ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—In existence for almost three decades now, the Flooring Contractors Association (FCICA), currently comprised of 132 members, has always been an organization with a focus on growth through education and networking. This year was no exception.
Employing the theme, “Your Resource for Our Ever-Changing World,” the association took the advice of Horace Greely and went west to the beautiful Hotel Andulaz here, which served as the backdrop to the group’s educational seminars, tabletop exhibit and networking/social events, complete with a hot air balloon ride for more adventurous attendees.
Serving as a showcase for the event was a focus on the core values of the group: educational and networking opportunities. From “Important Contract Provisions—Limitations of Liability” to “Bringing Value to the Table” presented by incoming chairman Gerry Swift of Potomac Floor Covering and outgoing chairman Christopher Capobianco to a seminar on “Polished Concrete” by Bruce Newbrough of Ardex, FCICA offered something for everyone.
The history of our organization was always about installation and its roots were in installation contractors, Capobianco said. “Now our members are much more diverse. Some do only installation, but most sell and install product. Many have very robust substrate preparation divisions, floor maintenance divisions and so we are trying to have something for everyone, and this convention reflects that.”
While the group has weathered difficult times the past couple of years, the 70 or so people in attendance were bolstered by the state of the association remarks from Capobianco, who was passing the gavel of chairman after six years. “We are pretty solid financially. I continue to see us as very healthy, with the primary goal of increasing membership.”
Networking is first and foremost for Cathy Panagakos, director of key accounts, Royal Adhesives. “The FCICA is about the sharing with your comrades (manufacturers of flooring, adhesives, floor prep and accessories) a common interest to help the installer accomplish his or her job with zero failures. To me, this is where we drop our competitive side and pull together. This organization is about networking with folks who genuinely want to help each other.”
On the other hand, Mike Roberts, vice president of the Bonitz Flooring Group in Knoxville, Tenn., and long-time FCICA member, was raving about the half dozen education- al sessions. “One of the best was by Sloan Bailey, who brought a huge body of knowledge to us about limitations of liability. He did a good job of giving us simple, easy-to-understand tips about reviewing contracts and the many legal perils [they] have.”
Another session Roberts cited was “What’s Wrong with the Glue,” a discussion moderated by Swift featuring four panelists representing commercial adhesives manufacturers: Tom Guilfoyle of HB Fuller; Greg Wood, A.A.T.; Tom Pope of W.F. Taylor and Barry Minter of Mapei. “They did a great job answering some difficult questions concerning issues with adhesives and solutions to common problems.”
According to Flexco’s Brent Fike, the convention’s attendees were very upbeat and positive, “both toward the organization and in its outlook for our industry. When you’re able to gather the diverse group of individuals and combined experience FCICA has, it’s very easy to have a positive attitude when attending this type of event.”
FCICA has provided an opportunity for Fike to network and form relationships with vendors, contractors and peers “that I would have never been able to with my daily business. These relationships have made my job easier as well as formed lifelong friendships.”
Current, future initiatives
As far as initiatives, in addition o FCICA’s totally redesigned web site, Capobianco spoke of the group’s partnership with the International Concrete Repair Institute (ICRI), an organization that has developed a two- level moisture testing certification program. Day one is comprised of a written exam, while the second day features an actual hands-on demonstration where the participant has to show he knows how to perform moisture testing with the proper equipment.
“ICRI reached out to us about a year ago as they were rolling out this program and requested our help,” he noted, in getting the word out to our installers. It helps us, and it helps ICRI get this certification out there.”
On the subject of moisture testing, this past year FCICA began it own Webinar program in conjunction with Webster Electronics that it hopes to grow. “We’re planning to do more of this, and hopefully the people who can’t make the trip to one of our events can take advantage of these online training opportunities.”
Moving forward, Swift has several goals for the organization, including an increase in contractor members. “We need to do better in getting the word out as to why it’s important for commercial flooring contractors to join and participate in FCICA. I joined as a way of keeping up with the latest installation methods, equipment and products in our industry. We continue to see a rise in installation failures. One of the problems our non-union flooring contractors face is installation training, or lack thereof. The unions do a great job in training with programs such as INSTALL. The non- union companies have few opportunities for formal training, especially in regions where dealers primarily work with subcontract labor.”
Swift would also like to see FCICA design and implement a dealer certification program. “CFI is a model program, but only for individual installers. We need to find a way to in corporate installation training with a strong dealer certification. I believe our industry manufacturers will strongly support such a certification, and we now have a task force in place that will begin the framework of just such a program.”