CFI convention: Installers upbeat despite difficult times

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KANSAS CITY, MO.—There is no arguing that every segment of the industry has been impacted by the poor economic conditions of the last four years. But those on the lower rung of the ladder, the folks who not only spend most of the day on their knees installing floors, but have to fight for every penny they make, have been hit the hardest. While the hardships currently being endured by this group of people was clearly evident at the 18th annual International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association (CFI) convention, the overall attitude displayed by attendees remained optimistic that things will get better, and the industry can one day come together as a unit working toward the same goal: to satisfy the end user.

Robert Varden of Advanced Flooring Technology in Rockwell, Texas, and CFI’s president, pointed out he was at another convention recently and heard two dealers boasting how much they “abuse” their installers by getting them to do more work for less pay. “I looked at them and said, ‘That’s the problem with the industry. We need to work together and promote top quality, not beat each other up.”

Allan Ellis of Alan’s Carpet & Floors in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and CFI’s vice president, added the organization just wants to “create a level playing field for all installers. CFI is on the verge of something spectacular in training; we’re climbing the mountain to be recognized as the best in the industry.”

Some do get it, and they happened to be in attendance, such as retailer Bernie Madden, president of Madden-McFarland Interiors of Leawood, Kan., who pointed out, “It’s not my client; it’s our client. We are all part of making her happy. So we all need to work together and think how can we better serve our client. That’s what it is all about.”

Dick Siegel of Flooring Consultants in Chesterfield, Mo., told the audience how working with professionals such as those certified by CFI have been a key component to his company’s success. “CFI has helped me and my family be successful. The work I get from CFI people is unbelievable. The feedback I receive from customers is ‘great job,’ ‘everything was done on time,’ ‘how did they do it so fast,’ and so on. Normally you just hear the bad stuff; rarely the good things, but thanks to you we do.”

Concerning those at the convention, Jim Walker, CFI’s CEO, said while many of the country’s best flooring installers were in attendance for the three-day event, “I would have liked to have 300 or 400 more here. Many would like to come but just can’t afford it. But we are thankful for those who are here.” He thanked the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) for its continued support and especially the organization’s CEO and president, Chris Davis. “WFCA has invested more than $1 million in CFI. This is a retail organization that realizes how important installers are to the overall process of satisfying the end user.”

Davis said the association started supporting CFI about two years after it formed and continues to do so because it “feels good about CFI and is a big believer in what it does. This is the most engaged and involved group of people; they are really committed to make it work and their love of each other, their work and the industry in genuine.”

To help ensure those in attendance have the proper outlook going forward, CFI once again kicked off the convention with the WFCA-sponsored Leadership Conference and brought back popular motivational speaker Dennis Brown, president of Destiny Investments.

“Since the earliest days of CFI, the Leadership Conference has been a very important feature,” Walker said. “It is extremely important CFI members become leaders of the industry in the field of flooring installation. This is not an easy thing to achieve, but one that is a must for CFI to be the strong and vibrant organization that it is in 2011.”

Brown’s message was simple: “You can’t control the economy, the weather and so forth. But you can control your attitude.” As such, he said, “The only difference between a good day and a bad day is your attitude.”

The infectious optimism brought on by Brown’s speech, coupled with the sharing of knowledge that took place during the hands-on workshops and networking opportunities, gave even first-time convention attendees—both installers and exhibitors—a positive feeling.

First-time attendee Ally Ferreira, owner of Installation Excellence in Action, said she did not expect “such a family- driven atmosphere” and being made to feel like she and her associates belonged “so quickly.” Concerning certifying installers, she noted the meeting showed her “the critical need for it and that it must flow through the ranks. Thank good- ness for CFI for offering and doing what it does.”

What made her experience more gratifying was the reception received to her company’s investment in the latest in technology that she feels will help take her installation business to the next level of professionalism—the Xbot. Controlled from a laptop via wi-fi or a 4G wireless signal, the device features a two-way video, a camera that can zoom in on problem spots and can roll over all types of flooring services to allow companies the ability to troubleshoot and help both customers and installers in real time. “Today, you need to embrace technology or fall behind,” she told FCNews.

Robert Belovicz, business development manager of DRI-core Subfloor, was not disappointed with his first CFI convention, saying attendees were “very receptive” to his company’s patented technology that helps keeps concrete moisture away from floor coverings.

And, Jeri and Tipton Masterson, inventors of the BigSlider utility mover, said the enthusiastic reception from attendees let them know they made the right decision being affiliated with CFI. “It was a very positive convention; we couldn’t have asked for a better reception.”

-Matthew Spieler

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