several of them noted how technology had been integrated into their businesses. A couple told me afterwards, ‘This is the best seminar I’ve ever been to because I’ve learned about stuff I already have that is not going to cost me any more money.’”
According to Paula Murdoch, executive vice president of M.E. Sabosik Associates, “It’s good to get everybody on board with new technology so they’re not afraid of it. It’s not going to be perfect from beginning to end. Manufacturers are going to start with the B2B, and you are going to have to get used to that.”
Randy Phillips, a district sales manager for Wilsonart Contract Flooring, believes when it comes to technology, the commercial side of the industry is somewhat ahead of residential. “Not in all cases— the larger residential dealers are right there with the commercial guys—but the commercial guys understand their financial exposure is significant on a project. They’ve got to make sure it’s right, they’re willing to make the investments, make their takeoffs easier, more accurate, and have less chance for human error. Time is money, and mistakes cost money.”
Phillips cited members of groups like FCICA as the cream of the crop. “They are the contractors who want to learn, and they will invest in learning. They are here because they are excited. There is a lot of excitement at this show, more so than I have seen in the last couple years.”
Bill Becker of Becker Bros. in New Brighton, Minn., said technology today is separating contractors from other contractors. “Meaning, you need to keep up with this stuff, since these are the kinds of things that help your business. Commercial contracting is getting so technical; in a fast-paced world, these are the types of systems you need to separate yourself from your competition.”
As Capobianco noted, FCICA is providing something for everybody. “Although the focus and 75% of our membership is still made up of flooring contractors, the type of information we are providing at this convention is really crossing all of those borders—between contractors, suppliers and independent representatives.
“Our associate members took a lot out of the educational sessions,” he concluded. “I believe we have become a full-service commercial floor covering organization, really the only one out there that is focused exclusively on commercial floor covering.”